Coming from a country where everyone is always agitated and frustrated over the most trivial of things to a place where everyone looks like they’re looking for a reason to say sorry, it wasn’t the easiest of transitions for me. The first disappointment I faced was as soon as got off the airplane and wasn’t greeted with the smiling face of Justin Trudeau, every country’s favorite prime minister. His not being there to greet his Muslim brothers from South Asia was a a little bit of a setback, but I survived.
Soon, what followed was a journey of many cold truths, literally.
A smart thing to do when travelling to Canada is booking a ticket during the winters. You know how we usually escape to the north for appreciating the coldness of the climate and the surreal feeling of an adventure, well now imagine that for every single second. That’s what Canada is.
The very first morning here, I stepped outside on the balcony with a steaming cup of coffee to enjoy the view of the splendid frozen lake right by our place. For a while it seemed great but on the 16th day of having moved here, going out on the same balcony in the mind numbing cold and looking at the same dead frozen lake seemed like staring at a Microsoft computer trying to boot up for eternity.
I would start cursing all my friends and family who kept telling me that this is an opportunity of a lifetime with no logic to support it other than the fact that it’s Canada, the land of goray log.
And then I really began to miss Pakistan
Soon enough, one starts missing the little luxuries one took for granted back home – when you wake up in the morning there isn’t going to be any “chota“(your domestic slave) to serve you breakfast and iron your clothes, basically to pamper you up in the morning. Second thing that hits you right where it hurts is if you need to get some “official work” done, you have to get it done the right way, because these people don’t know what chai paani is. Personally, I am against sifarish but boy do I sometimes miss throwing a friend’s chachu‘s wife’s cousin’s name around to get things done quicker.
People who actually live here love it. But you need to realize that for a person like me who spent most of his life in Lahore, the city had developed a drug-like relationship with me, I am obsessed with it, even if it ends up killing me.
Canada is the kind of place where if you wear the same shirt for a week it won’t smell (not that I condone the habit, but it is a surprising revelation), everyone is always smiling and simply too nice and the breaking news is a moose walking on the highway. It’s not an easy adjustment, I swear. I had gotten too comfortable with the abnormality in my part of the world. After a while I started missing the dirt, the freedom to piss wherever and whenever I wanted. I crave the news from back home of somebody reporting from inside a grave, something getting blown up or some guy’s honor being hurt by his sister. Now that’s real news, bloody, gory and yellow as hell – that’s the news of champions.
Moving to Canada has helped me cut down on some bad habits
Though one good thing did come out of moving to Canada is that I significantly reduced smoking. Not because it’s literally cancerous to your health, or people in Canada don’t smoke so much, simply because it was too damn expensive. Canada is truly the land of the free until you see the taxes. That being said, I have started to save money in some other peculiar departments as well like not bribing Punjab police every Saturday night, if you know what I mean. I also finally applied for my Masters, something I thought I was too lazy to do, before.
Some weird interaction with Canadians did catch me by surprise
One interaction with a shopkeeper at a gas station was…interesting, for the lack of a better word. Out of nowhere, that guy shared with me how scared he is of ISIS, as if he wanted me to reiterate what he said, show him that I am on his side. I just wanted to say Allah-Ho-Akbar and give him a big fat hug, but better sense prevailed.
Three months later, a day after the Orlando shooting I was at the bus station waiting for my bus, when I saw a lady looking strangely at me and babbling something. “It’s finally happening” – I said to myself. I approached her with all the pro-Muslim arguments prepared in my head of how this is not Islam and blah blah blah only to find out she wasn’t staring or babbling at me, she was just pissed at life in general and talking to herself, making me realize that we’re more scared of things being scary than they actually are. I realized the bitter truth, us Pakistanis may even be more racist than the wild, wild, West.
Canadian desis are a really interesting breed
Mostly you’ll meet three types of Desis here, ones who only dine and hang-out with desis or more commonly known here as the desi squad. They literally think they’re the shit, with their caps tilted downwards and talking in rap lingo, they’re not just confused desis they’re in a severe identity crises. I had a hapless interaction with one of the desi squad boy and he said something I couldn’t understand, the accent was simply too cool for me so I asked him to repeat. And he told me something I’ve lived by from then on, “you know I’m always straight with ma bitches, but indirect with ma homies so they figure it out and get smarter”.
The second kind are the ones continuously trying to cheat the system somehow, because you can take the guy out of Pakistan but you can’t take Pakistan out of the guy. When they’re not laying eggs wherever they go or trying to bring their whole khandaan to vilayat, they’re finding out different ways they can cheat the government and earn more welfare money. But that’s between them and the government, it’s the former part that troubles me most. Most of these would be seen in shalwar kameez, not letting their daughters get out of the house and making sure everyone knew how much they hate the West yet not willing to move back home either.
The last types are the ones I can relate to as well, they’re the ones living their lives the way they wanted to. But they want nothing to do with Pakistanis because well (a) they don’t want anyone back home to know about their vilayati shenanigans and (b)because desi immigrants are plain weird.
Having spent some time in Canada now, I’m finally finding my footing. Becoming comfortable in the colder climate and getting adjusted to the culture. However one thing that can never be the same for me is that no Tim Horton’s can compare to the Jaidi Paan Shop ki chaye.
Cover Image via: Metro News