Marina’s Canadian Journey

We got married in 1989 and Marina, my wife was on the third year of her Pharmacy degree at Gulbarga, Karnataka.  I was undergoing the Long Gunnery Staff Course (LGSC) for a year at Devlali near Nashik, Maharashtra. She always came over to Devlali whenever she could manage a few days off, often travelling in trains without reservations. That used to be a monthly affair and I think the entire course knew when she came over as I invariably managed to skip classes on those days.


In those days there were no cell phones and mind you, no (Subscriber Trunk Dialing) STD or long distance dialing facilities too at Devlali. One had to wait for 9 PM as thereafter the rates came down to a quarter, else it was expensive to make a long distance calls. Whenever I thought I missed her, I used to sit outside the Telephone office next to the railway station, book a call to the ladies hostel at Gulbarga and wait for the call to materialise. It used to take an hour for sure and the wait many a times seemed much longer, especially with the mosquitoes buzzing into one’s ears; their bites I did not seem to mind too much (created by the almighty, perhaps they too had a right to live), but never their music. At times there was some company.  A Young Officer trying to call up his girl friend/ fiancé or another officer missing his wife who had gone home for a few days, may be for a marriage in the family or to look up her parents.

Marina was the University topper and after completing her B Pharm degree, we got into ‘family’ life. Marina enjoyed the army wife’s life for a few years. Once the initial fun was over after getting too used to the army life, over the years she got really fed up with it. She found that the wives of many senior officers real dumb who had no interests other than making a career for their husbands.

One day, she decided that she had had enough and said “What use is my B Pharm Degree, for which I slogged for four years?” That is, after eight years of marriage and Army life, she decided to leave me and move to Delhi and try her hand at a business. The business, a joint venture with another Army lady, did not go the way Marina wanted and hence she applied for immigration to Canada.

After applying for immigration, she left the business to her partner and joined a Pharmacy College in Delhi to teach. The main aim was to get back to the subject proper, which she had not been in touch with for eight years. That was when I was posted to Delhi.

She got the books for the licensing exam for a Pharmacist in Canada from her sister in the US. Thus began her battle with the books all over again and I must say she slogged her way out. She got her Canadian Visa as a Permanent Resident in February 2002. At that time, coincidentally I was posted overnight to take over command of a Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment in the field during Operation Parakram.

A decision was made – to splinter the family- our son Nikhil, an LKG student, off to my parents in Kerala; our daughter Nidhi Grade 5 student to stay at Delhi with Brigadier GM Sankar, our family friend, until her final examinations in March and then off to Kerala; myself to Rajasthan and Marina to Canada, that too in February when the winter is at its worst in Canada. There was no other option and it had to happen and we simply had to cope.

After the operational deployment, our unit returned to Devlali in November 2002. Our children moved in with me and I became a single parent Commanding Officer.  By then I had established myself well in the unit.  All officers and soldiers were outstanding individuals with a lot of self-confidence.  They understood their tasks pretty well and executed them with finesse.  The unit was indeed a well-oiled machine.  Late Colonel Suresh Babu was the Second-in-Command, who along with other officers ran the Regiment exceptionally well. Our Regiment was clearly the best outfit in town.

Soon thereafter, I was in for a shock as Nikhil, then in Kindergarten, came back to me speaking only Malayalam as he lived in Kerala for six months.  He had completely forgotten Hindi and English, which he spoke very fluently while at Delhi and his brains were now reformatted in Malayalam.  It took a month and some special effort from me and the unit staff to teach him Hindi and English.

On landing in Canada, Marina worked eight hours a day and studied 10 hours a day and in a year cleared all the licensing exams in one go. A herculean effort. There are two written and a practical examination to be cleared and only about 5% of international pharmacy graduates clear it.

After two years of her landing in Canada, Marina obtained her license as a pharmacist after completing her studentship (four months) and internship (six months). Children joined her in March 2004. I bid farewell to arms six months later and moved to Canada in July 2004. Thus began the reunion of a splintered family. What began as a stray thought in Marina’s mind had eventually developed into a passionate endeavour resulting in a cataclysmic change for each member of the family. Are we happy today as a family?  Mostly, it’s an emphatic YES. But sometimes we do miss our people, Kerala and above all the Indian Army environs.

Marina with our grandson James

At that time, I asked Marina as to how she managed to pass all her licensing exams in a year when most people take a minimum of three years and many up to six. She said it was all hard work as she wanted to get children and me as fast as possible to Canada. Being alone in Canada facilitated her to put in those extra hours of hard work. Further, as she was an Army Wife, she was tough and ready to take on all challenges.  She said she was lucky that she never worked as a pharmacist in India and hence did not learn the ‘wrong’ things.  Thus, no unlearning was required prior to learning the Canadian way of pharmacy management. In her view, she started her studies as if she had not even done her B Pharm and hence could clear all the exams in one go.

18 thoughts on “Marina’s Canadian Journey

  1. Hi Reji, I was very interested in this. This is some story. Your wife must be very determined lady. I wondered how you ended up in Canada. I expect it was a big culture shock when you got there. The development of phone technology is astonishing isn’t it? When I was at SSA from 1969-70 I think there was only one phone in the entire school – now everyone has one in their pocket.

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  2. Hi Reji, What a positive and thrilling episode. Hats off to all of you for showing resilience, fortitude and the will to succeed. Not to forget the contribution of your two kids. I wonder how many of us will ever physically venture into what you all did leave alone think of doing it. Congrats to Marina for showing the way. I still remember her singing “silly, silly ” in Hindi. I am sure you all will be profusely blessed by God almighty.

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  3. Reji.. a very brave journey indeed! Marina’s big leap of faith and your support have made it happen. I was surprised when i heard that you had emigrated, as i thought that it was against your basic nature!! A very inspiring story.
    There is a similar story of David Roga and Jean, who emigrated to Australia around the same time and under somewhat similar circumstances.. CONGRATS and BEST WISHES to you and your family.

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  4. Dear REJI and Marina, a classical case of where there is a will , there’s a way. Life takes such Un pre conceived routes that you marvel later how it all happened. It happened because of faith, will power and resoluteness . May these qualities be the guiding light for all of you always. Kudos.

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  5. Hats off to Marina, for her ‘Eureka moment’ and her focussed intent, besides the slog to get there. And to you Reji, for the support you gave her – hopefully all along. Compliments for yet another well written piece. The one about Nikhil and teenagers’ language too was a reminder to many of us parents who have gone through the phase, and sound advice to parents with teenagers.. Great!

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  6. Dear Reji ,Army Wives are great ladies ,,,there is just no doubts about it ,,,the way they handle all types of situations when their husbands are away on Borders or elsewhere ,,,the way they handle their children ,,,just remarkable ,,,Our Best Wishes to Marina ,,,God bless you and the family ,,,Stay blessed ,Stay in touch .

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You have a good human story and you tell it well, as always. You and the family have struggled. You have under stated the challenges, as is your won’t. More effective. Enjoy Canada and its benign environment. You and the family deserve the time together.

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  8. Kudos for the bold decision, detailed planning & superb execution which saw the family migrate from India to Canada. No words to express the courage & determination of Mrs Marina, greatly aided by her intellectual ability which hastened the process. I am sure even being relieved from the army for Col Reji may not have come easy as per the schedule. As always, well narrated & interesting.

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    • Every thing happens with the Will of God Almighty ,,,and HE showers HIS blessings ,wisdom ,the thought process to a person accordingly ,,,,you took the right decision ,,,yes ,bold of course and your vivid description amply justifies it .,,,

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  9. Reji – It was a very interesting read. A very determined and committed wife, an understanding and accommodative husband and children who coped the change. God bless.

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  10. Bravo to Marina and every one in the family. I bet it wasn’t an easy journey for any of you. As they say, where there is a will there is a way. Look at you all today. You all have achieved more than one could ask for. Well done. What an achievement and satisfaction of “yes, we did it”.

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    • Amazing & inspiring! Rejichaya… These autobiographical antecedents are so dramatic, that you got to develop this into a screenplay! All 5 elements of a Shakespearean Play are found.
      1. The Exposition.
      2: Rising Action.
      3: The Climax.
      4: Falling Action.
      5: Resolution.
      Hats off, to Marina Aunty, You, Nidhi and Nikhil!


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