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  • Oh Canada !! My Story...

    By RV

    Oh Canada !!

    I cannot begin to imagine what our desi brothers must go through with their families when their expectations in Canada are met with a 'nil return'. With many having left their home country in search of greener pasture in Canada, the hope to continue life with dignity is shattered for a few.

    This post might seem to be taking on the look of another 'whiner' or 'cribbing' as some CDs call it. But no, It won't. Read on. It believes it belongs here in the 'success stories' section and for good reason :

    I came to Canada on New Year's Day 1990 with a vision to pursue my studies at university. I did that entirely on my own , as my parents had passed on while I was still quite young. I had no one to support me financially or otherwise- just myself and a burning ambition to get out of the mediocrity I seemed to have been heading towards. As an international student (then) I faced stiff fees for tuition , let alone expenses for daily living. The hurdle to cross was a tough one.

    Oh Canada !!

    But I decided early on that my ticket to a better life remained with 'the road less traveled'. In fact, for my case -'the road less traveled' was really the 'only road available'. Sad but true.

    I came with a plan (fortunately) : prior to my arrival in Canada, I saved enough to fund my tuition for my four year program and knew for a fact that I could work at campus to support my daily living thereafter. This, however, changed two years on. The university raised their fees for international students and no sooner than I can could say "..Holy mother of an increase batman..", I was paying double my tuition per semester.

    I remember sitting in my room , thinking about what to do next. I seriously considered abandoning my studies and heading for home. There was no way I could my education anymore. It was the best option given the circumstances. But I also knew that if I did so, I may not have been able to revisit and accomplish the goal for which I came to Canada in the first place. May I take you through some of the thoughts that went through my mind then - "...I have only enough to last me the rest of this year...what am I going to do after that...beg?.." / "...what's wrong with these Canadian people ? ...with three months notice, they expect me to cough up the rest of the extra money ?...are they out of their mind ?..."

    Dear CDs, for an unexposed 23 year old, it was the first time in my life I had to take a real look at ME , MY problem and all that I was worth. It may only be a simple case of 'not completing my studies' (on the surface) but the real significance lay with the fact that much was sacrificed to get here. To abandon this was to give up all that I had - much like what many of our Desis are grappling with today.

    I figured then that I wasnt going to give up, so I mustered all the courage I could and went out fighting. Without making a long story, longer - I took on as many jobs as I possibly could on campus. Eight months later and at the height of my predicament, I was managing four part time jobs and full time school. There were occasions -when I could only attend exams without going for classes - I had to clock in as many hours as I could. Even I, thick into it, stared with some disbelief at the situation !! Necessity being the mother of invention in this case , I studied during my break times at work and well into the night. Three hours of sleep was a common thing then.

    Oh Canada !!

    There were also some very personal , heart breaking moments I wish to share with you - a year before graduation, I remember I was struck with chicken pox and had to be quarantined at home. I could not work for a whole two weeks and was down to my last eighty dollars in the bank. It was rent time and I had to pay a hundred and twenty dollars for my room. I borrowed some money, paid my rent and lived on a 5lb bag of potatoes (that was going on sale at Safeway) until I recovered and went back to work and school. I Did this for two weeks.

    I also remember graduation day after I finished school. I did not attend the ceremony as I worked the same event as a server/waiter - funding my airfare home. Arguably, a fitting end to a tough period.

    Oh Canada!!

    Do I share all this to discourage anyone ? Hardly. I say this only because I purpose to encourage. Read on.

    When I left Canada for home, I took with me some grave and urgent lessons about life - which the battle for success remains in our hearts and minds. When I rationed my potatoes for those two weeks, it was all I had. There was no room to complain and cry. It meant surviving another day to sit for another exam and to get closer to graduation and closer to my dreams. Either I took on the 'bull' by the horns or the 'bull' will gorge the daylights out of me. I refused to give up in my heart though the situation around me was, to put it quite mildly, pathetic.

    I read time and again, about so many difficulties Desis out there face everyday. So from one Desi to another - I say take heart. Stick to your guns and plan effectively. Indeed, what doesn't break you will only make you stronger.

    J.C. Penney said: "Give me a stock clerk with a goal and I'll show you a man who will make history; show me a man without a goal and I'll show you a stock clerk".

    I am no JC Penney and I know my experience above pales in comparison to some of you out there. But the lessons are the same - IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT WE SHOULD FORGET OUR MISTAKES, BUT REMEMBER THE LESSONS THEY TAUGHT US....

    Oh Canada !!

    Is Canada worth all this effort ? Looking back , I'd say an emphatic 'yes'. My battle was mine alone. It was for no other to bear. It was mine and mine alone. Looking back, I blame no one. I refuse to let it cloud my perception of Canada as a whole. Matter of fact, I saw things with a better perspective going through what I did. Canada, I still believe has much to offer. It's tough, no doubt. But on the longer haul, it bears the necessary dividends we are looking for.

    I am on the threshold of returning to Canada again. But under very different circumstances. It has been ten years in the planning and my short and difficult experience as a student factored well in these plans. I look forward to returning because like most other desis who come here, we have this 'innate' feel in our spirit that it is the right thing to do for us and our children. It is not the fabled 'bed of roses' but with time , we learn to relish the rose with its thorns and all.

    Will I be working another four part time jobs and eating potatoes again ?Maybe. Will I lose sight of the meaning of success that I think it means for me ? Not a chance. Will I give up ever reaching for my dreams ?Never.

    "Its not the mountains ahead that wear you down, its the grain of sand in your shoe..."

    Take care .

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