By Mayank Bhatt
There’s a huge difference between history and nostalgia. A newcomer will generally be nostalgic about a place and a time left behind. But to integrate into her new world, what would help a newcomer is to understand the history of her new city, new country. Obviously, an immigrant can’t be expected to feel nostalgic about Toronto, or Vancouver, or Regina, Edmonton, Halifax and so on, make a connection by learning about its history.A sure-fire method of cultivating a sense of belonging to a place is to participate in historic events. Recently, I took a joyride on Toronto’s St. Clair West Avenue on a vintage streetcar. The occasion was the centennial celebrations of the launch of the streetcar. There were many enthusiastic city folks enjoying the ride. For many, it was a nostalgic trip down memory lane. They recalled their rides on the way to school, to work, on a date — everyone speaking simultaneously and everyone with a wistful expression on their face, reliving a moment from the past.
Sharing with them their nostalgia, reliving with them that moment in which they remembered a small period of Toronto’s history and how inextricably intertwined it was with their lives gave me a deeper understanding of my city and its people.
Public transit is integral to my life because I’ve never owned a vehicle. And using it every day has helped me understand my new home better, and that historic streetcar ride would change me forever, acquiring a new and more forceful connection to my new home.
Mayank Bhatt, an internationally trained journalist from India, writes about his everyday experiences as an immigrant in this column.