Manjit Manhas

Date of Birth:
1961
Birthplace:
Punjab, India
Current City:
Golden, BC

Manjit Minhas was born on August 20, 1961 in Punjab, India. He was one year old when he and his family immigrated to England and lived there for around four-five years. Manjit was five years old when he immigrated to Canada with his mother and sister, and his father had been in Canada six months prior to their arrival. They flew into Calgary and then travelled to Nanaimo, where his father was living. Manjit and his family lived in Nanaimo for six months and then moved to the city of Golden to work in the mills in December, 1968. The Minhas family settled in Donald, BC and lived towards the Columbia Valley.

Manjit remembers that the Punjabi community in Donald lived together, cooked together, ate together, and slept in the same bunk house. Their community in Golden was very close. Because they all lived together, one person would make rotis (Indian bread), one made the dal (lentils) and the sabzi (vegetable dish) and everyone would eat together depending on the shifts at the lumber mill.

Eventually, Manjit’s father rented a trailer where the family lived for lived three years. Manjit believes that their community slowly, once their feet were on the ground, started buying homes in Golden. Manjit went to school in Donald and later the family moved to Parson.

Manjit recalls that it was difficult because the family was starting over. The family experienced hardships. For example, in order to cook, Manjit’s mother had to search for wood, put it in the stove, and heat water which would have to be brought from the well outside. There were seven children in the family; four siblings were with him and his older brother and sister joined them a few years later in Canada. In the words of Manjit, the winters were harsh, cold and not too many people drove or had vehicles. His father would drive to Calgary to purchase flowers, which he would sell in Golden. To get from Donald to Golden to buy groceries, everybody got together and once a month you came to Golden to buy your groceries. Schooling was a bit difficult for him as he was the only brown child in his class and Manjit experienced racism.

The Punjabi community would rent space in a building, then called Snow King’s Castle. The community would have Punjabi functions, prayed and watched Indian movies there. Punjabi people worked hard and people mostly got married in their homes, as did Manjit’s brother. The Gurddwara was built later and Sundays spend there were a special time for the Punjabi community.

Manjit identifies himself as a Sikh Indo-Canadian and visits India with his family every two years. He wants his children to know about the culture of India and take them whenever possible.