Nature’s Fight through Society-D3

It was only a thirty two and a half hour flight to get to Thunder Bay from India. I was so glad to leave the “brown” culture and finally engulf the Canadian culture. Although India was far from Canada I was excited to make a pit stop in Toronto before the final flight. I had family in Toronto. It was another two hours Toronto to Thunder Bay, even though they were in the same province. I could have taken the sixteen hour road trip from Toronto to Thunder Bay but my butt was too numb sitting for so long during the flight.

This was my first time going so far away from my parents to a Western Country where the culture was completely different compared to a South East Asian country. But this was what I wanted. When I was in Toronto with my family I was still surrounded with the Indian culture of having to be completely conservative and when greeting aunts and uncles I had to be completely covered so minimal skin were shown. The norm of having to be up the same time the sun rose; whether a bomb exploded or you had to pull an all nighter, the “kids” were supposed to be up at that time. I couldn’t wait to get to Thunder Bay, to see a whole new world.

I had heard so much about every tour guide site; seeing the Sleeping Giant or Mount McKay. But I didn’t care about any of those, I was selfish, I just wanted to see Lakehead University.

Thunder Bay was up North compared to Toronto although most countries from India are located up North. When I did take the break from India to Toronto, I met up with the “Pure Canadian” neighbours and they all asked me why I came to Toronto. I chuckled and told them that I am actually on my way to Thunder Bay for school and to see a new world. They all placed their hands to their chest and sighed saying, “Thunder Bay! Thunder Bay is just beautiful, but do be aware of their wicked winters”. I didn’t let the negativity seep in, I was ready for any challenge since leaving the rents’ was one of the biggest exciting challenges of my life.

It was the longest two hours of my life; excitement broke the moment I landed. I just wanted to get out of the plane and step out into the fresh air. Customs and all the official airport work was finally over. I stepped outside, and took a whiff of fresh air. An air fresher than India’s and definitely clearer than Toronto’s. The air was light but heavy overtly refreshing mentally. The air was pure and pleasant. I was so enthralled I realised it was starting to get chilly. Already! In August? I pulled out my smart phone and saw it was 5 degrees; this was colder than the fridge in India! I questioned if the winter this year was going to be terrible. But then again, it was night and I was ready for this challenge. I have heard Canada’s winters are bone chilling but I was prepared with the heaps of winter coats I brought up.

I waited for a Taxi to pull over. I got in the car while he loaded the bumper. It was toasty. I finally got into residence, the moment I saw my bed I crashed. I didn’t realise how exhausted my bones were. The next morning, we had a house meeting. Every single person was white. I had seen white people before but there was still some brown in between. I took a 360 degree turn and all I saw was white. I slowly went up to my RA and asked if this was everyone. He gave me a warm smile and said “ya, this is everyone.” All of a sudden I was intimidated. I was disturbed; would I find another Indian whom I could speak Malayalam to, or even Hindi was fine for me. I have never been in a situation where I had to completely adapt to a new surrounding where we had nothing culturally common. Being brought up in India, we were forced to speak Malayalam and Hindi since they were the national language of Kerala. Everyone looked at me as if I was just like another human being like them, but little did they know about my culture. Just because I had an “English” accent, I was not Canadian enough.

I would just smile at everyone, and not say a word. I knew the moment I spoke I would be laughed at because of my accent. Since it was the very first day, I decided I will just explore before I adapt to the culture. Classed would start in two days, so I decided I would talk then. By then, I was bound to meet someone of the same ethnicity in Toronto, there were many Indians. Thunder Bay would be similar…or so I thought.

Lakehead was the only school where it was surrounded by a pine tree forest and that too with a river running down. I was right, when the sun came to say hello, I was warmed by its distant embrace. The leaves were a vivid green with the bark being an auburn colour. This was much different to India, but then again Canada was completely different to India. When I had explored in Toronto, all I saw were towering buildings. Either gray, or ash, it looked dead. But Thunder Bay, it was different. I could hear the gushing water caused by the river, each breath I took; it had a fresh spray of pine needles. I kept on walking; I was completely lost in this green and blue tapestry. I lay down in the moist grass, and looked up to the sky. A blue canopy, with patches of pure white. I looked at the time, it was time for lunch.

I had no idea where I was, had no idea how to communicate that I am lost or how to find the canteen. I decided to use this strange app called “Google maps”, this was never necessary in India. I trekked my way through the heavy forest, and came across a red tailed fox. It looked just as stunned as me. I was inclined to touch it, the moment I moved my hand it skittered off. I continued to walk forward, and I paused. My eyes had never seen anything as beautiful as a family of deer standing free. Unfenced. I just dropped to the floor, food could wait. This was amazing. I turned my head to the right looking if there were more, and there I saw Lakehead Residence. Wildlife was right at my doorstep. In one day, a fox and deer.

I eventually got to my RA and told him that there was wildlife. He looked at me like it was obvious, but coming from India the only animal we would see if we were lucky would be an elephant. That too in a blue moon. The RA explained that usually at night we can feed the deer carrots as it would literally come up to our windows. This was all I needed to survive two days before class started.

When the first week of classes started, I was excited to meet that one brown kid. Since I decided to major in English to learn more about the language, I assumed there would be someone else in the same boat as me. I went to my first class, and I was the only Asian. Not even a Chinese student. I felt so alienated. I took a deep breath and said, “It’s only one class Swetha, you are bound to find another”. I trudged on to my second class. Same story. Panic was starting to invade. It was finally lunch time. I saw a glimpse of heaven. One Indian who did look like he was Malayali, walking swiftly through the crowd. He looked like he knew how to get around; he didn’t have fear in his eyes. I knew he was my man to help me around. I quickly caught up to him and started talking in Malayalam. He gave me the dirtiest look and said, “Before I call someone, back off since I don’t know what the hell you are saying.” I was so ashamed, I asked him seconds later if he was Indian? “Just because I am brown, does not mean I am a freak like you, I am Canadian okay so um, bye.”

Every other person was so nice to me, but him? Why? I knew he was Indian, but at the same time I was confused why he was so rude. I wanted to run back to India. But I knew that I didn’t want to live my life like that. I was sure of two things: 1, I am sure to be staying here, and 2, I would never be as rude as that imbecile. This wasn’t Canadian culture. I knew that in the bottom of my heart. I also knew, I had my Deer friends to feed in case I ever missed home.

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