Thursday, April 26, 2007

These Are a Few of My Favourite Things

Ever since I moved to Toronto, things that I took for granted in India, are what I miss the most. Oh I won't pretend I don't enjoy the unbroken high-speed Internet, un-interrupted power and water supply, and the 14 degree weather, but still, there are things about home that I will never get here. Since its raining today, and I'm feeling somewhat homesick, I thought making a list of a few of my favourite things will make me feel better.

1. Samosas - Oh c'mon, its raining! What fun is rain unless you are sitting with some garam garam chai and samosas...Wait I know...pakodas....paneer fit for the Gods.

2. Smell of aloo frying - You know how when you walk in Connaught Place and suddenly your senses are assailed with the incredible aromas of aloo frying in one of the little corners...and there is this crowd of people surrounding that HUGE frying pan, waiting for their aloo chaat...Oh man, I never ate it when I was in Delhi, even my stomach can't handle that food, but those awesome aromas haunt me even 12,000 miles away.

3. Neighbourhood sabzi walas - Saaaaaaabbbbbjiiiiiiiii...Man, those guys can shout. I used to feel bad in Delhi, when I'd hear them still trying to hawk their wares at 9:30 in the night, knowing that next day, they'll be up at 3 AM to go to the mandi, pushing their carts, and then push that laden cart around for the rest of the day, until night time again. But I miss those fresh veggies to the door. Who needs organic labels. Everything in India is organic!

Yes, I know it appears as though I am singularly obsessed with food ever since getting here, but you have to be out of India to know what its like...I have a lot of buddies living in London, Denmark, US etc. and here is one food description that they love to hate:

"Going to Pandara Road, ordering butter naan, tandoori chicken, dal makhani, and kadhai chicken...breaking that melt in the mouth naan...with butter dripping down it. the slightly spicy and tangy flavours of tandoori chicken bursting upon your tastebuds...till you taste the kadhai chicken that is...with chillies and chicken swimming in pyaaz and masala...then you wash it with a dip of naan in the creamy dal makhani..." how many of you are ordering dhaba food tonight eh? I know I know...writing all this is a bit sadistic....but hey, I'm going through it too remember.

So what else do I miss...Aaah, street shopping! I miss Janpath, buying all that junk jewelery one could find only there...You know those long earings girls wear, with little squares designed in bronze...they are soo popular in Toronto...but when I saw them in Eaton center, they were priced at $40. In Delhi, they are available for 30 rupees! I am so tempted to get into business. Buy a suitcase full of those from Janpath, and sell them in Toronto. I'll recover the price of my ticket and more! But I guess every Sindhi bhai in Toronto worth his papad has already gone and done that. Infact they are probably the enterprising souls selling these trinkets for $40 at the mall!

I miss Eid and the sewai that came from a muslim friend's house. I missed Lohri and the bonfires and random dancing in the street in front of my house. I miss listening to Rabbi on my way to work in the morning. I miss going to Priya with my friends, and sitting at Barista playing scrabble. I miss having aloo parathas on Sunday mornings, and having that with dahi and aachar. Yes Yes, we're back to food again so its come a full circle.

Most of all, I miss having a maid, who my mom would gossip with. Now I have to vacuum the house myself with my husband for gossip company. And he knows nothing about what the Chaddas' 17 yr old chori was doing with the Sens' 19 year old son in Sector 14, Block B park like my good old maid did!!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Day in the Life of a Job Hunting Immigrant

So you know how I said, when I come here and gripe about whatever is bothering me, I am able to see it in a lighter vein, well, I'm back for the same therapy again. Slightly cheaper than going to a shrink I think, plus there is always my fantasy about being discovered by some great publisher who wants to pay me a shit load of money for my rants.

Speaking of shit, I must, I must write about my day yesterday. It was one of those days when just as you think you can't possibly feel lower, life gives you a veritable kick in the balls.

But before I tell you about yesterday, I have to go into flashback.

Having moved to Canada a few weeks back, I enjoyed the first week being entranced by the snow. The second week was spent learning how to master things like an electric cooking range, and learning not to run and cross the road Delhi-style. The third week was spent moping and missing mommy. But through all these weeks, was the underlying restlessness that accompanies those miserable souls who've worked most of their lives. People like me who don't know what to do without work. Who will bitch and rant about office, but will miss it tremendously when not there anymore. So throughout those weeks, yours truly spent time on the Internet looking for jobs.

Realistically, I knew I was not going to be getting a job 2 hours after landing here, unless I wanted to work in airport security, and from what I saw, the Punjabi and Sikh community in Toronto has exclusive rights on that one. Chak de phatte!!

But perhaps in my state of optimism, I thought I'd land a job in about a month. This is where I was wrong. See apparently not even resumes are written here the way they are back home. So after a month of misfires, a friend's aunt who works in HR gave me a resume writing session. That's when I realized I wasn't getting a single call because no one liked my resume. Back in India, using the same resume, doing multiple save-as copies, and simple changing the position name usually did the trick.

I then re-started the entire applying process all over again. 7 weeks and over 100 applications later, I have had only 2 interview calls. The first one was crap, the second, I’m still waiting to hear about, but I am pretty hopeful. In the meantime, I am going nuts in the house. Mondays are the worst. I feel like I’ll never get a job and I have kittens just thinking that. Combine that with my new found love for cooking and baking, well-meaning friends started telling me I’m the perfect housewife. With friends like that, who needs enemies!

So yesterday, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I got a copy of Employment News from a newsstand. Back home, Employment News typically has UPSC results and government openings. Here it has small time jobs and mostly call center listings. So I thought, here goes, while I search for that elusive perfect job I can blog about, I’ll go and do some itty bitty job just to get out of the house. The husband didn’t look very convinced and said, “You know that paper is a little shady”. Ofcourse noticing the light of battle in my eyes after days of seeing me look just despondent, he didn’t continue. In retrospect maybe he should have, and I should’ve listened seeing as how being born and raised here, he knows a little bit more about the country than me.

So armed with copies of my resumes, I made my way yesterday to hurriedly set-up appointments at 3 offices.

Interview 1: 9:30 AM – Yonge Street

So unlike large sprawling Gurgaon and Delhi call centers, this one was on the 6th floor of a high rise. A cramped space, I knew it was probably not the place for me, when I saw a mop and pail standing next to reception. Still I continued with the interview. When they took me to the lunch room for my initial interview (in a lunch room!). I was amazed to see that it wasn’t the 5000 sq. ft area I had gotten used to at my last place. Instead it was a small 10 by 10 room with 3 plastic chairs, 1 table, 1 sink, and 1 microwave. I was thinking if these people could see how Indian call center cafeterias are, they’ll probably all line up for immigration! So the interview went fine, and they wanted to know when I’d join. I said I’ll call you back. I still haven’t. Is it wrong of me? I kept thinking…but the minute I walked into that place, I was so depressed. It was like I had walked into one of those crowded domestic call centers that line the inner lanes of South Ex and Rajouri Garden! So obviously I’m not going back.

Interview 2: 11:30 AM – Yonge Street

When the receptionist who had taken my call told me that the office was just next to the huge MTV office with the MTV signboard, I must admit I was impressed. When I got there however, I realized that there is a big difference between the MTV office and ghetto next door. As I walked down the musky carpet towards the door of the agency, this feeling of total helplessness washed over me…It’s a friggin call center and I am supposed to be doing this for time pass!! They didn’t even take my resume, just gave me a job. Atleast in India, they interview you at a 5 star and pretend to have 5 rounds before selecting you. That’s the difference. In India, call centers are jobs college kids take to have a good time. Here they are jobs you take if you can’t get a job at the mall selling clothes. This depressed me even more, although I’m not sure if it was because I was just missing India or work.

Lunch: 12:45 PM – Eaton Center

After my morbid morning, I decided to meet the husband for lunch at Eaton Center, a mall nearby. He helped me get over my depression by clogging my arteries with KFC and fries. It worked.

I came back home, took a nap and decided to leave for my last interview of the day. It was at about 4:30 also at Yonge Street. Incase you are wondering about Yonge street, it’s the longest street in the world, and stretches from Toronto all the way to Thunder Bay…another city, and hour away by air.
So anyway, the address was 719 Yonge Street, and I kept looking for this place and I couldn’t find it. Somehow all I could see after 714 was 730. I couldn’t help notice that the area was a little dingy. With shanty shops selling “body art” and “adult videos”. And that’s when I saw 719, Yonge Street. A godawful old house converted to office. Nestled between a strip joint called Brass Rails and a store that sells “Novelty ID cards”. That’s it!!! I thought to myself, I can’t possibly go in there. Obviously they are selling something other than “a line of new products” as the ad said. Or maybe they are new products…just being used in the oldest profession in the world!

Here is what amazes me about Toronto. In Delhi, we know the areas that are bad and can actively avoid them. Here you have a business district like Bloor-Yonge, but 2 minutes from there you have business of just another variety.

So I cross the road to start my trudge back home. That’s when I saw the queerest thing ever. And I use that word as a pun. This British guy, reed thin, completely gay, and wearing the most outlandish fur coat I’ve ever laid eyes on. Infact its entirely possible it wasn’t a coat, but just a dead animal slung over his shoulder! By now I’m used to such sights in what my husband lovingly calls the “Gaybourhood”, but obviously the Britgay was also a bit high. So he’s just standing there talking to himself, when these 2 men walk past him. Both men were HUGE, rippling muscles and tattoos on their necks. Obviously not men you would like to get upset. But cocaine does strange things to people. So the Britgay starts shouting at these huge bouncers, “What are yuu laughing at aye? Is eet my coat u baboon?” Like I said, cocaine has a strange effect on people, or perhaps Britgay just fancied a spanking…so he keeps heckling the baboon, oops, I meant bouncer guy. So the big guy finally gets pissed and starts advancing towards Britgay. I think he said, “Yeah, what are you going to do about it?”. And then he started chasing Britgay and beating him!!! Britgay tries to hide behind a car, and pretty soon they are chasing each other round and round the car…It would be funny if it wasn’t scary! Before I could grab my cell, someone else called 911. Unlike Delhi, where the thullas would arrive much after everything is over and the 2 guys are having a drink together, Toronto police are a bit faster. Within 3-4 minutes, the 2 were getting handcuffed. I don’t know about the bouncer, but I think I saw the Britgay smiling.

I decided this was as big a sign as I could get, and I am definitely not returning to 719, Yonge street for an interview, atleast in this lifetime. So I continue my walk back home, when I see this “Hiring” sign outside this optician’s store. I thought to myself, well, it can’t hurt looking can it…I mean, I do still have my resume. I could just drop it off…After all, I want something to keep me out of the house. So I go in, and I see this huge store, with 12 customers, and only one little Chinese girl behind the counter. Ofcourse, everyone is waiting their turn like normal individuals yours truly included. Suddenly this shemale walks in behind me, and I didn’t see her, uuh him, ahh it…When my turn comes, this shemale pushes me aside, walks up to the counter and starts ordering around the Chinese salesgirl. The salesgirl says, “I’m sorry, but she (me) was ahead of you so I need to speak to her first”. Knowing I’m only in here to ask about a job I possibly don’t even want, I said, “Oh you can take her (shemale) first.” Sales girl says “No, you first.” Now I know that in principle the salesgirl was right, but no one could have anticipated what happened next. I said, “Oh I’m just here to check about the job sign for more information.” So this nasty shemale turns to the sales girl and announces to the whole store, “She is just here for a job. I’m here to pay you money…” then she pretends to walk out and says, “Oh go ahead, serve her first.” Not wanting to be in the middle of this, I told the Chinese girl, “Go ahead, she needs help more…” Hehehe…I don’t think either of them caught the insult. I would’ve said more, wanted to, but you know, a shemale…I mean, what can I say to make her…ummm..him…umm it…feel worse than life probably already is for her…um…him…umm it…You get the idea.

Anyway, so I left the store (obviously!) and continued my trudge back home. Met my husband mid-way, got hysterical, laughed and cried and then we walked home. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse…it did.

There was this Chinese guy walking his little furry dog. I hate little dogs. I usually just want to kick them across the street. This does not hold true for puppies. I love puppies…I just hate dogs that are tiny even when fully grown. That’s just disgusting. So before I get carried away, back to the story. Chinese guy, walking his furry little dog. The little dog decides to attack me, and bares his tiny teeth at me, straining at his collar, walking on hind legs…You should’ve seen it…This is how it looked:

Well, pretty close anyway. And then, the owner says, “Don’t be stupid IfITellYaI’llHaveToKillYa”. Ok so he didn’t call the dog “IfITellYaI’llHaveToKillYa”.

But that dog and I share a name. I rest my case.