Ajit Kaur Rama
Ajit Kaur Rama (née Dalep), commonly known as ‘Jito’, was born on December 9, 1931 in Duncan, British Columbia to father Dalep Singh and mother Karm Kaur. She grew up in Paldi, B.C with two sisters and two brothers. She was the second oldest sibling in her family, following an older sister.
Ajit’s father, Daleep Singh, first came to Canada from Punjab in 1906 from the Village Bathal, District Hoshiarpur. It took him three months to arrive to Canada travelling by cargo ship, where he then worked at a saw mill in Paldi that was run by the Mayo family, earning ten cents per hour. Her father went back to Punjab, where he brought mother Karm Kaur to Canada from Village Pubowal, District Hoshiarpur, Punjab. Her elder sister, Swani Kaur, was born in India, and also came to Canada on this journey at nine months old. Ajit recalls what a difficult journey that must have been carrying a nine-month baby along onto a three-month journey trip to a new and foreign land.
Ajit Kaur fondly remembers living in Paldi as being ‘one big family’, with community members being treated as equals. She would go to school with children of different ethnicities, including Chinese, Japanese, and European families. She recalls all children co-existing within the community, as well as all the children playing with each other during recess time, with no discrimination or racism. After school, she would attend a Punjabi school where she learned to read and write Punjabi. As well as this, the South Asian elders in the community would speak in Punjabi.
Ajit Kaur lived in a simple house made out of lumber, with basic utilities. A wooden stove was used for cooking, and water was warmed on stove pots for bathing. She would also do laundry with a scrubbing board alongside her three sisters and hang the washed clothes on a clothing line for drying. Later on, her mother bought couches, round tables, and chairs. Celebrations included the yearly three day Paldi Jor Mela in July where sports would be played and prayers would be held.
Ajit Kaur had to persevere through difficult times, losing three of her immediate family members within five years of each other. She lost her mother to a ruptured appendix, her older sister to tuberculosis, and her father passed away in a mill accident. As a result of this, Ajit Kaur stopped going to school in fifth grade to focus on raising her siblings. As the eldest, she became the primary caretaker of her younger siblings. She would wake up her siblings and help them get ready for school. Her younger brother was only two years old during this time.
The community of Paldi worked to help Ajit Kaur during these difficult times. One of her neighbours taught her how to change her sibling’s diapers, as well as cook meals such as roti, a traditional South Asian bread. She also received support from a fellow villager who was a bachelor by the last name of Thandi. He even moved from Vancouver to take care of Ajit Kaur’s family. He sold his autobody shop in Vancouver to support the five orphaned children. Thandi was a village neighbour in India, who remained in Canada and never travelled back to India. He was popular amongst the children of Paldi for bringing candies every time he visited. He passed away two years after Ajit Kaur’s marriage.
Prior to her marriage, Ajit Kaur had only lived in Paldi, B.C. Aijt Kaur got married at the age of seventeen, on April 4th, 1949 at the Paldi Gurdwara. Upon her marriage to Beshin Singh Rama, more commonly known as Paddy, she moved to Queensborough, New Westminster. She raised three children- one son and two daughters. She recalls travelling to Vancouver Island with her family in the fifties to go to Vaisakhi parades held by the Topaz Gurdwara in Victoria, B.C. on a Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) boat with her extended family and young children. During these seven-hour journeys, her young children would play around with each other (as well as cause plenty of childish troubles!) on the boat. She has held a variety of different occupations, including working at a nursery, pea plant, and a Corrections Canada kitchen helper.
After her marriage, Ajit Kaur lived in New Westminster, Surrey, Abbotsford and Vancouver. She hopes that children nowadays will work on obtaining an education and career, as well as love and respect for everybody.