Friday, December 4, 2015

Resilience and Triumph

Sales and Marketing experts use a term "FMA" or "First Mover Advantage", that refers to the benefits gained by the early movers into a market segment who can capitalize on the prevailing situation and establish themselves as a market leader. Early movers have no competition and stay as monarchs till the later players come in. In many other walks of life, early movers have a distinct disadvantage as they have to wade through unchartered waters. They have no idea as to what to expect and what may happen next. Each situation is a new challenge and calls for an immediate and spontaneous response. There are no precedents or advisors; each issue has to be dealt and learnt through one's own experiences. Such learning through own experiences are invaluable, but often extract a heavy price from the persons put through them. But these experiences are the ones that steel and temper human beings and make the quest for a better life that much more enjoyable despite the pain that they bring. They suffer from "Early Mover Disadvantage" and yet emerge as people who lay the road for the successors to travel much more comfortably.

History is the study of the past events and told to us by someone, who record and document the events. The history we have on any aspect of human life is based on visual and written evidence of the past and their present interpretation. Such recorded history suffers from two infirmities: the limitations of the historians themselves and impact of their own likes, dislikes and prejudices. Historians living at the time of recording events in the past were naturally beholden to their benefactors and tended to glorify them while putting down their opponents. Historians of today who record past events are many times guilty of viewing the age-old events with the eyeglasses of the present times. The official history we have, therefore, is history with many distortions.  The true history gets buried somewhere in the volumes of the official versions. The story of the lives of the common man is relegated to the background and glossed over.

This is even truer in the context of the history of immigrations and movement of people to newer destinations. Such movement was generally for higher education, job opportunities and search for better life elsewhere. Some fifty years ago, avenues for higher education and advanced professional jobs were not available in abundance in many parts of the world. North America, USA, and Canada, in particular, offered openings for all these reasons, and many young people moved there from various parts of the world. They were early movers in the sense of such migration. The atmosphere into which they walked in was much different than what it is today. Technology was not this advanced and communication facilities were not the same. Many places did not have electricity available freely. Air-conditioning or heating were not available at many centers to cushion the vagaries of severe summer or winter. Computers had not yet made their appearance, and they had to rely on public transportation as owning a car was not that easy. Many students migrated on the backing of small scholarships as bank loans were not available. Households did not have the financial strengths to sponsor higher education. Issues of obtaining visas and making travel arrangements were also not easy tasks. There were no direct flights from smaller centers in their home countries like today. Opportunities for earning while pursuing courses in the Universities were not many. Managing oneself on the limited financial resources added to the physical problems of stay, food and entertainment. Understanding the culture and living pattern of the regions was a major challenge. Achieving the acceptance of the immigrants by the local populations was a major task for those arrived at these destinations. The immigrants had to develop close bonds with other members of their groups. Sharing and caring were required in much larger measures then than today.

The situation was even more difficult for women. Their problems were complex due to their multiple roles as housewives or housekeepers, workers, and young mothers. In addition to their responsibilities as students or workers, they had to manage their chores like cooking, serving and raising kids. Adapting to the new living atmosphere was even more difficult for them given the cultural and physical environment in their countries of birth and growth. The only means of contact with those back home was through mail and writing letters or waiting for letters from loved ones in their country was a routine requirement. Visiting their countries required a lot of planning and was very expensive too. The perception of those back home about the immigrants and the reality was vastly different. Some of them were more fortunate to find understanding friends and colleagues. Others were not that fortunate and had to face hostile situations. They marched on with commitment and dedication towards the goals for which they migrated to new stations. Strong friendship and mutual co-operation from other immigrants formed the cornerstone of their journey. There were always a few understanding locals available in times of need and crisis.

The present generation of students and workers moving for education and job opportunities today has a much-improved atmosphere. Present times too have their complexities and challenges. It is not that everything is easy and simple today. But there is a marked difference in the two scenarios. Today’s students can obtain bank loans, and their households have better financial muscle to sponsor higher education abroad. Multinational companies with presence in their countries of birth and migration provide similar working conditions and set-ups. Communication facilities are excellent, and one can talk to their people back home many times a day. E-mail and Face Time enable continuous contact with friends and relatives. Contact and networking with other students or groups are possible for seeking and extending support. Students can find out someone who would receive them at the airport, put them up for a few days in temporary accommodation and provide initial support. Improved banking channels can ensure inward remittance within hours in an emergency. Practices and customs in the new country can be better-understood thanks to the advent of Television and Internet.

Is there a need for the present generation to understand the history of the immigrants of the previous generations? Are there any lessons for them available in the tales of the migrants of earlier generation? Many would dispute their need and relevance today. Nevertheless, such a record is necessary to complete the history as well as developing better perspective for present generation to understand where they stand now in comparison to the previous generation.

A group of enthusiasts of the previous generation of immigrants thought on these lines. To broad base the variety and authenticity of the effort, they reached out and requested their friends to contribute their experiences in the form of small articles and publish the collection as a book. More than 50 women immigrants from various parts of the world (who migrated to Canada in the 1960s and thereafter) responded to the request. They have contributed their experiences in the form of articles. A dedicated team has edited these articles and brought out a book titled "Resilience and Triumph". The Second Story Press, Ottawa, Canada on 3rd December 2015, has released the book. 

The book (ISBN 978-1-927583-85-2) makes for interesting reading and brings out the resolve of the determined women who overcame the challenges and emerged successfully. A reading of this book provides a wider perspective of time and life in those crucial years. There are many lessons to be learnt from these experiences. This bunch of contributors in bringing out this book deserves our congratulations and gratitude. They have indeed brought to surface, the buried history of the earliest immigrants!


  1. Thank you referencing this book for your readers' attention in this article.........UR

  2. Great effort. This book will definitely of help to the present generataion immigrants.

  3. Very informative for the peoplein need to understand the situation at other plave than their home t

  4. a different perspective . thanks for your thoughts

  5. A timely information for me personally and advised my daughter to read your article and then the book as she left for Vancouver, US recently. Thanks