Thursday, July 31, 2014

Things I love about Canada

There are a lot of things that are just amazing about Canada, but I will give you my top ten here:
  1. Natural Beauty - Canada is home to some of the most beautiful and scenic places in the world. I have been to a few of those and I have to say the experience was a treat to the eyes. The mountains, the lakes, the beaches. Adorned with trees, flowers and lush green grass. Be it the Butchart Gardens of Victoria, the view from the top of the Sulphur mountain in Banff, the turquiose color of the lakes in Jasper, the sheer magnanimity of the Niagara Falls - each has its own unique charm that just makes you fall in love with nature. I am not surprised that a lot of Bollywood movie makers come all the way to Canada to capture these beautiful locations in their movies.  
  2. Cleanliness - Canada is super clean. It is not only cleaner than India, but also cleaner than most other first world countries I have visited. I love the fact that there are clean washrooms (not sure why they are called washrooms in Canada) available everywhere.
  3.  Good infrastructure - which means good roads, good public transport, good systems, all the first-world conveniences.
  4.  Amazing healthcare - I could not be more impressed by the healthcare system of Canada. Most of the medical stuff is covered by the government and is free! The government-run hospitals are amazing! I have had two babies in Canada and they cost me nothing (just a few million painful contractions)! Not only that, I got a full year of maternity leave both times, where I got paid about 55% of my regular salary without doing any work.
  5. People - Most people in Canada are very polite and nice. They will hold doors open for you, they will say sorry even if you bumped into them. They will hold the elevator door open if they see you coming towards the elevator. They follow traffic rules. Best of all, they understand the term "queue" and its working (unlike a lot of people in India).
  6. Respect for common man - The common man is respected in this country and treated with equality. It is easy to get bureaucratic tasks done without having any connections with powerful politicians or officers. I have applied for passports, driving license, car registrations, home mortgage, birth certificates, Canadian citizenship, tax returns and so many such things over the past several years. All I had to do was read the instructions and follow the process. Not once did I ever need to bribe anybody or to find any "connections" to speed up the process. I am not sure if that is the case in India. If it is and things have changed since I left, I could not be happier.
  7. Multiculturalism - There are so many cultures thriving together in Canada. As a result I get to meet so many different kinds of people, appreciate their similarities and differences. I get to try so many different foods. Some of my favorite non-Indian cuisines are Vietnamese, Thai and Mexican.
  8. Indian/Punjabi culture - As much as I appreciate other cultures, I also love the fact that I am surrounded by things from my own culture - Bollywood movies in theatres, Indian grocery stores and restaurants, gurudwaras and temples, concerts of Indian singers, Bhangra festivals, Diwali parties etc. Without these, I would have missed India much more.
  9. Great Shopping - I love shopping in Canada! There is so much more variety than in India- be it clothes, shoes, home items or even food. Also I find there are bigger discounts and better deals here. Also, salespersons don't follow me all the time recommending me things and asking me questions about what I am looking for every second! That being said, for Punjabi suits and sarees, India is and will always be the best place for shopping!
  10. Metric System - India and Canada both follow metric system. We work with kilometres, litres and degrees Celsius. It just makes way more sense. I find it annoying to calculate in miles, gallons and degrees Fahrenheit each time I visit the United States.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Things I miss about India

  •    Friends and family – goes without saying.
  •    Food – We have Indian restaurants in Canada. Lots of them. What we don’t have is the authentic Indian taste that you can only find in restaurants in India. We have street foods (like gol gappa). But we don’t have the gol gappe waali rehri. The experience of standing by the rehri and being served the gol gappe fresh by the gol gappe waala bhaiyya.  
  •    Cheap labour – Oh how I miss the comforts of cheap labour in India. Naukars and chhotus. Maids to cook, maids to clean, maalis (gardeners), drivers...When I was in India it didn’t feel like luxury to have all these helpers, it was the norm. I took it for granted. But in Canada, I have to do most of the work myself. Whenever I do hire help, I certainly feel like I am spoiling myself.
  •    Festivals, especially Holi and Diwali. We do have some celebration around Holi and Diwali, but compared to how big it was in India, it is nothing. But I think what I have lost by not having big Diwali and Holi celebrations; I have certainly gained by Christmas and Halloween celebrations here.
  •    Punjabi weddings –There are many Punjabis in Canada and as a result, many Punjabi weddings happen here. I have been to some. But none of them felt as grand as the ones I attended in Punjab. I miss the grand wedding resorts in Punjab and the way they get dressed up with a million flowers and lights. I miss the never-ending variety of food that waiters serve you non-stop (as opposed to self-service in weddings here). And I miss outdoor parties (weddings, receptions and sangeets). Here all the parties I have been to were indoors. 
    Thanks to my friend Shruti for this awesome picture!
  •    Not getting distracted by English subtitles in Bollywood movies. I am very fortunate that most of the new Hindi and Punjabi movies play in theatres around me. But my first world problem with watching them in Canada is that I cannot help but read the English subtitles at the bottom of the screen.

The day when India came to Canada

My husband, like most men, hates going for shopping in the mall. But when I was new in Canada, he wanted to take extra special care of me and take me to new places and experiences that I might not have seen in India. He told me that December 26 is Boxing Day and on this day, all malls will have major sales going on and we would go to check them out. I still remember that day so clearly. On that one day, it seemed that India had come to Canada.

Scene 1: Mall parking lot. Cars parked everywhere. In designated spots. In made-up spots. On the curb. There’s no place to park a car. People are fighting (politely – it’s Canada after all) over spots. It felt like home.  *happy tears*

Scene 2: Inside the mall. There are a million people in the mall! There’s very little empty space to walk. It feels very tight. It felt like home. *more happy tears*

 Scene 3: Inside a store. There is an item in the store that is listed for a ridiculously low price. Two people fight over who saw and picked it first. It felt like home. *snot, yikes*