October 5, 2012 · 0 Comments
Abhijit Bhade, an Indo-Canadian living in Halifax, writes about his experience living in that part of Canada. A visit to Toronto is the closest he can come to visiting India, and so when he returns to Halifax, it is like he’s back in Canada.
Twelve long years in the boondocks of Canada? Not really, if could have been worse, it could have been better. It is instead the perfect in-between. But things are changing, at least since the past two years and heading the wrong way — the Mississauga way.
We are talking about Halifax, Nova Scotia here, home to a few South Asians like me. In 2000, we were as exotic as a rare piece of foie gras but today we are becoming as common as the local lobster. We do have a Hindu temple, a gurudwara and a mosque. Most of the doctors, cabbies and professors in the world famous universities here are from the land of milk and honey.
However, unlike, Toronto, Vancouver, you do not see them in masses out in the open neither are there those ubiquitous Little India’s. There used to be just one Indian grocery store and one Indian restaurant up until recently. Things are improving now, with an addition of a, sort of, Indian grocer who, caters mostly to University students and another Indian food place in a food court that has opened in a downtown Mall.
Initially, our tribe was far and few so much so that the staff at Walmart or other establishments would refrain from being as friendly as they were with the locals whom they wished rather enthusiastically. Some could consider this as racism, but it could just be that we were so exotic that service staff were in awe. We were the ones that ordered water to go with food, and hotdogs with chicken sausages.
But as the Indian economy is going places and the number of students at the universities increase all the time, the lone Indian store owner who lives in a custom-built home worth three quarter million upped the price of a single Samosa to almost three dollars (chutney is 50 cents more). But he is now beginning to face competition from Superstores (Loblaws) that has started stocking a few Indian snacks and lentils. Recently a large number of traditionally-clad Burmese have been spotted around town and everyone turns to stare at this spectacle which would’ve been ignored in Toronto. But here, traditionally-dressed groups of ethnic immigrants still get eyeballs.
However, unlike the big city desis, we never get fresh curry leaves or kadipatta, or fresh veggies at these Indian grocers. For that one has to head out to an Englishman’s boutique produce store. If one has to see desis en masse, this is the place. The parking lot is filled with Volvos and Lexus and Mercedes cars. Desis like me make a monthly or fortnightly pilgrimage for good karelas, banana-flower, okra or tindora in your veggie fare. Or even a good British marmalade or a bag of crisps.
We are starved of choices that most South Asians in big cities take for granted.
We have a locally grown cricket team here, they practice on weekends year round (indoors during winter), and plays matches all over Canada. Moreover, the vice-president for the Canadian cricket board is an “Indian saheb” from our very own Halifax.
Yes, we do pay a price, literally for being here. But the place is not bad at all. Coming back after a visit to Toronto or Montreal, you do feel like you are back in “phoren”. We do not come across any African-Canadians who would go “Kem cho” in elevators as they do in Brampton and such likes. Also, I do not feel I am “punished” for being here as one of my teachers in school back home used to yell for not doing homework or for being a dreamer. “What, making mischief again, wait I will send you to Halifax… get out of the class.”