Growing up watching Bollywood movies, I, like many other 90s kids had fantasized about moving to a developed country. The tall building structures, fantastic scenery, fast cars, and larger than life roles of our protagonists in these movies created an image that was hard to forget. Even during hardships in a foreign country, we found that our hero would somehow manage to celebrate his life by singing a song or two. Things would always turn out to be great at the end.
Even during hardships in a foreign country, we found that our hero would somehow manage to celebrate his life by singing a song or two.
Enter Armaghan, a numbers-guy by profession and a wanna-be artist by heart — had everything planned out as of Feb’20. The confirmation of permanent residency was received fairly quickly by all standards, applied in mid-Aug’19 and passport received in 5 months. The bosses were apprised about the plans of moving and the flight options were being discussed amongst the family members. Despite the precariousness of the decision to leave a reliable, stable and a well-paying job and to move to an entirely different country, there was still an element of optimism in the air. Like every protagonist in the movies I watched growing up, I knew nothing can come in between my dreams of a life in a developed world.
Despite the precariousness of the decision to leave a reliable, stable and a well-paying job and to move to an entirely different country, there was still an element of optimism in the air.
But, just like the rest of the world, I had little knowledge of what COVID19 would do to us. Little did I know that within a span of a few weeks, the whole world would come to a stop. Not shaking hands was a joke between friends when the original COVID19 story broke; and in a matter of a few weeks, it became an absolute necessity. The international flights stopped and countries went into lockdowns. The immigration process or rather the first entry into Canada also changed drastically.
Being a numbers guy, I had everything forecasted, sorted out and planned but unfortunately, it was for a world pre-COVID. With the continuously changing rules and with no international flights, there was no clear way forward. On top of that, the first entry visa expiry date was just a few months away. The Canadian travel ban started on Mar 18 but just after a couple of days, they relaxed the restrictions for people who had received their confirmation of permanent residency. This was a big deal as many people like me were stuck. Now the problem was that despite being allowed by the Canadian government, there was no way to fly out of my own country due to the travel ban on international flights.
The plot thickens…
Being a numbers guy, I had everything forecasted, sorted out and planned but unfortunately, it was for a world pre-COVID.
The Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada(IRCC) offered help in the form of a “web-form”… well, it was just a basic form on the web — not a state of the art portal that I was expecting from such a developed country. This legacy system was a disaster. With my dreams hung out to dry, the web-form broke. Considering the number of queries and questions that I had in mind, I could only think about how many other people would be out there asking similar questions. The replies from the system were generic and there was no clear trail of the questions and answers. I understand that given the lockdowns, low staff and potentially thousands of queries, the system had to be overwhelmed… but a simple query-trail would have made things so much easier for everyone involved.
March.. April.. May.. June.. months passed with no new information/reply from the “web-form” or any signs of a break in the number of COVID cases. There was an added pressure of lapsing my final visa date. There were continuous prayers, which sometimes felt selfish as the sole request was that God, please turn things back to normal. There were so many other things I could have asked for…as God listened! Given the stuttering economy and weak economic indicators, my country lifted the bans from air travel in the last week of June.
Yayyy!!.. but wait.. like any good movie, there has to be a twist before the climax. I found a flight on Emirates airlines, the flight got cancelled a couple of days before the date, I booked a flight for another date… Emirates stopped flying from my country for 10 days.. With visa expiry date approaching, I had no clue about what was coming. There were uncertainties about the flight options, there were uncertainties about the place I would live in (as many hosts on AirBnB were reluctant to host someone coming from outside the country before completing the 14 days quarantine somewhere), there was a continuous pressure of foreign exchange currency value loss and there was the sword of my visa expiry.
Eventually, when all options were exhausted, heaven smiled upon me. Someone cancelled their flight and I found a way in. It was a long flight with 24 hours of layover in between, it was going to Montreal despite my final destination being Toronto, it was at a price three times the cost of a normal ticket… but beggars can’t be choosers. I got on to the flight and landed in Canada.
Probably, for the first time in my life — for the first time in thirty years, I had nothing sorted out, no plans and no clear path as COVID had ruined everything! But I was here, in Canada, singing the cheesiest of Bollywood songs and looking forward to writing another scene of my movie…
As they say, picture abhi baaki hai… (The movie isn't over yet)