October 5, 2012 · 0 Comments
Last week I met two second generation South Asians in Toronto’s downtown core. We shall call them Vishal and Ajay, both names changed in order to maintain their privacy.
Vishal came to Canada with his parents from rural Punjab when he was 9 years old, Ajay came here with his parents from Delhi when he was twelve.
Here are their stories:
Vishal’s parents were largely illiterate farmers who could barely speak two words in English when they first came to Canada.They quickly found work in a factory where they worked long hours and were thrilled to have steady employment. Back in the village, life was hard and Vishal and the family counted themselves fortunate to have come to Canada where they could never have the opportunities they now had here. Vishal now works for a great company and is soon to marry. He is really proud of his parents for all their hard work and sacrifices.
Ajay’s parents came from a different strata of society, they were urbanites, sophisticated and well educated who held down great jobs in Delhi. His dad was a mid-level manager who had a company car and flat in a nice neighborhood. His mother was a teacher. When they came to Canada, they found themselves overqualified for the jobs available and for months they struggled to find gainful employment but could only manage survival jobs for the longest time.
They ultimately found themselves languishing in some 9 to 5 dead end job where they still work because they can’t afford to retire. Ajay was heartbroken to see his educated parents wither away professionally. They were bitter at having committed what I call professional suicide and constantly reminded young Ajay about the sacrifice they made coming to Canada just for his education. His parents saddled him with guilt, something he carries to this day.
Back in Delhi, he remembered his dad leaving for work in a suit, here he wore an apron and overalls. He was angry with Canada that committed a perceived injustice to his parents who came here with dreams that quickly turned to despair and then he was angry with his parents who abandoned their careers on his account.
There are thousands of Vishals and Ajays in Canada. While the uneducated rural South Asian has tended to fare better economically and rate higher on the happiness scale, a significant number of professionals who’ve come hoping for something a lot better or atleast what they were accustomed to prior to emigrating here are the ones facing a crisis.
South Asian professionals who have come here for their children and have in the process ruined themselves professionally could well have made a sacrifice in vain.
Because for example if Ajay’s dad continued living in India, he’d be a manager of a company with enviable perks. He could well have afforded to send Ajay to Canada or the US as a student and enrolled him in a private school in Delhi That is exactly what another South Asian student of George Brown University in Toronto told me recently. His parents didn’t want to leave India given they had deep roots there and close family, furthermore his dad held a good position at a multinational company in India, and always wanted his children to have the best education in India and the opportunity to study or live in the West if they so chose. This boy Satvir opted to come to Canada and his younger brother may follow later.
Ajay’s parents have sold everything they owned in India and so going back isn’t an option and today all they can derive is pleasure from seeing their son accomplish something.
What a terrible price they’ve paid for this. And as if to add insult to injury, Ajay’s company has been outsourcing many jobs to India and if he wanted, he could re-locate there as an expat manager. He would never do it knowing how badly that might affect his parents.