Nikhil, Volunteer at ETCHS

The borders were closed, and my travel documents were in my apartment in Bangalore. I worked from home in Chennai, but I was preoccupied on how I’d get all my things relocated. My mother had a friend in the transportation department who offered to help. My wonderful roommate used the spare keys and packed up all my things into boxes, which he then handed off to my mother’s friend. When the boxes arrived, I was relieved, but also sad that this unceremonious event constituted my farewell to Bangalore— my city of 5 years.

Closer to June, my flight ticket was cancelled due to travel restrictions. My mother encouraged me to book a flight on the special repatriation flights, and after much consideration, I did so. I also booked an Airbnb in Danforth to quarantine in for a month. It was a lot of sunk investment, and I had to accept the possibility that I would lose all that money should the situation not improve.

At the airport.

I was filled with anxiety the day of my flight in late September. Only when the wheels left the tarmac at New Delhi could I breathe a little easy. But it wasn’t over yet. I could still get COVID19 after I landed in Canada. I changed masks every 3 hours, ate when the other passengers fell asleep, and kept praying that everything would be okay. I landed at Pearson International, was welcomed to Canada as a new permanent resident, and made my way by taxi to my Airbnb.

Landing. Photo by Nikhil

I followed the rules of quarantine down to the letter. I stayed in that basement in Danforth for 15 days. I had food poisoning on the flight, and I was worried if medical intervention would be required. Luckily, I managed as best as I could, and the renter was kind enough to buy me fresh fruits, which he left outside my door. I, in turn, placed the money in a sealed bag and slipped it under the front door after he left. I used the time well: I ordered a SIM card online, watched videos on Canadian personal finance and took an online class on rebranding my resume. I spent several nights anxiously searching for long-term accommodation, and the few places that returned my call turned me down because I had no job or credit history.

Nikhil post quarantine.

Finally, with two days left on my Airbnb rental, I managed to find a unit in a shared accommodation in  Toronto. The landlord, once an immigrant himself, treated me with dignity and respect and took a chance on me. I’ve been living here since, and Toronto has become my community now. I had a rough start, but a combination of faith, grit, and human kindness allowed me to have a new start in Canada.