Newcomers ride networks to security and success

Neetan lives in an illegal basement apartment in Markham with 13 other people. He told me to call him when I was in the driveway. The garage door opened, and Neetan appeared to let me in — through the only door they all use to get in and out of their house. We walked through the garage, down a flight of stairs — a wall of mattresses, neatly laid and kept, a small TV, a kitchenette with table and two espresso cups ready. “You Italian, eh?” he says. “You like espresso?” I love this guy. Neetan tells me of his two master’s degrees. He tells me of his visits to his mosque and some friends in Scarborough and Peel and shows me the food they give him when he leaves, to tide him over. He tells me that when he first arrived, he felt alone — in a basement with 13 people, in a dense neighbourhood in the Town of Markham with more than 300,000 residents, in the Region of York with a population now over 1 million, in the GTA, in Ontario — you get the picture. “Alone” he whispers. I sip the espresso, so bitter on my lips now.

Publication Date: 
March 5, 2011
Journal Name: 
The Toronto Star