Nirmal Singh Sahota
Date of Birth:
Village Badapind, Jalandhar, Punjab
Nirmal Singh Sahota was born in 1974 in the village of Badapind, Jalandhar in Punjab, India. While a student at Government College in India he decided to go to Germany for work as there weren’t much work opportunities available in Punjab at that time. In 1969, Nirmal and his friends moved to Munich where they lived for four and a half years before moving to Canada.
In Germany, he spent his first two years learning German. During the day, he used to do odd jobs like distributing newspapers and attended school in the evening. He then took admission in Friesen University and enrolled in a beer brewing course doing two years of practical training in Munich.
In 1974, he came to Canada for the first time to visit his sister, who was living in Vancouver, BC at that time. During this visit, he was engaged and got married to his wife – Harjit Kaur – on July 27, 1974 and got his immigration status in 1975. After this, he sponsored his parents and two siblings to come to Canada.
His wife is a second generation Canadian, and it was her grandfather who came to Canada in 1905. After years of hard work and struggle, her grandfather was able to establish two successful businesses in Canada – Coal distribution and a trucking business. Harjit Kaur’s grandpa was also very involved in the community and was the president of the first Sikh Temple in Vancouver, during which Jawahar Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Ardit Singh visited this gurdwara in Vancouver. Nirmal’s wife Harjit and her father were both born in Canada.
Nirmal and his wife lived in Vancouver for the first 12 years of their marriage before moving to Kelowna in 1986. While in Vancouver, Nirmal started working in a sawmill after his father-in-law who worked as a foreman got him the job at the same mill. Nirmal earned $4 per hour at the mill. Then he got the idea of enrolling in a welding course in Burnaby, after which he working in the welding and construction business for 30 years. Along with this, he also did farming but had to sell his farm and shut down his construction business after suffering a heart stroke.
Nirmal shares that the community life was very different in the 70’s and 80’s as compared to what it is now. When Nirmal got married in 1974, he recalls that many people had not covered their heads while in the temple. Also, ladies avoided wearing Indian suits outside as they often became victims of racial slurs like being called a “paki.” When Nirmal and Harjit moved to Kelowna, in 1986, there were only fifty South Asian families, and most people worked in the farming and nursery area – people working in offices or technical professions were very few. There was only one Sikh Temple in Kelowna, and as the size of the community increased, a need for a new temple arose. Nirmal’s wife works in the unemployment office and helped the community raise $100,000 from the government to purchase land and build another Sikh temple along with a senior’s centre. Dr. Gurmit Singh Randhawa also contributed a lot in the society and was instrumental in the development of the temple.
Nirmal feels that because of the hard working nature of the Punjabi community, they are well respected by the people of the west. Because of this, the western community really supports the Punjabi community, and their endeavors like the Nagar Kirtan celebrations.