Left to right: Aman's aunt, sister, Aman and her mother. Courtesy of Aman Kaur
Amanjot (Aman) Kaur is twenty-eight years old and the only member of her family to be living in Canada. She moved to Calgary from northern India only five months ago.
Back home she left her mother, aunt and younger sister behind. The four women are very close.
Aman grew up in a place, which has the same small town problems that affect you no matter where you live in the world. Everyone knows everyone and news travels quickly.
When she was only 5 years old, her parents were legally separated. In India the stigma associated with a woman leaving her husband is very real. So is the struggle they face to make a new life for themselves.
“I was born into a highly patriarchal family,” says Aman. “My mother stifled herself to adapt to her marriage, while my father’s wrongdoings were justified by society just because he is a man.”
Although she didn’t grow up with him, she remembers a specific awkward phone conversation with her dad.
“I needed to buy books for school and my dad said, “Go ask your mother to sell her jewellery to buy you the books.””
After a difficult and socially isolating separation, Aman saw her mother slowly pick-up the pieces of her life and string them together. She received no alimony or financial support but she was grateful for her freedom.
She moved in with her parents and worked at two jobs to provide for her daughters. By her side was her sister, Aman’s aunt (or ‘Massi’ in Punjabi).
“Their bond taught my sister and I the meaning of sisterhood and resilience,” says Aman. “We learned some important lessons like to honour yourself, have self-respect, be self-sufficient and resilient.”
Aman took a cue from the lessons she had learned, left familiarity behind to seek a higher purpose abroad. She left everything behind to move to Calgary for her career, better opportunities and a new life.
She maintains faith over fear, but also admits that the distance has been difficult to manage at times.
“When I have exciting news to share, I have to wait 12 ½ hours before I get to speak with them,” she says. “It’s also tough when it’s -25 degrees outside, when I have to do my own taxes, or deal with mood swings when it’s that time of the month.”
As a woman who moved to Canada by herself, she has even been questioned by other South Asians around her. “There is an assumed introductory question that I get which is, “Viyaah karwa ke Canada aayi hain?” which means, “Did you get married to move to Canada?”
But she knows it’s worth it.
“When I Facetime with my family, I can see how proud they are of me and what I have accomplished on my own.”
Aman’s mother’s dupatta (a traditional Indian shawl) helps her feel closer to home.
“I drape it when I am praying and keep it close when I go to bed,” she says. “Anything that helps diminish the 7000 miles between us.”