Brampton is in Ontario, Canada. But it could well have been a city in India.
Laddi Singhs and Larry Singhs stare at you from posters in bus shelters along any major route. You can find more of them sitting around every evening in community parks. And morning joggers look as if their previous run was on Rajpath, Delhi.
Bollywood is big of course, standard fare at weekend events.
Food? The options are immense, enough to beat any food court in India, and I mean it, any. Brampton is more Indian than anything I had seen in India.
I don’t remember when I last saw so many people. You don’t see many people in most parts of this world if you are not in a business district or Manhattan. You can get by an entire weekend with just one or two sightings.
But not in Brampton.
Joggers and speed-walkers go by jabbering in utterly familiar language/dialects, even if you can’t tell which one. But lest you get carried away. There are plenty of Tim Hortons — Canada’s Starbucks — to keep Brampton looking Canadian.
Brampton is a city outside Toronto, which itself is home to the largest Indian-origin community outside India. Around 12 per cent of its population is of South Asian descent.
Only a fifth of Brampton is of Indian origin — they are ethnically described as East Indians, mostly Hindus and Sikhs — but you only see them as if no one else lived there.
Gas stations are manned by Indian-looking people, stores, restaurants and most of Tim Hortons too.
It felt good to be back in India.
Missisauga, Brampton’s bigger neighbour, has again a large Indian-origin population — 20 per cent South Asians say official statistics. This might not be news to some of you. It was to me.
Though I had heard these cities had a large number of Indian-origin immigrants, it’s quite something to actually see how overwhelming is their presence. My only gripe: there were no local golgappa joints.
For that we went to Toronto’s Gerrard Street, which by the way is a fine example of what South Asia could look like with porous borders: Moti Mahal restaurant, for instance, is just across the road from Lahore Tikka House.
The golgappa paani (paani, not water) was just great.