Packaging Parathas

Every morning, before school, Riyaz spent at least an hour packaging parathas. She had learned the process quickly, not long after moving to Toronto to live with her mother’s eldest sister. Wipe the kitchen table. Lay out newspaper pages. Take care to keep aside those with coupons for Masi or crosswords for herself. The papers were from tenants in the building who handed them over to her every evening when their energy to read had been exhausted by their daily activities and television seemed a less ambitious pursuit.

The pages she collected were mostly from the Toronto Sun or the Star, and occasionally a Metro that had made it out of the confines of the TTC. Once a week her collection would be a bit heavier as everyone finished with the local community papers written in the Hindi and Urdu squiggles that she found incomprehensible. On the rare occasions when Aneel Uncle answered his door, he would give her his Globe and Mail, but mostly his wife would tell her that he left the paper at the office.

“No Globe and Mail today, Riyaz! Mr. Gilani has left his Globe and Mail at the office. He’s a lawyer, you know, an important man! He reads the Globe and Mail everyday . . . no Sun-fun, Star-shmar for him . . . ”

Toronto locations referenced in this piece

“When Riyaz got home, she told Masi what she had overheard, hoping to reassure her. ‘Masi, maybe you don’t have to worry—Malik Uncle says the new shop won’t be a problem. That when the Thorncliffe Plaza shop opened everyone still had their orders.’ . . . ” —Thorncliffe Plaza