Thursday, November 19, 2015

First 3 months in a first world country


To mark my 3-month anniversary of immigration to Canada, I have decided to write a happy post. This decision came from the realization that the shameless exhibition of my self-pity will not coerce random strangers to offer me employment. So in this momentary lapse of unsoundness, I want to shed light on a few things that make me appreciate my new home:

The Things not taken for Granted:
One hour of power failure after every two hours was an expected and accepted way of life in Pakistan, especially during summers. Not having heating in the house in winters was not worth lamenting about since we felt lucky to have a home and warm clothes. Being mugged, robbed, threatened and shot at were anecdotes to quote. But on this side of the world, power outage is an extreme and rare happening and causes utter frenzy. Heating is expected in winters even if its bill isn't. And safety has a much higher likelihood than not. The luxuries of third world are the rudimentary necessities of the first one. I feel like a child being spoiled, having electricity and all!

The Novelty of Civilization:
As a new immigrant without any anchor or familiarity, kindness of strangers matters even more. Most people you meet here are immigrants themselves, still new enough to recall the struggles they had faced. They are eager to give back and I feel fortunate to be on the receiving end right now.
I have been making a list of people I will send flowers to once I am rich and/or famous. The list comprises of good samaritans I have met so far who have offered unsolicited kindness and empathy. The school cafeteria lady who insists that I don't need to pay for my child's hot lunch until employed. The recreation centre manager who said she will hold a spot for us in the after school program without payment until we figure our lives out. The strangers who are taking out the time to meet in order to provide some much needed Canadian perspective. The guy from our building who let us park our rented vehicle in his spot on the very late night of our first arrival.
And the tailor I met at a bus stop who told me how much money I could win if I let a car knock me down and injure me, without getting killed in the process.
The list goes on.

Women are also Humans:
Women are considered part of the human race and it feels refreshing to be acknowledged as such. A woman is even considered a full witness in the court of law and the constitution gives our kind tangible rights. Every time I get out on the street and am not harassed due to what I am wearing or not, I feel like delivering an impromptu oscar-winning speech in the honour of the modern world.

Reading is a Human Right:
Imagine a place where there is a library at every other corner. Then imagine that those libraries have real books. Now envision further that the libraries are free with unlimited access to all residents. As shocking as it may sound to Pakistanis, this is how it is in Canada. It is a blessing beyond my expectations and often makes me cry with joy. This excitement will endure until I start taking it for granted in due course.

Everyone is different but the same:
Life is expensive in Canada; but it is valuable. Every living being is respected and the society does not discriminate against those who are living with physical or mental differences. The term 'differently abled' holds true in this country and is an applaudable achievement. The systems are designed such that everyone can lead a productive and independent life. This is heart warming as I come from a country where the systems are not inclusive and you are dependent on yourself and close family to survive with disabilities.
I remember working on a post-earthquake project in a small village in Northern Pakistan where many people with life altering injuries were struggling even more, because they did not have access to toilets. Even though open defection was the norm in that village, those who were without sight or the ability to walk were entirely dependent on their families to lead them out to the fields each time, as it was impossible for them to go out independently on the rocky and unfriendly terrains. They were unable to even take a piss without depending on someone, every single time.

A sharp contrast indeed.

Look Ma, no Bombs.
When the roads are blocked due to the Santa Claus Parade or an art festival, I smile. It is so much better than being stranded due to bomb blasts, terrorist threats or riots.

My country's reality hasn't changed but at least mine has. And that is the only valuable inheritance I will leave behind for my child - the right to live in a safe and civilized country like Canada. That is the worth of immigration at the cost of emotional and financial struggles.

Happy 3-months to me.