Bhel puri. Tea light holders. Colourful saris. Fresh bamboo juice from street vendors. The smell of curry lingering in the cold air. I’ve spent most of my life living in Toronto, but I’ve never visited Little India. Since I am from India, I didn’t think I needed to visit the neighbourhood to get in touch with my ethnic roots. And when you live in a city that has a large South Asian population, you really don’t need to go to Little India to find the best restaurants or cultural treasures.
In Toronto, Little India is now just a small strip in the city because most of its South Asian population lives in the outer boroughs like Scarborough, Mississauga and Markham. The designated Little India neighbourhood near the Coxwell and Gerrard intersection is vibrant but it feels faded. I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to the excitement and the bustle of people that still exists in bigger ethnic enclaves, like Chinatown and the Danforth (Greek).
Here’s my first trip to Toronto’s Little India just as Diwali celebrations began. I had hoped to take part in Diwali for the first time, but the event I attended was much smaller than I anticipated.