A Dream Job in the North
by Sudhansu Majumdar
I was born and brought up in Calcutta, India. As a mechanical engineer I designed, built and commissioned water and wastewater treatment plants in many places around the world before migrating to Canada in 1997.
I lived and worked first in Toronto and then in Winnipeg. A week before I moved to Winnipeg, I was introduced to Nichiren Buddhism and began to apply its principles in my new workplace. I found that whenever problems popped up, by chanting for the happiness of all involved, I was able to quickly and easily bring about a resolution. I soon became accustomed to the local weather as well, which can reach -40ºC in winter.
In January 2006, I met an officer of the Government of Nunavut, one of Canada's northern territories. Listening to him talk about the various challenges for engineers in the frozen north reminded me about a childhood dream to live in the Arctic region. He spoke about Rankin Inlet, and I could see myself moving there. Soon after that I found a position advertised online, applied, and got the job.
Rankin Inlet, with a population of 3,000, is much colder than Winnipeg. Winter temperatures range between -40ºC and -60ºC, there are no trees, and the subsoil is permanently frozen. Any excavation work needs to be scheduled between the middle of August and first week of September, when the soil is partially thawed. The town water supply system needs to be in constant circulation; otherwise the water will freeze and break the pipeline. The water system temperature is continuously monitored, and hot water is injected from time to time to keep the temperature above 2ºC.
The wind in Rankin Inlet sometimes blows at more than 100 km per hour, and during winter there are often whiteouts, when visibility is severely reduced by snow and people are confined indoors. Most food has to be imported, with perishable products brought in daily by air from Winnipeg or Yellowknife. The local people fish and hunt caribou, cooking and preserving the meat in the traditional way.
I once had to coordinate the repair of a break in the water main, caused by frost heaving (soil movement). The temperature was -60ºC, with windchill at -90ºC, and there was no daylight. It was very challenging.
After a year in Rankin Inlet I had accumulated a lot of experience of working and surviving in extreme weather conditions, and I began to think about moving on. I chanted about my dream of living within the Arctic Circle and also began to look for a job in my profession there. Within a month, I read an advertisement for a position offered by the Government of Northwest Territories. I applied for the post, was offered the job, and moved to Inuvik in September 2007.
Inuvik is a beautiful small town with a population of 3,500. The local people are always friendly. Here the sun disappears for months at a time, but in the summer there is constant daylight. The air is fresh and pollution-free, and I enjoy skiing in the winter as well as hiking in the summer. The temperature is similar to Rankin Inlet, but there are trees.
As a regional project officer, I look after engineering projects related to the water supply and wastewater treatment systems, schools, colleges, health centers and government-owned facilities in the region. The management for these public works is challenging and different from similar projects down south. Resources and skilled personnel are scarce. I use my Buddhist practice to develop good relations and cooperation between all people directly or indirectly associated with the facilities. I always chant for the success of each project and for the happiness of all the people who are involved. I treat each obstacle as an opportunity to develop myself.
[Courtesy, April 2009 SGI Quarterly]