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FRESH OFF THE PLANE: A walk in the park

I love the natural beauty that surrounds us in Canada. Parks and walking trails make hiking, running or just a leisurely stroll such a pleasure. Even just walking down a city street connects you with nature as you exchange pleasantries with neighbours and admire gardens. 

One of my uncles takes walking very seriously and continues to walk for a couple of hours a day though he turned 80 recently. While on a visit to Canada, he said it was so much easier to walk here than back home in Mumbai where pot holes and piles of garbage, dog poo and stray dogs make it a somewhat hazardous exercise.

“Also, everyone is so orderly here,” he noted. “Everyone respects the other’s space.”

I suppressed a smile at this comment. Because it had taken me some time to get used to the orderly ways my uncle spoke of. 

I had to learn the ‘traffic rules’ of the walking trails.

Having come from India, where a free-for-all mentality rules in every public space, where you share space with vehicles of all kinds including cycles, scooters and cars, hordes of people, not to mention dogs and cows, I wasn’t aware of the etiquette to be observed on a walking trail. 

Happy to discover a park with trails near our home, I set out on a walk. The very first day, I had a few people ring their cycle bells to warn me of their approach, a group of kids zipped by on roller blades yelling, “Watch out!” as they passed and a lady walking with two large dogs excused herself. 

Not realizing that I was happily walking down the ‘wrong’ side of the trail, all I saw that day was that no one seemed to do any of these things with any of the other people out for a walk.

Why was I being singled out, I wondered. Did I stick out as a newcomer? And so what, if I did? I had every right to be on that trail, just like everyone else!

The next day more or less the same pattern repeated itself with several people warning me of their approach. And the day after that. On that day, however, the lady with the dogs clued me in.

“You know you are walking on the wrong side, don’t you?” she asked gently. “See? Everyone going up is walking on the right side and everyone coming down, on the left. People are afraid they’ll run into you and you’ll get hurt, that’s why they keep asking you to step aside.”

I looked and actually noticed the walking pattern. The lady was right – I was on the wrong side of the trail!

From then on, I walked with the flow, the same flow that my uncle so admired a few years down the road! 

                                                                                                                                                             – Kavita Mhatre
What’s your story? Every newcomer, no matter how savvy or where he or she comes from, has a Fresh Off the Plane (FOP) story to share about their early days in Canada. Do you want to share your story? E-mail it to us at canadaboundimmigrant@ rogers.com.

Posted: Sep 1, 2014

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