Thursday, August 10, 2006

The "I Am Canadian" Lady

Yesterday at a tech conference I 'met' this lady. It was break time (in between speakers) and I grabbed a light snack from the cafeteria and sat down at a table. The place soon grew busy, and before long, someone approached my table, pointed to the empty chair opposite mine and asked, "Is this taken?"

I said "No" and looked up. She was a South Asian lady, quite older, clutching a few tech magazines in one hand and a muffin in the other. She mouthed 'thanks' and sat down. I went back to my sandwich.

"Are you Indian?" The relative silence of the table was suddenly broken.

"Bangladeshi", I replied.

"Oh I thought so," She gushed in Bengali. "I am from Bangladesh too! Hi!"

"Um, Hi." I politely replied to her in between mouthfuls. Atleast she wasn't going to start breastfeeding a toddler any time soon. Suddenly, she asked me what I thought about the last speaker.

"He was good," I answered, "though honestly I found his accent a bit too hard to follow."

"That's the problem with this country." She announced suddenly. "Too much diversity."

"I beg your pardon?" [yes I really said those words]

She continued, "This country's major problem is multiculturalism. You see, we have too much people here from too many places in the world. There's no Canada anymore, it's time we recognize multiculturalism is a dirty word. What is Canadian culture is now being demoted. What is a Canadian dress? What is Canadian cruisine?"

Oh boy. A brown female skinhead.

"When I came to this country in 1980," she continued, "you could count the number of immigrants on one hand. Now you can smell curry from across the street! The immigrants are taking over."

I told her, politely, that I disagree and wanted to finish my meal. She wasn't deterred.

"You see, if a black person wants to open a Black Cultural Association in a college he is welcome to do so. If a white person wants to open a White Students Association he will be termed a racist. The college won't allow him to do so."

I told her it depended on the person's intentions - besides there is a thing in North America called 'black culture' but there is no unified 'white culture' - white people came from many cultures - but she was not to be denied.

"I even wrote an essay on this." She told me. Oh great - I began to feel really pissed off - all I wanted was to eat my over-priced-tuna-coz-all-else-was-bacon sandwich in peace. And then I allow someone to sit at my table. Someone who is probably here in Canada due to multiculturalism denouncing that fact. And now she was giving me the url of where I could find her 'essay'.

"We should all promote Canadian culture. We shouldn't celebrate different clothes that people wear as if it's a good thing. If the school wants to stop me from wearing a turban or a hijab what's the harm. I am in Canada. Let's be Canadian."

I have heard enough.

"Maybe," I quietly replied, "being Canadian means being multicultural. When we celebrate multiculturalism, we celebrate being Canadian. When we are tolerant of other cultures, it's because tolerance is a Canadian value. And when we allow the person the freedom to wear a turban or a hijab, and the freedom not to, it's because that freedom is part of being a Canadian."

I finished my sandwich in silence.



Rajputro said...

ha ha quite an experience!!
What a concerned 'canadian'!

Aisha said...

Do you watch Chappelle Show? It reminds me of the blind black KKK leader on the show. He was adopted and raised by a white family and became a racist KKK leader admired by all. She remidns me of that.

Anonymous said...

A very strong answer. I am sure your closing statements really shut that lady up. You would be surprised, but a lot of desi people are becoming like her (especially those ones that came here in mid-70's to mid 80's).


Maliha said...

that's the most hilarious conversation i have ever heard!

I would ask her..."you know you are brown right?" Just in case, maybe she forgot(?)

hahaah...thanks for making my day.

Zak said...

Oddly i can see why she said what she said...second generation South Asians don't identify with ethnicity at best they identify with religion and perhaps culture.

Is it an unfair thing for the host nation to expect immigrants to "integrate"?

Here in england I often hear 2nd gen South Asians talk disparagingly of "freshies"

surya said...

hey a gud answer....
u shud have asked her if she's gonto change her skin color too along with the dress code....

Anonymous said...

what a sell out.

one word:


'liya said...

What a weird conversation, I wonder what she thinks of herself :S

Thanks for stopping by my blog, yours is pretty interesting too!


mezba said...

Rajputro: Really concerned, lol, and she actually used the expression "this country is going to the dogs!"

Aisha: I watch the shows from time to time but must have missed that episode. That sounds like a good one!

Behbood: Ya I noticed that amongst some older Bengalis here too. They think anyone who came before came on merit and anyone who comes now is a refugee. I wonder if the racism they must have faced when they were here earlier bugs them now that new comers don't face that much racism.

Maliha: Wasa! Well she was brown I can tell you that - not some of those filmi heroine types who could be white. Especially when she goes 'these immigrants...!' I felt like asking her how did she land up here.

Zak: Yeah "fresh of boat" or FOB is something we use here as well - I haven't seen immigrants here so religiously ideological or anti-white here. I heard in Europe they have trouble integrating immigrants as they are poorer or face lot of discrimination.

In North America it's the immigrant who is likely to be better off as they work hard and study hard and are better integrated.

Surya: It's hard not to be rude at times especially when you go mouthing off about immigrants to an immigrant, being an immigrant.

Anon: :)

'Liya: Brings out the 'confused' in ABCD alright!

NAB said...

"breastfeeding a toddler" what was the point of THAT comment?? tsk tsk.

Neena said...

I can guess where she is coming from. I too myself have few qualms about the quality of immigrants coming to North America. Why is it too hard for second generation immigrants to adapt and especially when they’re really confused about Islamic dress code? I’m not against someone’s national dress but come on I’ve seen girls wearing Hijab which is not even in their culture with duppata. I witness someone insisting pool administration to let them use the pool in pajama and t shirt since it is their religious right. For one thing we all know swim suit are made of particular fabric for a reason so small threads won’t destroy filter system. Of course, they let her with WTF look. I myself a first generation came to the US for the opportunities it has to offer. I’m trying to take full benefit of it by educating myself and doing things which are unheard in Pakistan. I just sometimes wonder they are leading the same kind of life by getting manipulated by illiterate Mullahas. Then why come here? The thing which worried me most I hope west is not failing in integrating them.

mezba said...

Nowal: regarding why the "breastfeeding" part, see my post 'Lameass conversations' - the last one.

neena: with immigration there will come some hardcore people who will not compromise their beliefs, when the need of the day is for everyone to compromise a bit to live together peacefully.

however i think it is better for girls to participate in exercises such as swimming, even if in their tshirts and pants, rather than sitting locked up in home.

Neena said...

Sometimes those wet clothes do not end up to be as conservative as one might think. It became a scene from wet T shirt contest.

I think they might need to buy conservative swim suit with sleeves and shorts.

NAB said...


Isheeta said...

maybe a little late but...

what a twit!

Abu Sinan said...

Wow, a lot of self hatred going on there. A Bengali Ann Coulter?