Toronto has a new avenger, described by local tabloids as Spiceman. His secret weapon: chicken malabari masala. In recent months, Indian-born Naveen Polapady, 40, the mild-mannered proprietor of a Malabari restaurant in Toronto's Koreatown locality has become a folk hero, a symbol of what locals - and indeed many Canadians including the country's Prime Minister - are calling a wrong-headed approach by the city's police to fighting crime.
Polapady captured Toronto's attention towards the end of the summer of 2011. For several months, he had complained about break-ins of his car parked in a graffiti-rich alley behind his restaurant, Maroli. He had even installed security cameras, partly because he also had the front window of Maroli shattered by miscreants.
Some days before the incident that made him famous, a GPS was stolen from his car. He also reported other items stolen on other occasions, including a laptop and a cellphone.
What was worrisome to this native of Kuthuparamba in Kerala's Kannur district, was that his family, which includes his wife Snigdha and young children - Kevin and Nived - lives above the restaurant.
On the morning of August 21, Polapady allegedly saw a man moving around suspiciously in the alley and accosted him, armed with the chicken malabari masala he had grabbed on his way. Surveillance video shows part of the tussle between them. But what made that event really go viral was that Polapady tossed the masala powder at the other man, while trying to protect his property.
The police had been called. However, they later released the man Polapady had confronted for "lack of evidence". Ironically, Polapady was charged instead, with assault and for administering a "noxious substance" -the masala powder.
Thus the legend of Spiceman was born and hearings are expected to start next week.
In an interview, Polapady described his mental state as "stressed". But he's had plenty of "moral support", including a call from Canadian PM Stephen Harper's office, and getting confidence-boosting visits from immigration ministry officials and an MP. "I have been overwhelmed with support." What Polapady most wants is the legal headache to go away. He faces the prospect of an 18-month prison sentence if convicted.
Polapady's case has also brought into prominence a proposed law- C26 - which enjoys the backing of the Harper-led Conservative government in Ottawa and aims to clarify the rights of citizens and broadens the scope of how they can defend themselves.