What does the woman's decision to work and provide for the family symbolize in "Montreal 1962"?

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The short story "Montreal 1962" is a powerful story about immigrants in Canada. It was written by Shauna Singh, herself a descendant of Indian immigrants.

In many ways the short story was inspired by her parents' story. They moved to Canada but moved back to India after only a few years because being a Sikh in Canada was difficult and seemed unsustainable.

This story examines why it is so difficult to cross cultural barriers and start over in a new country, especially when moving between such different cultures as India and Canada.

One of the most powerful lines in the story is this:

No one said then, "You must be reborn white-skinned—and clean-shaven to show it—to survive."

It captures the feeling the couple shares that they are not able to adjust to life in Canada without giving up their cultural identity—which in the story is shown by the request for the husband to remove his turban and cut his hair if he wants the job.

The couple at first seem defeated. Their savings are dwindling, and they aren't sure how much longer they will be able to survive in Canada without a job. They've faced opposition and xenophobia.

However, the story shows the wife's determination to hold onto their culture and their identity. She spends hours washing her wedding sari and her husband's turbans in their apartment bathroom.

The brightly colored cloths bring a new life to the apartment and a new motivation for her. She puts the turban on herself as a symbol of the strength of her husband and father.

She determines that she will work if she needs to, and she will do everything in her power to see that her husband is not forced to give up his identity to survive.

The line following line symbolizes her commitment to her family:

My father came to this country with very little but his turban and my mother learned to work because no one would hire him.

She is willing to work if he cannot, because she is not willing to give up or allow him to give up.

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