In a gloomy basement all by myself, I was drawing a bright picture of my Canadian dream in my mind. I pictured myself holding a microphone, interviewing a famous celebrity. But the sudden scurrying of a rat and a loud thud from the floor above snapped me out of my reverie, reminding me that it was time to prepare for my job at a local retail store.
Six months had passed since I moved to Canada, leaving behind a safe job as a journalist and my life in India. With my dreams packed neatly into suitcases, I arrived in Toronto. I felt hopeful as I stepped out of the airport. The towering skyscrapers, the impressive office buildings, the pristine roads, intricate flyovers and the luxury cars passing by — each sight nourished the seed of confidence within me that I was on the cusp of a successful career and a future filled with prosperity and luxury. However, that ‘seed’ of hope was quickly crushed as I reached the rented basement in Brampton which has become my home in this foreign land.
Perhaps you wonder why I chose to rent a basement studio. The answer lies in the exorbitant housing costs in Canada, especially in major cities like Toronto. Renting a basement emerged as the most economical choice for a newcomer. Little did I know that this economical choice would come with its own set of challenges.
Prior to my arrival, my social media feeds were brimming with videos showing everything about Canada — the food, the stores and the extensive list of attractions to visit. But the reality of residing in a cramped basement with compromised safety, steep rent, tough landlords, lack of natural light and crawling rats and worms, was never revealed in any glossy video. The constant thumping and noise from the floor above have become the soundtrack of my new life.
Isolation was another significant challenge. I soon realized that the landlords and people nearby were polite but they didn’t want to be friends. They thought that newcomers like me were only temporarily dwelling in such accommodations, aiming to move into condominiums once we secured stable employment.
The solitude, cold days and the darkness of the room began to take a toll on my mental well-being, and the daunting task of building a career from scratch exacerbated my anxiety.
If you find this alarming, brace yourself, for this was merely the beginning; the real challenge emerged as I began my job search. Having been a journalist for eight years in four reputable media houses in India, I initially pursued opportunities in my field. From scouring job boards online to reaching out to editors via emails and even knocking on the doors of their offices, I did everything possible to land a job. However, negative responses made it clear that I needed to be flexible to survive in this new environment.
After a series of unsuccessful attempts, I set aside my laptop and decided to explore job fairs – the bustling carnivals of employers offering opportunities in a vast hall showcasing promising careers. Dressed in my finest attire, I headed out to attend one such event in downtown Toronto. As I navigated the city, rehearsing the lines I had meticulously prepared for potential employers, I could feel my anticipation building with every step. Having completed the initial formalities, I stepped inside a large hall with hope rekindled and that persistent ‘seed’ of ambition in my heart — albeit for only a few fleeting moments.
Inside were hundreds of people like me, all vying for a chance at a career breakthrough. I stood in queues for every company to submit my resume, and hoped that at least a few companies would respond. I rarely got to utter my well-rehearsed lines, as the recruiters were busy piling up resumes, politely stating they would get in touch with the most promising candidates. I have since ventured to several job fairs with the same hope and determination, each time depositing my professional aspirations onto stacks of paper, delivered to waiting hands. The much-anticipated calls and emails never came.
Amid the gloom of my basement and the seemingly unyielding career challenges, two things keep me going: Nature and people. From sunny afternoons to breezy evenings, nature always succeeds in cheering me up. The surrounding pine trees, colourful flowers, lush parks, trails and serene lakes have become my lifeline. They provide solace and rejuvenate my spirit to face the hurdles ahead.
Equally uplifting are the diverse people I encounter in this culturally rich country. Every evening as I venture out I know that some people will greet me.
In parks and during chance encounters, people from various backgrounds offer kindness and support, unknowingly bolstering my resolve to face another day in my modest dwelling.
Months passed, and despite my best efforts to secure a writing job, I had no choice but to accept a position in retail to make ends meet in this new land. Engulfed in the whirlwind of hourly payments, weekly schedules and battling the elements to reach the store on time, I have found myself far from the direction I envisioned. The computer, once a tool for crafting impactful articles, now assists me in processing orders and handling billings. My interactions have shifted from reporting on the public’s grievances to helping customers find the right outfit.
While my current career may differ greatly from my original aspirations and I am facing immense challenges, the ‘seed’ of aspiration remains firmly planted within me, nurturing the hope that one day I will achieve my dreams in this country and once again write to bring about a positive change in Canadian society.
Somya Lohia, a seasoned journalist with over eight years of reporting and editing experience, embarked on a new chapter in her career by moving from India to Canada last year. Her journey in journalism began in India, where she contributed her expertise to renowned media houses like Hindustan Times, Times Now, The Financial Express, and Moneycontrol. Somya's passion for journalism lies in amplifying the voices of people, shedding light on their issues and concerns. During her professional journey, she has covered many social and political events and interviewed several Indian celebrities. In her downtime, she enjoys photography.