Dinesh Nair is director of sales at Constellation Brands
Domani Barrow is an administrative assistant - School of Health at BCIT
Druscilla and Deirdre are 16 and 13 years old
Dinesh Nair and wife Domani Barrow moved to Canada in January 1997 from Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Knowing they could never be citizens of the UAE, their options were to settle in Australia or Canada. “We had heard from friends who had already moved here that it was a great country to settle in, so after we spoke to a Canadian lawyer in Dubai, the decision to immigrate was easily made,” recalls Domani, who works as an administrative assistant at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).
The Nair couple witnessed the greatness and hospitality of Canada right from the very beginning – when on arrival they lived at a friend’s place they barely knew. “We lived for about 10 days. We didn’t know them at all and their warmth and kindness 20 years ago was just so wonderful,” shares the couple, adding, “it has made us want to reach out to new immigrants and help them on their journey.”
Their first impression of the country, however, was a bit gloomy. “It was cold and wet and I recall looking at the bare trees and wondering if we had made the right decision leaving sunny Dubai,” says Domani.
It took the Nairs a few months to get used to the Canadian lifestyle. Staying in touch with family back home was a challenge as international call rates were expensive back then. Yet, they found a solution. “We faxed letters to them each week giving them an account of our lives here and we used to eagerly open our mailbox hoping to see familiar handwriting on an envelope,” says Domani of the solution. Not being able to get a driver’s licence without spending a fair bit of money was also a difficulty that the couple managed to overcome.
Both Dinesh and Domani had a pleasant experience while looking for a job. “[It was] very easy,” states Domani, “I applied to Kelly Services, a recruitment company, and started working in about four weeks.”
Dinesh applied to one of the classified advertisements in the Vancouver Sun and started as a customer service representative a week after Domani. “The company has since been sold but he continued to work for them and is now the director of sales,” adds the proud wife.
It’s been 20 years in Canada for the Nairs and they describe it as being “absolutely wonderful.” Reminiscing on their journey, Domani believes they have come a long way since 1997. “We have no regrets moving here. We were able to sponsor my parents here from Bangalore [now Bengaluru] in 2000 and having them live with us was of great help when our daughters were born.”
Domani proclaims that you can be whatever you strive to be in this country – “the opportunities are endless.” She backs this statement by sharing about an incident in Dinesh’s life. “A year after we arrived in Vancouver, Dinesh was in training to brew beer and wine. The glass carboy he was handling slipped from the counter and shattered on the floor but a large shard of glass ricocheted and severed the artery, median nerve and muscle in his left arm. After four hours of surgery and extensive physiotherapy for six months, he lost the use of three fingers on his left hand and is unable to carry anything heavy with his left hand. But this did not deter him from pursuing his ambitions – he moved up in the same company and went back to school to study to become a sommelier. This would not have been the same if we were in India or Dubai.”
A few of the things they like about Canada: the whole system of Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) and Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), freedom of speech, and human rights in the workplace. There is absolutely nothing the family dislikes about Canada.
The Nair family see a bright future ahead. “And even as senior citizens, you still have the opportunity to continue working,” Domani adds in conclusion.
Biggest obstacle faced so far in Canada:
Not being able to easily sponsor your siblings. I hope, in future, that the system will allow one to sponsor siblings as easily as parents.
Resolutions made for yourself or family:
Always pay it forward. We would like to interact with more new immigrants and introduce them to other members of the community who can help make the initial months a little less daunting and offer them advice on a variety of topics.
Advice for immigrants:
Arrive anytime between March and July so you have adequate time to adapt to your new environment. Don’t expect to be hired in the position or field you were previously in. Be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up. It will happen. Stay positive and refrain from constantly comparing your present life to the lifestyle you came from.
Memories of your homeland:
Your home was always a place for friends to drop in – you rarely came home from school and saw your mom all alone at home – there was almost ALWAYS a friend or neighbour who had stopped by to say hello.