Maganth (Ram) Mogandas knows all too well what it is like to live in a country embroiled in ethnic conflict. He left his homeland of Sri Lanka because of the ongoing civil war between the minority Tamils – his family is of that ethnicity -- and the Sinhalese government. Even nine years after he came to Canada, Ram is still haunted by the memories of the fighting in Sri Lanka.
“There was terrible fighting,” he recalls. “One of my brothers got killed from the war.”
Many other relatives have also lost their lives in the conflict.
“They are still suffering, some of them,” he related.
Leaving the City of Jaffna to come to Canada as a refugee in 2001 in search of a better life, Ram has found it here in eastern Ontario in the Town of Smiths Falls.
He moved to the community of approximately 8,800 people, which is located less than an hour from Ottawa, the nation’s capital, in May after living initially with an uncle and other relatives in Toronto.
The 31-year-old says he was attracted to Canada after doing some research on the country, from its history to political system to job opportunities to “how they (Canadians) respect new immigrants.”
Being impressed with what he read, Ram decided this was a country in which he would like to live and he has not regretted his decision to move here.
Upon his arrival in Canada, Ram enrolled in ESL (English as a Second Language) classes and went back to school to complete the credits needed to obtain his Grade 12 diploma.
In addition, he decided to contribute to his new country by doing some volunteer work. He was a volunteer at World Youth Day 2002. This celebration of faith was started by Pope John Paul II with the 10th event in Toronto attracting an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 youth from around the world.
Having long had a love of cooking, Ram has been able to turn that passion into work here in Canada. While his first job in the restaurant business was as a part-time dishwasher, over time he exchanged this role in the kitchen for preparing finger food. Eventually, he “jumped into the real cooking” like pasta and other dishes. During his time in Toronto, he had the opportunity to work in restaurants serving Greek, Thai, Italian and Mexican food.
“When I cook, I have a good feeling,” he says. “I am so happy when somebody eats my food. It is 100 per cent satisfaction for me.”
And now Ram derives satisfaction from tempting the palates of Smiths Falls and area residents with his international cuisine.
He first visited the town with a friend in January 2010. During their one week stay, they were so impressed with what they saw and with the support they received afterwards from municipal staff in starting up a business that he moved here in May to become the manager of the new Chuckles Jack restaurant. At the restaurant, Ram has been able to put his culinary talents in international cuisine to work with Italian, Greek, Indian, Sri Lankan, Thai, Mexican and French dishes all being on the menu.
While Ram has only lived in Smiths Falls six months, he already considers it his home.
“I enjoy it here,” he says in praise of the town. “It is a very quiet place. The people are very friendly.”
One of the things Ram likes about Smiths Falls is its natural beauty, from the many trees that line the streets and surrounding area to the historic Rideau Canal, the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Ontario.
Ram is also pleased with the services available to immigrants in Smiths Falls and how people in the town make newcomers feel welcome. So much so that he would recommend the community to other immigrants to Canada and plans to apply to Citizenship and Immigration Canada to sponsor his parents to immigrate here from Sri Lanka.