Pune Journal….Sense of Place

PUNE DAIRY…Immigration Woes and Sense of Place

Four months…that is a long time to stay away from home. I look at the speaker’s face.”But that is also home with son, daughter, and their family settled in Toronto and Calgary.

Our flight from Mumbai to Toronto, Canada, via Zurich, is half full with grandparents winging their way to grandchildren in different cities of Canada and America. It is school  vacation time and grandparents are family baby sitters. Talking to one, on adjoining centre seats, I learn that the couple look forward to this annual visit.

The caveat ‘as long it lasts’. Once grandchildren enter teens they do not need caregivers as this friend, on a recent visit to her daughter in Colorado, realised. The daughter had invited them, ostensibly to get away from New Delhi summer, but had needed them to manage house while she was away to work. The grandchildren had their summer break but their own activities.

My friend said ‘How long can one watch TV.’ She and her husband were not confident to venture on their own, buy bus tickets and see the city and waited for daughter to entertain them in her and her families free time. 

Majority visiting Indian parents are dependent on their children and unless they learn to venture around on their own, life in any American, Canadian city is excruciatingly boring. The Indian temples, Gurdwaras, Mosques are welcome places especially on Sundays. Parents are dropped in the morning and picked after the community kitchen or functions are over (temple I visited). Some make friends and look forward to weekends.

Sometimes it was disheartening to watch aged parents wait at bus stops to receive grandchildren ( Brampton, Toronto) and carry their loaded satchels home. One wonders if it is confined to Asian diaspora as I saw other Asian grandparents in similar exercise.

There are exceptions. Pushpa set her own agenda from morning timetable till evening and her calendar was full. She helped her family but then she needed her ‘me time.’ Another mother would ask to be dropped to the library as soon as daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren returned from office and school. She was clear that she has contributed her share and period.

I met with a South American ( Venezuela) grandmother who was visiting her daughter and grand daughter who was in college. She was not ‘babysitting’ as such but enjoying quality time with her grand daughter. Thrice a week she was playing bridge and other days it was socialising with her country friends and extended families. .i Sometimes it was disheartening to watch aged parents wait at bus stops to receive grandchildren ( Brampton, Toronto) and carry their loaded satchels home. One wonders if it is confined to Asian diaspora as I saw other Asian grandparents in similar exercise. I could go on with grand parent tales, some poignant some joyous, but part of living.

Our three plus granddaughter would love to brag about her visit to the zoo/libraries with her grandparents. Her friends would chip in with their own grandparent stories and it would be fun listening to embellished tales. Like I said there are exceptions to grandparent stories.

Return flight was again teeming with grandparent passengers returning home, their job done, to fly again next year, happy in the thought that they are needed.



Frank’s Slide…near Waterton, Alberta. The town of Frank was buried under the debris of Turtle mountain and now all we see is rocks.

Toronto: A group of immigrants were complaining about fresh-of-the-boat-immigrants (more than 300,000 per year), of how they are burdening the infrastructure, the laws etc forgetting that once they too sailed/flew in from their respective countries to start afresh. There is an endless flow, professionals and refugees being offered a slice of Canadian sky and land.  

Media reports and tv channels highlight the burgeoning crime rate in Toronto City and its environs, the frequent breakdowns on the tottering Toronto subway system, the beleaguered education system, the resistant to inoculations, educators strike, children misplaced, one report cited nearly 40,000 children missing every year. 

The legalisation of Cannabis for medicinal and leisure purposes might be a cash cow for the government but for citizens a health hazard. One cannot walk through certain downtown streets and alleys as the air is thick with cannabis smoke and I often had to cover my face if by chance I was somewhere in the vicinity of smokers. Cigarette smoke was unhealthy but this is a ritual suicide pact that authorities have imposed on public. The opening of special de-addiction or safe addiction centres in the city might help control rampant addiction but I think it is hitting out in the dark. Commuting on subways one comes across young men and women asking for money for lame reasons, buying tickets, etc but it is not rocket science to decipher the reason for their begging.(https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Cannabis_in_Canada)

The rising accident rates, murders, homicides, suicides, robberies and break-ins….. Old timers say their city (Toronto) was never this way. They remember the peaceful streets, safe driving, no honking (now it is common sound in neighbourhoods). It is a never ending litany of complaints and woes and I walk out from all the whining.

Unionville, Brampton, Mississauga …. White neighbourhoods but slowly the colour change to brown, black and yellow. Driving down Brampton streets one is transported to Punjab (India roads) and easy to question the sanity of fellow Indians uprooting themselves from homeland if they wanted to continue with old lifestyle. Their answer ‘ life is safe and comfortable’ is justified but then ‘old’ should be in moderation.

There are areas within areas; Korea Town, Little Italy, India Street, European, Middle Eastern pockets….Sometimes newly minted citizens follow their own rules as a Middle Eastern father refusing to let his daughter learn music as it was against his culture. Not so friendly advice was to return from where he had come from if he did not want to adjust to his new environment. 

No wonder Justin Trudeau felt no qualms dressing up as a ‘brown face’ for his school function. There are too many around to notice any faux pas. He won the election. 

It is similar scenario in other Canadian cities with the open stretched out spaces helping absorb the ramifications of never ending stream of newer migrants.


Back in Pune it was old routine of morning walks, lunch outings and ‘me time’. We avoid evening drive-ins in the city because of office-returnees-congested streets and unruly traffic. The two wheeler menace is increasing and no matter how much you honk the scooterist refuses to let go of the road. Water logging, illegal parking add to the menace and I prefer to enjoy evenings in the peaceful environs of my Society.

The rains continue well into November, climate change, and though it is clean green air we breathe, too much of water is harmful. Mosquitoes are proliferating specially in low lying areas and slums. Dengue (mosquito bite) cases multiply. 

On the cheerful side I am enjoying my freshly brewed Masala Chai (spiced tea) lounging in my patio listening to raindrops falling on the rooftop. My sense of space.

8 thoughts on “Pune Journal….Sense of Place”

  1. You really summed up life in Toronto. I am an immigrant and can remember how lonely my grandmother was when they moved here. My grandfather got a job and enjoyed himself.
    When I worked in Mississauga (ugh) I would feel sorry for the Indian grandparents I would see listlessly walking those horrible car friendly wide streets with nothing of interest to see other than strip malls.

  2. Poignant story. But I can honestly say that even if I may have appeared indifferent at times, my own grandmother’s visits were the highlight of my entire childhood. She may have been less thrilled with the visits than I was as she was a caregiver and I was not the easiest of children, but her visits meant the world to me.

  3. Glad you found a cheerful side. 🙂 🙂 Interesting how societies differ, and it’s always noticeable that Asian communities are more inclusive of their older folk. Fish out of water, otherwise. Old dogs, new tricks.. all the cliches. But Westerners adjust better? A more callous society? Selfish… I know I am.

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