The year was 1964

Immigrant Stories

By Dr. Naveen Chandra

Toronto, March 4 (CINEWS): I arrived in Edmonton International Airport on 13 September, 1964, and was received by a representative of the Graduate Students’ Association who took me to the University Residence, This was normal as in the later years as a member of that fine organization when my turn came I drove to the Airport to receive newcomers who came from all over the world. Since the term was to start later in the month the residences were vacant and a building of the female residence was used to host newcomers. I stayed there until I found a room with the help of GSA. It was only a matter of few days.

Naveen Chandra in 1964

Dr. Naveen Chandra in 1964

The next day I reported to the Department of Physics that gave me the scholarship of $250.00 a month till I finished the requirements for a Ph.D. degree. This was later increased to $325.00 a month. The same year another student from India was admitted to Physics Department. There was already an Indian student in that department before us. In all we were the only three Indians. There were two faculty members of Indian origin. One of them was married to a white woman. There was a Telugu speaking couple both physicists and post-doctoral fellows. I was in the department for nine years five as a student and four as research scholar, during which time many more Indian students and staff members were admitted. There were lot more students and staff members from India in other departments on the campus.
I had $4.00 in my pocket and had a loan to pay back to a bank in Hyderabad to finance my air plane ticket. The University paid for my stay at the residence and gave me my September stipend.
The GSA finally came through and found a room for a rent of $30.00 a month. I moved to the house of Robinsons on 109st Street and 64th Avenue close to the corner where there was a bus stop. Mr. and Mrs. Robinson were very nice people. They became my first friends in Canada. I lived in the basement in a bed with little sitting room. There was a standing shower in the basement, a fridge and a hot plate. Mrs. Robinson did my laundry, shopping at Safeway and her husband let me join him for a cup of tea everyday at 10 PM. I watched their TV.
They introduced me to their friends Mr. and Mrs. Brice both very heavy persons. Mrs. Brice had a son from a previous marriage who was blind. They in turn introduced to a bunch of other people who formed my initial network.
All these people were very religious. I was invited for lunch once at Mr. Brice’s place. There was a gentleman of African origin there for lunch too. After lunch we went to a place called Oak Hill Boys few miles from Edmonton. There was one couple who looked after some young boys who might have been of First Nations background. Did I perceive any racism? I can’t say.
For a couple of months I hitched ride with John and Dale and eventually I started taking a bus in November. Charlie was an Irish guy with whom I made friendship at the faculty. He was a big fan of Lester B. Pearson. I made friendship with a bunch of Canadian students there. Carne was from Atlantic, Keeler from Winnipeg. Keeler, a pipe smoker and married, introduced me to Mozart at his apartment. I used to visit them once in a while. Later he became resentful of foreigners when he saw many Indian Faculty members in the department.
There was an Indian student association. Through it I came to know many Indians and I did meet a guy from Hyderabad whose family lived very close where my family lived. I went to a Halloween dance, a Thanksgiving Dance and a Christmas Dance that year where I met more Canadians of both gender. The first four months were probably some of the best in my life, as I look back.
I think that winter the ambassador Gen. J. N. Choudhary came by the University and met the Indian students. He was a hero of mine as he led the Indian army to liberate Hyderabad, when it was a province of three languages Marathi, Kannada and Telugu, ruled by Nizam, the most hated person.
Then we started a Telugu speaking association and published a journal called Telugu Vani, Telugu Voice, which was written in long hand and we wrote poetry, essays and stories in Telugu.
Thus my first year in Canada was pretty good in every way. Though things changed as time went by, not always for the better.

(We invite readers to send in their first impressions of Canada. Every immigrant has a unique story, we’d like to hear from you. Send it to

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