Davinder Singh Dhani
Date of Birth:
Nangal, District Ropar, Punjab
Davinder Singh was born near Nangal, Dist. Ropar, Punjab, India and raised in Delhi. After completing his college education, he moved to Canada with his family in 1975 at the age of 20. His aunt and uncle were based in Vancouver. Davinder and his family stayed with them for the first month and shifted to Burnaby after his father bought a house there. Since Davinder was raised in Delhi, he didn’t face any language problems in Canada but did find the cultural aspects to be quite different.
The first five years were filled with struggles for him. He wanted to study further, but started working in the restaurant industry and continued his studies part time. In those days, there were only three or four Indian restaurants and he started working in the one on Main Street. He worked there for five years, gained managerial experience and further studies for one or two years to complete his education in pipeline designing. In 1982, the economy underwent recession, during which he bought his first restaurant. Since then, he has been in the restaurant industry for over 40 years now. He opened various other restaurants during this time.
Apart from this, he and his sister also ran a weekly radio show called Gitanjali from 1978 to 1981. It was bilingual – in Hindi and Punjabi – and they received many positive responses from the community. He also used to host various Bollywood stars at his restaurant like Jagjit Singh, Om Puri, and Dev Anand, among other well-known personalities.
Davinder shares that the community set up was very different in the 1970s. The size of the Punjabi community in Vancouver was much smaller and he hardly knew ten or eleven Sikhs who wore a turban. Also, there wasn’t much awareness among the people about the Sikh and Punjabi community, because of which people like Davinder were called names like “Hindu.” However, he feels like a lot of changes came in the 1980s and people started gaining a lot of awareness about Punjabi culture. In fact, he feels that having an Indian restaurant became a medium for people from other communities to learn about Punjabi culture as they found it very interesting to learn about Punjabi food.
Davinder has been living in Vancouver for the past forty or fifty years and feels that it’s a very safe and pleasant city. He still continues to run his restaurant and hosts several Bollywood artists who visit Vancouver regularly. He shares that there are a lot of doors open for the new immigrant these days, but the real struggle was faced by the ones who came before him and set up the base for future immigrants. He visits India every four to five years and recently got the opportunity to meet the His Holiness the Dalai Lama.