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FRESH OFF THE PLANE: Newcomer parks his confusion

We moved to Canada in the mid-90s from Hyderabad, India. Friends who had moved here a year before us, picked us up at the airport and we spent our first week in Canada with them.

They took us to check out furnished apartments and with them as guarantors, we signed a six-month lease for an apartment. It was in the heart of downtown Toronto, close to where we thought we needed to be in order to get going on our job searches, my wife and I both being in the IT field. 

While we spent the days getting our educational certificates endorsed at the University of Toronto, resumés printed at copy centres and mailing out applications, we spent our evenings getting to know our neighbourhood.

There was a beautiful old church that we walked by, a park where people walked dogs and jogged while moms gathered with strollers. Eaton Centre which took a whole day to explore and we probably still didn’t see all the shops. Queen’s Park and Royal Ontario Museum were just a short ride away. The public library beckoned with more books and magazines than we were used to seeing in one location. And then there was Maple Leaf Gardens.

We’d walk by the sign and think we should go in there. Be lovely to see a whole garden dedicated to Canada’s symbol, we thought. But whenever we passed it, the gate was shut and it looked deserted, like no one ever went in.

Puzzled by that, we wondered why a large park in the middle of the town was not used. Imagine a space like that in Hyderabad! There would have been games of cricket; young couples would have gotten amorous on park benches, oblivious to the clucking of disapproving matrons; laughter clubs would have congregated at dawn; old men would have sat in the shade, smoking and discussing politics; vendors of cold drinks, ice creams and spicy peanuts would have done brisk business. 

But there were no signs of life at Maple Leaf Gardens. 

One day, our friends came to visit. After cups of chai, we took them on a round of our neighbourhood. As we strolled past what we thought of as an unused park, I told my friend we had been wanting to go inside.

“Well, it’s closed now, but I didn’t know you guys were into hockey,” he responded. “Getting all Canadian, eh! Good for you!”

I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. Hockey? What did hockey have to do with anything?

Seeing my confusion, my friend was a little confused himself. 

“You know it’s the former home of our hockey team, right? I thought that’s why you were interested in going in.”

“I’ll explain over dinner,” I said, as we headed back home.

                                                                                                                       – Vicky Rastogi

What’s your story? Every newcomer, no matter how savvy or where he or she comes from, has a Fresh Off the Plane (FOP) story to share about their early days in Canada.Do you want to share your story? E-mail it to us at canadaboundimmigrant@rogers.com.

Posted: May 1, 2013

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