Manpreet Kaur Hayer’s Story

I caught the eyes of an elderly woman today,  a perfect stranger to me. Nothing visibly similar between us than the shade of our skin. She smiled and came over to speak to me. As I stumbled over words and phrases, that should come easy to me, she simply listened patiently and spoke to me of her journey to Canada. I still feel the warmth of this encounter – this every day border crossing between two people with different experiences and lives.

Since I was young I always focused on the negatives that borders brought into my life. I’ve always felt as if I was caught in the middle of the ocean between Canada and India. Home and homeland. My parents made that border crossing and I feel as if I’m the echo of that choice and strength – to leave your homeland behind to give your future children their best chance. I reside in this in between.

Coming to Canada was a crossing that I can never fully understand – the only borders that I know are the ones I’ve crossed with courage and continue to navigate till this day. I’ve realized that border crossings don’t always have to be a defining action, that they can be simple and momentary and just within ourselves.

I’ve struggled so much with fitting in, with my Canadian friends and my Punjabi family. It was as if I was always half of who I could be. Not quite “Indian enough” in many ways. But these past few years I’ve started to find my way to shore after floating between two identities for so long. Only, the place I’ve found is one unique to me. I’m myself but also the parts that I love from Canada and the parts I love from India. I’ve found a place along this border and am starting to make it my home. I am not less of anything, I am the sum of many pieces as I travel along this in between

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The Art Gallery of Mississauga is a guest upon the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit. This ancient land is part of the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit and the traditional homelands of the Anishinaabe, Wendat, and Haudenosaunee nations.