Canadian ‘Immigrunts’!


Chapter 2New Immigrant ordeals in Canada

It’s been 20 years since we left India for a better life as an expat in South East Asia. Not for a day did we sleep fitfully.

It’s been three weeks since we left South East Asia for a better life in Canada. Not for a day did we sleep well.

The first week we could blame it on severe jet lag. An eleven hour time difference between Asia and this part of the world could make even a migratory bird lose sleep.

However, the next two weeks was when the worries started seeping in. My husband arrived here three months before we did to hunt for a job and make it easier for us when we joined him. Despite his experience, intelligence and drive, he has not struck gold.

Not deterred, and in the true spirit of path breakers, he thought different and focused on a different route.

Let us not aim to strike gold instantly, we decided. Let us settle for steel or even aluminum nuggets instead.  Small steps could very well lead us to the bigger goal.

That shift in thinking certainly did wonders. Instead of that big job in a top firm, he decided to look for smaller freelance assignments. That helped.

Soon, he landed with a couple of small projects with a big client. A few dollars dropped into our piggy bank and we celebrated like we just struck gold.

We splurged on a lavish supermarket shopping spree. We pounced on the finest Basmati rice in Walmart (which we were compromising on with cheaper substitutes instead), packets of paneer (Indian cottage cheese) and exotic oriental spices. We graduated to large Tim Horton’s Iced Cappuccinos for each of us, instead of sharing a small one.  We were delighted we could finally buy what we wanted without cringing at the bill.

The next day we were back to square one. Mind you, not the Square One Mall in Mississauga, but figuratively square one. The piggy bank was empty once again and our magical moment was over.

Our hearts sank when we had to deny our younger one some earrings, reminding her of priorities now on. This was something we never faced back in our richer days in Asia.

This was not going anywhere. We had to move on and plan our lives better. First things first! As advised by some of our friends here, we needed to open a bank account, issue the all-important a health card to avail of the free medical benefits entitled to PR card holders, finalize a decent three-bedroom apartment, get a driving license and find a school for our eleven year old.

What no one told us was the chronology of our planning was all wrong.

Firstly, the health card authorities wouldn’t issue our our cards without a residence address. Second, we couldn’t get an apartment without a job appointment letter. Third, we couldn’t get a school since it depended on where we resided.  Fourth, the driving license would cost us a hefty amount which we couldn’t afford at this time without a job on hand.

It was a vicious circle and we were running round and round. What now?

The images of Newton, Steve Jobs, Christopher Columbus and Einstein flashed before my eyes. When pushed to the limit, think different. How could we make this work?

A few facts were glaring before us, even as we weighed the pros and cons. Canada is the world’s second largest country. Still it’s easier to find a needle in the hay stack than a spacious three bedroom apartment downtown. Apartments are tiny, usually two-bedroom and cost the earth, sky and seas, put together. We had a whole shipment of goods arriving from Bangkok soon. Where on earth would be put them all?

Sometimes prayers work when nothing else does. A few deep chants later, we did find something suited both to our budget and lifestyle needs.

Like magic, a fairly spacious (by Toronto new immigrant standards) apartment was available one day when my husband called the management there. It was available on a first come first serve basis. Yes, there was a huge line waiting. No, since there were people still in it, we were not allowed to take a look.

How could anyone finalize an apartment without taking a look? Sigh, the depths we had to sink to! But beggars can’t be choosers. A quick search on the internet later, scrutinizing every room with a virtual eye, we booked the place in minutes. However, to sign the contract, we still needed a job appointment letter that we did not have.

I brought out the rosary and chanted for a few more minutes with all the molecules of faith left in my soul. It worked. We got an appointment letter from the company my husband had freelanced with.

That is when we realized how helpful Canadians can be. Everyone had struggled to survive here so people do go out of their way to help each other when they can.

It was an eye-opener and a reassuring revelation both reinstating our faith in man and god. It was also a reminder to stay positive against all odds. The trick really was to stop grunting and think different.

That night was the first night we slept well in Toronto.

3 thoughts on “Canadian ‘Immigrunts’!

  1. “welcome to the North Americas Joyeeta… you will find this continent very very different from what you are used to in the Far east and South East Asia.. you will be respected for what you do, and who you are as opposed to any other disclaimers or titles.. and u will find that the seat of capitalism can be much more egalitarian and than the cadres we create in society where socialism is stressed.. ” having lived here for 15 years, and having worked closely with the Far East and also being from India.. these have been my honest learnings will await to read more of your experiences in your wonderful inimitable style.. “

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