Storyteller Sandeep Gill reveals the tales often left untold. She sits down and documents the raw and emotional immigration stories within our community. With these stories, she began a project titled “Foreign Daughters” which she shares on her Instagram page “she_writes_herstory.” One person at a time, Sandeep Gill captures our history: a memoir of our people.
“There is one moment that I will never forget. This was a few months into our arrival into Canada.
I was working on a vegetable farm with my mom and dad.I remember looking over at my father and becoming very emotional. It was a very hot summer day; he was covered in dirt and crouched down on his knees picking tomatoes. I just thought to myself, his life should be getting easier in old age, not more difficult.
Look, even now it brings tears to my eyes.”
“I came to Canada out of necessity rather than desire. After just 11 years of marriage, I became widowed at age 35. My son was 10 years old when my husband died suddenly. My marriage was not easy but atleast my son was being taken care of. Shortly after his death, my in-laws forced us to leave the house we had shared with them for several years. I had no choice but to return to my parents village with my son. We lived with my family for 7 years but I always felt like a financial burden to them. Home has always been temporary.
I remarried at age 43 to a man living in Canada; a widow like myself. All I ever wanted was to work hard for my son and to never depend on anyone else. My son has a future now.”
“I was very content in India, my life was simple. I didn’t have a lot, nor did I ever want more. My level of happiness is what has changed most since living in Canada. I had high hopes for my family before arriving here because I would be reunited with my daughter. She was doted on by everyone in our family. But I can count on one hand how many times I have spoken to her in the past 8 years.
My daughter is in an abusive marriage. She is not allowed to visit us or talk on the phone, he controls her every move. She won’t leave him because she is too afraid. Anytime I drive by her house, I am always looking to catch a glimpse of her, praying for our eyes to somehow meet. We live nearby, but she is further away from me now than when I was in India.
My wish is for no daughter to live in fear or to suffer at the hands of her husband or in-laws. I have daughter-in-laws of my own whom I treat and respect like I always have my own daughter.”
“I arrived on a visitor visa in 1983. I had an uncle in Alberta, where I lived with his family and cared for his children. Eventually I returned to India to get married and then moved to the Okanagan to live with my husband’s family.
We lived as an extended family in one house for many years. Times were difference back then, people were more tolerant, less competitive and looked after one another. At one time we were over 30 people living under 1 roof: my husband and his 2 brothers and their families as well as each set of our parents and siblings. We laugh about it now because we were like a hotel, never turning our backs on anyone who needed help, many new immigrants stayed with us until they were able to secure jobs and making a living.
People slept anywhere they could find space, in the living room, and even in the closets, because of this our household was always full of laughter and kids running around. Each one of us wives (my sister-in-laws) divided up the chores to make things easier; like the cooking, and cleaning and bathing all of the kids.
Although we all worked very hard labor jobs, we have so many happy memories, it really was a beautiful time. Even now, 20 years later, we get together and reminisce about our first few years in Canada, people are surprised that we all still get along so well.”
“I just received a letter in the mail from the government declaring that my parent’s sponsorship papers have been rejected. 6 years after we first applied.
My husband works two jobs to ensure that our finances meet the minimum income requirements, but that is still not enough. Now we are being advised that we need an income of at least $85, 000 per year.
Our life has been at a standstill for the past 6 years, we can’t afford to buy our own home or even take days off work because we have put everything into these sponsorship applications. My husband is ready to give up, but I’m not.
I visited my parents in India 4 years ago, I’ve had 2 children since then. Tell me, who doesn’t want their family close-by to see their children grow up? Imagine what that feels like, the waiting, not knowing for many years and then the rejection.”
“It was 1984; I was 8 months pregnant with my second child when my husband (a police officer) died.
In 1987 my in-laws sponsored my daughters and I to live with them in Canada. My mother-in-law was constantly berating and picking fights with me. Although I felt helpless, I knew I couldn’t take it anymore, so I packed up our belongings and rented out a basement suite for my daughters and I. At that time, I had no family to rely on, no driver’s license, no money while living in a foreign country where I could barely speak the language; but I had two babies depending on me so I began sewing clothing from my home to make some income.
Eventually my father-in-law came to my door requesting for us to return. He promised to live with us, help care for my daughters and to treat me like the daughter I was to him; and that is exactly what he did for 13 years until his death.
My door was always open to my mother-in-law, even though she would stay with us for a week at a time; she was still very mean to me. I don’t think she knew how to be happy for me, maybe she was jealous that I made a life for my family.
I worked 7 days a week, 12-15 hour days to provide for my family. I saved enough to buy a condo and then eventually a duplex. One of the happiest moments in my life was buying a brand new Honda Civic for my daughters…in cash; to me it was like buying a Porsche.
My daughter bought her first house 2 years ago. If you were to tell me 28 years ago that my life would turn out like this, I would never have believed it. I was so busy living day by day that I didn’t have the time to dream about their future in that way. I am so blessed.”