Roni Purewal

Date of Birth:
Village Salishankar, Punjab
Current City:
Golden, BC

Roni Purewal was born in the village Salishankar, Punjab, India on September 15th, 1965 and immigrated to Canada on February 10th, 1970. She was five years old when she landed in Vancouver with her parents and lived in Victoria for three months with her mother’s brother and his family. Her father began working in the mills of Donald, BC and Roni remembers the shack that they lived in. It was a two-room shack with beds and the sitting area, the kitchen and a small washroom but no shower or bathtub. Roni remembers that the shack did not have any hot water and her mother would bathe her in the kitchen sink.

The Purewal family bought a trailer the following year because they had another child and Roni’s mother insisted on getting a better place with proper facilities. Roni completed her high school in Golden, BC and moved to Victoria for two years to pursue her higher education. After she moved to the University of British Columbia, where she got her education degree and currently lives and teaches in Surrey, BC. Roni shared a story where she was deeply impressed by her teacher, Mrs. Profit and how she was kept back in grade 1 with other Punjabi friends she had made in school. She was told to repeat grade 1 as her English verbal skills required improvement, according to Mrs. Profit, her teacher.

Roni recalls that the children in her junior school class were half Punjabis and the other half were different ethnicities. Roni vividly remembers her lovely childhood days when she would wake up early in the morning and would quickly brush her teeth, have a little bit of breakfast and rush outside to play with the other children. She remembers playing games like hopscotch and seven-up and bike riding for miles during the summer. According to Roni, nobody ever locked their doors and everybody trusted each other. Her parents would have their friends over and they would socialize and support each other. Rivers Park was a popular destination for Punjabi families to get together and spend time with each other. She believed that there were around 70 Punjabi families living in Donald when she was growing up.

She considers herself Canadian as she believes that a lot of her values remain the same based on her upbringing by her parents that came over here when they were about 30 years old. She was educated in Canada and also assimilated into the general stream of the Canadian society. She remembers that her parents didn’t want her to go to parties and Punjabi children were raised very traditionally and we had long hair.  They weren’t allowed to cut their hair, wear makeup and wear shorts.

According to Roni, Indian festivals such as Diwali and Vaisakhi were not celebrated to a large extent in Donald in the 1980’s as done in Vancouver because there wasn’t enough space for people to congregate and there was no gurdwara (Sikh Temple) where everyone could get together. There were no Indian sweet shops to purchase sweets from like it was in Vancouver. She remembers that people usually went to Calgary as well, however, any Indian fabrics or sweets or a would be given to them by families visiting from Vancouver.

She wants her children to know and learn old traditional Indian values of loyalty, honesty, to work hard and to realize one’s dreams. She believes that Canada is a wonderful country where laws are respected, human rights are respected and people live in safety and freedom. Roni has achieved a Bachelors of Education from the University of British Columbia, a diploma from Simon Fraser University in literacy and also her masters in leadership from the state university of San Diego. She currently resides in Surrey and teaches English to students and wants her children and students to do well in life.