I landed in Canada in the Centennial Year with $14 dollars in my pocket and two dependents. How fast 50 years have gone!!
We landed in Toronto as immigrants. The first surprise was on a Sunday morning we went to attend the Church: the people were returning instead of going in for the service, as the time had changed overnight, and the clocks had been set ahead for the Daylight Saving Time. We had no radio or newspaper to tell us about this change in time!
I encountered racial prejudice when trying to find a place to live. I would put on my Sunday best while answering 'for rent' ads but they were always "full' when the landlord saw me. Food was another problem since I missed rice and curry: this and there were no Indian restaurants - the closest I could find was a Chinese Restaurant, Leechi Garden, where I could satisfy my craving for rice, but without any curry.
The job I got with Ontario government was not enough to use up all of my energies. I started a journal, “Canadian India Times,” with the help of a few investors, an editorial group and an advisory group of Indo-Canadians from different parts of Canada. It was a tabloid of eight pages - the first national journal of Indo-Canadians in North America.
I got the job of a senior economist at the Immigration Department of the federal government, and moved to Ottawa along with my wife and son. There, I encountered a variety of colleagues and bosses, some supportive and others prejudiced. I found senior bureaucrats from Britain tended to be more prejudiced than those born in Canada, and immigrants from other European countries. I found that some of my subordinates during that time were also uncomfortable with a non-white boss.
My first major assignment was a study of immigrants based on a longitudinal survey of immigrants over a period of years. The study was very well received, and even reported in the Globe and Mail, but it also made me a target of jealous colleagues in the department. This was a time when Canada was critically short of highly-qualified professionals, and many immigrants were needed for available jobs. Some bosses preferred to hire from Britain - in one such case, a university hired a professor from the U.K without an interview, based only on his resume. He turned out to be an Indian with a Christian name. Another Indian Professor from France's famous Sorbonne University was hired into a temporary position, but when the position became permanent, it was not given to him, but to one of his students. I encountered discrimination when it came to career progression, and was denied a promotion for several jobs for which I applied in the public service - denied in preference to a white Canadian. This made me a lifelong activist in the cause of anti-racism.
In the Public Service, I got the most satisfaction in my policy work related to immigrants. I found that senior bureaucrats were generally more intolerant than politicians: the politicians wanted to raise the level of immigration to 300,000 but the bureaucrats wanted to cap it at 125,000. My policy papers argued that immigrants did not take jobs away from Canadians; in fact, Canada needed more immigrants to create jobs. The Minister liked my paper and immigration levels were raised. During my long tenure in the public service I became director of Race Relations. I represented the country with pride and distinction in many international conferences and seminars from Mexico to Australia and represented Canada in several delegations.
I took an active interest in the Indo-Canadian community, became the president of the India-Canada Association in 1973, and started an India-Canadian Charitable Trust, which later changed the name to Community Centre. During the 1970s, many Indo-Canadians felt the need for a Pan-Canadian organization of Indo-Canadians. I took the initiative to form such an organization called National Association of Canadians with Origin in India (NACOI). NACOI functioned effectively for a few years, but became inactive later for lack of continued financial support. I was one of the first Indo-Canadians to become involved in city government. I fought for, and won a seat on the Board of Education of Ottawa in 1975, the first Indo-Canadian in Canada to do so.
In my campaign, I was helped not only by the Indo-Canadian community of Ottawa but also by my extensive political network that included men and women from both Liberal and Conservative parties such as Lloyd Francis MP and Senator Paul Yuzyk. As a member of the board, I promoted the cause of multiculturalism in education, and became the first chairman of the Advisory Committee on Multiculturalism in the City of Ottawa.
I continued my anti-racism activism and formed organizations for this purpose. The Peoples Forum and has been recognized and given an award for my public service. I published an online weekly newspaper called Southasiamail.com. Also recently, I published my memoirs in the book, "Many Avatars, One Life".