Grounded by Scarborough, Privileged by Vaughan: Learning to Adapt

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Grounded by Scarborough, Privileged by Vaughan: Learning to Adapt

Written by Meenusha Satkunanathan

Behind a bearded visage stands a five-foot, 10-inch man who has lived his entire life in the Greater Toronto Area. Brad is a 28-year-old Sri Lankan-born Canadian. His darker complexion gives away his ethnic background at a first glance. At the same time, his tone, language, and style of speaking show that he is no different from the typical Torontonian.

Growing up, Brad has been someone who I have always looked up to. I admired his independence, courage, and compassion. Yet, his understanding of the world and life was completely different from mine and we shared very little in common. Although he and I come from two different provinces in the same country, it is almost as if we come from two very opposite worlds: there was always something that I had never understood about him. There was a part of him that was unknown and it baffled my mind. I had always thought that there was something deeper to him than I could see.

Brad spent his entire childhood in Scarborough where he was born and raised. Though Scarborough was filled with violence and disorder, he developed a sense of community and belonging amongst the diverse groups of individuals who lived in his neighbourhood. Scarborough was everything that he knew: it was where he made friends and created childhood memories to last him a lifetime. However, at the age of twelve, things took a drastic turn in Brad’s life. His parents decided to move to the suburbs where he and his siblings could continue growing in a safe neighbourhood –Vaughan.

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Living in Vaughan was different for Brad. The appearance of the neighbourhood itself was different. The trees were so young and the houses were very similar. Even though there was a sense of community in Vaughan, it was not the same sense of community that he had experienced in Scarborough. In Scarborough, the community was created through the interactions that people had with one another. It was built of the everyday people that lived there. In Vaughan, the sense of community existed physically. It was the “cookie cutter” houses and the physical location that created a community.

Much to my dismay, it was after his move to Vaughan that he began to support his family: Brad began delivering newspapers from the age of twelve. Like many immigrant families, he and his family worked hard to maintain the new life that they had adopted. When I had asked about the work that he did to support his family, he answered it so naturally as if it was something that every twelve-year-old child would do –“It was tough in the beginning because you are spending more money. A house costs more money, but both my parents worked. We made ends meet and I worked small part time jobs like I used to do the newspaper. I did the newspapers for a long time actually to make extra cash.” To me, this depicted his selflessness. Scarborough may have shaped him, but it was from his move to Vaughan that he developed the sense of responsibility and independence that he has today.

This was not the only change that Brad went through from his move. He went from having many friends to not knowing anyone in this new neighbourhood. Of course, this caused him to miss his previous neighbourhood as any twelve-year-old would – “I wanted to move back because all of my friends were gone.” However, Brad was not completely alone. His extended family had also moved to a house in Vaughan.

The fact that he is a family-oriented man is surely no news to me, but how he became one was something that I had never bothered to give much thought to before. Based on the way he described his transition from Scarborough to Vaughan, it seems that because he did not know anyone or have any friends in his new neighbourhood, he had built strong relationships with his cousins and family members. This can be part of the reason why he is so family-oriented today.

The relatively superior details that Brad shared about Scarborough reveal that it has certainly left a strong impact on him. I was able to see that he had a deep sense of attachment to Scarborough through the change in his tone when he spoke of Scarborough in comparison to Vaughan: he appeared to be more passionate about Scarborough. The way he speaks of the neighbourhood and the manner through which he identifies with it leads me to believe that he sees Scarborough as the place from which he originates – “But what parts of me are from Vaughan, I would say I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Unlike myself, Brad has always been someone who is well grounded. This is especially apparent in the way he speaks, gestures, dresses and presents himself.  He has never been someone to judge another person or feel a sense of superiority to those who may not be as privileged as he is. Perhaps this is because Scarborough is the place that grounds him. I think that because he grew up alongside many hardworking people and saw his family earn their way out, he does not feel entitled to the more privileged lifestyle he lived during the latter years of his life –  “A lot of people I grew up with in Scarborough went through hard times and experienced a lot of violence and hard times.”

I believe that because he was able to experience these two distinct ways of living through his neighbourhood change, he has become someone who is better approachable for people from all kinds of backgrounds like myself. Maybe the reason why he and I are so dissimilar is because the environments from which we come from and the experiences that we have had are so different. I can be certain that at age twelve, thinking about supporting my family was the last thing on my mind. I was right: there is certainly more depth to him than what I had known.

Meenusha Satkunanathan was born and raised in Montreal, QC. She is a third year student at the University of Toronto Mississauga completing a double major in Criminology and Sociology.


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