Becoming Canadian: Pioneer Sikhs In Their Own Words


Section 5

The Sikhs’ social circle was very restricted, since work took up much of their time and energy. Any free time that remained was spent in the
Inside Vancouver Sikh Temple on 2nd Avenue
Inside Vancouver Sikh Temple on 2nd Avenue
company of their family or fellow Sikhs at their homes or at the gurdwara. They seldom ventured far from these three venues: work, home and temple.

After work, during the week, the Sikhs would socialize amongst themselves in their homes or bunkhouses. They seldom went out since they were too tired and had little time or money to spend on entertainment. On most occasions they would talk about conditions here or in the villages in India, or talk about politics, drink tea and find other ways to amuse themselves. Ranjit Hall recalls his life at Fraser Mills in 1924, when he was seven years old: " We played ghuli-dhanda [a Punjabi game], and we played all these other kinds of games there with the grownups. They included me, I was the only kid around, the rest were all adults. I have a fond memory of Fraser Mills. Even at that age I could read Gurmukhi [written Punjabi] quite well. These fellows, older men, would sit in the sun, in the evening. They would sit there and just sort of rest for they’d done a hard day’s work. Sometimes on the weekend they’d be resting after washing their clothes and so on. They somehow got to know that I could read Gurmukhi. Somebody gave me a Banda Bahadur, a classical Indian tale of a brave person. I used to sit there and read this to them. They would say ‘Ah ha, ah ha.’ I don’t know if they were saying that for my reading or if they were just enjoying their cups of tea. It was enjoyable for me and for them. "

There was a strong bond among the Sikhs in these times. Many older Sikhs lament the loss of that closeness with the growth of the community.
Mr.Amar Singh Mattu
Mr.Amar Singh Mattu
Mr. Amar S. Mattu describes the camaraderie of the early days: " We were so close then. One way or another we always tried to get together. We’d go visiting to one another’s houses. We’d walk right across town to where Manga used to work at Spencer’s house. We’d go visit him there. We were all guys, one or two years apart in age. We got together whenever we could. "

On weekends most socializing occurred at the gurdwara, the heart of the community life. Its prime function was a religious and social centre but it did much more that that. It fed the Sikhs literally, spiritually and figuratively. The temple committee and their religious leaders were in touch with every aspect of an individual’s life here and in India. They handled all births, deaths, marriages, engagements, celebrations, partnerships and petty squabbles. Their role involved counselling, mediating, advising, translating, housing, employment, health, communications, and the fight for justice and equality. Any action that was planned and any fight that was fought had its beginning at the temple. All Hindustani people were welcome there. " There were no differences then, " Lachman Thandi explains, " not like now, whether someone was Hindu, Sikh or Moslem. We never felt any difference in those days. There were some Hindus and some Moslems living nearby, not many, they all came to the gurdwara. They worshipped and ate with us, gave donations to whatever cause there was at the time. If we met them in town we’d offer to buy each other milk or tea. We never felt any other way. We all went to the temple together; but they were unable to join the temple committee, only Sikhs could be members. They did not seem to mind, though, since lots of us didn’t want that position. What was important was that we were together on the issues, like immigration and the major issues here and in India, and we were. "



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