ARRIVAL LOUNGE

“THE POTENTIAL OF EDUCATION IMMIGRANTS COME WITH IS ENORMOUS”

Photo by  NARI MAVALWALLA

Photo by NARI MAVALWALLA

By SIPRA CHAUDHURY   

Nibedita Saha-Chakravorty came to Canada with her parents from Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2000.

“There was a lot of political unrest in my native country and minorities did not always feel safe,” she says. “There was physical violence, abuse, bullying, and my father received several threats at his workplace from time to time and they would particularly refer to his minority status. Eventually, my parents realized that for the betterment of their children’s future, career and safety (especially since they had a daughter), they should move. They applied for immigration. Their backup plan was to move to India if Canada did not work out, but luckily all went well for them!

“My struggles were perhaps different because of my age when I moved to Canada. My English was fluent due to my schooling back home in Bangladesh but I realized that knowing English wasn’t good enough to help assimilate in a new country. I struggled with bullying in junior high school (grade 7 to 8). I experienced culture shock and could not adjust quickly enough to things here. I cried every day. I adjusted better by the time I was in high school and some of these same bullies then tried to be my friends. I was never rude to them but it was too soon to be friends after my recent experience!

“My parents – a chemist and an engineer – also went through emotional roller coasters. They struggled with getting jobs in their fields. Though they didn’t reveal their struggle to us, as kids, we were quite perceptive. Especially as an older sister, I was mature for my age. I almost felt like an empath, understanding their feelings without letting them know. As a result, I’d deal with my feelings alone as I didn’t want to burden them with more issues.”

After graduating in 2013 from the University of Toronto with a degree in Biochemistry, Saha-Chakravorty worked in the pharmaceutical industry for some time, but did not enjoy working in a lab. With the help and encouragement from her husband, Avishek, she found the courage to do a career switch to explore her full potential. “I’m quite stubborn and while gaining experience in the financial field, I chased Manulife Financial for a year, eventually finding my way into the company, in insurance. Finally, after much networking, I found my passion for human resources where I plan to make a permanent career. Currently, I am a part of the talent acquisition or recruitment team at Manulife/John Hancock Life Insurance. I am also a proud Toastmaster at my company’s club and currently the VP of membership there.”

Saha-Chakravorty is also a model and a beauty pageant winner.

“I kind of did something crazy I never thought I’d do,” she admits with a laugh. “I was interested in participating in beauty pageants but I realized that people sometimes equate beauty with someone who lacks a strong educational background or is unsmart.”

With her husband’s encouragement, she pushed forward with the rigorous preparation. “I spent months shaping my body, eating well and exercising. I felt energized and healthy. A six-day rigorous workshop in catwalks, presentation, speaking, and personality taught me more than I ever thought I’d learn. I trained my mind and my body. I learnt that people are always watching you so the way you present yourself is very important.”

One of the most amazing things that happened during this process was the amount of community involvement that she had to induce in order to get votes. “I have a unique family and found support in the Bangladeshi and Indian communities. I reached out to people across Canada, Bangladesh, and India for votes. In the process, I found the group BCCB – Bangladeshi Canadian-Canadian Bangladeshi. Strangers voted for me and rooted me on. This was empowerment and the community feeling was just intense,” she said.

She was crowned the second runner-up Mrs South Asia Canada 2017 and Mrs Style Icon 2017.

“I used the grand Ragaa Models platform, their support and the attention I received, to speak about women empowerment, quality of life and how women struggled, even in Canada, with financial freedom and self-care. I wanted to represent a generation of hybrids – beauty and brains.”

When life throws you curveballs, you need to act accordingly and cruise your boat to safely reach the shores of success. This was a thought process that led her to succeed, even after the pageant.

Saha-Chakravorty tells newcomers to Canada that there’s lots to share in this wonderful country.

“The countries we come from are varied and the education we have received back there varies, too. Yet the quality and the potential are enormous. Yes, there is a lag phase but once you get over the hump, there is no looking back. Our personalities and ability to work hard are competitive, resilient, and experiencing the nurturing and caring lifestyle in Canada, we are definitely set for success!

“For professional development, one should connect with the local community. In this age of LinkedIn, no one is limited. Times have changed. You will not find success here the same way you found it back home. If you must take a course to upgrade your skills, be absolutely sure that is what you need.

“For social development, most likely as a newcomer you are missing home, your friends, you feel alone. Mitigate that as much as you can by connecting with your ethnic communities in Canada. It may be awkward and your mind might tell you to not go, but make it happen. Socialize and talk to people. You might find an entry into a social circle. Humans are social animals...you need a group. This is for your psychological stability and mental health as well as social support.

“And lastly, give back. Even to your mentors or new friends. And once you settle, give back to others who need help to succeed in this country.”

Asked what she loved most about Canada, Saha-Chakravorty smiles. “I grew up in Canada and have spent my entire adult life here. They say you can’t beat nostalgia. I absolutely love Canada for everything as I grew up in this beautiful country. But what I love most about Canada is that it let me find my love.”

If you’d like to share the story of your arrival in Canada, please write to desinews@rogers.com or call 416-695-4357.

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