Categorized | Taboo

Pursuing Not So Desi Professions

Posted on 26 May 2010 by .

I can think of at least one person who could have attempted to pursue a career as a professional hockey player with a big chance of succeeding, and I could probably think of a few more for other sports; and I’m sure you can come up with a handful of people who put aside their ‘unrealistic’ dream and instead settled for the likes of stinking like formaldehyde while cutting up cadavers.

Kudos to Robin Bawa (a fellow Canadian!) who set the precedent for players of South Asian descent in the National Hockey League in 1989 and an even bigger kudos to French-Canadian Manny Malhotra of Punjab descent for reinforcing Bawa’s precedent and jumping all over the place, finally landing with the Sharks last year.

They’re the only two players who have a South Asian background, and have been or are playing in the NHL; in a way, they’re representing the duo-cultural way of life we have going on here in good ol’ Canada.

Plain and simple, it’s challenging to live in a South Asian household that is governed by standardized ways of living and earning. Popular media, newspapers, interviews, movies, and books all reinforce what we may not be actually talking about enough, and that is that we are somehow ‘made’ to fit in the category of: a doctor, an engineer, or a business person. Of course, there are also loads of things that are gradually surfacing in our society, that are beginning to stray from these over-ingrained ideas of professions we should pursue, such as politics, social services, and literature … but how often do you hear about the brown kid across the street being drafted by the Leafs or the Pens?

Go on, try arguing with me that the only sport that matters to Indians is cricket, that hockey is ‘too violent’, or that its stereotypical association with beer and crazed fans is overrated and a commercial hoax, following our larger-than-life wins for the men’s and women’s Olympic teams and the fact that Montreal’s present standing for the Stanley Cup have South Asian-Canadians donning jerseys and lingering around water coolers in the office.

To our immigrant parents and grandparents, making a living on an ice rink or even a basketball court, is a foreign concept to grasp.  They didn’t Air India it over to Canada for their pay cheques to go towards their kids’ costly sports equipment; they came so that we may learn the essence of hard work through education and have a world of opportunity open to us in the workforce. Rather than learning this as we make critical decisions that shape our lives, we seem to be inevitably limited to understand hard work through trying ever-so-hard to keep our shoulders up from the mounting pressures to become what other people would like and expect us to be.

But people like Bawa, Malhotra, Ruby Dhalla, and Russell Peters are prime examples that these attitudes can change and that it’s quite alright to step out of the socially constructed boundaries and pursue what makes you happy. At the end of the day, the values of perseverance, dedication, and enjoying what you do still stand strong, alongside cultural integration.

Author: Poonam Patel

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