Sunday, July 1, 2007

What has coming to Canada meant to me

I think many times what coming to Canada has meant to me/our family -- So on Canada Day, here are some musings/ 12 aspects not necessarily in any order

1. Great open spaces : The country is so vast that invariably one tends to compare India with what we see here. Wide roads ( HW401 has 16 lanes which gets choked during the rush hour)- massive parking spaces with decent distances between each. If one were to drive from Toronto to Montreal ( as we recently did) the continuously rolling green landscape and the vast and serene water bodies can make any one a nature freak --- and the distinct feeling of us being less than a pixel in the whole universe

2. An omnipresent fresh Smell: For want of a better name I call it the maple smell. You enter a condo building and you can smell it or you walk into the office it is likely to be there as well. As time goes by the olfactory lobes get dulled and the smell becomes a part of the environment. I used to wait to inhale this smell as i stepped out of the building every morning for a morning jog. The feeling was heavenly

3. Kids: I think contrary to what everyone says that kids adjust fast-- theirs is a more difficult transition. They live a dual life. The one they have at school and the one that is at home ( which is a continuation of the life we had in India). The value system is "flavoured" if one wants to avoid saying "different" or opposite. Making friends is a combination of how you dress / how you speak and what music you hear. Yes the last one is i guess the most important and this slots you into a position of where you fit into the school. The most glaring difference between boys and girls is the way they dress. The girls wear fitting clothes (which to the Indian eye could have been a few inches longer) and are all prim and proper, the boys on the other hand tend to wear layers of clothes several size larger & before I forget for some inexplicable reason the pants are belted around the knees. There is also a baseball cap worn backwards along with a over sized hoodie.

4. Canadians speak Funny/Differently: Here are some examples of how English is spoken differently here in North America to the way we speak in India

  • Greetings are never a "G'morning/ afternoon/ evening but a very direct " How are ya?"

  • The response to this typically would have been "fine" in India but here it is "good"

  • If you ask some one to "postpone/prepone " a meeting -- they look all baffled. The terminology here is "push out" ( postpone) and "pull up " (prepone)

  • "I" is replaced by a bigger "myself"

  • One never tells people anything "in advance" but "ahead 'o time"

  • "Multi" and "semi" are pronounced as "Mult-I and Sem-I"

5. Punctuality: Being on time is de-rigguer here. Being late and is taken as being rude . If you are late , you call ahead advising people on your arrival schedule. I remember when I was interviewing in the fall of 2004, I was repeatedly told to arrive not more than 10 mins in advance. Timing these trips which sometimes took over two hours via public transit ( bus & subways as i did not own a car then) was no easy task and hence I errored on the side of caution arriving sometimes 30 mins "ahead of time". Invariably i spent those 30 mins in an adjacent mall or on elongated washroom visits. This "small "aspect if imbibed would go a long way to set things right in India

6. Communication: Ever heard a person educated in North America talk. He/ She can talk effortlessly for quite a while without making a single point and yet entertain you all the way through. An average Indian will come across with well documented points , deliver the contents without so much as a hint of a joke or a pun and exit. Though the subject would be high on content but it generally evokes little or no interest. This is a major failing I find with most Indians who are recent immigrants and are in the quest of a job. They fail to convince the interview board that he/she would be interseting to work with.

7. Camping/ Outdoor life:

  • Couples skating / cycling / jogging or just soaking in the sun on the weekends. These poeple "show up" ( another N American phrase) at work looking like red lobsters.

  • A jolly looking guy buying a fishing rod at Wal mart

  • Suv's toeing trailers with boats and bikes hitched on the rear

  • Bustling YMCA/ Racquet club / Community Centers housing all that you would need to keep in shape

  • A librarian who issued all of us a membership for free on the fly when i did not even have a PR card.

All these images are what I encountered when we were here in Apr 2004 for a "recee". To a large extent I knew instantly that this is what i wanted. We have not made it as yet to that many camps or bought a boat but I am convinced that this is the environment that I wish to stay in.

8. Grocery shopping: . In India Anita made a call to the local convenient store or a "thela wala" parked just outside the appt building. I NEVER got involved with grocery shopping there.The goods were delivered directly FREE. Here we make deliberate shopping trips to go to " Food Basics" or "Price Chopper" to buy groceries for the week. Deep freezers are used to stock up and one is able to sample stuff while shopping ( Costco). It has given me a new perspective to how much we eat and now i partake in what I want to eat as against eating what was given to me in India. ( Before I go wrong-- -both are/ were good options)

9. Lawn Mowing/ Yard work: Gone are the days of the Army "working party" who came to do up the lawn or kitchen garden. All work is done by ourself and it can be a very stress relieving activity. People take pride & interset in doing up their lawns and flower beds. Beautiful flowers ( who said Holland had the best Tulips) are seen in every house.

10. Weather: Canada declares a " heat alert " once the mercury crosses 30 degrees in summer. I can hear Indians laugh all the way here in Toronto. I just read that temp in Delhi have hit 48 degrees. Places in Rajasthan ( Barmer & Churu -- I remember from our days in India ) must have hit the 60 deg mark. By giving this part of the world this great climate God has blessed this land in untold ways.

11. Driving: The North American's drive on the right of the road and in lanes. Driving licences are given in a graduated manner ( I know because i failed the test twice) instilling the skills into each driver to keep the roads safe. Traffic signals NEVER fail and if they do they are instantly manned by Police officers till repaired. In India would you worry about driving if your indicators were not working -- I doubt it-- here you would most certainly cause an accident if you ventured the roads without them.

12. Water to Paper: I guess you know what I mean. Also anyone know what a handkerchief is? These North Americans are out to "kill" trees

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