A festival miracle – at a Toronto bus stop!

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The new Pioneer Village subway station, in Toronto on Wednesday, January 3, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

By Shreya Atre

I glanced at the little purple light on my phone screen, reminding me of new notifications I’d refused to check this morning.

“Why bother?” I asked myself ; they’re probably pictures of how everyone back home is welcoming Ganpati; the colourful decorations, the thoughtful displays, the delicious platters of piping hot Modak, the scent of festivity ringing in every alley. For the first time in 27 years, I’d be away from my parents, unable to partake in the joys of this season.

How wonderful it would be to be back home, welcoming Ganpati into our homes.

At 4:20 pm, I missed my Bay-Dupont bus by five seconds, and was doomed to wait for the next one. I sat alone on the wooden bench, and opened up my phone to check the bus schedule, side-tracking pictures of beautiful Ganesh idols I so dearly wished to have today.

“When’s the next bus, dear?” an elderly voice beside me inquired. I could make out that she was Canadian, but there was something odd about her attire.

“Oh, I’m not sure. I guess 5:30.” The woman shrugged and sat down beside me, rearranging her dupatta. Her whitewashed khadi kurta complemented her pale white skin, and her accessories had an air of India etched in them. I laughed at how cruelly fate was trying to remind me of home. “Let’s wait for the next one then,” her soothing voice felt strangely calming. “Are you from India dear?”

I knew this conversation was coming.

“That’s right. I’m from Mumbai,” I thought Pune would only throw her off. “I love your kurta. It goes well with that ‘jhola’ you have.”

“Oh thank you dear. I love India ; the food, the clothes and chai!” she stroked the jhola lovingly, as if all these things were locked up safely inside it.

“Chai?” I chuckled, (usually it’s the chicken tandoori people adore in Toronto) “When was last time you had a great cup of chai?”

“Oh, it’s been long. I’ve stopped hoping to find a good cup here in downtown.” She sighed longingly.

“Well then say no more. You’re welcome to come to my place anytime for a hot cup.” I felt I owed her one “Let me write down my address.” I whipped out a post- it and handed it to her.

She gazed at me in disbelief as if I’d written her a blank cheque.

“Isn’t that sweet? I’ll drop by for sure. And since you’ve been so kind, I want to give you this–” her hands went flying back in her jhola, searching for something desperately. Amongst all the things she could have pulled out, she pulled out a card.

“This is a ‘Ganesha card’. I make them myself. It’s not much, but I want you to have it!”

As I held the card in disbelief,  I couldn’t help but shed a tear.

She had no idea what she had given me.

•••••

I’ve heard of Christmas miracles before, but an out -of- the-blue Ganpati miracle is just as reassuring.