Sunday, June 29, 2014

Wanted by the Police!!!

I had some limited car-driving experience in India. I knew that in Canada, traffic rules are actually followed, unlike in India, where the only rule is, “Don’t get yourself killed.”  So obviously I tried to “do in Rome as the Romans do”. I was very cautious with my speed, following road signs, yielding to pedestrians etc. About two years passed driving like this. Just one speeding ticket and maybe a few car honks. Not too bad for a new driver, I thought. Life was beautiful! I became more confident and relaxed on the roads.

Then one day, I got called by the Calgary Police Department. I was told to come and meet them at the police station. I was horrified! Apparently, my offence was “hit and run”. Before you block this blog thinking I’m a vicious criminal, let me explain: The previous day, as I was reversing my car to come out of a tight parking lot, my back bumper touched (yes, it only “touched”) the front of another parked vehicle. I did not think it was a big deal (or damage) at all. But apparently it was and I was supposed to leave a note on that vehicle with my name and phone number and all. If you don’t do that, it is considered a “hit and run” and it costs you five demerit points on your driver’s license (plus a huge fine). Huh. That was something the Driving Rules book did not cover. Argh!! Too bad this was not India where I could just hand the cop 500 rupees or simply tell him that my dad is a government medical officer and get away with it.

Oh how sad I was that whole day. Five. Freaking. Points.  I looked up and found that if you accumulate 15 or more demerit points within a two year period on your driving record, your licence will be suspended for one month. My insurance would also go up. In that one day, I learnt more about Alberta traffic violations and their consequences than I had in my entire life!And then, from the clouds (of the internet), my fairy Godmother appeared. In the form of a traffic ticket fighter. She fought my ticket in the court, reduced my demerit points to 2 and my blood pressure by 50!
After that incident, for at least six months, I can bet you I was the slowest reverse-driver in the universe.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

It’s freaking cold!!!!!!!!!

I had read and heard about Canada being cold, but cold is an utter understatement! I had imagined it would be cold like Shimla is in India, so it would be a nice relief from the scorching heat of Punjab. But as soon as I stepped out of the airport in Calgary for the first time (in November 2006), I realized how terribly wrong I was! It was crazy, freezing, I-am-gonna-die cold! The jacket and woollen gloves I had packed when I left from India were no good here (Actually, I should not say “no good” - they would be perfect for Canadian summer).  On my second day, I went shopping and although my brain was exhausted by the non-stop conversion of dollars to rupees, I successfully bought a real winter jacket, snow boots and gloves. Together these items probably weighed more than me!

The extreme cold was (and still is) my biggest shock after arriving in Canada. I remember saying to my husband “this country is un-inhabitable” during my first days here. I was surprised to hear people saying its plus two today, or plus five today, referring to the temperature in degrees Celsius. In Punjab, the temperature was never negative, so there was no need of specifying the “plus”. I remember schools would close in Punjab when the temperature got close to zero degrees in the winter. If, ever, by rare chance, we got temperature that was a little below zero, it would make headlines. And here, when that happens, people wear shorts and t-shirts and get so excited about how “nice” the day is!

Now, after seven plus years of training to survive this arctic weather, I have adapted to it somewhat. In fact, I find Canadian winter more comfortable indoors than Punjab winter, because all the “indoors” in Canada are heated. I would admit that sometimes the blizzards and snowfall warnings and slippery driving conditions are depressing, and winter seems to be never-ending. But this winter also gives me the joy of tobogganing and making snowmen with my kids. The perfect excuse to escape to the beaches in the Caribbean. And above all, the wisdom to make the most of the short but absolutely beautiful Canadian summer.