Oh Canada, I cry for thee!

Old article posted in Times of India, Guelph Mercury and New Canadian media on 21st April 2015. Link here for Times of India-


From the window of my downtown Toronto apartment, I can see a Canadian flag fluttering, facing the icy winds that are hitting hard on its already weary face. The world has long back declared the arrival of spring and yet, as expected, the Canadian winter has stayed put.

For the last four months, I have seen my lonely companion fighting this lost battle. It is tired, battered, bruised. The harsh weather and gusty winds have taken their toll. The fabric is worn off and torn. In a few days, when people will notice it’s end, it will be removed and a new flag will be hoisted instead, which will flap happily in the summer, not knowing what is destined for it in the Canadian winter.

With lost eyes I stare at my dying friend and notice a mirror image of my existence. After facing the winter of my Canadian existence, I am tired and burnt out as this dream, nay nightmare, is coming to an end. As my story ends, it will now be replaced by the story of a new entrant, an English speaking laborer, Canada jokingly calls ‘skilled’ immigrant.

Bored? Nothing new here. This story is similar to that of thousands and thousands of immigrants who have arrived in this frigid land and wasted their lives. It is also not the last one as many more will follow.
Yet there is a twist, which is why it needs to be told!

The story does follow the standard script of a skilled middle aged professional with excellent educational background from his country, coming to Canada thinking that he is the chosen one and will touch the skies of success in the land of his dreams. Only to realize within weeks, of his wasted existence here. Especially because he does not possess the right skin and the right name.

Then, as the money saved and brought along, starts to dwindle and the pressures of earning the daily bread for his family breaks his self esteem, fate is accepted and whatever survival jobs are thrown at, grabbed and compromises made with existence, mostly for life.
Engineers, doctors, architects, teachers from foreign lands are dime a dozen and are regularly seen working as security guards, taxi drivers, garbage collectors, gas station attendants or factory workers.

They will talk about their houses, cars and cell phones earned through jobs which pay close to minimum wages but availed through easy mortgages, loans and even credit card debts, which will take a life time to pay back. They will harp on their Canadian citizenship and its merits in their pseudo accents as phony as the newly rechristened ‘Canadian’ names.

Bhuwanbhai Patel sees a dollar and starts calling himself ‘Bill’. Kashilal Tiwari dreams of the same dollar with wide eyes and starts calling himself ‘Kash’.

But scratch below the surface and the wounds will come out. Raw, dirty, untreated!

Over the second drink in a party, talks will move away from real estate and cars to the golden days lived as high flying executives in the past. And by the next one, cursing starts, aimed at Canada, its White majority and its system. But my story was supposed to have a twist!

First the similarity. In 2009, aged 41 years, I arrived in Canada with the right pedigree — Engineering degree from IIT Bombay, one of the best engineering institutions of India and a successful, satisfying corporate life lived in various countries including USA. But within days I realized that pedigree suits horses and asses and not humans. Past carries no value in Canada. Period.

And then I met Buddha in the form of a government servant, a lady who was supposed to be helping the immigrants settle down in Canada. In her frustration at not being able to cajole me to accept the odd job as a cleaner or garbage collector which she could try to arrange, she told me that if I really felt that I have higher value, I can always go back to where I came from.

That thought stuck with me. I can always go back when I want.
I left my job search, used whatever money I had brought along to buy the business of a gas bar and convenience store in Guelph and later a motel in Niagara Falls. My wife, a doctorate in Economics, worked with me, hand in hand and together we build our lives and provided for our family with days and days of hard work. Later we sold the gas bar and bought two more bigger motels. Amongst family and friends, we were rated a success story.

Even Canada recognized our success and within three years of arriving in Canada, the leading immigrant magazine of Canada managed by Toronto Star group, rated me as one amongst the ‘Top 75 immigrants to Canada’ in 2013. Seriously? Amongst the best success stories of Canada!

And while living this ‘successful’ Canadian life, selling cigarettes and grocery, renting or cleaning rooms or doing laundry, removing garbage or plowing snow in the gas station or motel, facing racial slurs on a regular basis from customers who visited our small businesses, the soul was waiting for the moment, when it could follow the Buddha who had enlightened it in the very second month of arrival in Canada and given the real mantra, “If you want, you can always go back.”

I do not have anything against manual labor or doing jobs that I did. Throughout my entire life, I have given as much respect to the janitors, the workers, the clerks in our factories as to the general managers who carry their misconceived notions of lording over them. And that is why we bought these businesses and put forward our best at all times, doing most of the work ourselves not just to save money, but to offer our best to the patrons.

But this was a scam, I was cheated. I applied for Canadian immigration under the ‘SKILLED’ category and was selected based on a point system which gave higher credence to my Indian education and work experience, both of which were rejected here. I did not come to Canada to be a gas station attendant, or a front office receptionist, or a cleaner. I was an engineer and an experienced professional and expected opportunities where my expertise could have been used. Even a supervisory role. I was not even short listed for a job interview. Not even one!

After running my businesses for five years and when I was free from some of the family responsibilities, time had arrived to break free and ‘do’ what I was trained to do.

But before that, one last time, I wanted to try out Canada.
I sold my businesses and now that I also had Canadian work experience of five years behind me, started looking for jobs. Result — Again a big zero, other than the minimum wages fare.

I did, though develop friendship with the Canadian maple leaf flag and we talked and scrapped through the Canadian winter. The flag fought the forces of nature while I fought the very system that it stood for.

Now both of us are defeated and stand near our respective deaths.
Only in my case it is a death that I have chosen and yet, Canada this is not suicide but murder!

I now end my life as a non-descript entity in Canada and am reborn as a professional while going back to the lands that trust my skills, my expertise and have called me back with open arms, entrusting me the responsibilities of managing companies and providing leadership to skilled people. Vicious lady, my living Buddha, I am grateful and delighted today to follow your advice. Just to help you, on your behalf, I shout loudly to anyone who in his middle age still maintains a Canadian dream — do not come here if you genuinely value yourself.

Oh Canada, I cry for thee!
In wasting lives of your adopted children you lose the very skills that they brought along!

While throwing cold water over our dreams, you also end the warmth of belonging towards you that once ignited our loving hearts!

By calling us as outsiders and unwanted because of our skin color, our names, our religion and neglecting our professional background, you are becoming a mediocre ghetto and a place as cold and frigid as its weather.

Good bye, my adopted land and I may be gone for long and may just come back in the winter of my life!

Perhaps in my heart, there is still some love left. I am not taking everything away! While leaving, I give you my biggest gift, my most beautiful creation for keeps. My children! The fruit of my life’s labor!
Accept them! Treat them as your own and not as the step child you treated me! Love them as much as they love you!

My friend, our flag, fluttering, dying on that building there, is shedding one last tear together with me, for thee! I pray that for once, our tears melt your frozen heart and you open your arms and accept my children as yours and build a Canada of future, a Canada of their dreams !

Oh Canada I cry for thee and yet, in love,
“Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee!”


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