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Issue 117 - Taking the plunge

Whisky Magazine Issue 117
February 2014


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Taking the plunge

How to cope when you move into another culture

For the third and last installment of my mini-series on writers with ridiculously interesting backgrounds I had a look at the fine 1987 collection of stories Swimming Lessons by Rohinton Mistry. Mistry was born in Mumbai and emigrated to Canada, but as if that weren't multi-cultural enough, he also comes from the Parsi community.

The stories in Swimming Lessons are all set at least partly in the Firozsha Baag apartment building complex in a Parsi neighborhood of Mumbai. The funniest of the lot is a story called “Squatter.” In it, a youth from Firozsha Baag named Sarosh holds a party to say goodbye before emigrating to Canada. His guests are divided about whether the young hero is doing the right thing in leaving, and to quell their squabbling, he issues a fateful promise: By and by, after substantial amounts of scotch soda and rum and coke had disappeared, a fierce debate started between the two groups. To this day, Sarosh does not know what made him raise his glass and announce: ‘My dear family, my dear friends, if I do not become a complete Canadian in exactly ten years from the time I land there, then I will come back.

A decade is a long time, our hero thinks. How difficult can it be to assimilate in a friendly place like Canada? Harder than you'd think, it turns out. Sarosh finds himself unable to digest white bread, and even after he's acclimated to the local food, he simply can't get used to sitting upon, rather than squatting over toilets: Each morning he ...

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