Gorky Park

Russian immigrants exercising in "Gorky Park" (Michel Botman Photography, 2006)

A (true) story, in honor of India and all our friends from that wonderful place.

When we moved to Carriage Lane – “closer to Jerusalem”, as Lindy used to say – Noah was just six years old.

The first weekend following our move, we went for a first walk in the ravine behind our house.  It is a fairly large ravine hugging the west Don River and stretching all the way south towards the ski slopes south of Finch and Earl Bale Park.  As we found out rapidly, from the heavy Slavic accents floating in the air, the ravine was indeed “very Jewish”, but clearly closer to St Petersburg or Moscow than Jerusalem.  We soon decided that the true name of the ravine had to be “Gorky Park”.

There is a huge hill in the middle of the ravine where kids go tobogganing in the winter.  As we approached it, we could hear cheers and screams of excitement from behind the hill. We were intrigued and decided to climb it to see what was happening.

When we got to the top, we discovered a wide open field.  There was a large party of some kind happening with hundreds of people.  Many were clearly from East Indian background.  There were elegant women dressed in colorful saris and kids with warm copper skin laughing and running all over the place.

Through the cheering crowd, we saw elegantly dressed players in immaculate white uniform playing a sport that I did not immediately identify.  Lindy, who was born in Zimbabwe, (another former colony of the British empire), immediately said with incredible excitement in her voice: “Oh my god … I can’t believe it … they are playing cricket!” … “Look Noah, … they are playing cricket!”

It was quite something to see I must say.  I regretted that I did not have a camera with me. We could have been on the shores of the Ganges – if not for the light northern breeze reminding us that the Canadian winter was not far behind.  We stood there in awe, expecting at some point to see elephants appearing at the corner of the field.  It was truly a surrealistic scene straight from “Gandhi”.

The same evening, we went to Lindy’s parents for supper.  When we arrived, Noah ran to the door and jumped into the arms of Lindy’s father.  “Papou … Papou!“, he said, still excited about the memory of what he had witnessed earlier. “We went to the park, and at the top of the big hill we saw lots of people dressed in white suits …” – and then squinting hard, as to see more clearly in his memory –   “Mom said they were playing” … ” um” … “spider or something” … “no” … “um” … “grasshopper!” … “yes, … grasshopper!”, he repeated, with a large smile and glimpses of copper in the eyes.

About Michel Botman

Michel Botman was born in Belgium, where visual arts have always flirted with the limits of reality. In the eighties, Michel Botman started exploring the first tools to manipulate images though computers. For about 15 years, Michel Botman worked throughout Europe in the emerging field of Computer Applications for the Graphic Arts. Extensive experience in Digital Imaging allowed Michel to move into the field of computerized systems for Diagnostic Imaging. As VP Sales & Marketing for eSys Medical and later with Eclipsys, Michel Botman always remained dedicated to the creativity and innovation that are at the heart of his career. At the present time, Michel Botman is refocusing his life towards graphic arts. “I studied photography in Europe, but never had time to practice it enough. Life took me on other paths towards computer technologies and running a business. I enjoyed it very much, but I also love art. I always keep my eyes open for exciting opportunities and people that touch my heart.” Michel Botman currently lives between Toronto, Canada and Bangkok, Thailand. Above Gravatar pictures are of Michel Botman and his son Noah Botman.
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