Sheshmani Yadav, 34, and
A LOT has happened with Yadav and Gabhane since Mirror spoke to them in 2018 about their move to Toronto the previous year. They now have a son, Panshul, who was born on Canadian soil (and is therefore a citizen). The couple, who were earlier taking courses to improve their chances of employment, now have secure, well-paying jobs. Yadav has recently acquired a real estate license to operate as an agent, something he was keen to do. In just three years, the couple has completely rebuilt their lives in their adoptive country and, arguably, built it better than what they had back in Mumbai. “You could say that we have properly put down roots here,” says Gabhane.
The biggest challenge was having a baby in a foreign land, far away from family. If that was not enough, the couple’s son was born just three days before lockdown was declared in Canada, on March 13. The healthcare system was already battling Covid cases by then. “I had started avoiding crowds from February, and didn’t even visit the neighbourhood eateries,” says Gabhane. “I began ordering groceries online as well. When I was admitted to hospital, they asked us a lot of questions about people we had been in contact with and whether any family had come from Covid-affected countries. After the delivery, we dissuaded people from coming over to see the baby.” The couple still has to return to the hospital for their son’s check-ups. “But the staff is careful,” says Yadav. “We’re ushered in as soon as we arrive, and they keep everything sanitised just in case we accidentally touch something.” Gabhane can’t imagine a similar situation in India. “I would worry if I had to have baby in India during the pandemic,” she says. Thanks to an employee-friendly work culture, Gabhane is on a 15-month maternity leave. And Yadav, whose company has suspended operations, hasn’t sacked anyone. “I still have my job and will resume work after the lockdown,” he says. “Canada has been the best place to live and start a family.”
Akshay Gupta, 28
SINCE Gupta had moved to Toronto shortly after his higher studies, and just two years of work, he has had to struggle to find his feet in Canada. “I applied for jobs in the banking, tech and telecom sectors, but I was told by every company that I didn’t have enough work experience,” he says. “So after eight months of applications, interviews and waiting around, I took up a door-to-door sales position.” Selling internet packages, Gupta had to walk 22 km every day and hit at least 50 houses. “I had come to Canada with savings for only the first six months. So I had to say yes to the only place that would hire me,” says Gupta.
It was tough. He had to leave home by 5 am to take a subway and two buses to the office; spend a few hours there learning about the products; and then hit the streets. He would get home at 11 pm and start over, after only a few hours of sleep. “My health took a major hit, but I got to learn so much about the Canadian way of life,” he says. “People would shut doors in my face but some would also invite me in for lunch or offer me soda. An elderly Italian couple I became close to, even offered me their mountain cabin to stay in. In India I had no financial responsibilities. But here, I’ve learnt to live on a tight budget.” Just before the lockdown Gupta received an offer from
The lockdown hasn’t made much of a difference to Gupta’s life because he was already shut in and going out only for essentials during the many months of his job hunt. “But I feel safer here than I would in India,” he says. “People take social distancing more seriously in Canada. They will interact with you, but keep their distance.”
Sanu Nair, 34, and
TWO years ago, Nair did not even know of
Nair, who was a communications professional in Delhi, is now a financial advisor, while Sachdeva, a former HR person, has joined an immigration company. “In India, our generation was born and lives on the treadmill,” says Nair. “We’re in a race to get more things done. But in Canada, you can find your own pace. Everyone goes about their job and has a life after that.” Although their current jobs are “a couple of steps behind” what they did in India, Nair feels they’ll catch up soon. Financially, it’s comparable. “We’re not slumming it out, but sometimes we do have to look for cheaper alternatives. We still have a decent, dignified life though.”
The Covid-19 crisis has convinced Nair they took the right decision to move. “In Canada, information is readily available, right from the Prime Minister, to the premiers of various provinces, to the communities and workplaces,” he says. “You’re never in the dark, and nobody is trying to hide things.” The family had a Covid scare and were asked to get tested. “It was a makeshift testing centre at a school, but everyone knew exactly what to do,” says Nair. “The process was smooth and hassle-free [the result was negative], and inspired confidence.” Asked to self-isolate by their respective workplaces, Nair and Sachdeva have done just that. “Our leave or pay has not been docked,” says Nair. “We’ve become a big fan of the system here.”
Ranjit Singh Rajpal, 35, and Shalini Vats, 35
“WE moved because we wanted to give our son Zorawar a better life,” says Rajpal, who used to live in Gurgaon. “He will have more education and career opportunities than we ever did, here in Canada. Plus, the air quality in Delhi-NCR was becoming so bad, it was creating health problems.” Rajpal and Shalini were well settled in India and, unlike most people who have to start over, Rajpal got a transfer with his then-employer. “We were either very brave or very stupid because both of us quit our jobs when we got our Permanent Residency [PR]. But my company offered me a role here so I didn’t resign eventually,” he says. Shalini is still looking for a job. “Montreal is a French-speaking city. If she has to work here, my wife will have to learn the language, which she is currently doing,” Rajpal says.
Moving with an infant has had its own problems. While the healthcare system works like clockwork in Canada, the Rajpals miss being able to walk into the doctor’s office for treatment, as they did in India. “Once, when Zorawar had high fever, we took him to the Emergency section of a hospital, but had to wait for so long for the doctor that the fever came down,” says Rajpal. “Here, you need to get in line, even if you have free medication.”
But Rajpal is grateful for Canada’s healthcare system in the current pandemic. “If you have to get tested, you go to the centre at a designated time. There are no queues or crowds,” he says. “Healthcare professionals take a lot of care even if you in home quarantine.” The government also pays $2,000 a month if someone has lost a job because of Covid or has quit to stay home and be a caregiver. “If you’re not able to earn for Covid-related reasons, the government will help you tide things over.” says Rajpal. “We couldn’t possibly have anything like that in India.”
Ashwathy Krishna Kumar, 30
ASHWATHY doesn’t think of herself or her husband as risk takers. “We don’t have kids or house payments, so we could take a chance and move to Canada,” says the Toronto resident. In fact, Ashwathy was lucky to get a job in telecom — the field she was already working in while in India — and in much the same role.
“The first six months are difficult,” says Ashwathy, who arrived before her husband. “There are many times when you wonder if you did the right thing. When I got here, I was renting a place with a senior couple and could see from the first day how things would be.” By Canadian standards, Ashwathy is doing well and that, she says, is because she could afford to wait for the right job to come along. Many Indians who move end up doing minimum-wage jobs out of desperation, she adds. “They go crazy sitting at home and then it becomes tempting to take up anything that pays the bills. In the long run, that impedes your job search as well,” she says. But she feels Canada has been smart to offer citizenship to young, well-educated people who will provide an efficient workforce in future.
These difficult Covid times have been an eye-opener for Ashwathy. “I’m glad to be in a place where the worst thing to happen will either be to contract the virus or lose my job. In both instances, I know I will be taken care of,” she says, referring to an employee insurance which pays you 50 per cent of your salary every month till you can find another job. “They are doing so many things to boost people’s morale,” says Ashwathy. “About 30 per cent of it may be optics, but 70 per cent is genuine. It makes you feel that unlike in India, life has some value here.”