Last week my mother in law turned sixty-six. She does not really show her age. One might think she’s in her mid fifties. Because it was her birthday, we all went out for lunch, to an all you can eat buffet. I was never fond of eating at a buffet, because I tend to eat too much and feel bad afterwards.
Since it was her wish to go to a buffet, I could not say no, or suggest another restaurant. The entire family would have given me a look. I forgot to mention that in their family, the mother figure is very important. Despite the fact that her kids are both in their forties, they still think highly of their mom.
I have nothing against my mother in law. She’s a nice simple woman who has done a great job raising to kids in an adoptive country. Her and my father in law, both came to Canada as refugees, thirty eight or thirty nine years ago. They fled their native country, lived in Thailand for a few months and then boarded in an airplane to Canada, where they claimed asylum upon landing.
Having two young children, she stayed home and took care of them. I don’t think she had ever had a job here. I know that many years ago, her husband was selling Charge Controller Toronto. That was one of the many businesses he had. Throughout the years he had been both employee and entrepreneur.
What amazes me the most about my mother in law, is her ability to live here without speaking any of the two official languages. Even after forty years on Canadian soil, she barely utters some words in English. Mostly the basics. Instead she is fluent in four Indian dialects, Sinhalese and Tamil. This woman speaks six other languages!
Despite the fact that she does not drive, she knows the streets of the city, better than a taxi driver. She may pronounce the street name wrong because of her heavy accent, but her directions are always accurate. Because of it, my son calls her grandma GPS.
She is the living proof that one can manage to live here without learning English or French. How is that possible? Well, the Indian and Sri Lankan communities are very big in Toronto and its surrounding areas. There are shops, hair salons, restaurants and many other businesses, where English is not spoken frequently, unless the customer is not part of the community.