Day 247 - Pardeep (2nd person I approached)
September 04, 2014 - As it is everyday, this is one person’s story, but it could so easily be the story of many people. I thought about how I would tell this story. I thought about if for quite some time. How to maintain and honour the spirit of the story shared, while respecting the person telling it. Integrity and authenticity have been my main focus and have driven every story I’ve written for The Stranger Project 2014.
Pardeep was sitting on a bench at the end of a small pier overlooking False Creek. I almost didn’t go over to talk with him; a woman approached from the opposite direction and I thought for a moment she was going to sit with him. However, she continued walking right past. He had his back to me and didn’t see me approaching. As I got closer I could see he had earphones in and was holding a phone in his hands. Despite that, I stood in front of him to get his attention. I sat down on the bench next to him, and explained what I’m doing, and asked if he'd chat with me. Pardeep hesitated for a moment, and then nodded and said yes.
“What is it you want to talk about,” he asked, his voice rich with an Indian accent. I showed him my Facebook page and some of the people that I have spoken to recently.
“We can talk, but you don’t need my picture,” he told me, smiling shyly. He even suggested that I could use anyone’s picture, that it didn’t have to be his. I assured him that I wasn’t going to use anyone’s picture, that if I was telling Pardeep’s story, I wanted to use Pardeep’s picture. He was clear that he didn’t want his picture taken. I stood up and extended my hand out to shake, thanking Pardeep for his time and for allowing me to interrupt him listening to his music.
“I’m not listening to anything,” he said, and then asked.
“Why won’t you talk with me?” I smiled and explained that for me it is important to have a picture of the person whose story I am sharing. I said that it wasn’t to identify him personally, but that for my project, I felt it was important.
“Ok, if you must then, you may take my picture.” He put his phone in his pocket, I sat down again and we chatted.
Pardeep was born in the Punjab region of northern India.
“I have one sister, she is just over a year younger than I am. We were close as children, yes. She’s my sister. My parents were kind and caring. They took good care of us. When they weren’t home, it was my responsibility to look after her, because I am the older brother,” he said.
Pardeep did all of his elementary and secondary schooling in India.
“I liked economics very much. This subject excited me. I wasn’t any good at maths, but my teacher was so helpful and she took extra time to guide me. I would sometimes stay after class and she would help me. I even went to her home sometimes to do extra studying. I don’t know why she decided to help me, but I learned so much from her. I was lucky to have this woman as my teacher,” he said. Pardeep told me he don’t like science at school.
“I don’t think science is such a good thing. Well, not so good in all respects. I think sometimes it interferes with the work of God. It is good that we have cars and computers and phones to communicate with with. These things are because of science, I know,” he said. I asked Pardeep if he could tell me of an example where he believed that science interfered with the work of God. He thought about it for a few moments.
“The moon. Sending rockets with men to the moon. God has put us here on earth and if he wanted us to explore and live on the moon, he would have created life there.” Pardeep presented his view point respectfully and calmly. I asked if he believed that there was one God, or if there were different Gods.
“Yes, I believe there is only one God, for all.”
While we talked, Pardeep had left his earbuds in his ears. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone and looked at it.
“Excuse me, I have to take this call,” he said. I sat quietly while he spoke with whoever it was that had called him.
“I’m sorry,” he said when his call was over. It had only lasted for about two minutes. He put the phone back in his pocket. We spoke about the different languages and dialects spoken in India, all mostly rooted in Punjabi.
“I learned to speak English in school. Right from pre-school, all the way through high-school,” he said.
“My parents don’t speak any English and my sister speaks some, but not as much as I do,” he said.
When he finished secondary school in India, his father had decided that Pardeep should come to Canada to study.
“It was my father’s decision that I come to Vancouver. I don’t know why he chose this city. I came here to study as soon as I finished my schooling in India,” he said. Pardeep is studying criminology.
“I came specifically to attend Kwantlen College. I am studying criminology so that I can know the laws of the Canada. So that I do not get into any trouble, if I know the laws, I will be a good citizen,” he said. He arrived in Vancouver in 2012.
“I arrived here by myself. My father arrived last year. He is here because I am here. My mother and my sister are back in India still. I have not seen or spoken with any of my family, except my father since I arrived here.” His knee gently starts to shake as he lightly taps his foot on the ground.
“I don’t miss my family. I am not that type of person. I don’t really care that I have not spoken with them.”
Pardeep tells me he likes Vancouver.
“It is beautiful here. The trees, and the water. There isn’t much greenery in India. Nature here is very beautiful. I don’t live in Vancouver, so for me it is nice to sit here and look at the water and the mountains,” he says, adding
“I live in Surrey.” I ask him what brought him to where we're seated, to the water.
“It is peaceful. I feel pressure and I needed to be somewhere quiet.” His foot is tapping faster now. He looks straight ahead, not at me.
“I come here to think. I am so sad. I don’t know why, but I feel all this pressure, and it makes me feel sad.” We sit quietly for a few moments.
“I don’t have any friends here. I’ve never been good at making friends, that is why I think I don’t mind not seeing my family. I am okay being by myself,” he says as he turns to look at me. His eyes are so dark brown that they almost look black. He has incredibly long, thick eyelashes. The end of his beard moves gently in the breeze. I notice all this while I’m thinking what to say. I ask if he’s spoken with anyone at school about how he feels.
“No. It’s who I am, I can’t change that. I don’t have anyone at school to talk to.” We talk about counsellors and that they're at every school. I explain that they're there to listen and to offer support.
“No. I won’t talk with them. I don’t always feel like this,” he says. I ask how often he does feel sad.
“Not all day, but some every day. A little bit.” I want to hug him, but I don’t. He’s twenty one and it might seem odd or awkward to him. When I ask if he tells his father how he feels, he gives a small laugh.
“No, I don’t tell him anything. He doesn’t care.”
We talk a little bit more about support and I mention that there are telephone support lines that he can call. He seems interested in this information.
“What would they do? They would just listen to me? What would they do with the information? How would someone reach these lines?” I give him as much information as I can, saying that it’s simple, they're there to listen, to care and not to invade his privacy. He tells me he has no thoughts of harming himself when I ask.
“I am sad. That is all. This is just who I am. I can’t change that.”
We sit quietly for a bit again. I ask if I can take his picture.
“You don’t need my picture. You can write your story without a picture,” he says. After we go back and forth for a bit, he smiles and tells me again,
“Ok, you may take my picture.” I tell him I am grateful that he has told me his story.
“I haven’t told you anything. What have we talked about? Nothing.” He smiles. I recount the story highlights and he seems satisfied.
"Please don’t tag me on Facebook,” he says. I don’t know his full name and tell him I couldn’t and wouldn’t do that.
Before I walk away, I tell Pardeep that when I am sad, or feel pressure, I find that talking to a friend, or somebody helps, sometimes even just a little bit.
“I feel better for talking with you,” he says. I smile and thank him. We shake hands. I let him know that if it was easy talking to me, then it would be just as easy talking to someone at school. Maybe someone in his class, or a teacher or counsellor. Maybe even his father.
“No, no that won’t happen,” he says. I ask why he can’t talk to someone at school, but he could talk to me so easily. Without giving it any thought whatsoever, he replies,
“That is because you are a stranger. You don’t know me. It is easy to speak with a stranger and tell them things.” #notastranger