I never planned on moving to Canada. I would much rather have chosen a rustic old town in Europe- preferably Salzburg- and spent the rest of my life frequenting Farmers’ Markets and living off Frankfurters. In the interest of earning a living, however, that option was ruled out. For a long time I hadn’t considering moving out of India, even though my parents were quick to point out that life overseas had its merits. Over the years, their opinion fell on my otherwise deaf ears and I found myself seriously considering a switch in location. Sharing here, everything that unfolded.
Chapter 1: Backstory
I don’t remember why or when I made the decision to move. When I look back, I recall being young and restless in a country where I was working too many hours, earning too little to travel or to save, and wondering whether life would continue this way for years to come. I would spend hours stuck in traffic, in a rickety old car that needed a serious upgrade, listening to senseless banter on the radio. I would reach restaurants just in time for the last order, make it to 11 pm movies and regret it the next morning, curse on my way to work every day and sit at Starbucks every evening to avoid the intense traffic that hit Delhi between 5:00 and 9:30 pm. But the worst were the months of scrimping and saving in order to travel as much as possible- not just the money, but also the vacation days.
Business school was always part of the plan for me. As a major in English Literature, I knew that my chosen field- Marketing, was heading in a direction that required a solid understanding of data and analytics. I had also learnt through my work by then, that in order to fully understand the big picture, specially from a strategy POV, I needed to know the basics of business: subjects that I had never studied before.
So when I felt the time was right for me to move on from my role as Product Manager at a leading travel company, I found myself at a crossroad. For the longest time, my parents had tried to convince me to move to New Zealand. But I hadn’t considered it, because leaving home and moving away from my grandparents was unfathomable. Anyone who’s watched Lord of the Rings knows New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It’s also a place that feels like home to me because I’ve spent many months there on and off. It offers a slow and laidback life that I sometimes crave, but in the long term, I needed to live somewhere with a quicker pulse.
At the time I was considering studying for entrance exams, a friend was moving to Canada. Through our conversations, I began realizing how much easier it would be to get through a university here and also to move my family to Canada (all of whom enthusiastically agreed at the time and have gone back on their word quicker than ice cream melts on a stove). And so, the months drudged on, I left my job and started studying for the GMAT. During that time I felt more frustrated than ever, realizing how little we could do in Delhi, in the name of a “fun outing”- which was little more than eating out, watching a movie, meeting a couple friends. Instagram added fuel to the fire, showing me all the incredible fests around the world that I could be attending, incredible hikes to walk, picnics in the park and beachside strolls I could be taking. By the time I finally gave the GMAT exam, I was so ready to leave, I could’ve jumped on the first flight out.
I say this now, a year later and (I like to think) much wiser than I was back then- I don’t think we fully realize the price we pay when we uproot ourselves and move away from our families. But at the time, I couldn’t wait to move into the next phase of my life: an MBA in a new country, new friends, new adventures. So once my business school acceptances came through, I picked Schulich for its focus on Marketing and its location (40 min subway ride from Downtown).
Chapter 2: Leaving
I didn’t expect a painful separation from home. I’ve travelled alone since I was 21 and I’m perfectly happy in my own company. I haven’t once felt uncomfortable eating at a restaurant alone, spending a night alone in a hotel room or experiencing a desert safari in a new city, alone, in the middle of the night (I’ll admit I wasn’t the smartest 20 year old)
But like anyone else, wildly independent or not, I’m also attached beyond reason to the people I love. Naturally then, the months leading up to the move were spent pondering over the impending separation, bringing with it the kind of anxiety we know all too well: The one that shows up late night and doesn’t leave until the wee hours of the morning. I would lie awake for several hours, wondering how odd life would be when I only got to see my parents once a year. I had acknowledged that I wasn’t moving to a country within convenient flying distance. That I wouldn’t be able to make week-long trips on Diwali or birthdays and that I would need to save my annual leave to visit my parents.
But there were some people I was most worried about leaving: my Dadi (paternal grandmother), Nani (maternal grandmother) and my pets (three of the cutest guinea pigs you’d ever lay eyes on). Because I knew that time with them from now on would be limited.
I could see that no one at home was taking the move well but as parents are wont to do, they chinned up and started cracking “good riddance” jokes. Perhaps this bravado could be attributed to a trip home that I had planned for 4 months later. I was leaving at the end of August and planning to visit in December. None of us had anticipated that those 4 months would feel like a year. And that I would be flying home in 2 weeks, on my first day of classes.
It was the fortnight before I was due to fly out, when I returned home to find my numero uno creature in the entire world, feeling unwell. Peanut (my guinea pig) was my first ever little baby, whom I loved in an obsessed kind of way that he probably found clingy. At 3 months old, he was smaller than my palm. He arrived at my house in a wooden basket on my 21st birthday, white cage in tow. Peanut and Butter were the first two to arrive, and they multiplied- a lot- giving us a good-looking family of 6 guinea pigs. Over the years I grew extremely close to Peanut, who was dearly loved by anyone whose lap he ever defecated on. We had a connection that can only be understood by those who saw it. When I was sad, he would put his head on my shoulder. When I held him and chatted away, he would lick my finger. He would fall asleep on my chest, curled up like a ball. Often, he would run around the corners of my bedroom at top speed, looking like he would crash into the wall. He’d say hello with an enthusiast series of nods that made him look like the cutest little possessed stuffed toy you’d ever meet. He’d make me chase him around our television cabinet when he didn’t want to go back into his cage and turn his bum at me when he was pissed. We communicated through a sixth sense and I’m sure I also indulged in some unspoken nagging on and off, when I pushed him to eat his beans, frantically waving them in front of his face.
Peanut was 6 years old, which is Dumbledore years in guinea pig world. When he fell sick this time, all hell broke loose in my house. We had struggled for a long time with his teething situation (they kept growing out and cutting his mouth) but his health deteriorated so badly overnight, that we had to rush him to the doc the next morning. While we were driving- allow me to sound absurd, because it might seem that way to anyone who hasn’t had pets- I felt like he was trying to communicate with me. I thought he was saying that he was in pain and wouldn’t make it this time. That he wanted me to help him let go. Granted, this method of communication was unreliable at best and there was no way to tell how he was really feeling. But I had heard him so clearly that even before the doctor confirmed the same thing, I already knew he was about to get worse and he wasn’t going to get better. The doctor said there was calcification all over his body, and that there was gas trapped in his body that couldn’t escape anymore. He had multiple issues, and he wouldn’t recover. I was told it was a matter of 3 or 4 days.
The night that followed, I will never forget. After consulting with another doc, we had reached the same conclusion: He was not recovering. From then on it just got worse, and by morning he was in a lot of pain. I had fought all night with my parents, because I felt like he had tried to tell me on the way to the doc, that he wanted me to euthanize him. This is such a controversial stand to take, because it goes against so many beliefs and all that we’ve been taught growing up. It was me against my parents and my boyfriend, all of whom believed I had no right to stand in the way of nature’s course. My mom was still hopeful that he would somehow, miraculously, get better. But he was getting so much worse that he could barely move, barely even budge a leg. By morning, one side of his body was paralyzed, his breathing was heavy and he was suffering intensely. At that point I didn’t care that my parents were yelling. It was breaking my heart to watch him in pain and I just needed to save him from it. We took him to the vet, the silent sobs turning to wails, as I held his paw while he breathed his last. I was telling him I loved him over and over, so he would always know and always remember.
That was the first blow of 2019; first of the two that completely changed me.
Hey! If you’re following the story, please read this tiny note!
This article will be a looooong one, where I’m documenting my entire first year in Canada and all the adventures: the good and the bad, that I experienced during this time. This is less “informative” and for information on moving here and the logistics, I will create a couple more posts. But this one is dedicated to the emotion and the life changes that come with moving. I’ll keep updating this story, adding one part to it every week. l will also share updates to the story on my Instagram so that you’re aware when the next chapter is uploaded. If there’s anything else you would like to know, please drop a comment here or on Instagram. I’ll do my best to answer your questions! Also coming up, is a podcast series on Moving to Canada: for those who prefer to listen over reading 🙂 If you find this story interesting and if you’re keen to follow it, please take a moment to subscribe to the newsletter so I can send you updates over email. There’s no spamming involved, ever!
Coming up next, is my chapter on “Leaving Home”