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[…I’ll be doing a series of posts on my experiences in “Little India” (i.e. a stretch of downtown Toronto). So here’s the first installment, with more to follow sometime soon…]
…I saw so much of the world through my dad’s 1985 GMC Safari van. Living in the suburbs, this “world” I saw wasn’t anything great. Except for the trips that took us on the Gardiner expressway, and right past the glorious Toronto.
The CN tower…wow. The skyscrapers…wow. Lake Ontario…wow. On one occasion we didn’t simply drive right past. We drove straight in.
As I peered out the window, revelling in sidewalks filled with tourists and patios filled with drunkards, my nine-year-old heart felt increasingly full.
This was the “world”…and I wanted to be a part of it.
Two minutes later the “world” took a different turn, as beyond the last of the fast-food joints and white-people stores, I was faced with a shock:
-Narrow streets, blaring Bollywood music, a rainbow of embroidered fabrics, and a crowd of mocha-skinned faces.
It was Gerrard Street, East Toronto. It was “Little India”.
Suddenly all the curry I’d eaten and the banquet halls I’d been to and the movies I’d seen had a sense of meaning: this is where being “Indian” really came from. Of course, I wasn’t a retarded type of kid; like I had seen an Atlas before, and I knew that there was an actual place called India. Well now I knew another thing too: for Indo-Canadians, Gerrard Street was the place to be…
…My mom rattled on about some clothing shop we had to see, but lunch was the main concern for everyone else. And so we headed to a nearby Indian restaurant. I couldn’t discern one eatery from the next, since there were probably twenty or thirty in my view. Once we got inside though, I sensed a little something different about this place…
…The windows were covered in a heavy layer of drapes; burgundy if I recall, and they may have been made of velvet. Then there was the orange and white checkered floor.
You heard me, orange and white…and checkered. I wasn’t too concerned with the ugly set-up, but I decided then and there that I would only step on the orange tiles.
As we waited for our grease-heavy food to arrive, a broad-shouldered Indian man lumbered his way to the table. He carried with him a clown-sized smile and a set of sleepy eyes. I wasn’t really sure how I felt about that combination.
After a hand-shake and some wobbly head-nods between the man and my father, I realized that he was the restauranteur, and an apparent friend of the family.
As Mr. Sleepy-Eyes turned to each of the children to get acquainted, his half-open eyes got a little bit wider as they rested on me. There was something in that stare, if only for a flicker, and it felt a little strange.
Throughout the meal Mr. Sleepy-Eyes would visit the table. Is the level of spice to your liking? More water? How about dessert?
Okay, so maybe his questions were regular restaurant inquiries, but each time that he returned, he would stand a little closer to where I was. The third time he came around, he placed a jug of water at the table, and that was the moment that he touched me. Let me clarify (lest your minds ring alarm of “child molestation”); his right arm, which was sporting a golden bracelet (which was mostly obscured by his genetically extreme arm hair), grazed against mine. Since he turned to me immediately after the touch (with his clown-sized smile in grade-A form), I knew that he had done it on purpose.
Eww. Eww, eww, eww!
I didn’t know a lot about “old men liking girls” at the time, but I knew that it was wrong. I was fearful that he’d take me around the back and ask me to Bollywood-dance for him. I wasn’t fearful of anything else, because they didn’t have “To Catch a Predator” in 1990.
As we readied ourselves to leave, Mr. Sleepy-Eyes offered to watch us kids while my parents did the shopping. He said he had a TV in his office, with cartoons and everything!
If my parents had accepted his babysitting offer, I’d be a writing a very different story today. But they did not accept, and for that I am relieved.
Still I have this memory of Mr. Sleepy-Eyes, coupled with a fear of checkered floors and velvet drapes (though I’d like to think that I would always be uncomfortable with velvet drapes…wouldn’t you?)
Ahhh Mr. Sleepy eyes…I think you may be a little harsh on him. He had bad cataracts if I remember correctly and may have thought you and your siblings were small goats.
haven’t heard from Mr. S-E in years. Believe he moved up to Newmarket and became their token person of colour (it comes with a pension!)
Mr. Sleepy eyes sounds like he comes straight out of creepytown. He probably owned a van filled with candy and a trench coat for quick flashing. I do have to say though, if you are unable to travel and you would like to experience cultures, go to “Little Italy” or “Little India” or “China-town”. These places have pretty authentic food and they definitly have the culture. I live in “Little Italy” in New Haven, CT and it definitly has the Italian feel. People wait hours to get into the famous pizza places here, luckily I have the luxury of calling ahead and picking it up. I also bet that every culture has a Mr. Sleepy Eyes… gross!
Now, let’s not think of a world where there is a brand of weirdos, AKA Your Local Mr. Sleepy Eyes, with a craving for little girls. Darn it, this just may be actual reality… sad! But kudos, for your parents, on skipping on the babysitting invitation. 🙂
Wow that is effed to the up. I’m glad your parents said no, so that I wasn’t reading a sad blog post, instead of your upbeat and delightful stories.
Ew. We met a version of Mr S-E who was the driver of a tourbus on Rottnest island. He offered to take me and my sister out ‘shark-spotting’ on his boat the next day but the parents declined.
But as yo usay imagine what if? what if our parents were not so ‘aware’?
You bet every culture has Mr. Sleepy-Eyes. We had Mr. Cheese stench from the deli who would do some interesting hand movements on the bratwurst. He would also come from behind the counter and urge the young girls to lick the cheese from his fingers. I nearly bit through the sick bastard’s finger.
Oh my god Romi….that was cccrreeeeeeeeeppppyyyy….how uncomfortable and awkward eep! At least your parents didn’t leave you. Oh and lets talk about those curtains….awful….velvet is awful….the only thing worse if velor (jump suits in particular)!
That’s just creepy and gross! I’m so glad your parents passed on the babysitting offer.
Velvet drapes…Joe won’t let me hang a Velvet Elvis in the bedroom, perhaps I can talk him into velvet drapes… (kidding – if I even suggested that I’m pretty sure I’d be just another weird smell in the attic).
I wonder if avoiding the white tiles is what turned the balance of fate in your favor that long ago day? 😕 Hmmm???
Woah creepmeister! So glad you got away from that one. Checkered floors just shouldn’t be allowed anywhere, anyways.
A healthy fear of velvet drapes is a good thing…I always think of Twin Peaks and the entrance to the “Black Lodge” whenever I think of velvet drapes or curtains and then I get the willies….
got goosebumps just writing about it
Interesting story, who knows about Mr. Sleepy Eyes, let’s hope he was just being friendly and nothing more.
Holy crap, I’ll be shivering for days after that one. Yikes!
(The awesome Sikh doctor that my mom works with came south from Toronto, if I recall correctly…it was definitely someplace in Canada.)
The same thing happened to me with Ronald McDonald in the PlayPlace.
ewww, but I need to travel more! 🙂
MAN! How lucky your parents took you along on the shopping. I wonder if your parents knew he was a little “off” and that’s why they took you. You’d be surprised at a mother’s intuition. Once, I had a good friend of mine’s husband offer to watch my twins when they were toddlers. Um, no thanks. I’m so glad I did not let him. First of all, I didn’t know him all that well, and what I did know was not impressive. Secondly, the lived on a farm, and with twin toddlers there is wayyyyy to much for them to get into. Something screamed, “NO WAY IN HELL” in my mind and I took my kids and was on my way. Turns out, about a year later, his wife discovered his love for all things PORN! He sat around all day watching porn. Ewww, and to think he actually wanted to watch my twins. Ewwww-ewwww-ewww. Ya never know, this clown smiler could have given your parents a bad vibe. GOOD FOR THEM, good for you, and good for parents intuition!
So you’re Canadian, eh?
Whoa. Glad you escaped Mr. Sleepy Eyes. Yikes. Are velvet drapes a sort of Indian cliche or something? My mom used to babysit for a couple of Indian couples and their homes all had velvet drapes and shiny wallpaper.
Ram: “Newmarket”!?!?!? Wow, you are SO from the GTA aren’t you??? 😉
PS: why do I get the feeling that maybe you ARE Mr. Sleepy Eyes…*shudder*, haha.. 😉
Justin: haha, yeah like I bet his trench-coat had the easy-open flaps like those kitchen doors which have a flap to let the dog in and out…or “snake” in this case…lol…EWWW!
PS: you guys live in Little Italy?!?!? Wow, now I can’t WAIT to visit you and Ute, you guys can take me to the best pizza place…YEAH! 😉
duffboy: oh, well I’m afraid to tell you there IS such a world; like even today I see members of Mr. Sleepy-Eyes’s crew almost once a day on the subway!
Kerplar: definitely “effed to the up”, and wow, upbeat and delightful? I never saw my stories as exactly that, unless you add in a dash of “weird”, haha 😉
GYL: ooh, driver of a tour bus!?!? That’s even worse than a driver of a windowless van…lol…and indeed, thank goodness for parental-awareness!
dobeman: serious double-dosage on the “ewwness” front, right??? *shudder*…
Anja: hahaha…you’re hilarious and brutally honest all at once! 🙂 I’m so glad you didn’t let Mr. Cheese Stench mess with you, good job!
sammy25: Thank you for noting the awfulness of those drapes!! And gosh, velour track suits…do guys in those outfits ever get any action? I can’t imagine so…
rambleicious: dude, please don’t let yourself become another weird smell in your attic! Haha…and also dude: umm…what the hell is in your attic!?!?!…I am slightly disturbed… 😉
Peter Parkour: wow…umm…I think you just blew my mind…wow.
Em: yeah I got away but I am totally tainted; like I can’t even go near chess boards, and that’s a shame ’cause I’m sure I would’ve been awesome at that… 😦
glassowater: wow, a visit to my blog gave you the “willies” AND goosebumps?! Sorry about that dude… 😉
tobeme: if he was just being friendly, then maybe he needs to go to charm school ’cause he was kinda weird, haha 😉
Taoist Biker: haha, I SO remember your mention of awesome Sikh doctor! Toronto is the place for the cool Indians…uhh…and also the place for the sleepy-eyed folk I’m afraid..!
douglas: oh no!!!!! Now Ronald McDonald and “play place” in the same sentence just sounds wrong…
goodbadandugly2: yeah definitely, and as Justin said, if you can’t make it out to the actual countries yet, the “Little” versions are pretty cool! 🙂
Java Queen: Oh my gosh!!! No GOOD FOR YOU and your solid intuition for keeping your twin toddlers close! Like what you described is an actual case of “EWWNESS” confirmed!!! Wow…eww…
Otto Mann: indeed I am Canadian; does that make me more or less weird? Or does it make my weirdness seem more understandable now? Haha… 😉
teeni: hahaha…I don’t know if velvet drapes are an Indian cliche…it could be, but we never had those in our home, and thank-freakin’ goodness for that! 🙂
Late to the party again.
Creepier-by-far than the velour drapes was the orange & white checkered floor. Somehow my mind just can’t wrap itself around that, especially with burgundy drapes…like an Indian Waffle House, heh.
Anyways, walk on the white tiles, or the orange ones… just beware of the MIRRORED ones, if you happen to be wearing a skirt !!
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