May is celebrated as the South Asian (the ethno-linguistic composition of the population of South Asia, that include nations such as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) month in Canada which has led me to take some time to reflect on my South Asian roots and understand how grateful I am for being an Indo-Canadian. I was born and raised in India; a country that has so much more to offer than Bollywood, sages, elephants, yoga and pictures of naked kids dancing in slums. I am a successful professional, who came to Canada as an adult without any driving experience, work experience, home buying experience (given the current real estate market I feel compelled to quote this as a major skill/experience) and believe it or not also without an experience in speaking like Appu (famous Simpsons character who speaks in a peculiarly thick Indian accent).
Before I delve into explaining what being an Indo-Canadian means to me, I would like to share what it means to be an Indian to me. I am a north Indian/Punjabi girl who started her schooling in a convent school, is trained in Bharatanatyam, a south Indian classical dance form, practices Buddhist form of meditation and Sanskrit Shlokas chanting, likes to visit old Temples, Churches, Mosques and Gurudwaras, has friends from all backgrounds and castes, celebrates festivals such as Holi, Diwali, Christmas, Navaratri and more, loves food; from Kahwa (tea from Kashmir, Northern tip of India) to Degree Coffee (coffee from TamilNadu, Southern India), Vada Pav (quintessential snack from Bombay, Western India) to Momos (type of dumpling that is very popular in Eastern India), listens to Ghazals to Sufi music, Carnatic music to Pop music and of course, Bollywood (in fact I am a self-proclaimed Antakshari champion J). From an early age I was exposed to teachings from The Bhagwat Gita to The Bible and verses from Rumi to Shakespeare. You get the idea, correct? I love that India has had a Mughal, British, French, Portuguese, Parsi, Sikh, Christian, Scottish, Hindu, Jain and Buddhist history. Concepts of culture pluralism and an intrinsic tolerance of contrarianism is something that comes naturally to us Indians (rules of common sense to be applied while reading and fanaticism has no place in my world).
Now what does it mean to be a Canadian to me? If living in India exposed me to a multitude of languages, food, religion, music, different forms of beliefs practiced by people living in India, moving to Toronto just multiplied that experience by a 100 times as it has people from all across the world. Not only do I get to appreciate all four seasons in a year in their full glory, I also get to experience all customs and culture associated with celebrating the importance of those seasons. It feels as if all my senses get to experience something new every day; from relishing Cannoli to Cabbage Rolls, appreciating snow covered peaks in Blue Mountain to enjoying majestic waterfalls in Hamilton, hiking along the cliff line in Milton to whitewater rafting in Ottawa, listening to Opera to dancing on EDM and much more. Most importantly being a Canadian has made me learn that we are all simply human regardless of our titles, status, clout and ethnicity. It is when I started working in Canada that I realized the value of financial independence, respect at workplace, diversity and inclusion.
Now I look at myself as a beautiful tree with strong roots and healthy branches, expanding and blossoming with every new day. Roots that developed as a result of all the love and nourishment I received from India and expansion that I am continuing to receive by being a Canadian. This is why I consider myself as an Indo-Canadian.
If India gave me basic education then Canada has given me the ability to apply those learnings pragmatically through employment.
If India exposed me to concepts of Ayurveda (the traditional Hindu system of medicine, which is based on the idea of balance in bodily systems and uses diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing) then Canada gave me the ability to share that passion through Aadya.
If India taught me about Yoga then it is in Canada that I got to deepen my knowledge about Buddhist meditation techniques at the Vipassana Meditation Centre.
If India taught me to jump with joy when Sachin and Dhoni got us the Cricket’s World Cup Trophy though their batting then it is my organization’s Baseball team in Canada that taught me how to score a run by dropping the bat and covering all my bases.
Life is continually moving forward like a stream of water, twisting and turning, however always moving forward. My move to Canada did come with the usual new immigrant moments of uncertainty, doubt, tears, joy and success. Yes, I did go through a phase of walking for hours in winters to save on the TTC fare, working in a Call Centre as my first job despite having a good educational background, watching my family work multiple jobs to save towards buying our first home and more. I have also experienced countless moments of success, love, prosperity and recognition; buying a beautiful home, receiving promotions at work, buying dream cars, volunteering in the community, teaching kids how to dance, travelling to different continents, learning new skills and much more.
With all these experiences and flows, I have come to appreciate the concept of balance. Now I am, consciously and/or subconsciously, trying to maintain a state of equilibrium in my life. I am taking steps to look deeper into my own being, recognizing what appeals to me as right, building on that foundation, sharing my journey in the hope of making a difference to others and letting go of what doesn’t serve anymore. My desire of bringing joy, beauty and love in the world is similar to a tree that is deeply grounded with years of experience and is always looking to provide shade and peace to all that come close to it, knowingly or unknowingly. I will continue to honor my roots and I am grateful for all the elements in the universe that are allowing me to expand my being so I can fulfill the bigger purpose of my life.