How glad I am that you went to study in Canada! In a span of two years, the country has imparted to you those values that I struggled to bestow on you for two decades but was only partially successful. After visiting you recently I’ve realised how germane the contribution of a country is in shaping the character and discipline of its people. A parent might do her best for the child, but it takes a country to do chisel him/her. I was gratified to note that you’ve imbibed the inestimable qualities of humanness, empathy, sensitivity and respect for people, environment and diversity. Vaise, I’ve brought back a few lessons too!
I’ve learnt that nationalism and patriotism isn’t about chest beating and jingoism; nor is it about alienation and dissociating oneself from those who are different from us. It is all about inclusion of diversity. Of acceptance and welcoming people from outside the borders. When I stepped into the Vancouver airport, I was greeted with a welcoming and comforting harmony of accents — Asian, Indian, Canadian, German, British, Afghan, African — as if one had crossed into the borders of a world community.
Canadians love their country. They obey the rules; they never litter; they respect each other; they teach their children sensitivity and respect. Dogs don’t bite. Kids don’t throw tantrums. People follow civic rules even if no one is watching. Arre, it was a relief just to be able to cross the street without the fear of being run over by a car or knocked down by a speeding cyclist or being yelled at by an irate policeman. In fact, I didn’t see any policemen there. People follow rules without being forced to. How strange, nahin?
Political correctness and respect
Canada is the home of political correctness. In the first few days, when I wanted to lunge at the passing dogs and babies to pet and coo at them, you admonished me: “You can’t do that here. Please ask permission before you call out to other people’s dogs and babies.” (Hain! We Indians believe that all dogs, babies and conversations are open to participation, petting and comment.)
In Canada the community is treasured but boundaries are too. Canadians express disagreement politely; no galis, no raised voices. No one interrupts when another is talking. No one even looks back judgingly when Indian groups talk and argue loudly!
Development and sustainability
Canadians would rather go without wi-fi than have micro waves disturb the habitat of local flora and fauna or drive a few kilometers extra to purchase petrol, if it means better air quality. They’ll pay substantially more for an organically grown product than a cheaper product that has used pesticide. They pay to save trees, species or ‘First Nations’ people. Respect extends to all species.
I saw that people work, people walk, people smile and enjoy music. I saw that you’ve learnt to participate — fearlessly, joyously and respectfully.
I wish the same spirit of enterprise, intrepidity, respect and inclusiveness for my countrymen too.
Your Loving Mom