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HindustanTimes Mon,24 Nov 2014

Canada gets "A" plus

Rajbir Deswal, Hindustan Times   October 10, 2012
First Published: 10:30 IST(10/10/2012) | Last Updated: 10:36 IST(10/10/2012)

My family had a funny experience travelling to Vancouver from Seattle recently. We carried fruits and ate some till we had reached the US-Canada border. After being through immigration check, we were asked if we carried any apples.

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Apples not being allowed into Canada, we had to part with our "forbidden fruit", but the saving grace was that our bananas were spared. On return, we thought we should eat up our apples lest these be "confiscated" at the border. This time, however, the Americans did not ask about the apples, but enquired if we were carrying any bananas.

We were ready to handover our bunch of about half-a-dozen when a smiling officer told us we could "eat the fruit in the car itself before crossing over to the US of A".

They have common political, economic and international interests, but there is always a war of wits on between the Americans and the Canadians, which goes back to the naming of the two countries.

The local Canadian slang adds the vowel sound "A" to every concluding word, such as "How are you doing-A? How's life-A?" Picking the three letters U, S, and A, the Americans named their country the United States of America. Canadians were also to pick three letters, but for each letter picked, they kept adding an "A" sound. The final three letters C, N, and D, each followed by an "A", thus, made the country Canada.

Punjabis' typical way of pronouncing Canada, as "Kanede", is one of the reasons that on landing there, they take no time to feel at home. They find it easy to mix in the local culture and leave their impression on it.

Punjabis have a voice in Canadian politics, are employed gainfully in government jobs, and are a recognised face. Even signs are up in Punjabi in their strong pockets around Vancouver. They run corporate empires and have exclusive middle-level roles in construction, transport and running fuel stations. They also have gangs who fight for the control of the drug business. Even the gurdwaras aren't free of fight, but Canada still is the dream destination of Punjabis.

A latest joke in Surrey is that the US President and the Prime Minister of Canada ask a news-forecasting machine what their respective countries will be like in 50 years. The machine whirrs, beeps and releases a printout that says: "Jin Tao, the Prez, has announced Chinese language to be mandatory in all schools in the US." When the printout for Canada rolls out, none of two leaders are able to read it. It's in Punjabi.

Tailpiece: Know how Punjabis in Canada say hello? "O hello jee, hello jee, hello-hello jeeee!"

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