Hello, Neighbour: Weston

This piece was selected to be part of Hello, Neighbour, a community engagement project that takes six pieces of writing from residents of Toronto, and uses them as inspiration for six new works by local artists.

Join us Saturday Feb. 23rd, 2019 2-5pm for a day of performances by the artists, hosted by Nana aba Duncan of CBC’s Fresh Air.

This event is FREE, click here to reserve your spot on Eventbrite!

WESTON by Mayank Bhatt

Saturday mornings is my time. I generally leave home to go to do my weekly groceries and until recently when all public transit users moved to Presto cards, also buy my weekly transit pass at Lawrence West station.

Then, on some Saturdays, I visit the pharmacy at Weston and Lawrence, to get my medicines from Mohamed Ahmed, the Somali pharmacist with a Poona connection (he studied there), or to meet the other Mohammed – Mohammed Masoom – from Afghanistan, who runs the laundry and alteration place.

On such days, I usually walk down Weston – one of the most interesting streets in Toronto.

Weston has a history and heritage. I’ve developed a sense of belonging to this stretch of road from Lawrence Avenue West to Highway 401. To its immediate west is the Humber River; to its east is the railway line on which the new Union-Pearson Express operates. The village was an industrial hub long ago and has changed in its composition and character over the last century (as has most of other neighbourhoods
in Toronto).

On some weekends when both Mahrukh, my wife, and I are at home together (which is rare) we go to the P&M Restaurant on Weston Road. It’s a Greek place and serves delicious breakfast and lunch. Since I stopped having meat, I restrict myself to omelettes, and this place has arguably one of the finest omelettes in Toronto. The place is family-owned, and everyone tries their best to make you feel you’re a part of their family.

Last autumn, Mahrukh and I walked down Weston Road, and took a detour to Little Avenue to follow the auburn and yellow leaves along the Little Memorial Park. We walked from the park to the gurgling waters of the Humber River, alighting the wooden stairs to almost reach the river bed. A bicycle trail took us to Weston Park through what must usually be fairly dense foliage, but now rapidly shedding leaves, in preparation for
the coming winter. A heavy layer of clouds shielded the trees and gave a soft hue to the bright colours of the leaves. We crossed the Humber River on a wooden bridge to enter the ravines. The trees on the river bank had turned yellow and transformed the landscape into a surreal, magical psychedelic place that you’d only find in children’s
storybooks.

Further to the north is the Weston Library, which celebrated its centenary in 2014-15. Originally constructed through an Andrew Carnegie endowment in 1914, the library occupies a heritage building. Entering the building is like taking a journey into the past because it evokes a sense of being in an early 20th century wood and red bricks
home with stained glass windows. The original structure was expanded and extended to accommodate the growing need for space sometime in the 1960s.

We’d moved to our new home between Jane St and Weston Road in March 2013 and the first time I went to the Weston Library was to vote in the federal elections in 2015. In the excitement of voting for the first time in a Canadian federal election, I couldn’t see much of the library, but I loved its architecture. The Weston library makes me feel at home because of its ambience. It’s not at all like a library. It’s a place that encourages browsing of books arranged in neat rows of bookshelves, with the original part of the building housing fiction books.

A week later, after Mahrukh and I’d had our walk in the woods, I returned to the Weston Library to renew my library card (strangely, it becomes due for renewal every Halloween). I walked through the rows of neatly-arranged novels, and while browsing through the rows of fiction books, I saw my novel Belief nestled between David Bezmozgis’s The Betrayers and Rachel Billington’s Perfect Happiness on the shelf.

That made me smile. I took a photo on my phone and showed it to the library assistant. She peered into the phone, and smiled and said, “Is that you? Your book? That’s great! You must write another one now.”