By Ajay Puri
On Saturday April 17, 2010 East of Main had its very first field trip to Surrey, BC. The City of Surrey is known for being Canada’s fastest growing area and also known for the highest concentration and numbers of Sikh followers outside of the State of Punjab*.
This was certainly apparent at the 2010 Surrey Vaisakhi (NAGAR KIRTAN) Parade where hundreds of thousands of people came out to celebrate. For us, it was such an eye-opening experience. We’ve attended the Main Street Vaisakhi celebrations in years past and were amazed to see the scale of festivities, but the Surrey event just blew us away. There were a reported 150,000 people who attended the parade, which went from 10am to 6pm.
Amongst the blocks upon blocks that the parade traveled on 128th street there were a reported 1000 stalls which showcased local businesses, non-profits and residents - each had something to give away: balloons, toys, information and most importantly Punjabi food! We were able to taste a variety of delicious vegetarian dishes including Pani Puri (little fried wafers that are filled with spiced masala water), Papri Chat (little crispy wafers, chickpeas, onions which are doused in yogurt, tamarind sauce and green chutney (mint sauce), Cholay Batura / Puri, and the famous pakoras (spiced breaded cheese / paneer, vegetables or bread).
With all these giveaways one can imagine all the garbage that is produced. According to a spokesperson from Remple Waste Disposal, more than 7 tonnes of waste was collected at the 2009 parade. Fortunately a local green South Asian hero, Preet Bal, wanted to begin the process of green’ing the event. A few years ago she started the ‘recycling heros’ program - a campaign to place large blue recycling bins throughout the parade route so that all the parade goers had an option of recycling their pop cans, water and juice bottles, paper and other recyclable items. She was able to recruit many volunteers (including myself) who were like her interested in the environment to help educate people on what items can be recycled and reduce the carbon footprint of the parade.
Thanks again Preet for your amazing work and until next year Happy Green Vaisakhi everyone!
Want to learn more about Sikhism and it’s connection to the environment? Here’s a great post by Prabhjit K. Banga: Sikhism - The Green Religion?
Want to learn more on what the Recycling Hero program is all about? Check this link
*according to latest Statistics Canada Census data