Four years ago, I decided to pack my bags and move across the world to Canada. I consider myself very privileged to have my family—they’ve not only been an incredible support system through every step I’ve taken, but they’ve also empowered me to go in whatever direction I feel so inclined to, from school to building my career. My decision to study abroad didn’t come as a big shock to my family, since many of my relatives had already done so. But moving away from my big fat Indian family was a tough choice. The sadness of leaving didn’t hit me til I was sitting on the flight, waiting to take off—that’s when reality set in. I remember trying to hold back my tears and failing.
(L) My mom, dad, older sister and me (R)My big fat Indian family
I still remember that flight as if it were yesterday. After a series of unfortunate events— like losing my baggage, missing a flight and experiencing a three-hour delay—I finally landed in T.O. in the fall of 2019 with a mere $200 in my pocket. Before you feel sorry for me, I had the rest of my savings tucked away in the bank, but that does sound like the classic Indian parent/grandparent thing to say, doesn’t it? Will I drop that line to my grandkids? You bet.
My journey in Canada has been beautiful; it’s been full of learning, growing and, most importantly, embracing my culture and understanding its importance in my life. Although I’m from the metropolitan city of Mumbai—with a larger (and denser) population than Ontario’s—I went through major culture shock when I got here. From little nuances like looking at the wrong side while crossing the street, extremely polite Canadians and bigger differences (like the emphasis on work-life balance), I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of this country. Now, I won’t deny that some of the winters here made me question my life choices and contemplate whether Australia would have been a wiser destination. But hey, I’m here, freezing and absolutely loving it! I think I was made for Canada: I apologize a lot and love ketchup and its byproducts.
(L) When I got my Bachelors degree (C)The time my roommate and I felt like a true Torontonian, (R) When I got my post-grad degree
I’ve had to adjust and course-correct quite a bit over the past few years—it’s been a significant learning phase. I’ve had my fair share of subtle generalizations and assumptions made about me. This led me to question my abilities—I felt like I didn’t fit in because I didn’t sound a certain way. That changed when a seasoned PR professional told me: “As soon as I hear someone speak with an accent, I know they’re smart. They speak more than one language, which makes them so much smarter than me.” After hearing that, I felt empowered and no longer let my accent hinder my plans for growth.
Having worked with people from so many backgrounds, I learnt to embrace my rich heritage and culture. I started feeling more confident in my differences. A colleague of mine once told me that I bring so much to the table. I bring a different perspective to the discussions I participate in: The perspective of being a woman, a person of colour, an immigrant and so much more. I no longer held back my thoughts in brainstorms; I instantly felt more comfortable sharing.
As immigrants, we often try to fit in, but Canada is beautiful because it’s a kaleidoscope of different cultures and traditions. So instead of fitting in or changing yourself, be YOU. After all, a mosaic is much prettier. As we celebrate Asian Heritage Month, let us recognize and appreciate the richness and diversity immigrants bring to Canada.
I’m looking forward to sharing more of my thoughts via Media Profile, so I’m sure our paths will cross again. Until then: goodbye, au revoir (goodbye in French), Barpe (I’ll see you again in Tulu), poona bhetuya (we’ll meet again in Marathi) and alvida (bye in Hindi/Urdu).