Heart Lake, Brampton
Summer and group picnics are almost synonymous in GTA. However, like a colorful butterfly it comes in all varieties and natures – from provincial to ex-schools. I for one can safely state that I am fortunate enough to be an ex of a glorious organization back in Bangladesh – the CCs, as we fondly abbreviate for Cadet Colleges.
Not sure who first came up with this idea of picnic but I’ll happily give the credit to the group of organizers we call volunteers. They have been good at finding time from their otherwise busy daily schedules to meet at regular intervals to plan out the big event – The Picnic – first ever of its kind as long as ex-cadets in Canada are concerned, from choosing location to food to activities to entertainment – name it. We were obviously kept in the loop with regular emails circulated in the group email and waited perhaps not without a certain level of apprehension for the day when all of that planning would come into being – after all it was first en mass outdoor gathering of this group.
At my home front I had a battle to fight just to make my physical presence in the picnic a possibility. There are two states of a parenthood when a parent can truly feel in control – first: when the kids are in their infancy and can not say ‘No’ or do not have the level of intelligence required to even try ‘reasoning’; second: when they are supporting themselves and are not about to make a big cry for that one good toy they really wanted that some boy from school had. The first time I mentioned picnic my kids who are at a very troublesome age of 11 and 6 promptly asked who else were coming. Of course they were not interested in knowing about other ex-cadets. All they were trying to know is who else from their circle of friends were coming. Fortunately we have a few family friends with kids who are ex-cadets. This worked out in my favor, until of course something horrible happened - a birthday invitation breezed in, who happened to be the best friend of my daughter. This is when things turned hopeless. Nothing could be worse than tagging along unwilling kids. Not that that can only ruin a perfectly nice day for the parents it may actually have the potential to ruin everyone else's day within the radius of a few kilometers. A solution needed to be found. I had to promise to take them to the birthday party after the ‘no fun’, ‘very boring’ picnic where they knew only ‘two kids’.
Whew! I really wanted to go to this picnic, not just because I am a sucker for any outdoor activities in Toronto’s short living summer but also because I felt a need to be there, snatching up another opportunity to be in the company of folks who all shared fond memories of institutions where our boyhood and a very important part of youth were spent.
Preceding to the event the enthusiasm were high, moral unbeatable and camaraderie enviable. A well thought itinerary was made and issued through all communication channels. The list promised events in plentiful – from breakfast, lunch, snacks, games, water activities to cultural show and more. Doubtful, wondering if such busy itinerary was achievable considering our world renown ‘Deshi punctuality’ I embraced myself for the worst where we would accomplish only part of the grand plan.
Okay, enough of foreplay; lets fast track to June 23rd, a Saturday – the day set for the picnic. Weather wise it turned out to be a gorgeous day – sun shining at its brightest, clear cloud free sky, a nice comfortable breeze flowing – just the right mixture of sun, warmth and comfort for a day out.
Awaken and ready in a blitz, all excited to zoom out to the picnic ground, I devoted myself in getting the kids motivated and ready starting with a lecture how one must enjoy a beautiful warm day outdoor and not playing video games which like all other kids of their age they seemed to be so taken by. One thing I have learned over the years of my parenthood the thing that always and undoubtedly works with them is screaming - something I have never been able to totally master. Not a problem. I am a man of plan B. I prepare the ground with nice affectionate words, softening them up for the real thunder that follows in the form of a screaming, screeching mother which sees them disbursing at a rate of light. No exception today.
· Getting there
The location was Heart Lake Conservation Area in Brampton. A large site with a shade capable of accommodating for 300 visitors was booked, courtesy of Belal bhai –FCC 72. I had never been there but browsing through their website it looked quite promising. We started at 11 AM. Considering the distance from the eastern part of GTA where we lived it felt like an hour long trip. Not too bad even for the impatient kids. There was a promise of serving breakfast around 11.45AM. Dalliance being a national attribute I had this faint hope that we might be in good shape for a late breakfast around noon when we were hoping to reach the spot.
We didn’t get as lucky on the road. 401 as usual were clogged in traffic. Ongoing construction work in one of the major exits near downtown area exacerbated the situation.
After pushing through the traffic for much longer than we anticipated when we finally reached the venue it was half past noon. Located on hilltops at the edge of Heart Lake the tree lined specious flat spot with a good size open field, a large shade and in the vicinity of the glittering water of the large pool and splash area – the site immediately made us feel at home.
Around 1 PM finally breakfast was served as participants continued to flow in – many facing heavier traffic as the day progressed. Shafiq –JCC and Nazmul – FCC who had taken up the responsibility graciously planned, executed and overlooked the operation as The Host employees catered the food neatly on tables arranged under the shade. With various types of mouth watering food this turned out to be the one of several wonderful things to come in the day. While the timing of breakfast was severely shifted, Chat Papri, Tawoa Boti Kabab and Murg Tikka Masalla and other plentiful and well cooked food won everybody right in ‘Hello’.
o Men’s soccer (tiebreaker)
§ Admittedly my familiarity with most of the folks among the visitors was short, in some cases only few months deep, but that made no difference when it came to sports. The organizers had a very aggressive plan with a multi team soccer tournament, cricket and other games for all genders and all ages. It is a fact that most cadets ex or current have a natural pull to sports – possibly the regular presence of it during the cadet college years had a lifelong effect.
· It appeared that a larger number of ex-cadets who attended the picnic were from cadet colleges belonging to Comilla board. Hence two teams were formed: Comilla board and the rest.
· The field was crowded, earth grassy, sun warm but the spectators plentiful with as much energy and enthusiasm one may expect to see in such circumstance. At the end the field did get a little overcrowded with each team having surplus of players but the game progressed quite nicely with attacks and counter attacks with Comilla having an edge. After two fifteen minute halves when none of the teams scored a penalty kick tiebreaker was staged with Comilla emerging as the winner with a score of 4-3.
§ The commentary
· While microphones are an integral part of most if not all picnics back in Bangladesh, here I was yet to experience any. However, that changed abruptly when a microphone came out and remained an integral part through the games, meals and other activities during this picnic. There’s no denying the fact that everybody enjoyed the refreshing and live commentary by the commentators.
o Men’s cricket
§ With the success of the soccer game cricket quickly became an option. The same two sides from soccer took the grassy field in an impromptu cricket match of 7 overs each with some restrictions in place. Played on a shorter peach it turned out to be high scoring game with the Comilla board scoring whopping 78 runs and the rest falling slightly short scoring 65. Considering the fact that most of the men hadn’t played a descent cricket game for a while this was quite the achievement.
o Boys soccer
§ A game of soccer was played out between two teams of the sons of the ex-cadets. Many if not all of them had been born and brought up here and not everybody played much soccer but they did their best to compete and put up a good show. At the end the game was drawn with each team scoring a single goal.
o Boy’s and girl’s (children) games
§ Boys and girls both competed against their own genders in a game of score-a-goal where they had to kick a ball through a small opening. The scorers moved up until top three was determined.
o Women’s games
§ The ladies – a handful of ex-cadets and the spouses of the male cadets engaged in their own set of games. Rumal Churi being one of them.
o Lunch –
§ The lunch was a truly nice treat with several finger leaking dishes (Nan, Rice Pilau, Tandoori Chicken, Beef Curry, Butter Chicken, Chana Masala, Aloo Gobhi) followed by very delicious desserts in the form of golab jamun and khir. It was a nice change to see the kids who otherwise hate eating anything out of their comfort zone of pizza, pasta and burgers really enjoyed the Indian themed food.
§ Next we had to hit the cool and glittering pool and the splash pad. It was great to plunge into the very comfortable water and swim off the stinging warmth of the summer sun. The place was packed with kids. Some of the older kids went through swimming tests and were allowed to move to the deeper section of the pool where they had a great time jumping into the water. Thankfully my son was one of them. All the anxiety that I had about him being awfully bored turned out to be false. Seeing him having as much fun as I was allowed me to relax a bit. Later many other ex-cadets joined in the pool as well.
o Boating and Fishing
§ Heart Lake has one boat rental facility and fishing spots throughout the shore line. The lake is a short walk down the hill from the picnic spots and not readily visible from above due to dense vegetation. Boating is usually a popular activity among picnickers. A handful of the guests made their way through to the boat rental and another few threw in their lines in the water hoping to catch a fish or two. Whether they got lucky or not I do not know but while pacing down the shoreline of the lake I noticed many fishermen but no fish.
o Raffle draw
§ This turned out to be a great crowd puller. The wives of some ex-cadets were asked to pick the winning tickets randomly. The outcome provided some stunning results, in one case a mother picking ticket bought by her child. Interestingly enough one of the boys was targeting a certain prize and he ended up winning it. This was a very pleasant phase of the picnic. Not to mention we won nothing and my son as always complained about how unlucky we were.
o Cultural shows
§ A cultural show took place after the raffle draw followed by prize ceremony and then the show continued with two more singers taking over, namely Bonoful of SCC and Sraboni Bhabi.
· Overall, we all had a great time with the kids enjoying the outing as much as we did. As parents this is always a very satisfying feeling. Also, watching them getting introduced and playing together like age long friends was a very pleasing. One can only imagine over time many of these kids would bound to become good friends living in the same city and would carry the spirit of the group to the next generation.
· Special incidents:
o 1 Participant was from Australia
o T-shirts were distributed among all cadets and their kids. Interestingly they were designed, manufactured in Bangladesh and shipped to Canada – all within the tight timeframe of three weeks. The T Shirts were sponsored by ex-cadet Afroza Shahin (MGCC, 93)
o The Blackberry Playbook that was offered as the first prize for Raffel draw was sponsored by Ex-cadet Kamal – SCC
o A major portion of the food was sponsored by local businessman Shafiq of JCC
· A details of all names, roles and activities
· Registration and Reception: Sabbir CCR, Rudaba MGCC, Faysal JCC, Sohel SCC
· Accountant: Hanif FCC
· Transport coordination: Iftikhar FCC, Hafiz SCC
· Food: Shafiq JCC, Nazmul FCC, Shoeb – BCC
· Coffee: Robin - SCC
· Male Games: Anwar PCC, Sohel SCC, Ataullah SCC, Kishor RCC
· Female Games: Rudaba MGCC, Bushra, MGCC, Orina MGCC
· Kids Games: Sabbir CCR, Sohel SCC, Hanif RCC, Rashed CCC
· Cultural Program: Bonofool SCC, Iftikhar FCC
· First Aid: Rudaba MGCC
· Raffle Draw Ticket sell: Hanif FCC, Shoeb BCC, Arshad PCC
· Paper Advertisement: Sayeed CCC, Shafiq JCC
· Picnic Banner: Nazmul FCC
· Raffle Draw Host: Rimon SCC
· Host: Ataullah SCC, Anwar PCC
· Direction: Hyder BCC, Sabbir CCR, Nazmul FCC, Rimon SCC
· Overall coordination: Mobin CCC