16 August 2010, 3.17pm, Town of Markham (north of Toronto), Canada
These street signs went up quietly a few years ago in the midst of ongoing construction and development in the town of Markham, just north of Steeles Avenue in Toronto. We first noticed them when we turned off Markham Rd, curiously looking around for the brand-spanking new - wait for it - Costco. Yup.
Laughter was one of my first reactions upon noticing the signs. My parents felt a bit of validation but also amusement as they reflected over their experiences in 30+ years of living abroad. "Look how far we've come," they said. "We have streets in our present city named after our old cities."
One feels that maybe there should be something other than a Costco in front of this symbolic intersection, because surely it's not a random coincidence that an Indian city and a Pakistani city were chosen for this particular spot on the map. Then again, why should there be something more special than Costco? Or actually, isn't Costco special enough, being the great unifier of all nationalities as it convinces us to buy gigantic quantities of stuff for our homes and kitchens? After all, we can't get jumbo bags of nachos and toilet paper at Wagah border.
Ah, but at Wagah border there are the loud celebrations with sunset salutes to flags that cause dancing patriots to joyfully shout "Jai Hind!" or "Pakistan Zindabad!". There are tourists watching the spectacle in dazed delight and wandering around with cameras. In contrast, at the corner of Karachi and New Delhi there is only my camera attracting attention as I try to catch an angle of the street signs without commercial objects intruding into the background.
Hm, is that my symbolism here then? Tolerance and culture are nice and all, but their progress usually depends on meshing with commercial interests.