TORONTO: Imagine sarees being exported from Canada to India!
Yes, this is true and it happened in the 1980s and 90s when Sonu Saree Palace of Gerrard Street used to export polyester sarees to India – the mother country of sarees.
“We were the first shop to introduce quality polyester sarees in Canada, and export them to India in the 1980s because there used to be no quality polyester sarees being manufactured in India at that time,’’ says Inder Jandoo of Sonu Saree Palace who came to Canada in the early 1970s and opened the shop in 1979.
“The India Saree Centre in Kobe in Japan used to make exclusive sarees for us. They had stores in the US. Japanese sarees made our shop very popular as there was no other shop offering them at the time. Though the Indian community was very small at the time, people used to come from from far and wide to buy sarees from us,’’ Jandoo says.
He recalls how Indians in Toronto used to buy Japanese sarees from Sonu Saree Palace and gift them to their relatives returning to India.
“Indian fabric was no match for Japanese fabric, and Japanese sarees used to be printed on nicer fabric in those days. We exported quality Japanese sarees to India for years till Indian manufacturers started importing new machines, technical know-how and Japanese fabric to make better sarees,’’ says Jandoo.
Gerrard Street Bazaar, he says, was the first destination for Indians coming from the US as there was no Indian market anywhere in America in those days. “Indian Americans used to come here to buy sarees, groceries and other items and watch Bollywood movies at the Naz theatre here. It was the only cinema hall showing Indian films in the whole of North America. There used to be big lines at Naz to see Bollywood films. The Naz cinema hall was started by the Naz family (Gian Chand Naz) in the early 1970,’’ Jandoo remembers.
Though many Indian bazaars have sprung up across Canada, he says, Gerrard still remains the biggest and most visited Indian bazaar.
“Gerrard India has not lost its importance, as we are still the biggest with over 100 shops. And people from far and wide still come here to buy and eat. And we hold the biggest bazaar festival in July,’’ says the man who once exported sarees to India – the birthplace of sarees.