Going "Back Home"

By Teenaz Javat

A lot of newcomers to Canada live simple, almost frugal lives, just so they can save enough money to buy an airline ticket ‘back home'.

Many Greater Toronto Area families don’t celebrate Christmas, Hannukkah or Kwanza. But to keep the holiday tradition alive in their adopted country many have started to give the gift of a trip back home to themselves and their immediate families.

“I try and go home to Mumbai, India ever so often, and for me winter works best as the weather cools across most of South Asia,” says Armaity Anadasagar, a Mississauga-area Girl Guide leader and community outreach volunteer at the Ontario Zoroastrian Community Foundation in Oakville, Ontario. “Besides, you get to be with family over the holidays.”

For Anandasagar, going to Mumbai is a no-brainer. Having lived across four continents over two decades, she and her husband chose Canada to bring up their two kids who are now in their early twenties, and pretty much ‘do their own thing’, as she succinctly puts it.

“It’s kind of hard for me to spend holidays alone in Toronto. When my kids were young they were with me. Not any more. And with my husband stationed in Mumbai for his work, I think the best holiday gift I can give myself is a ticket back home.”

Last week I spent five hours standing in the line-up outside the Consulate General of India in Toronto. The line to obtain visas snaked all the way to the elevator and beyond. It was a lot of fun as I met people with wonderful stories on why they wanted to go to India, which is ‘back home’ to over half a million Canadians of Indian origin.

Not everybody in the queue was of Indian origin. First in line was a Canadian agent who represented a 12-person Toronto-based band applying to go on a three-city concert tour of India.

“India is a large market, and the growing middle class is now capable of supporting and wanting to shell out big bucks to entertain themselves,” says Charlie Jacob, who handles public relations in India for the band. “So arranging these trips is great payback for us.”

For Jamshed Dhabhar, a priest from Mississauga, Ontario going ‘back home’ does not come easily. Caught up in different jobs and the demands of a young family, he is finally going to India after 14 years. “It’s not easy for me to just pack up and leave. Besides, my home is now in Canada. My three daughters were born here; my wife and brother are here, so the allure is not what it was when I first immigrated to Ottawa in 1988.”

As a priest he serves a large congregation in the Halton Hills and Peel region, so for him to take off is not easy. Several families depend on him for support, especially those who are lonely over the holidays.

“I am going now, as my two older sisters were widowed in the time that I was here. I could not be with my family when my parents passed away in India so I just need to be back to get some form of closure. It might just give me some peace of mind,” he hopefully adds.

Gurtej Singh was trying to get an emergency visa to go to Chandigarh as his father had passed away. The consulate has a policy of granting emergency visas within 24 hours. He was asked to return with a valid ticket as proof of travel.

Elsewhere families get ready to spend time with loved ones. For globetrotting TV journalist Gabi Veras, mother of two-year old Julia, going ‘back home’ means taking an 11-hour flight to Florianopolis in the Santa Catarina region in southern Brazil. “My family lives on an island,” she says. “With summer in the southern hemisphere, it’s swim suit weather. Besides, my daughter Julia loves being with her cousins and I get to see my parents. It’s a win-win situation for us.”

“When you are the only one away from your family,” Veras adds, “it helps to always keep the suitcases ready.”

This story is from the "Secrets of Adapting to Canada" InfoBlock. To read more stories on this topic, click here.