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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Vinod Khanna

70 is too young to die, man!
I was a little too young to remember the beginning of Vinod Khanna's journey in movies but I grew up watching him in his different avatars in movies of various genres.
For me personally, there  were and are only three MEN in Hindi cinema: Sunil Dutt,Vinod Khanna and Dharmender. None before and none after qualify to be the quintessential macho man. No 6-pack/8-pack nonsense with these men. These were men, tall, good looking with great, firm bodies: physiques that would set many a heart aflutter. Girls swore by Khanna's handsomeness.
I read recently about a journalist writing about how he never got his due. This is oh-so-wrong! Through my teenage years I remember the close rivalry between Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna so well. Both were at the peaks of their career. And Vinod Khanna acted in many movies reveling in the fame and adulation they brought. So it is not right to say that he wasn't appreciated. His stardom was perhaps second only to Rajesh Khanna's.
It was then that, breaking crores of hearts, he quit everything to join Osho, his spiritual guru. I remember that so well. We were all so disheartened, unable to understand his decision, about how someone can just throw away everything like that in pursuit of spiritual fulfillment.

What is this handsome hunk doing in the garb of a sanyasi?
But later, when I grew a little older I understood how courageous one needs to be to follow one's heart.
This action, in tandem with Rajesh Khanna's declining stardom, left the field clear for the rise of Amitabh Bachchan and many of his mediocre angry-young-man movies.
He was a young 35-year old in 1982 when he quit films. At an age when people are poised for greater things in life, he so easily gave up everything! After the 5-year hiatus, the comeback was never the same. Five years is a big time in one's career, more so in films where an actor has a limited shelf life. Despite not finding his niche back, he worked and kept working till his death. He is said to be one of the most dignified and professional people on sets.
His death, a little too soon at 70, may not have been painless but at least he lived the life of his choice.

Define Cool!
Image courtesy: Google Images

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Mann mein doosara laddoo phoota?!

Kismet...what else can describe today's incident?
I had to attend to some work at the bank and I was putting it off for some time. The super-hot sun blazing away at 43° makes sure I confine myself to the cool interiors most of the time.
But then I went today as I had to get this work done. There was a queue and I decided to check the attached ATM meanwhile...rather reluctantly and with a certainty that there will be, as usual, no cash.
Since 8th November 2016, this has been the fate of the common man...running from ATM to ATM hoping to lay hands on some cash.
The ATMs are once again drying up after a short period of availability a month ago. Ironically, I haven't been able to draw money from the ATM of this bank (which is my main account) since November. And therefore, when I tried, I tried with really very little hope. And lo and behold! There was cash!
I typed 5500. It rejected suggesting that I draw 4000/- . The usual story, I thought...dispensing 2 two thousand rupee notes. Sigh! With the no-cash-no-change dictum presently in India, I despaired thinking of how to pay my tailor today.
I tried at another machine hoping to get 500 rupee notes. It rejected again with a suggestion of drawing 4000/ . With no other go, I typed in 4000 and guess what? I got 40 x Rs.100 notes! Can you believe that? For the first time, no 2000s or 500s but the whole of 4000 in 100s!
While I was smiling away gloriously, this guy standing at the next machine was muttering...'getting 100s only, want 2000 rupee notes.'
Man mein doosara laddu phoota! I was carrying the only cash I had at home...a 2000 rupee note and offered it to him. I watched with a gluttonous rapture as he counted, 1...2...3...4...20 of the limited edition. I wish I had another 2000 to exchange for that bundle of 20 x 100s that he was holding!

Am I not rich...rich...rich today?! 6000 rupees of spendable money in hand!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Daily tit-bits: April 2017

17th April
Bought the first huge ripe mango of the season.
Discovered that Revanth is a Brahmin and Rohith isnt! Surprising. I thought it was vice-versa.

18th
Started watching a serial again! "Karle tu bhi mohabbat". Again my favorite jodi, Ram and Sakshi
What is this weather? 45 degrees...feels like 41! So hot, so soon. May is still waiting to happen.
When in Toronto we had temperatures like 5 degrees, feels like 0!

Of a crazy total of 7.5 mg of Glimepride per day, knocked off 4 mg today as the tablet got over and I could not replace it in time, The surprising effect is, I feel so normal today. No weakness...nothing! Realized that it is taking of all those medicines that were effecting me all these days. 3 months of weakness...just gone like that! Need to concentrate more on yoga and exercises now. Need to do it unfailingly and reduce dependence on medicines to as far an extent as possible. Yes, I can do it!

19th
Went to the bank today. I went at 11ish hoping to reach home by 12. But the queues inside made me wait till 1pm and when I came out, the scooty handles and the seat had heated up so much that it was very tough holding them and driving back.
Heat alert on in Hyderabad for the next three days! The summer has set in early this year

22nd
Gave dress to tailor on 4th and yet to receive it from her. She has made a mess of the dress and moreover takes three weeks to deliver. I don't think I should go to Devi tailor any more. Meanwhile, luckily gave another dress to Jawed and he has not only done it on time without any calls/reminders but redid it also within a day's time. At least one dress is ready for the birthday! Happy me!
Watched just the three free episodes of "kalre tu bhi mohabbat". After that it is paid episodes. Did Ekta kapoor actually think people will PAY and watch serials?! Crazy! Who would? This idea of webisodes may not work.
Started a total of 5.5 mg of Glimepride for last two days with 1500 mg of Metformin and this combination seems to be working fine. Don't feel that weakness. Need to test now to see if it is also helping control blood sugar,

24th
Saw Saheb, Biwi aur Ganster Returns (2013). If the sequel could be so intriguing, I wonder what part1 would have been like.Plot within plot, unpredictable twists ad turns and a surprise ending. What power-house performances! Now, can't wait to watch the first part.
To offset that movie watched a thoroughly commercial flick, Telugu movie Temper (2015). Enjoyed the loud, melodramatic, dishoom-dishoom,heroine-not needed kind of movie. Entertaining to the core :)
Also caught Begum Jaan. Groan! What melodramatic OTT performances! Gosh! The film had such potential. May seem cruel to say this but Vidya Balan,time to take a break, lady! Come back in a new avataar.

25th
My Birthday! Started celebrating it again about 5 years back after a long hiatus.
Searched a lot for which restaurant to visit. As I eat out rarely, I always try and visit a new one but this time I didnt want to risk going to a bad one on my birthday and opted for a known one. Visited Exotica on Banjara Hills. Indian cuisine. No item was bad though there was not a great range. But it is okay. I can anyway just have a bite of each of the items. Post-lunch I allowed myself to walk through the little space in the outside dining section enjoying what little natural ambiance is allowed in the space the size of your hand! Tummy and mind full, I went to GVK mall, planning to do some window shopping till my next place of visit . Tried a few clothes and without a plan to, bought a top. I never spend more than 1000-1500 on a dress for myself but this time ended up buying a top weighing about 10 gms (exaggerating, of course) for 1600..the max I spent on a dress for myself!
My next destination was La Makaan. Wanted to visit this place for a very long time and finally had the opportunity to. I walked the 350 meters to La Makaan from GVK and found it exactly as I had imagined it to be. GVK mall had the teas and coffees going for the usual prices of 150-180 etc. La Makaan offered the same for 10/- and the taste was just awesome! I had heard the samosas there were great and when I went to buy, I found why. The cook there was an Oriya guy and brought the taste of Orissa to them. Bought two at 5/- apiece. As I bit into it, the forgotten tastes of Orissa hit my taste buds. Awesome! Then I went down to the open space which hosts events. There were some plastic chairs and tables strewn around. People were sitting around chatting. But there was an atmosphere...if you understand...something that said this is where the creative juices flow...of people who think from heart.
Not happy about being alone there, I joined a couple of men chatting among themselves and discovered that both of them were associated with films: one a writer and the other an editor. Had a long chat with them and discovered many interesting things about behind the screens' happenings. Meanwhile, we were joined by an aspiring actor too...adding another angle to the behind the screens happening in films.
Even with nothing to do there, I found the place so enrapturing. Ideal to go to with a close friend, let your hair down as you gulp down those awesome samosas and chai.
Doing all that I planned to do and more left me with a very serene feeling. Was happy, happy at the end of it all.

26th
Had wiped the top of the old fridge which was gathering dust lying in a corner of the house. I had forgotten all about my dust allergy and had suffered the whole night without sleep as I was hit with a very bad cold. Despite that, I had to go and buy mangoes for pickle preparation.
Discovered after going to Monda market that it was amavasya, a time when the market would not have many sellers and so bought from one of the two vendors selling mangoes.
Doing it alone, it took me two hours to wipe and clean each piece and remove the plastic sheet kind of layer from the inside of each piece. This made me sleep quite late in the night. But the cold having abated (after making me suffer for two consecutive nights), I slept well today.

27th
Have been feeling weak since morning. All I managed to do was to get up and make the pickle. Have put it in a big dabba, After three days, need to stir it again and store it away in the big ceramic jar till next April.

28th
Learned the trick to ironing clothes properly. When I see my sis in law ironing so many clothes of the entire family, I thought, could I not do just the few I have? Learned to wet them well , roll them and keep it aside for some time. When all layers are damp, iron them. And they come out quite stiff and nice...unlike last week's attempt at wetting and ironing them instantly. Also proud that I had the sense to put a cloth over the tens of teeny-weeny mirrors stuck on the dress...taking care not to burn them like the isthriwla had done some time back.
Watched Kanjeevaram (Tamil) movie. I know that the story and the actors within are fantastic but it is definitely not a mood lifter, especially with its pessimistic end :(
29th
Went out today at 11.45 as it was a little cloudy but it took about an hour to come back. After lunch, when I got onto bed, discovered that the cold had returned again! Was it because I went outdoors and got exposed to dust again? Had worn the mask though...Finally, got the blue dress given for stitching on the 4th of April. Had wanted to wear it for the birthday...ended up wearing something else!
Second salary from the new company I joined got credited! Happy me :)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Closing cycles: Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho has always inspired me with his thought-provoking writings.The principle in the below excerpt is something I understand so well, yet I know, not as easy to follow.

One always has to know when a stage comes to an end. If we insist on staying longer than the necessary time, we lose the happiness and the meaning of the other stages we have to go through.
Closing cycles, shutting doors, ending chapters – whatever name we give it, what matters is to leave in the past the moments of life that have finished.

Did you lose your job? Has a loving relationship come to an end? Did you leave your parents’ house? Gone to live abroad? Has a long-lasting friendship ended all of a sudden?
You can spend a long time wondering why this has happened.

You can tell yourself you won’t take another step until you find out why certain things that were so important and so solid in your life have turned into dust, just like that.
But such an attitude will be awfully stressing for everyone involved: your parents, your husband or wife, your friends, your children, your sister.
Everyone is finishing chapters, turning over new leaves, getting on with life, and they will all feel bad seeing you at a standstill.

Things pass, and the best we can do is to let them really go away.

That is why it is so important (however painful it may be!) to destroy souvenirs, move, give lots of things away to orphanages, sell or donate the books you have at home.

Everything in this visible world is a manifestation of the invisible world, of what is going on in our hearts – and getting rid of certain memories also means making some room for other memories to take their place.
Let things go. Release them. Detach yourself from them.

Nobody plays this life with marked cards, so sometimes we win and sometimes we lose.
Do not expect anything in return, do not expect your efforts to be appreciated, your genius to be discovered, your love to be understood.

Stop turning on your emotional television to watch the same program over and over again, the one that shows how much you suffered from a certain loss: that is only poisoning you, nothing else.

Nothing is more dangerous than not accepting love relationships that are broken off, work that is promised but there is no starting date, decisions that are always put off waiting for the “ideal moment.”

Before a new chapter is begun, the old one has to be finished: tell yourself that what has passed will never come back.
Remember that there was a time when you could live without that thing or that person – nothing is irreplaceable, a habit is not a need.
This may sound so obvious, it may even be difficult, but it is very important.

Closing cycles. Not because of pride, incapacity or arrogance, but simply because that no longer fits your life.

Shut the door, change the record, clean the house, shake off the dust.

Stop being who you were, and change into who you are.

Original link here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Casa Loma: the courage to dream


Though a not-so-good student of history in high school, as a traveler history has me enthralled. To see what a person yearns for, fights for, gathers, wages wars for, amassing wealth and territories, the opulence and grandeur of an era gone by...all these hold a great fascination to me.
Yet, a visit to Casa Loma palace bowled me over for a different reason altogether. Princes, kings, queens, lords living in opulence is well-established in history but for a common man like you and me living in a palace is a dream and that is what Sir Henry Pellatt aimed for. He built and lived in a palace, the grandeur of which is beyond the wildest dreams of a common man.
Pellatt rose from a very humble origins as a stock broker. He made fortunes through his ambitious hydro-electric and railway projects. His larger-than-life persona sought to make a mark in history in the form of this grand castle in the North of Toronto built on the top of a hill in 1914.
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Casa Loma on a foggy day

The very ambitious plan for the castle consisted of 98 rooms, 30 bathrooms, magnificent fireplaces, 3 bowling alleys, a swimming pool, a rifle range and huge grounds all around for walking. The best architect was hired to plan the construction of the palace, begun in 1911, with the help of 300 men at a total cost of  3.5 million dollars.The best of mahogany, oak, walnut, teak and marble from across the world used for the interiors added another 1.5 million dollars to the cost.
The Hunting Lodge and the stables right across Casa Loma were constructed first. It also housed the servants' quarters. It is said that each of the stables had the name of the horse embellished in gold.

The Hunting Lodge and servants' quarters

When the city built a road cutting across this property, Pellatt had a long 800-ft tunnel connecting the palace to the Hunting Lodge dug beneath the street. This long passage is said to have helped Pellatt protect himself from cold winters while walking from the palace to the stables.
The ground floor of the palace consisted of a palatial main hall at the entrance, a large library with a collection of 10000 books, the dining and serving areas, Pellatt's study and the impressive conservatory.
An example of Pellatt's ambitious plan is his collection of  50 various telephone instruments in the castle, accounting for more than half the telephones in Toronto, with its own exchange system.

One of the 50 phones in the palace
Pellatt had the grand Napoleon's desk replicated in his study. There were two secret passage ways from each side of the fireplace, one led to his bedroom and another to the basement. The movement across floors was also assisted  with the help of lifts that Pallett had installed...again an unheard of luxury in those days. Strangely there was no staircase from the central hall to the first floor.

Pellatt's study

The Oak room was one of the most formal rooms with grand interiors where Pellatt entertained important guests. Off the Oak Room are the huge Smoking Room and the Billiards Room.


The Oak Room
Towards the end of the main floor, there was a conservatory with the best floral arrangements. Steamed water helped maintain normal temperatures during harsh winters.
Between the huge library and the conservatory was the equally spacious dining room. A passage from the kitchen led to the Serving Room where all dishes were assembled before serving. Attached was a small hideaway where the orchestra would play in the background
The first floor consisted of palatial bedrooms of Henry Pellatt and Lady Pellatt. Only the rich could afford a bedroom each for the husband and wife in those days.The bedrooms showcased exhibits brought from all over the world.
Apart from the many bedrooms for guests, he had a special bedroom, the Windsor Room, for the Queen. Ambitious as he was, he hoped that one day he would boast of a Royal visit.

In anticipation of a Royal visit

The fireplace in Windsor room
Despite a temporary recess during World War I, the construction resumed in time to enable Pellatt and his wife to move into the near-completed palace in 1914.
The post-war recession witnessed Pellatt's fast-depleting reserves. He owned 1.7 million dollars to the Home Bank which collapsed in 1923. Adding to his woes, the property tax increased from $600 a year to $1000  a month! In addition, mounting fuel costs for heating the palace, the cost of maintaining the 40 servants, the lavishly-held parties which had the who's who of those times...all these led to Pellatt's bankruptcy.
The couple had to move out of the palace in 1924. Lady Pellatt died shortly after of a heart attack
Most of the assets in the palace were auctioned to repay debts.The artifacts lovingly gathered from all over the world were given away at throw-away prices: "A Persian rug for the cost of a doormat." Pellatt is said to move out with just three van full of belongings.
The grandiose plans for the palace were never completed and the whole of the second floor lies vacant. Once abandoned, the palace lay itself wide open to heavy vandalization. Not knowing what to do with the palace, the city thought of demolishing this 'appalling' structure at a point of time.
It is now restored and is open to public view. It is also used for conducting events and film shootings. In the now Gift Shop, you can see plans for the three bowling alleys.The grandly planned swimming pool houses the theater which runs a documentary film on Henry Pellatt.

Pellatt's story has me awed due to his sheer guts and gumption in building this palace. Common people would never dream of such ostentation but he dared to dream beyond the possible, to live in this imposing structure even if it was for nine years only. He shrugged away the label of being mad for his seemingly absurd plans. He had one son who in turn isn't survived by a progeny.
He never regained that opulence but yes, some redemption for Sir Henry Pellatt as people turned out in thousands to bear witness to his funeral procession held on a cold winter day in March, 1939.

(Most of what I have written comes from the audio tour provided during my visit to the palace and looking up several articles on the internet.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Dangal: a battle

Aamir Khan has taken such giant strides as an actor that  his stature has become nearly untouchable. To pass judgement on his acting skills has become tougher for the reviewer; and for Aamir too, to keep scaling up from his previous movie as he sets the bar higher with each one of his films.
His one film a year is worth a hundred other releases. Apart from Dhoom, I have gone to watch his every film without a thought. He has done it again with Dangal.
Dangal is a film on sports. It starts with a young Aamir who was once a national wrestling champion but one who has failed to win the gold for his country. Subtle references are made to the uncongenial circumstances in India that do not help foster one's sporting capabilities and then you are forced to take up a job to support yourself financially instead of concentrating on furthering your interest in sports.
Aamir is supported very nicely by Sakshi Tanwar as his wife, who despite her TV acting background, has proved that subtlety is something that a good actor is capable of. Her quiet presence was what the movie needed...of a mother who is caught between her husband's dreams for his daughters and  the demands of a bigoted society in Haryana where the protagonists live.
As it happens in Haryana or maybe any other place in India, Aamir can only think of a son fulfilling his dream for a gold medal. Therefore, when his wife gets pregnant, he eagerly awaits a son. But the first is  a daughter, and the next and next and the next...
He gives up on his dream till one day a complaint against his daughters who had beaten up a few boys from the neighborhood makes him realize that he doesn't need a son to fulfill his dreams. Even the daughters are good. "A wrestler's blood runs in his children," he says.
The two daughters (Fatima and  Sanya) are then trained vigorously to enable them to take up wrestling at the state, national and international levels. Despite this obsession for the fulfillment of his dreams, it is commendable to note that Aamir makes a point never to raise a hand against a girl.
Though Aamir's thrusting his dreams on his children cannot be condoned, yet, for a father to dream of a career for his daughters beyond cooking, marrying and producing children, to go against the societal dictates is something to be highly lauded. He fights with the society and with his own children. The reluctant children  strive to live up to their father's expectation only when a friend who is getting married at fourteen, says she wished for such a father too.
Aamir takes them to dangals, a first time dangal where he has his girls wrestling with the boys. Though sniggered at initially, the wrestlers soon realize what they are up against. The girls eventually become the pride of their father when they return to their village with trophies won in game after game.
The girls are sent to Patiala, a city, for further training to prepare them for the international game. In a few touch-and-go scenes, Aamir shows the dark side of such academia. He continues to support his daughters till Fatima goes on to win the gold.
Aamir has excelled himself as a young wrestler, as a middle aged and an old father. He shows no qualms as an actor, putting on weight, adapting a slow gait, sporting a grizzly beard and acting older to his real age. He doesn't believe in being in every frame as the main lead, and allows the girls to take the center stage whenever necessary. Though this does go to the director, Nitesh Tiwari's, credit you'd seldom find our heroes let other actors hog the limelight.
The movie is based on real life story of Mahavir Singh Phogat who has made sure that all his daughters excel in their game.
Aparshakti Khurrana, (Ayushmann Khurrana's brother) makes an impact as the narrator and the goofy nephew of Aamir Khan. He provides the necessary comic  relief to the otherwise serious narration. 'Bapu sehath ke liye' song adds to the fun. The main leads' attempts to have a son through following various superstitious beliefs also is hilarious! Watch out especially for the line, 'kal subah panch baje..."
The two girls and the nephews' younger selves have done some great work too.
In some places, I felt that the film was holding itself back with a very cautious approach to some plausible provocative issues, given especially the backdrop of the very vocal condemnation of Aamir's statements last year.
The story maybe accused of having a simplistic approach but it doesn't fail in its gripping narration. My reviewer's eye was forgotten as I lost myself in lapping up every scene greedily.
For me the story works for what it stands for...a supporting father who stands against the world to give shape to his daughters' career. This film, coming from Aamir's stable, will surely give hope to all daughters in India.
My rating: 4 and a half on 5.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Toronto: an Indian tourist perspective

A long vacation of two months in Toronto was a revelation in many ways. After the first few days of jet-lag, it was time to go around. Below is what I observed about Toronto. This post may prove useful to a first-time visitor.
The Travel:
In the beginning, the whizzing cars on Toronto roads scared me immensely. But then I realized, as a pedestrian, I was the queen. All I needed was to press the button at the crossing...and the red light would turn green for me. I would scamper across as I saw the timer begin its countdown from 22. I would be delighted to watch the vehicles wait even when the timer showed a 0 and I didn't have to zigzag across the road with my hand held up hoping to make it across the street alive! The pedestrian here is respected.
Despite those scary speeds at which the cars traveled, they would strictly adhere to their lanes. Lane changes are indicated well in advance.
And how much I miss the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission)! The TTC is a combination of subway, the bus and the street car. For a mere $3 we could travel anywhere...however long or short the distance! We traversed the whole of Toronto gleefully at these rates. Multiple ticket options are the Presto card, tokens, weekend and the monthly pass.
The subway consisted of two lines, Line 1 and Line 2, running perpendicular to each other. A big advantage was to have trains running every two minutes and so there was hardly a wait period.
TTC apologizes for any inconvenience caused due to the slightest delay or even when a train does not run at its optimum speed between two stations.The coaches are all air-conditioned and pretty clean, more so those on the newer Line 1.
Ours was Islington, almost the last station on Line 2.

The TTC Subway Map

WiFi:
The subways stations are all equipped with uninterrupted and strong WiFi signals. Not just that, WiFi is abundantly available through the town, almost at every restaurant and tourist destination. As a tourist when one does not have local connectivity, this comes as a blessing!
At the Stores:
When you step inside a store, you are greeted with a loud cheerful 'Hi!' Back home, I am used to browsing the store quietly and then select what I need. This loud cheerful "Hi" threw me initially. Their exuberant greeting would be met by a very meek and shy 'hi' from me. It's another story that hearing this day in and day out, it rubbed off on me so much so that when I returned to India and greeted the bank official in the same style, he was perhaps a bit thrown off and returned the greeting with a very hesitant "Yes, madam?"
This initial greeting would quickly give way to, "What would you like today?" I used to loathe this pressure of getting you to quickly select something and get moving. Eventually I learned to reply firmly, "I am looking and will let you know when I decide." Of course, this was not so at the bigger marts.
Unlike in India, where there is only exchange on items  you are not happy with, here, you get a full cash refund for items returned in 30-90 days...no questions asked. It is so easy!
The mind-boggling array of brand choices in most of these medium-to-large stores is amazing! I took ten minutes just to select one shampoo. So, imagine the time I spent in the stores shopping! There is a wide variety of pharmaceutical products too...huge jars of vitamins and supplements to choose from!
A new experience was the absence of a standard MRP on the products. And as each store has the freedom to charge as they want, we got many a meaty deal. Walmart had select deals on select products on some days but Costco (membership-only) offered products in bulk at the lowest prices in Toronto. For comparatively smaller quantities, the No-Frills store claims to be the cheapest in Toronto.
Though electronic items are available at half prices as compared to India's, what I brought back are all those food items that are available at select shops in India and/or exorbitantly priced.
Every store, big or small, accepts the debit and/or credit card...that is the norm of payment there. We were one of the very few people to buy with currency. There was never an instance of 'chillar nahi hain' repartee. We even got away with paying with a torn note once. Some of these marts had self check-in. You can total and pay on your way out. You don't need a cashier to help you.
Most of these stores are grouped in a cluster in one place and no 'kirana' kind of places that you can quickly run to in case you need something.
The People:
What I found similar to India are its helpful people. Everywhere I went, I found that it was easy to ask a stranger for help with directions.The bus drivers, the TTC personnel were also very helpful in providing directions.
There was checking by the TTC once and I was quite amazed by their approach. They would ask everyone with equal respect and patience, "Please show the ticket proof". Once shown, a wide smile and a "Thank you". They don't make you feel like a criminal but treat you with dignity that a ticket-holder deserves.
I found a new meaning for tolerance in the acceptance of every nation, race and religion in Toronto. In fact, Air Canada had Punjabi and Hindi films on its flight. Brampton in Toronto has its signages in Punjabi!
Space:
The concept of space is brilliant here: The physical space includes vast expanses of greenery all around you, in the parks and in marked conservation areas.. Lesser population also meant more space available. Joggers in vast open spaces is a common sight.  The air smells so deliciously clean!
The unwritten rule is to walk on the right-side of your path (footpath, mall, walking area, or stairs) and give way to people coming from the opposite direction. Even the trains travel towards their right. While standing in queues, you are expected to maintain a distance of approximately a foot from the person in front. If by mistake someone bumps into you, there is an instant apology. 
The Public Place:
Most of the public places have a fully-equipped, very, very clean washrooms along with drinking water faucets. The tourist places come with the coats hangers room in the entrance.
All streets have  pavements which dips onto the road at the junctions making it accessible for the wheel chair. Not just the streets but all public places have ramps to enable easy wheel chair access.
The Home:
Most of them are condominium accommodations. The condos and apartments are accessible with a key fob at the entrance and managed by a building management inside it. You are similarly provided a key to the parking. No puny watchman guarding the building here.
The biggest blessing for me was to sleep in a noiseless house. Thick and double-glazed windows  and doors help keep the noise out and let you sleep  in peace. No sounds of cars (no honking anyways) or sounds from the neighborhood disturb you.
Must confess, Toronto has grown on me and I would have stayed on if not driven out by the onset of its harsh winter.