April 13, 2008 | Tips from Travellers >
Surrey, Festivals & Events
I've been thinking about a trip to India - who would guess I could do it at home? Reading my morning paper, I discovered that the largest Vaisakhi celebration in the world, outside of India, is in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver. Not far at all from where I live.
Vaisakhi is a holy day, marking the birth of Sikkhism and why not, the harvest too. Although, that must be an "India" thing because there is not too much harvesting going on in BC in April. Nevertheless 100,000 colourfully garbed Sikhs and a few curious others like me showed up to particpate in the parade and share the wealth. That last is a very good thing, as people and organizations set up stalls along the parade route. You cannot walk five feet without having food and drink and sweets pressed on you - traditional East Indian fare from chickpea curry to fried bread to pizza and chocolate chip cookies. Well, maybe not all traditional but all wonderful and all free.
The parade got underway with drummers drumming and music reverberating off the walls of nearby businesses. A flashy motorcyle core revved their Harleys and children marched by spnning ghutkas. After a few minutes of that, a smiling man with a bag full of kerchiefs moved through the crowd helping the heathens like me tie a kerchief over our heads. Seems the float carrying the holy men was making its way towards us and heads must be covered.
When I removed it later I was amused to discover I'd also been advertising for "Gilco Real Estate." Entrepreneurship is alive and well at Vaisakhi! But equal opporturnity not so much. As the holy men floated by I turned to the fellow next to me and asked, "When does the float with holy women come past?" I received the only frown of the day. Oh well, maybe next year.