Sometimes it isn’t the day’s new action that moves me, but something that occurs as an aside. Today, day 41 in my year of daily new actions, I learned two new tai chi moves: Stroke Horse’s Mane and Cross Hands Right Heel Kick. I also visited my first CEGEP (Quebec schools that have a unique function among Canadian colleges) and spoke to students about my novel. But it was a taxi ride between these two events that gave me the story of the mango tree.
The taxi driver told me both his children went to private schools in Montreal. One has become a civil engineer. He was from Bangladesh, and he was beautiful. He was a scientist before he came to Canada, but his overseas qualifications were not accepted here, so he taught his daughters all the science he could, and worked for the last twenty years in jobs like this taxi job to put them through school.
I asked him how he fed his mind, and I said it must have been a sacrifice. He said he felt he had a choice: he could pay to put himself through Canadian university, or he could put the resources into educating his children. He chose his children, and he said that while it was a sacrifice, it was the choice he preferred to make. He was silent for awhile, then he said, “But I miss my country, every moment.”
“Did you say every moment?” I asked him. The words held such tension I wasn’t sure I could have heard him right.
He told me a culture saturates you with itself, inexplicably. “There was a mango tree,” he said, in a field, when he was a child. He talked about the tree until I could see it, smell it, imagine the taste and the juice of the fruit.
“I’ve never seen a mango tree,” I said.
He looked wistful and delighted at the same time, that someone could go a lifetime without having seen this tree so familiar to him, so beautiful. He described it to me some more. The mango tree of his deepest mourning.
What a world of wealth we have thrown away. Montreal is a city full of immigrants. I love it because I am one of them. But I'm one of the lucky ones whose new world did not have to come at the expense of my mind's treasures.