An Act of Kindness

Six p.m. on the subway can be tough, especially if you have had a rough day. Yesterday was different. Let me paint you a picture: A man in his 30s stood up and said, “Hi folks, I know you have to get home, but it would really help if you could spare some change; it is for my sister and she is in the hospital. I need to buy her some food.” For a second,…

A Moment in the Elevator

It is rush hour in the elevator, and as I am scrambling for space, I overhear a conversation. A child, possibly 10 years old is explaining how an iPad works to her brother. “All you have to do is press here and slide,” she tells him. “I prefer iPads to Androids. They are faster,” she adds. As the elevator reaches the ground floor, a light bulb goes off in my head, and I say to…

Age is Not Just a Number

“Excuse me,” a senior citizen behind me, on the bus says. She is trying to make her way on a visibly overcrowded bus. As I give her some space, I realize the bus is teeming with senior citizens, not unusual for a commuter who takes the subway or bus every day. In fact, Canadians know we have an aging population which is increasing by the day. This is precisely the reason why we have a…

Newcomers and the Stigma of Mental Illness

Not quite the response I was expecting. A couple of years ago when I revealed to my father that I’ve struggled with depression for many years, he looked at me confused and asked why “I didn’t just get over it.”  Now, three things immediately came to my mind in rapid succession: 1)  Did my father really just say that? 2) Admittedly, he is a first-generation immigrant from a country that is only just beginning to…

Asylum Seekers Flood Canada: Read Why

On March 8, firefighters in Emerson, Manitoba were taken by surprise, as they reached a shed to find 17 asylum seekers including a baby taking shelter from a major storm that blew through the area. This isn’t the first time that refugees in such high numbers have crossed the border town. According to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), 410 refugee claimants were intercepted near the Emerson port of entry while crossing into Canada between…

Life lesson: Don’t think, Do!

On the radio this week, a young man recounted a grueling experience from the Friday before. He was clearing snow and ice to make a roadway on one of Canada’s large northern lakes which freeze over in the winter somewhere near Kenora, Ontario. The conditions were so harsh and tough that the plough attached to his truck broke off. So he abandoned the truck on the ice and came back the next day on a…

How I learnt to Stop Caring and Just Chilled

“So you must know French then?” Spoiler Alert! My answer is usually a resounding “No!” or a little less decisive “Kinda.” Okay, let me put this into context: I’ve heard that question countless times since I made Toronto my home, about twenty years ago. Amazingly, being asked if I’m fluent in the official language of the province where I was born and raised for over twenty years would normally trigger such paralyzing, existential angst. The…

Holding One’s Privilege in Check

Every morning when I wake up, I have this question in my head.  What sleight of hand resulted in my being able to wake up in a comfortable and warm bed, my loved ones intact, my fridge brimming over with staples and a car filled with gas waiting to take me to wherever I want to go?  That I can go about my day not fearing for my physical or emotional well-being.  Sounds rather banal…

Even as Canada welcomes newcomers including refugees, many struggle to find jobs

Even as Canada continues to welcome newcomers including refugees, a staggering number is still finding it tough to land a job. A Statistics Canada report updated earlier this year paints a rather grim picture and says that immigrants who landed 5 or a few years earlier reported an unemployment rate of 10.2% at all education levels. Immigrants with no degree, certificate or diploma reported an unemployment rate of 14.8% and high school graduates reported an unemployment rate…

How a woman sold me fresh vegetables speaking broken English – A true story

If you skipped the class or if you weren’t curious about marketing, here are some fundamentals; always get them to buy what you are selling. At least, that is what the elderly Chinese woman at a grocery store in my neighborhood taught me while I was buying vegetables one fine evening. “You want tomatoes? $2 outside,” she pointed to the boxes lying outside her shop. As I returned with a bag, she added, “Other stores…