I am a mechanical engineer by profession currently working as computer systems analyst / management consultant (I affectionately call myself a button pusher / chair breaker). I used to fix German made CNC machines before immigrating to Canada in 1997. I moved to Ottawa on a stormy winter evening in 1999 and has been a happy camper ever since.
I was born and brought up in a small South Indian town that had 2 colleges, 7 high schools and a population of 150,000 during the sixties. My uncles and my father lived together in a 900 sq.ft. mud wall and thatched roof house (3 families, a total of 14 people under one roof) along with couple of cows for milk. We have only 3 seasons hot, hotter and hottest in Tamilnadu. I never have to buy a sweater or jacket. Education was free up to high school, but after that, my parents made lot of sacrifices to give me a decent engineering education so that I can have a better life in future.
Farther I moved away from my home town, longer I kept my jobs. First I moved to Madras (present day Chennai), second to Burnpur, West Bengal, then to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.I worked and lived (if that can be called living) in Riyadh for 15 long years for one employer. ID cards are issued in white and brown colours to distinguish the guest workers of the official religion from other religions. Businesses have to close during prayer times (5 times a day). Eating and drinking (water and soft drinks) in public is not allowed during the month of Ramadan from sunrise to sunset. Restaurants do not serve food during those times. Women have to wear burqas and they cannot drive. Alcohol is banned for the majority of the public. There are always exceptions to this rule, like, people who have royal connections, who work for diplomatic missions or powerful western corporations or those who don’t care to get canned or whipped after Friday noon prayer in the city center.
Two successive events brought down my Saudi life to a grinding halt, (the proverbial last straw) – my employer’s refusal to acknowledge my contributions and the closure of our children’s school by the religious police on the grounds that co-education violates the local religious laws. They let the schools operate again only after another school was built for girls, 5 kms away from the boys’ school.
Then in 1996 I came across an article published by UNDP about Canada voted as the best country to live based on many indicators like human rights, environment and such. Moreover Canada has a fair, point based immigration system that grants permanent residence based on our qualification and professional experience and our ability to pay the immigration and application processing fees of about $1475 per person. We applied, paid the required fees and got my PR and moved to Toronto in 1997.
Like every other new immigrant, I too went through initial struggle of settling down in a new country. With my 18 years of solid experience in procurement, installation, maintenance, dismantling and scrapping of machines, I thought getting a job in Canadawould be a piece of pudding. But I could not even rent an apartment since most rental companies asked for pay slip copies as proof of employment. I moved in with one of my friends who was kind enough to give me shelter and food free until I found my own place or job. Eventually I did find an apartment by giving post-dated cheques for 6 months. Lack of Canadian experience and PEO accreditation were cited as reasons for not giving me the job. At last I had to switch my profession from Engineering to IT consulting.
I moved to New Jersey next year, moved back to Canada (Ottawa) on a snowy January evening in 1999 to work as an SAP consultant for Mitel. Now that I have the necessary prerequisite (Canadian experience), life is always on fast lane. Kanata welcomed me with open arms. My team lead at Mitel taught me the two most powerful words in English “Please and Thanks”. And my colleagues quickly brought me up to speed both professionally and culturally.
First impressions of this great city (Ottawa) are still the best even today after 12 years – cleaner, quieter, friendlier, colourful and cheerful and always wonderful. Compared to New York, Mumbai, Chennai and Toronto, commuting time here in Ottawa is much less. Drivers are more polite.For those of you who appreciate the long term benefits of Yoga, Ottawa offers many choices both fee based as well as free classes. Ottawa has always something to make me happy on any day. I like to drive along the Ottawa river park way, stop at every look out and enjoy the views, walk along the Rideau canal, love the hogs back falls, roam around all the beautiful parks, taste a beavertail, poutine or Ottawa’s best dessert Sticky Toffee Pudding at Moxie’s. But my family always go for the white chocolate brownie. Gatineau hills is another one of my favourite spots. Ethnic community functions and festivals happen all through the year bringing all Canadians closer and makes them more familiar with each other’s food, dress, custom and habits.
I owe my thanks to Ottawa and its great people who were very instrumental in transforming my life from uncertainty to one that is filled with humour and happiness. My sons are in university, my wife wouldn’t trade Ottawa for any other city in North America for one single reason, our majestic, imposing parliament hill and the surrounding area and I am happy because my family is happy here in Ottawa.
I shot this video last year for my family and friends in India and USA to showcase Ottawa >>> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVeE980zhOsPhotos
>>>Photography was allowed before the official opening of the King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh.
Proud father with twin sons…
My sister’s visit in 2008 – Parliament Hills
More to follow …