Window to the World
When Teenaz Javat came to Canada 15 years ago with her husband and infant daughter, she was made to put her career on hold. For nine years she stayed at home so that her kids could stay out of daycare, which her husband abhorred. During those times, her best friend and cultural informant was the daily newspaper, which she read while wearing the sappats she had brought from Pakistan.
My day would start at 5.00 am. I would be awake, waiting for the newspaper to slump against my apartment door in the Mississauga low-rise that was my home.
We had moved into 307-2375 The Collegeway after a three-week sojourn in a motel along Toronto’s Lakeshore strip. Our new street snaked its way to the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus. I liked the feeling of living near a university campus. It made me feel smart, nerdy and academic. Chances were slim though I would ever get to study there–a woman with a baby, a depleted bank account and no credit rating.
I was a reporter in my past life. The move to Canada was my choice. I wanted to be free. My husband reluctantly complied. We uprooted ourselves and left our jobs just so that we could be free.
“Here, take your freedom,” my husband told me, “and make pickle out of it,”…as the saying goes in Urdu. “You can do whatever you want, except park the kid in daycare.”
I was stranded: no daycare. No job. No transportation. No friends. Not much money. I could make merry with my freedom 24 hours in a day.
Then magic happened.
On a morning stroll, I saw a blue box. I had spare change, so I bought what was in it–a newspaper. The Toronto Star. And so, began my journey across town.
Jane and Finch, The Waterfront, Dixie and Bloor, Malton, Rosedale and the oh-so-upscale Avenue Road. These terms soon became part of my own lexicon. As the newsprint slowly transferred onto my hands, my mind was slowly being transported across Toronto and beyond.
I subscribed. For $20 a month, The Star took me across the world while still wearing my brown leather sappats.
Section A was a tour of Canada. That would end at 7:00 am sharp to coincide with the breakfast routine. Then I’d make breakfast for the husband, pack his lunch, and he’d be out the door and out of my way. Baby would be up, so I’d feed her and take a quick short walk along the leafy Glen Erin Trail. A bit of sun helped her sleep again by 11:00 am.
The nap meant it was time for The World. Mexico, Russia, India, Pakistan–the struggle over a piece of ice here or a mountain there. Famine, the second intifada, and soon the baby would stir just in time for my tour to end.
Food in the blender, usually it would be dal (lentils) and boiled rice for her. For me: the same, with maybe fried fish on the side. Lunch and a walk around the block and maybe a bit of grocery shopping: only as much as would fit in the underbelly of a second-hand Pegabo stroller.
Kid in the park, me on the bench. This time the GTA, Business and Living sections made their way out the door and into the park. Inside a Toronto courtroom, I would imagine how immigrant parents could cut their four-year-old daughter to pieces and hide the body parts in a park by the lake. I wept for little Farah Khan. I hugged my daughter as she played by the sandbox in the park by the trail.
The roaring Asian Tigers were turning into wimps and Europe was booming. Invest in Europe, they said. I almost believed them, except that my needs were closer to home. It was RRSP season, whatever that meant. For me, it was cold and tax time.
Saturday would be my primer on Canada. Why are Canadians polite? Why do they want others to come in and stay in their country? I learned about Quebec, the Rockies, the Maritimes and Newfoundland! Brutal beauty. Then my tryst with imaginary friends: Rosie, the Fixer; Joe Fiorito, Royson James; and Haroon Siddiqui.
They are still my friends. You stick with what you start with. Fifteen years later, The Toronto Star is still delivered to my home–a detached dwelling on the border of Mississauga and Oakville. My kids are in grade school, and I have a job. But for the 3,290 days while I was a stay-at-home mom in a Mississauga low-rise, The Toronto Star was my window to the world.
TEENAZ JAVAT is by blood Indian, by bond Pakistani and by choice Canadian. Among many of her duties, Teenaz writes headlines for a living at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. She lives with her husband and adult children in Mississauga, Ontario.