& occasionally about other things, too...

Sunday, September 01, 2019

A decade in Toronto - 36

Karpur, Mahrukh and Che in Pune (2018)

‘A decade in Toronto’ series has occupied my mind for over a year now. Last year, I began recording vignettes of my life in Toronto since 2008. I had planned to write every week and conclude by end of December 2018.

However, it didn’t quite pan out the way I imagined it would. And the series has stretched on for an inordinately long time; mainly because of procrastination and my indiscipline.

I hope to end the series soon because I have broadly covered all important – and some not so important – incidents that have occurred in my life during the last decade. And I intend to devote some posts to general observations and that are connected to my life and from which a broader picture and larger themes of my life in Canada probably appear.

Broad themes such as immigration, settlement, multiculturalism, adjustment, and personal themes pertaining to middle-aged angst, building relationships, trust issues.

When I look back and read the posts from the series, two themes predominate my life in Canada – overwhelming help from strangers, and unceasing struggle against circumstances.

These themes are common to all immigrants. These themes build communities and make societies stronger. History has shown us that societies that don’t welcome immigrants, atrophy, and the one that that encourages immigrants retain vibrancy.

Canada is unique because of its easy acceptance of newcomers, but the anti-immigrant sentiment that is growing across the developed western economies has also begun to pervade the public discourse on the subject in Canada. And it is only a matter of time before Canada, too, succumbs to the pressure of restricting the flow of immigrants.

Our lives changed because we immigrated to Canada. We were able to do so because we belonged to the economically better off sections of the Indian society. Our motivation to immigrate had to do with our circumstances.

We believed then and we do so now, too, that immigrating to Canada would give our son the freedom to be himself, without the encumbrances of expectations about the choices he’d need to make in life. We believed – and do even now – that this freedom would have been severely curtailed in India. Another factor was economic opportunities.

Of course, life doesn’t let you decide everything, and it reserves some nasty surprises that it throws at you along the way. So, unexpectedly, when everything seemed to be going well, the proverbial hell broke loose.

Mahrukh couldn’t capitalise on her education and experience in social work and had to settle for what has turned out to be a gruelling retail job, Che developed anxiety disorder, and I was diagnosed with a kidney disorder that is irreversible.

Surprisingly, we found support at all levels and from everyone. For immigrants, the immediate circle of acquaintances become friends and before long friends turn into family. Mahrukh has that natural ability to make friends, it takes me a long time before I can call anyone a friend.

This is because I prefer to guard my privacy, but it’s been impossible to do so. People whom I’ve trusted and come to depend upon have breached my privacy with impunity that I find hard to believe, leave alone accept.

This breach of privacy began a long time ago in India, and continued in Canada, and by now it’s become all-pervasive and routine. Whether it’s colleagues or associates or people I call friends, my seniors, people who are community leaders – for just about anyone, my privacy is insignificant, if not a joke.

There was a time in my life when I’d be bothered by this constant intrusion, especially when people I genuinely respect didn’t think twice before deliberately mocking me by alluding to deeply personal matters about me and my family while talking to me.

I couldn’t understand then – and I don’t understand now – what I had done to any of these people (including my friends) that they seemed so eager to be hurtful every time I met them.
Some even went out of their ways to talk about my relationship with my wife and my mother; my son’s mental health condition and holding me responsible for it.

It seemed there was really no end to their viciousness.

Taking a cue from my large circle of friends and acquaintances, some of my seniors – again these are people for whom I have nothing but deepest respect – had no compunctions whatsoever to cast aspersions on my character by misconstruing incidents from my past; and without any basis whatsoever, linking me with women young enough to be my daughters.

As I said earlier, it bothered me immensely for a long time. But then I just stopped caring when I realised that I have one life to live and I will live it in the way I think is best for me. I take care not to harm anyone knowingly and am the first apologise when I realise that I’ve done so.

The only defence I have against such behaviour is to stop all forms of communications with those who wilfully and ceaselessly infringe upon my privacy. But then I realised that there was no reason for me to stop talking to these friends because I hadn’t done anything to them that could even remotely be construed as inimical.

I was and am living my life as freely and openly without breaking any law as is possible, my friends and well-wishers will have to realise that and learn to find their peace. I have a large heart, so I will love them more for their transgressions.

There is no rancour in my heart anymore because I realise that I am answerable and accountable to myself for all my actions - and my thoughts. 

Without wanting to sound puritanical, I want to emphasize that I don't permit myself any moral lassitude on issues that are fundamental to any relationship.

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