Bhagwant Singh Jaganda
Date of Birth:
Village Shankar, District Ludhiana, Punjab
Bhagwant Singh Jaganda was born in 1924 in the village Shankar, district Ludhiana Punjab, India. He did his Bachelor of Arts degree in Ludhiana Government College, Punjab and then went to Europe and completed his Master of Arts degree. From there, he decided to try and come to Canada for his studies and started to gather information about the University of British Columbia.
Bhagwant Singh came to Vancouver, Canada in 1950 and was picked up by his friend because he didn’t know anyone else living in Vancouver. After that he went to his hostel where he stayed for a couple of months. His friend, ‘Dhaliwal’, advised him to stay at Fort Camp so he did. When he reached the campus, Bhagwant Singh recalls the camp’s warden handing him a blanket, some bed sheets and a pillow which only increased his sense of loneliness. Soon after however, he started playing hockey and made many new friends.
In 1908, the Sikh temple in Vancouver was built which was during a time when there was only approximately 2000 South Asian people living there at the time. Many years later, in 1952, a man named Malkeet Parhar raised the question of why Sikhs that don’t wear turbans couldn’t be a part of the executive team. After that Sikh men who didn’t wear turbans were also allowed to be a part of the executive committee of the Khalsa Diwan Society, Vancouver. The first person that didn’t wear a turban and became the president of the temple was a man named Naranjan Singh Grewal. Once that happened, five or six Sikhs with turbans left the committee. They didn’t think it was right so they opened their own temple called the Akali Sikh Gurdwara. It was during this time that Bhagwant Singh became the vice-president of the Khalsa Diwan Society, Vancouver gurdwara.
In 1956, Bhagwan Singh got a job with the Burnaby Planning Department. It was around this time that he went back to visit India which was after 11 years of him having first come to Canada. He was able to go for one month and three weeks; however, soon after he arrived his parents decided to get him married. Because of this, he asked for many extensions from work for his vacation and by his third extension, he was married. In 1962, Bhagwant’s wife and kids came to Canada.
Not many people celebrated holidays such as Diwali at the time according to Balwant although he does recall that everyone would go to Victoria for the Vaisakhi Mela (fair) and Vancouver for Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s Gurpurab celebrations. Bhagwant Singh would collect donations for celebrating India Day. One day, Bhagwant Singh recalls when he went to Hillcrest collecting donations that a very nice man gave him a very generous donation. They were all sitting on the sofa when the man pulled out a cheque for $25. Bhagwant was a bit hesitant to take it and the man noticed this and told Bhagwant that he would pay for any leftover costs for the event. Such was the generosity of communities then according to Bhagwant Singh.
He shares that he will also never forget an incident when a man named Bachan Gurm gave him $100 just because their families knew each other. In those days, his rent alone used to be $40 a month, and so someone giving $100 to a near stranger was indeed a big deal.
Bhagwant Singh also faced some situations where discrimination was involved. One of his friends was denied entry to a movie theatre just because of his turban. However, Bhagwant Singh and his friends went, fought for equality and were able to go in. Another time he and his friends were at a beer parlour and were not being served. Rather than leaving, he and friends stayed and waited for a long time until eventually, they were given their drinks.
Bhagwant Singh has also written an autobiography which explains in detail when and why he came to Canada and explains his journey throughout. Bhagwant Singh holds great importance for his elders. According to him, if it wasn’t for them, he would have never come so far in his life.