Tiddley-Bits tea

Tiddley-Bits tea

Thursday, 14 October 2010

{giving thanks}

thank you, dunyabad, shukriyah, grazie, gracias, merci, danke

thank you. Two simple words we use everyday. We use them with people we know, with people we don’t know, & with people we love.  I spent Canadian Thanksgiving with my middle sister, Christina, & her husband,  Sam and my niece, Anahita in Toronto. Anahita is 20 months and she is learning how to speak. One of the first expressions we teach our children is ‘thank you’. It may be a variant that they actually use: “ta’ or ‘da yu’ …but they are the first words that we use to teach children how to be civilised.  These two words are usually the first we learn in another language. Before travelling, we make sure we know how to say hello & thank you in a foreign tongue. These are the words we use everyday when we accept something, when someone holds the door for us, when someone gives us a huge present, or when someone gives us something small, when we take the coffee we’ve just paid for from the barrista, or when we receive an assignment from a student, or when we take the change we are owed from the grocery cashier. Why do we say thank you when we are being given back what we are owed? It’s a token of gratitude that is used for a variety of purposes on a constantly shifting scale.
I worked for Meinhardt’s (a high-end grocery store in South Granville, Vancouver) in undergrad as a way to pay for my education. I remember, one evening as I rung the groceries through for a customer, I asked him  “How are you?” He replied with “why ask? As if you care.” I remember thinking that if we were to remove all the little forms of civility and gratitude from everyday speech acts, the world would be a scary, sad & very unfriendly place. No please & thank yous. no smiles. no laughs. But with the season of  thanksgiving, I can’t help but wonder, do our ‘thank yous’ really matter? Has the meaning & value from the word been erased? Are our ‘thank yous’ just a matter of habit, and when do we really stop to think for what we are thankful for?
Thanksgiving has a varied history, and its date for celebration varies from country to country. Living in America, Thanksgiving is something that comes right before the Christmas season in November. In Canada, it signals the end of summer and the beginning of fall. In the UK it is the Harvest Festival, which goes back to pagan celebrations.

{Thanksgiving table at Christina's, Toronto}

{love love love brussel sprouts!!}

{Christina in her *new* kitchen serving up thanksgiving dinner: roast beef & yorkies}

Growing up, grace was always said or sung at meal time. It offered us a chance to reflect on the gratitude we all shared for the food set before us. After all, another word for grace is ‘giving thanks’. In a family of 5 girls, & with parents who hardly ever took a salary as they attempted to get a non-profit organisation off the ground, we were thankful for enough food to feed all the mouths at the table. We were often the recipients of the food hamper at Church at Thanksgiving. We were thankful for the large bountiful basket of food that arrived on our front porch with a thud. In a world wracked with famine I do think we ought to stop before we eat, and remind ourselves of how lucky we are for that sandwich, that cup of tea, or that roast beef dinner set before us.
But we should be thankful for so much more. We should be thankful for the troublesome times in life. It is only with lack that we are able to understand and appreciate the presence of something. Travelling for weeks out at sea with no fridge, no freezer, and usually in southern climes, arriving in port and receiving a glass of ice water was the biggest treat I could as for at 6. But most 6-year-olds nowadays don’t feel that it’s enough to have a fridge stocked full with all sorts of drinks. The more we have the more we want.  When I visit my parents on their boat, I am quickly aware of the incessant and sometimes ridiculous amount of amenities we have on dry land. Coming back to shore after spending a few days on the boat I am always pleased to find myself rejoicing at the simple things we take for granted: the flow of a fresh water shower and the flush of a toilet (after having to pump the head  or use a bucket of saltwater for one’s washing).  I am always reminded anew of the great luxuries we have on dry land. Similarly, it is only after we’ve suffered an awful cough or flu, that finally being recovered we rejoice in being well again. How grateful we are for health when we know what it’s like to be sick.
It is why travel always is often the best way to remind us of how lucky we are to have the comforts of ‘home.’ Particularly if we’ve travelled to underprivileged areas of the world, where water is a luxury, where a bed and a home & a pillow to rest one’s head is a dream.
This Thanksgiving I am extremely grateful for the health & well-being of my family: my parents, my sisters, their husbands & my nieces & nephews. All in their far-flung  corners of the world: some dealing with political coups in South America, others dealing with hurricane floods in Mexico, all of us dealing with the daily challenges of everyday life, of health issues, of managing a household, balancing family & work…I am grateful for being born into a loving family, with four best friends built in, and two adventurous & enthusiastic parents.
I want to be thankful for a holiday that makes us stop & reflect on what we should be thankful for. Rather on focussing on what we don’t have, or what we haven’t yet achieved, I want to make us stop & think about all the things that we DO have. And most importantly I want us to stop & reflect on the simple things in life. Since it’s often the simplest things in life that mean the most to us. In the words of Paolo Nutini:
So I'll cherish the simple things
The easy took for granted things
Like going round my Mum's house for my tea
And argue with my sister,
Only God knows how I missed her
It's the simple things that mean the most to me
-“Simple Things”, Sunny Side Up, (2009)

{Some photos from my trip}

{Niagara Falls from the greyhound bus window}

{trip to Gerrard Street, Toronto-a little India with plenty of great food to eat & great salwar kameez, fabrics for saris & bangles to choose from}

{the best Pakistani cuisine: Lahore Tikka House. totally reminds me of the Peshwari BBQ we had in Peshawar, where my father was born (he also spent his early years in Lahore)}

{check out the decorations at the Tikka house--a truly unique experience}

{a putput & a rikshaw outside the restaurant}

{adorable bangles I bought for my niece}

{great food to be had on Gerrard St}

{super yummy brunch at Whitlock's, where they have a great buffet & a guy who makes omelettes made-to-order from the window opening on to the street (behind)}

{thanks Crick & Sam for brunch!!}


{my sister & her husband are renovating a beautiful character home. the house is decorated with some great finds from all over. Here, some of the cutest tea cups E.V.E.R. Our step-grandma was an avid teacup collector, and while we thought they were kind of ugly as kids, we are all super happy now to have inherited such dainty things to sip tea out of!}

{my sister is super brilliant--she did her MA at Cambridge & her PhD at Oxford. I love these sorts of things that are littered about the house, reminiscent of her days in the UK and our family's heritage in England. I believe this was a gift from our Great Cousin Charles & his wife, Liz}

{me & my niece outside her house}

{cool old signs mark the streets of Toronto}


  1. Great reminder to be more mindful of giving thanks. And as always, a wonderful collection of photos. LOVE Crick's kitchen!

  2. A very thought-provoking read - I took a few minutes out of my writing schedule today to indulge and SO enjoyed the experience of reading your beautifully crafted text (truly a joy) and the wonderful photos.

    A big thank you dear Tinza for all the effort you invest for others' delight. Now, feeling suitably uplifted, I must return to my own writing, !

    Liz x

    PS Good to see the Cambridge candle has such a lovely new home in Toronto.