Monday, January 15, 2024

Unforgettable Canadian Experience!

One night in the mid-nineties, I was walking along Richmond Street West towards University Avenue. As I passed the Hilton Hotel, I encountered a panhandler. He stood out from the regular panhandlers, wearing a worn-out coat and pants – a rich-to-rag figure. Politely, he asked for money, and I gave him a toonie, a Canadian two-dollar coin. Grateful, he handed me two quarters and suggested I give them to my daughter, assuring me she could use them to call me when needed.

In that instant, he became a unique and mysterious figure. Intrigued, I decided to engage in a short conversation with him. I noticed he carried a plastic container with 'Clarke for Mayor' written on its surface. Surprisingly, he shared that he was running for Toronto Mayor. He also  told me that he was running to champion people's rights. His revelation astonished me, given the media's portrayal of homeless individuals often dealing with mental illness.

Before parting ways, I inquired about where I could meet him again. He replied that I could find him at the Bay and Adelaide Street intersection. Inspired by this encounter, I later wrote a Tamil short story titled 'The Homeless ' ('வீடற்றவன்'), which was published in several online Tamil magazines and the Tamil newspaper 'Vaikai,' based in Toronto, Canada, in their weekend edition. This story was translated into English by Latha Ramakrishnan, a Tamil writer and translator living in Tamil Nadu, India, and published on Notion Press.

A few months later, a news story published in the Toronto Star caught my attention. The story narrated a brawl between two homeless men at the Bay and Adelaide intersection. To my surprise, one of them was Kevin Clarke, the same person who had run for the Toronto mayoral election and whom I had encountered in front of the Toronto Hilton.

Over time, I forgot about him. Only recently, I found out more about him on the net. According to Wikipedia, he, kevin clarke was the founder and the first leader of the political party 'The People's Political Party.' He was a former educator, a grade 5 teacher in the eighties. He was a perennial candidate who had run for various political offices. He ran a failed auto business. He is no longer on the streets, and I am happy about that. He was not an ordinary homeless man; he was the founder and leader of a political party, an educator, a business owner, and a socio-political activist. In the end of my story 'The Homeless,' I wrote that 'Just like this mysterious city, a mysterious man – I felt.'

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