Deuce: tennis and media in a fine balance - New Canadian Media
"I had never met Sukhjit Ahluwalia, who put in a good word for me. I met him for the first time a year later, at which point I had been welcomed by a team of media professionals and found myself quite at home" - Arpan Chahal.

Deuce: tennis and media in a fine balance

In this latest submission for our Canadian Journeys section, Arpan Chahal narrates how her life in Canada has come full circle and how she has found contentment in the people who have helped her along the way.

Let me unveil the key to my success in Canada in just two sentences: firstly, embrace the possibility that life happens for you, not to you; secondly, cherish the connections forged during your journey. I’d also add, trust in God’s timing. 

On my first night in Toronto at the beginning of winter in November, Uncle Walia, one of the favourite characters in my story, was in “dad mode”. As it turned out, a gas leak lurked in the basement. At 2 a.m., huddled in the car with the Walia family, we waited for a green signal to re-enter the house. We still look back and laugh about this memory. 

The plan was to live with the Walia family for a few weeks until I got a job and was ready to move out. Interestingly, I had never met the Walias before. Aunty Walia, or Massi as I fondly call her, is my mother’s closest friend. While I stayed with them, I heard Uncle and Massi’s love story, which Uncle had first shared on the drive home from the airport. This story was played back to me several times, especially after Uncle had a drink. 

A few weeks turned into two years of living under their roof. During these two years, the pandemic happened; while everyone was fighting their own battles I was fighting mine. In the midst of all this, I found my Canadian family. 

Moving to another country is daunting, however life gives you chances to find home with people and places and it’s up to you to cherish, appreciate and keep them in your life. 

A rekindled love

My entry into the professional realm unfolded through a referral. Following a series of interviews, I got selected to fill in a pivotal role in a Punjabi media company. After two years of being in Canada I found myself re-launching my career with the help of a LinkedIn connection. I had never met Sukhjit Ahluwalia, who put in a good word for me. I met him for the first time a year later, at which point I had been welcomed by a team of media professionals and found myself quite at home. We met in my office, where he stood with a huge smile on his face. This, to me, encapsulates the essence of Canada, a land where the willingness to embrace opportunities allows you to carve a distinct identity for yourself.

And then I re-discovered another passion that I thought I had lost: playing tennis. A guy took me to a tennis court on a date. I now ask myself, was there a better way to win me over? It was fun, although I surprised myself by texting him the next day that I never wanted to ever play tennis again. He never asked why, I never questioned why I felt that way. 

I soon realized I was running away from things that I loved because it made me miss my life of privilege in India. I first picked up a racquet at the age of 10 and played through my school and college years. I had a club to play at, friends to share the court with, and now, in a new country, I had to find my people all over again. It felt intimidating. 

What if it never happened again? I longed to hold onto the notion of a perfect life. A couple of days later, I got a tattoo of a tennis court on my forearm, a constant reminder that this is my happy place, and I had to embrace the unsettling feeling rather than run away from it.

Although tennis initially was low on my list of priorities, slowly settling into a life I had built for myself gave me the privilege to indulge in things that I loved. This year, my commitment to tennis deepened as I became a member of a club. Juggling between work and tennis, I would often just come home to catch a night’s rest. I spent three weeks taking a gruelling course to become a certified coach in Canada. The idea of introducing tennis to kids and people of all ages felt like a true calling. At the club, I have joined the board as a vice-president. I see this as a way of giving back to the place that became my second home.

As I pen these thoughts, I deliberately steer away from focusing on the hard times. Instead, I choose to ink the lessons learnt from those demanding times. Recently, someone told me that arriving in a new country all by yourself is like being a leaf severed from a tree, detached from family. The winds will blow you in different directions, but ultimately, the choice of your path rests with you.

It feels surreal to recall a time when my mother would wait for me with a freshly prepared meal at midnight, whereas now, I occasionally find myself sitting alone in my car, parked in the driveway, finishing a takeout with no one waiting inside. Leaving behind parents, losing childhood friendships, redefining the concept of home, feeling lost in a sea of strangers— one essentially starts from scratch. The contrast is stark and the feeling of solitude weighs heavy. Yet, this little life I have built for myself is incredibly dear to my heart.

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Arpan Chahal is a seasoned communications professional with over seven years of expertise in media, public relations, and event management. Her advocacy extends to causes such as mental health, diversity, equality, and inclusion. In addition to her professional endeavors, she also serves as a licensed Tennis Instructor with TPA-Canada.

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