Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Immigrants and `little India’ in Canada

Sunday afternoon I met a girl from Vietnam in one of the shops at the local mall. She works only on Saturdays and Sundays. The other five days of the week she has her school. Daughter of a first generation immigrant she has three brothers in her family. While talking to her I was struck by her views on the gender issue when she said that had she been an European she would have been treated like a princess being the only girl in the house but since she is from an Asian family, her status is like that of a maid servant. Her brothers make her do all the household chores all the while making excuses that they are preparing her for marriage. In today’s world whatever we talk and wherever we live somehow we have not mentally prepared to extend equal rights to women.
Canada abounds in immigrants from all corners of the world braving extremely difficult weather conditions. Today evening I visited the residence of a couple who had come from Germany and Finland. I saw an interesting photo on the wall depicting the historic rally of 1995 Quebec referendum - the second referendum to ask voters whether Quebec should secede from Canada and become an independent state. Party Quebecois wanted to secede, but the people from the other provinces of Canada reached Montreal and at a historic rally on October 27, 1995 to vote against the referendum. The result was that 50.58 % votes were cast against separation of Quebec. The referendum was defeated by a slender margin.
While having coffee with the couple I was wondering if Indians would have also landed up at a rally like this whenever there’s a demand of Khalistan to divide the country or even dividing the states like Gorkhaland or Maithili Pradesh. Imagine having a rally in Jammu and Kashmir for the unity of India to be attended by people from other states quite on the line of Unity for Canada Walk (file picture). Though we Kolkatans have a penchant for rallies but if we did that in Darjeeling then, may be, we would not have faced the turmoil we now face. The fact is we just talk about issues and skip rallies and even warn others from attending it. Although it was a big win for the immigrants at that time but it resulted in shifting of the head offices of many multinationals from Montreal to Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver. Numerous head offices of banks, insurance companies and other businesses left Montreal which the local people still regret. If one walks or drives across the city of Montreal one sees countless signboards of `A Louer’ i.e., `Available for Rent’. The rally of 1995 really put the city out of the commercial map of Canada.
Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants are little different from their European, South African and Austrian counterparts. They are more conservative and hardly inter mingle with other communities. They are also very much traditional in matters of faith and social activities. The Sikh community in particular has made a mark in Canada. In the British Columbia Province the second official language is Punjabi. All signboards in the Sikh dominated areas are in Punjabi or Gurmukhi script and the province even had a Punjabi chief minister. At present, there are about a dozen MPs of Indian origin at the Canadian Parliament. Even more, Toronto has local markets named Karol Bagh and Chandni Chowk.
In Kolkata it seems that the heat is on for the forthcoming corporation elections. I will be meeting the local Mayor on Friday.
This time I missed the annaprasan ceremony of Partho and Kaushiki Desiken’s baby (file picture). Both are my personal friends and I wanted to be there as well. Well if wishes were…….
ess bee

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