Surjit Kaur Tiwana

Surjit Kaur Tiwana was born in village Kumalpura, District Ludhiana in 1934 to parents Ind Kaur and Santha Singh. She grew up with four brothers and three sisters. Here, she studied until the fifth grade and then left school to get married to her husband Gurmit Singh Tiwana, who resided in a nearby village approximately six miles away.

Upon her marriage, she moved to her husband’s village where she proceeded to reside there for four years. Here she would take care of the housework, make rotis and look after the buffalos. She raised three children- the eldest son Gurcharan (Gary), the younger son Parminder (Peter) and her daughter Parmjit. After her eldest son, Gary Tiwana, finished his education in India, he proceeded to move to Toronto, Canada. Afterwards, in 1980, Surjit Kaur decided to move to Canada to look after her son’s children, alongside her husband and their daughter, Parmjit. Her son, Gary, already settled in Canada, had sponsored her, and she arrived to Toronto on an airplane from Delhi with a permanent residence visa in hand. Once at the airport, her son Gary and his wife picked up the three. Surjit Kaur continued to reside in Toronto for eight years, looking after the house and raising her grandchildren. 

Surjit Kaur recalls Toronto to be very difficult to adjust to. She remembers arriving to Canada in December, at a time when there was lots of snow- enough to nearly cover her door. She did not enjoy leaving her home. She recalls washing her husband’s clothes and placing them outside to dry, just like she would in India- but it was so cold that his clothes would become very stiff.

Surjit Kaur also moved around a lot throughout her eight years of residing in Toronto. First, she lived in a three bedroom apartment for two years. At that point, Gary bought a bigger house, where they resided for two more years. However, the house was too small and as the family outgrew it, they moved into a larger house. Surjit Kaur maintained a daily routine that consisted of housework and cooking for the family as well as taking care of the grandchildren. Gary and his wife would go to work, as well as drop the children off to school. Surjit Kaur recalls her husband and children telling her not to go to work.

After eight years, Surjit Kaur and her husband moved over to Abbotsford, BC, after her son visited it and enjoyed it. Her daughter continued to reside in Toronto, as her husband’s engineering job was established there. It was in Abbotsford that Surjit Kaur experienced what she believed to be an act of racism. As she was going on a walk, a nearby child came out and threw rocks at her foot and she bled through her walking shoes. Luckily, her son Gary had a friend that lived nearby who helped cast her foot. They called the police, and a case occurred. Surjit Kaur was called by the police to point out her attacker. After the case occurred, the child was found guilty. This incident was covered widely by the local media. A long period of time passed until Surjit Kaur was able to fully heal from this incident.

Surjit Kaur continues to remain close to her birth country, India. Over the course of ten years, she would reside in India for six months and then Canada for six months at a time. She has also noticed many changes within Canada. For example, when she first moved to Canada, she was able to fill a shopping cart with groceries for under fifty dollars. Groceries used to be very cheap compared to nowadays. When she first arrived to Abbotsford, Gladwin Road had lots of fields. She also feels as though the local Indo-Canadian children are becoming more ill-mannered.   

She remains close to her family in Toronto. Last year, she travelled to Toronto despite her poor back to attend her granddaughter’s engagement. She will be returning to Toronto in July, 2019, to attend her granddaughter’s wedding, despite her poor back. Her granddaughter convinced her to come, even saying that she would not get married without her presence.

Nowadays, Surjit Kaur lives with her daily routine. She enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren. She sends the message out that today’s youth should live with love and not bring difficulties to their parents. This way, both the parents and the children can live life a little easier.