Indian-born Nazreena Anwar-Travas on finding herself in Canada

July 21, 2017

By Canadian Immigrant Magazine |

On the second day of June in the year 2011, a WestJet airplane began its descent to Calgary, oblivious that a worried immigrant onboard (me) was looking at the landscape below warily. An immigrant who had left behind a well-paying job, her home, her family and everything behind just because she had chosen to make Canada her home.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have arrived into Calgary International Airport,” the flight attendant announced.

You have just arrived into your new home, a voice inside my head said meekly.

The jetlag mercifully kept me away from the reality that was yet to embrace me. Reality meant accepting that you were now in a foreign land and it was all up to me to make that land my home. After all, wasn’t that a choice I made when I had chosen to immigrate? I now needed to totally accept that choice and live with it. Or leave it. But I was no quitter and I firmly resolved to live this journey out and make it worth living.

First few weeks

I must admit that my first few weeks were depressing indeed. I travelled a lot using public transportation and, each day, I kept wondering when I would ever travel for work instead of looking for work.

It was hard for me to accept that the same educational qualifications and work experience that had qualified me to immigrate to Canada were not accepted in Canada after I immigrated. Equally hard was to understand why most people advised me that I needed to start at the bottom of the corporate ladder when I had spent 13 years of my life already climbing it? I understand that every country has a different work culture, but surely, one doesn’t expect someone to start at the very bottom just because the work culture was different?

Third week running and still no job, I l began to despair. Strangely, though, even if I had not still mentally accepted Canada, Canada had somehow accepted me. I was slowly beginning to blend in. Nothing seemed like a new experience anymore. Everything seemed routine. Even the sunlight that streamed down until the late evening hours seemed normal.

First job woes

I got my first job a day before Canada Day; still a far cry from my last corporate job, but at least it gave me somewhere to start from. I left my first job one month later and my second job three months later. And so it went on, until I got into a company where I eventually found strong footing. Many months later I had popped into my first place of work hoping to see a familiar face. Apart from the owner-manager, there was nobody I knew. Everyone had moved on.


Who am I?

I was all alone in Canada and bored; my parents were in India and I was yet to make friends outside work. In a desperate attempt to break up the boredom, I resorted to cooking new dishes and learning how to crochet with the help of YouTube. Two months later, I had crocheted coasters, a scarf and little motifs from leftover yarn. I also learned how to make cranberry sauce, make Mexican meatloaf and moussaka. It’s so true: it’s when you are alone that you discover yourself the best! Today, crochet and cooking are the two hobbies that I love the most.

By the time 2011 drew to a close, I had braved my first winter in Canada. Yes, winter in Canada may be hard and brutal, but not truly impossible.

Four-and-a-half years after arriving, as I took my oath of citizenship, I realized how quickly time had flown. From a nervous nail-biting immigrant, I had grown to be the person whom I was. From the very first job, to the first Tim Hortons coffee to the first snowfall … yes, everything had played an important role in shaping me as a person.


Coming home to Canada

The first thing I did after getting my Canadian passport was to apply for a visitor visa to India. It seemed so ironic; I now needed a visa to travel to my own homeland!

My journey to Chennai, my hometown, was nothing short of an emotional rollercoaster. Chennai had changed. Everything seemed different. However, as I walked around my family’s house later, I realized nothing had changed there. And that was when the truth finally hit me — I had changed. All the while in Canada, I felt like an Indian with a Canadian passport, but, once in India, I felt more like a Canadian with an Indian soul. Which one of the two was I? All I know is that I love both countries equally. If it weren’t for what India had taught me, I would have never managed all those lonely years by myself; and if it weren’t for what Canada has shaped me into, I would have never reached where I am right now.

My mind goes to one of my favourite quotations: “For everything you have missed; you have gained something else, and for everything you gain; you lose something else. It is about your outlook toward life; you can either regret or rejoice.”

I choose to rejoice — because, somewhere in these six years in Canada, I have actually found my way home!

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