I met Azalea Ray in her parents’ home in Toronto’s Don Mills neighbourhood. Petite, long hair framing her face, dressed in jeans and a kurti, Azalea reminded me of hip, young Bengali women I grew up with in Delhi; they were intellectual-beauties, in an art-house cinema kind of way. When we spoke, she was alternatively brooding and reckless with her laughter.
Azalea’s family moved to Don Mills in the 70′s when her father — a geneticist by training — was hired by the University of Toronto’s anthropology department. Even today, there are very few South Asian families living there.
Both her parents were passionate about their Bengali culture, and strove to pass it on to Azalea through the arts. So they signed her up for North Indian classical music lessons. She struggled to find her place in the ancient tradition. The method of training was foreign to her, and she was at odds with her heritage. Nevertheless, Azalea persisted in the challenge to find her voice.