Toronto mein Pronto

One would expect

Pronto: –adverb Informal. promptly; quickly.

Right?

In Toronto,

Pronto: –noun A flatbread that originated in the Indian subcontinent. It is usually made with whole-wheat flour, pan fried in ghee or cooking oil, and often stuffed with vegetables, especially boiled potatoes, radish or cauliflower and/or paneer (Indian cheese).

So I find myself in Toronto, Ontario, which is actually an extension of Amritsar (sort of like Niagarey wale Gali) and it has more Pnjaabi restaurants per square millimetre than any other place in North America. And where Pnjaabis are to be found, can their accent be far behind? For instance,

I sport congrass

does not refer to a person wearing a new kind of grass called “con”. It actually refers to throwing ones lot in with a particular political party in India.

The rules of Pnjaabi English are ridiculously simple and logical.

  • Gobble, munch and swallow first vowel sound (with Mint da chutney and Mango da pickle) if it lies between 2 consonants that can be joined together like Heer and Ranjha. (Like S&P, C&R, S&T etc)
  • Extend 2nd vowel sound
  • And “uh” to the end
  • Eliminate all plurals when you speak

Accents and flatbreads aside, I finally saw the Niagara Falls from the Canadian side, and the view, I must say, is nothing short of amaklamatically spectacular. Apparently Niagara dumps 154 million litres of fresh water every minute, enough to make every unscrupulous Thanni lorry operator in the history of Thanni lorry operators salivate. Like Ian Salisbury standing next to Shane Warne, there is a distinctly unawesome “American Falls” next to the Canadian Horseshoe, but it’s just there to allow Canadians to gloat.

And that brings me to Canada itself. A curious country. It’s a formerly British, adamantly French, culturally American and soon-to-be entirely Pnjaabi country that’s mostly empty once you drive a 100 miles (sorry, 160 km) north of the border with the US. Like its behemoth neighbour, it too has a glorious tradition of exterminating Native American tribes and naming places after them (Saskatchewan, Ontario, Manitoba etc). With a population slightly larger than North Usman road (Ok. Slightly more that, I’ll admit) and enough land area to swallow India quite a few times over, it is a beautiful, green country with vast open spaces only occassionally dotted by Brar’s Pnjaabi Kitchens. It is also almost entirely covered, as you might expect, with Maple trees.

Since it’s summer here, the sun rises at unholy hours and sets at unearthly hours and that tends to put us near-the-equator types, a bit off. But since I can sleep even with strobe lights and heavy metal music around, it doesn’t bother me much.

The Canadian economy is mostly sustained by desi tourists from the US paying speeding fines due to the non-realization of the fact that the “90” on Canadian speed-limit signs refers to km/h. Canada is metric while the US is psychotic (they use miles, gallons and other non-intuitive units).

Here is a question for all of you. When Carnatic artistes tour Canada and sing “Alaipayudhey”, do you think the audience will snigger when the raaga’s name is mentioned?

Anyway, more when I get back to Madras.

Update: This post is not an open invitation for a Paratha vs Parotta war as armistice has already been declared. I would like to distract all of you from this with a new feature on the blog – the avatar chronology

Update 2: Photos of Niagara, thanks to my colleague, co-traveller and friend Bala

Niagara, Canada. Size does matter!