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  • Writer's picturePat Browne

Meet the Bhanji’s

Aleem, Fazilah, Maya and Zain Bhanji: Super Leaf fans.

One silver lining of the pandemic is the new traditions that families have created. For the Bhanji family that has been watching their beloved Toronto Maple Leafs from their driveway! Aleem’s spontaneous Amazon purchase of a projector and screen last year has manifested into a regular outdoor hockey night. The family can often be found in their Leaf jerseys, sitting on their camping chairs, cheering on their team!

Meet Fazilah, Aleem, Maya and Zain for whom family is everything. Fazilah tells me that Aleem had been practicing his “dad” jokes from the day they met almost 20 years ago. Time will tell whether or not practice made that genre of comedy any better.

Fazilah is an employment lawyer and HR professional. She is also a trained investigator and mediator. Aleem is a senior bioinformatician and digital health technologist. He is passionate about how we can better integrate health systems to support the most medically complex in the community. Currently, Aleem oversees the strategy and consulting services at AlayaCare, a Canadian home health software company. Both spend almost as much time volunteering within the community. It was the cross commitments of family, career and their commitment to volunteering that had them looking for a home in our area.

When they were first married, Aleem and Fazilah lived the life of an ultra-urban couple in the downtown core. As Maya and Zain came into their lives, they moved into a condo in the area for a bit more space, still trying to keep their condo dreams alive. As the kids grew out of the baby phase, the need for space won out and the search for a home began. Fazilah was familiar with the area, having gone to Three Valleys Elementary School down the street. They both knew this corridor would offer proximity to work, keep them close to aging parents and give them time with the family.

The family found the little park in the centre of this community long before moving here. They would drive the kids here regularly. This was their favourite playground. “The kids loved this particular park and that kept bringing us back. At the time we couldn’t have guessed that we’d one day live here.” said Fazilah.

“Shanta had the listing on this house. One Saturday, on my way to get a manicure, I saw the open house sign and took a fortuitous detour. I walked into the house and a group of neighbours were already sitting in the living room chatting and laughing. If that was the marketing strategy, it worked! I could picture us here instantly. The manicure never happened, I ran home to tell Aleem” said Fazilah. She fondly remembers the day she and Aleem drove the kids to the playground and instead of going towards the twirly slide, took them to their new front door. “It was amazing to be able to tell our children that they were going live by their favourite park.”

“It represented what we wanted and needed,” said Aleem. “Enough space to grow into, but also something that would require minimal maintenance. We want to spend as much time with the family as possible. We didn’t want to change the way we spent our time. This house offered us that freedom”

“Covid has shown us just how adaptable these houses are. We’ve been able to rework the space so that both Fazilah and I have our own place to work. We also have designated spaces for both kids when they are doing virtual school. After the pandemic, the house will evolve again.”

“I love the feeling of this neighbourhood,” said Fazilah. “When I tell my colleagues about our home, they laugh and say that it sounds like a ‘60s TV show where the children can run free, and you know everyone.”

“I can literally stick my head out the window and yell ‘dinner’s ready’. It really is that 60’s vibe” says Fazilah. If not for Covid, the family would happily welcome anyone responding to the dinner call. They can’t wait for the day their house can once again be filled with friends and family.

Meanwhile, the children are growing up fast. Maya spends her time writing poetry and stories. She is also a budding entrepreneur. “She really wants a dog but we’re not quite ready. So last summer she took matters into her own hands and set herself up as a dog walker. She created a flyer and on one particularly hot summer day went around with a stack of 300, delivering to every house in the area. Our whole house was elated when she got her first customer!” says Fazilah. “Fred and Ruth called to say they could use the help of a dog walker. That’s how Duke came into our lives”. Aleem continued, “Maya was in heaven; she was getting paid to spend time with the best dog!” This year, Maya is making plans to expand the business and is currently negotiating the options with mom and dad.

Zain is hockey crazy like his Dad. Also like his Dad, he wants to be a goalie. During the pandemic Zain has started playing ball hockey and when the situation allows, he can’t wait to join a team. Dad is looking into opportunities nearby and one of the boys down the street has already offered Zain some hand-me-down gear – it’s just that kind of neighbourhood.

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