Rupasree Goswami travels in her memory foam runners from Calgary, Alberta to Kolkata, India to be with her ailing father. As she watches his health deteriorate and his hope-filled fight to live, Rupasree reflects on her last three years in Calgary. Has she fought enough to live and be happy as an immigrant in Canada? Does she crumble over the changes in her life? Or, does she discover ways to stand strong through them?
I walked fast that August day in 2016. Neither jet lag nor the pain in my foot bothered me. My four-year-old daughter and I had just arrived in Kolkata, India, from Calgary, where we lived with my husband. I hurried to be beside my dad in the hospital where he’d been admitted due to acute breathing distress.
For thirteen days, I went to that hospital from home, walking most of the way, taking a cycle rickshaw for the rest. I stayed at my dad’s flat built in 2012 at the same spot where the 50-year-old single-family dwelling, in which I grew up and created fond memories, once stood. My body somewhat acclimatized to the hot and humid climate of Kolkata. I have grown used to the snow of Calgary since November 2013; however, the intensity of my excitement on seeing snow is diminishing with every passing year!
Perhaps the thought of losing “Baba” produced such a gush of emotions that I never felt the acute pain in my right foot. Or perhaps my blue and pink runners with “memory foam” that I had bought in Calgary after being diagnosed with Plantar Fasciitis were giving me extra support through that time.
Baba had pulmonary failure and was taken to the intensive care unit. It was difficult to see his condition deteriorate each day. As I watched him struggle, I realized he was teaching me about hope. Even if there was only a 5% chance of survival, keep fighting to live the beautiful life beautifully.
I felt ashamed! A year before, I was without hope, spent sleepless nights crying, wanting to fall asleep and never wake up again. I had moved to Calgary with a sixteen-month-old daughter, my husband and his mom, leaving behind my parents and family, a career, and a feeling of belonging. I was the cynosure for a family in Kolkata that went against the society, thereby praying for and celebrating the birth of a girl. I always felt wanted and important.
In Calgary, my Engineering degree and my MBA weren’t given equal Canadian credit, and my non-Canadian work experience was held to be without merit. Winters feel colder when you feel you have no value. The smiles of strangers have less warmth when you are deeply homesick. The excitement of having a home in a foreign land faded as my confidence wavered. I invested my energy in housekeeping, cooking and devoted myself to my daughter’s early growing years. But I felt stagnant and stayed depressed until, in 2015, my childhood friend in India introduced me to Nichiren Buddhism. This was my turning point. My perspective gradually changed. I stopped seeking validation for the quality of food I made or how clean I kept the house. I stopped feeling inferior!
That day at the I.C.U, with Baba, just before he passed away, I made a promise to him and myself that I would always fight to live life beautifully, happily.
I returned with my daughter to Calgary in 2017. My struggles haven’t ended; however, life is better. I am here to establish my career, have an identity, give back to society and most importantly, be happy. And, my Plantar Fasciitis is in remission. My runners are old now, torn and tired, and the memory foam has lost its charm. They no longer have that extra soft cushion, but I still wear them. They remind me about hope. Today when I facilitate groups of immigrant women, I see my struggles in every one of them and know that if they see me smile and fight to embrace life, they can do the same.
RUPASREE GOSWAMI was born in Kolkata, India, but lived in several cities because her father was transferred for work. She earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering and an MBA in Marketing. In 2013, she moved to Calgary from India when her husband was transferred with his company. She now works with a multinational company and volunteers in mentoring new immigrants in establishing their careers here.