Village Paldi, Punjab
Tek Singh Manhas was born in the village Paldi in India. He moved to Canada in 1965 when he was one year old even though his grandfather had first come to Canada in 1921 via steamship. Tek remembers his grandfather’s stories about going to Chile and Guatemala as well as stories of going on a ship that left from Mumbai to South America. His grandfather relayed stories of having to work at farms for food because they didn’t have any money; however, they liked it in Mexico because the food was similar to Indian food. When they made their way to San Francisco, Mayo Singh the founder of Paldi sent a car and a driver to receive his grandfather because they were also from the same village in India. His grandfather came across the border with no paper work and settled in Paldi.
His grandfather’s original plan was to make some money and settle back in India; however, in 1954, his grandfather brought his son (Tek’s father) to Canada. After five years he became a Canadian citizen. In 1959, his father went back to India in order to get married. Tek’s older sister was born in 1960 and he was born in 1963. His father came back to Canada in 1963 and never went back to India. Soon after, Tek, his mother, his uncle and sister came to Paldi, BC in 1965 to join his father. Tek’s father faced many difficulties because of his turban. He had been a baptized Sikh since he was five years old and people were always telling him that he had to cut his hair in order to get a job. Fortunately, the Mayo lumber company had sawmills which continually employed people. His father was also the secretary and priest at the Paldi Sikh Temple for 25 years, a service that was provided for free. Tek, his five siblings and his mother also went to temple on the weekends when his father was there.
Growing up, Tek was the only boy that wore a turban and sometimes the other children would try to take it off. Since there weren’t enough people to go to the Paldi elementary school, they all went to school in Lake Cowichan by bus. Tek is very grateful that he grew up in Paldi because it was a very tight knit community where the Chinese, Japanese, Ukrainian and Punjabi people that lived there all stuck together. When Tek went to college in Nanaimo, he was once again the only person that wore a turban; however, when he transferred to Simon Fraser University, he met other students that came from India who were also wearing turbans.
For social gatherings, everyone, including all women, men and children would gather at the gurdwara. When the men were at work, the women would go to each other’s houses because in those days, women didn’t go to work. Not many people had cars and if they did it was only one. They didn’t have cable either and once there was cable, people had to go on top of the roof to fix the antennas. Tek’s family had a rotator on top of their TV so in order for the TV to work, they had to rotate it. Other than going to the gurdwara, they would play road hockey and Tek recalls that in the winter time he and his friends would go to the frozen pond and play ice hockey. The Mayo family had horses and a swimming pool so they would ask Mrs. Mayo if they could come over and play. Mrs. Mayo would happily agree and watched them play as well as give them food to eat. There was a sense of belonging in Paldi because all of the different ethnicities got along very well. The Sikhs would go to the Christian Sunday school and they would come to the gurdwara. There used to be a granthi who taught Punjabi but not many people went although Tek and his siblings did learn how to read and write Punjabi at home with their mother.
According to Tek, he would not have been the talkative and adventurous person that he is today without Paldi. They had an open door policy in Paldi where everyone had lunch and dinner at each other’s houses. In 1973, the Mayo lumber Company sold their mill. All of the houses were rental properties and thus owned by the Mayo family. Since people wanted to own their own homes rather than continue renting, they moved to either Nanaimo or Duncan. Tek and his family moved to Duncan in 1977. Tek also remembers when Queen Elizabeth came to the Duncan courthouse in 1970. Mayo Singh’s daughter took all of the children in her car so that they could see the Queen.
The last time Tek visited India was in 1973 when he was nine years old. He hopes to go back and visit in the next couple of years.