Cabbagetown: A Neighbourhood Profile

A curious mix of panicked claustrophobia and awestruck wonder will clutch your heart as soon as you step into Green’s Antiques. You will witness a plethora of dusty possessions crammed into a dusty ventilation-free room.

This Parliament Street institution is a metaphor for the neighbourhood it borders; forgotten furniture, trinkets and jewelry, set against the backdrop of a man in a brightly colored t-shirt listening to top 40 R&B favorites; an eclectic mix of old meets new.

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Yoga and Life

I’ve often felt (and been told) that what happens in the yoga room echoes what happens in the world outside. The challenges you face on your mat, are parallel to those you face in life.

Unemployment and yoga have traditionally gone well for me together. I can practice at all times of the day, and it gets me out of the house and into a zone so zen that I’m better able to concentrate on what I have to do next.

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Nobody needs to tell you that unemployment sucks. When you spend your every waking moment writing cover letters time warps to snail pace. Hours seem like days. Days seem like weeks. Weeks seem like years.

The recent recession created much unemployment and layoffs but it was also responsible for giving a lot of people the courage to quit their secure 9-5 positions to do what they loved – myself included. Either way we’re all in the same boat – unemployed and out of our element.

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Bias vs. Opinion

Earlier this year I took a Travel Writing Class at George Brown. Our instructor told us that our job was to report, not to offer our rather inexperienced opinions. There seems to be a fine line between just the facts and your experience of what happens.

He said it doesn’t matter if you hate all-inclusive resorts, if you are the only one sulking at the pool among hundreds of people that are having the time of their lives, then you have to take those peoples experiences into account. You can’t just condemn the resort because it’s not your thing.

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This is something I wrote six years ago while ago sitting in a coffee shop on 8th avenue. I posted it the last time I had a blog, about a million years ago. It’s kind of strange but it represents how I feel about the creative process.


Procrastination. I write the word out slowly and carefully in a beautiful cursive script. I trace it again on top pondering over each letter. I go over it again. And again. When I’m finished I underline the word. Then I draw a box around it. Then I draw a box around the box. I shade in both boxes leaving the word itself intact. I try to stop there but my pen stays firmly connected to paper.

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I was sitting at my desk working on something for Mooney On Theatre when I first felt the tremors. Growing up in India I had experienced a few earthquakes, usually not much more than a very short faint sensation of the ground shaking beneath my feet. Often I thought I had dreamed it.

However, today was different. Besides the obvious, that I am in Toronto and not in New Delhi India, the tremors were more powerful than I’d ever felt before, and seemed to last a lifetime. Also that tightening of my throat, that feeling of panic tends to be slightly more intense when you’re alone in your 20th floor condo than when you’re on the second floor of a family home.

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Working Through Distractions

One of the most formidable challenges of working largely from home is managing distractions. If you’re me this could be anything from food, to laundry to open Firefox tabs, beckoning me away from my interview transcription (usually transcription is when I am most vulnerable to temptation) and towards creeping random people’s facebook pages (to the point that these are people I am not even really that curious about) and yesterday my discovery of the power of twitter.

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My First Tweetup

I approached the large table deep in animated chatter, on the patio of Caplansky’s with some hesitation. Although I didn’t really know what any of these people looked like IRL (in real life), I was pretty sure this was the group I was looking for.

I spotted Joallore, the Twitter guru who’d invited me. I said hello to a few of the people taking a seat quickly.

“What’s your handle?” was one of the first questions I was asked. Handle? I couldn’t remember.

“I think it’s @msaraf,” I replied suddenly uncomfortable that my lack of skill with the social media application that had brought these people together was blaringly obvious. When I said I was writing a story, they all joked around saying they didn’t know that “media” was invited. But if there was judgment the group was too kind to show it on their faces.

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I was at the Hasty Market below my building for an emergency Tide run yesterday when I encountered the woman with no fingers. I ignored her on my way to the back aisle where I know the laundry detergent rests flanked by cat litter and dish soap, staring into over-priced Tropicana juices (often leaking ever so slightly).

I grabbed the little red bottle and checked that it was not the extra bleach version or some strange variation, and headed towards the cash register. All of a sudden, as I placed the liquid detergent on the counter, a bunch of finger stubs invaded my field of vision. It was then that I first actually paid attention.

Though I had some trouble understanding her accent, I could make out the words “two dollars, two dollars.” It appeared she was demanding that I give her $2 of my change. When I told her (quite truthfully) that I didn’t have a job that paid, she asked for a dollar instead.When I refused again, she left in disgust.

I don’t know whether I was right or wrong to refuse her. The poor woman obviously couldn’t work due to her mutilated hands. But my defense naturally rise when someone demands anything of me, and that’s the real reason I said no.

I don’t know if I did the right thing. But my neighbourhood is cluttered with people just like her: pregnant, mutilated, with gaping holes in their smiles. Where do you draw the line? How do you decide who is worthy of charity and who isn’t? Especially when like me you are already, for bank account purposes, unemployed?