By Peta-Gaye Nash
Moving to a new country, even one with a stellar reputation as Canada, is often not what immigrants expect. This is the main theme of Pratap Reddy’s debut collection of short stories Weather Permitting & Other Stories, published by Guernica Editions in 2016. This collection examines the lives of South Asian men and women who come to Canada for a better life only to experience the realities of winter, the difficulties of finding a job, and the changes and stressors that immigrating brings to their personal lives. “As an immigrant one must learn to not just eat but feast on humble pie.”
Reddy is a talented, insightful writer who brings to life the contemporary landscape of our home: Mississauga, Toronto and Brampton, with astute descriptions. “…it snows for the first time. It starts off gently like a shower of jasmine petals but soon turns into an uproarious maelstrom… In the afternoon, the sky clears as if by magic and sunlight spills like molten gold on the landscape.” Set in the Greater Toronto Area with landmark features such as The Path, Square One, Bombay Bhel, this modern work captures our now, and Reddy’s characters are impossible to forget. They are vulnerable, sometimes misguided yet determined and strong as they struggle to find their place in a land vastly different from the one from which they came. Weather Permitting & Other Stories is at times, humourous: “When the airplane banked, Toronto’s sprawl swung into view and I had my first glimpse of the CN Tower, rising like an upended middle-finger.” One character, Kumar, known for giving unsolicited advice but is indecisive and can’t get his life together, tells another immigrant:
“I advise you to take the road test in Burlington or St. Catherine’s – you can get licenses faster there.”
“What about Brampton?” I asked.
“If I were you, I’d avoid it like the plague.”
As with many short stories, the denouement is sometimes ambiguous. I was left thinking, “not yet. I want to live in this character’s life longer.” But that tends to be the nature of literature and the short story. Reddy resolves this by weaving some of the characters into each other’s stories. They reappear as an old friend might in one’s life.
The new Canadian literature is as diverse as its people. Reddy’s collection proves that good literature is easy to read and hard to put down. He uses common, everyday language with perception and insight. Reddy, who immigrated to Canada from India, is a writer to read and follow. As a child, he thought writers were magicians, the most wonderful artists. Weather Permitting & Other Stories is magical and a most wonderful and engaging read.