neighborhood in snow

The Colour of Snow

By Renu Parmar on August 9, 2016

TRIGGER WARNING:  sexual assault
1976

Looking back, my first memory of Canada isn’t really a memory – it’s a colour. Before I had left India at the age of nine, Papaji told me it would be cold in the new country and that I would have a better life. Those were the two things he told me. But he didn’t tell me about the colour white. I remember standing outside on a porch looking at the white blankets of snow around me on the grass, rooftops, and trees. They were shimmering and glistening diamonds in the sun dancing around me, and I started to move with them. I bent down and grabbed at this special powder, so white and clean it numbed my fingers. I laughed and grabbed more and put it in my mouth and let it dissolve. When I breathed out the air was like a haze of smoke, and I was filled with wonderment. Yes, he told me it would be a better life, but he didn’t tell me about all that white.


We'd only been in Canada for a few months but it felt like forever. Jeevan and I would tire from standing at the window waiting for Mom and Dad to come home from work when the light from the cold sun faded in the afternoon. When it did get dark there was only one source of light, or so we were told as a means to save electricity – a hideous elephant lamp with menacing eyes that glimmered a pale pink light amongst the shadows from trees outside. Even in the day the image of the snow through the curtain-less windows would sometimes alarm me; perhaps it was the enormity of the front yard, a shiny untouchable sheath of white that I wasn’t allowed to play in because apparently in Canada going outside could be dangerous. The contrast was the thing that scared me the most during those winter afternoons: so bright and white outside yet so dark inside. In comparison India seemed neutral to me, a series of browns and greys that all merged into one colour, one expectation. My overall conclusion of the place after two months was that there was too much time and too much space here.

Prince George was the name of our town. No one ever told me who he was. Even as an adult now I still don’t really know anything about him. All I was told was that they made lots of paper here and that’s why it smelled it so funny. Paper here was white too, white like the snow and white like the people.

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