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Please allow me to ask a question to anyone who reads this article. ‘What is common between Nepal and Canada?” Don’t get puzzled. Prima facie there is not much commonality between these countries. After all they are at different stages of development, socially as well as economically and are situated in two different continents. Despite these apparent differences, there is a common thread that binds these two countries, at least for me. Both have been my home, albeit at different points of time and for different durations.

 Anyone who knows even a little about me knows how I feel about Nepal as the country is my home and I miss it when I am not there. Recently, on my way back from Kathmandu, I couldn’t help but think about Canada and the striking resemblance it bore to my Nepal experience.

My first introduction to Canada was through Mike, my Canadian Supervisor on a six month professional Exchange Programme of which I was a part. Over the years as I would come to know him, I would discover a  person passionate for the cause of LGBT, someone who loved India and kept declaring his love to all his Indian friends in Hindi “  Dostoon mein tumse bahut pyar karta hoon” ( I love you all a lot , my friends). And if you wanted to see this laugh out loud and fun loving man irritated, all you had to do was call him “Hey Michael” or better still take his full name “Michael John Tuttlehill”. The reaction that it generated was absolutely priceless! Mike recently became the Executive Director of the Rainbow Resource Centre and is probably the youngest ED the organization has had so far. One of the reasons for my three month stay in Canada was an experience that I will cherish as long as I live  because Mike was there for us at every step of the Exchange Programme. Not just as our Supervisor but also as our buddy We could go to him for seemingly irrelevant of issues and be assured  he would listen with utmost seriousness.

 In order to facilitate the cultural exchange between participants, the interns from both countries were paired up together and stayed with a Canadian family.   A draw was conducted for the selection of the interns who would be paired up together. I drew Sharie’s name.  Sharie is the sweetest memory I carry in my heart. One of the things that bonded us early in our friendship was a private joke (which subsequently became public knowledge, courtesy Sharie). You see, Sharie is a Chinese Canadian who shares her last name with the former tennis player Michael Chan. I naively asked her once if she was related to him. Sharie, a great fan of dead pan humour, replied with a poker face that he was her brother.  For a few second I actually believed that Shaire and the Chan were related until she burst out laughing. The joke was cracked in Sept 2004; in 2013; it still brings a smile on my face.  Sharie and I were the only pair who not only stayed together but worked in the same organization as wellWith Sharie, I never had to pretend to be someone else. I could just be me.... the angry me, the pensive me, the jovial me and last but not the least, the emotional me.

 We both worked at the Rainbow Resource Centre (Yes, the very same organization where my former supervisor is the Executive Director now). Getting to know the issues and the challenges faced by the LGBT community, making friends with the volunteers of the organization and going out with them  to unwind on a Friday night  has been such a unique experience at many different levels.  Given the work that Rainbow Resources Centre does i.e.: working for the rights of a sexual minority, it wasn’t surprising that Sharie and I were mistaken for partners. We were often asked the question about how we are going to continue our “relationship” once I’m back in Delhi and she remained in Canada. Our response was that Sharie was already in a committed relationship for the past four yrs somehow did not satisfy the people around us. Sharie has subsequently gotten married to her long-time partner Stuart and has also completed her Masters in Social Work from the University of Toronto.

My trip down memory lane would be incomplete if I do not mention my favourite man, someone who became my family in no time. Bernard Mark Lopko aka Bernie, half Polish, half British, and a Canadian citizen since the time he was 18.  When Bernie had applied to host two interns, it was a joint decision by him and his partner. However they had broken up, one month prior to the arrival of the “family” (i.e.: Shaire and me). I feel that Bernie saw in me a successful diversion, a “project” that he could undertaken to keep himself away from the feelings that accompany a break-up that would otherwise have resulted in marriage.

I have no idea how from Pragya and Bernie we became Spraggs and Benny to each other. Perhaps over the endless cups of coffee (Mine being sweet, milky and mild as opposed to no   sugar, no milk coffee of Benny’s) or the late night movies that the three of us watched (12 Angry Men, The English Patient and Margaret’s Museum to name a few) or perhaps the endless day trips that we took on weekends.  Benny was not just the person I shared a roof with for three months, he was and is much, much more than that. He was my alarm clock in the morning, my map for when I was lost in the streets of Winnipeg, my brother, father, cook, dear friend and confidant, all rolled into one. He was and is my family, from the another part of the world.  

 Two women in their mid-twenties who were meat eaters, a 40 something health freak who hated everything non- vegetarian and none of them knew how to cook. People often ask me how the three of us managed at all. Well, we managed and managed very beautifully. All you need is a little bit of love and a whole bag of craziness for this and nothing more.


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