Categorized | Interviews

Country of Opportunities: A New Immigrant’s Success Story

Posted on 12 May 2010 by .

When I first came to Canada as an 18 year old, I wasn’t ready for an entirely different culture I suddenly found myself in. Sure, I had grown up on a healthy dose of books (Enid Blytons, Nancy Drews, Fear Streets etc.), shows (“Are You Afraid of the Dark?”, “Ghostwriter”, to name a few) and movies from the “West”, but nothing ever prepared me for the culture that was so drastically different from the slightly conservative middle-class culture I was used to. To make matters worse, I found myself watching my father struggle to establish a small business (and, himself) in a completely alien environment.  As years went by, and I eventually found myself gradually becoming assimilated into the ways of Canada, I frequently came across similar stories of struggle and disconnect from new immigrants. Most of them usually reminisced about their jobs they left behind. But not Kaberi Chatterjee.

Chatterjee, who is just seven months old in this country, has nothing but words of praise for Canada. A former journalist and chief sub-editor of Hindustan Times in Kolkata, she came “prepared for the worst but got more than [she] expected”. She says, “[My husband and I] knew that… come what may, we had to start absolutely from the bottom”. She admits that both she and her husband had made up their minds that they might have to work as labourers. And perhaps, because they came to Canada with such low expectations, they were able to take up the challenge of struggling in a new country almost effortlessly.

When questioned about her decision to migrate to Canada, she professes that the decision stemmed from her desire for her son to “grow up” in a non-competitive environment. She believes that competition in India is “very high” and limits her son’s opportunities as an individual.  Moreover, Chatterjee very candidly admits that even though both she and her better half were well-settled in India, they knew that they had reached their “maximum job-satisfaction”. She believes that coming to Canada was only the next natural step in their lives and that they were “ready to explore into the unknown”.

Kaberi Chatterjee’s exploration into the unknown has allowed her to find herself changing careers after sixteen years of journalism, as well as, rediscovering herself as a writer. Currently enrolled into an “Early Childcare Education” program, she talks of her years of journalism as sapping her mental and creative energies as a writer: “journalism is creating everyday… it’s [extremely] hectic”. Moreover, she realized that being a new immigrant in Canada, her prospects of becoming a full-fledged journalist with a mainstream paper were limited. Instead of looking for writing jobs with Toronto Star or Toronto Sun, Chatterjee turned towards her strength of “being able to connect with children very quickly”.  “Early Childcare Education” sounded like her “calling”.

Chatterjee is also very happy to be in Canada as she was finally able to publish her book, Neil Must Die (published in March 2010 by Trafford Publishing), which had been a shelved manuscript that had existed on her computer for ten years. “Ten years?!” I ask. She smiles tentatively and answers, “Just like there is discrimination [everywhere], there is discrimination in the publishing industry in India. I had a very bad experience in India as far as publishing is concerned. Sitting in Canada, I don’t want to speak anything derogatory about my country. But yes, there are certain drawbacks in [India’s publishing industry]… They give opportunities to… established authors. But how does an author get established unless he publishes his book?… At least in Canada, they tell you that they are not interested in your book. In India, they will… keep you hanging on”. After being led on for two years by some leading publishing houses in India, Kaberi shelved her novel until her move to Canada.  According to her, publishing industry in North America is not only “more organized” but also “open to South Asian literature”, especially Indian literature, as India is making a global mark.

And, Chatterjee’s book does just that. Makes a mark. Just like Chatterjee herself is making a mark as a novelist and a woman with a strong motivation and desire to love this new country that has welcomed her as strongly as she has embraced it. She says, “Canada has been very kind to me. Even the winter [this year] has not been that cold!”. When asked if she plans to move back to India in the future, she laughs heartily and remarks, “No, no… I don’t plan to go back to load-sheddings and that heat anymore!”

Author: Sanchari Sur

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