Davinder Singh Dhani

Date of Birth:
Nangal, District Ropar, Punjab
Current City:
Vancouver, BC

Davinder Singh was born near Nangal, Dist. Ropar, Punjab, India and raised in Delhi. After completing his college education, he moved to Canada with his family in 1975 at the age of 20. His aunt and uncle were based in Vancouver and so Davinder and his family stayed with them for the first month and shifted to Burnaby after his father bought a house there. Since Davinder was raised in Delhi, he didn’t face any language problems in Canada but did find the cultural aspects to be quite different.

The first five years were filled with struggles according to Davinder. He wanted to study further but started working in the restaurant industry and continued his studies part time. In those days, there were only three or four Indian restaurants around the Vancouver area and he started working in the one on Main Street. He worked there for five years, gained managerial experience and furthering his studies for one or two years to complete his education in pipeline designing. In 1982, when the economy underwent a recession, Davinder bought his first restaurant and has been in the same industry for over 40 years now. He opened various other restaurants during this time.

Apart from this, Davinder and his sister also ran a billingual Hindi and Punjabi weekly radio show called Gitanjali from 1978 to 1981. During this time, they received many positive responses from the community about the radio program. He also used to host various Bollywood stars at his restaurant including big names such as: Jagjit Singh, Om Puri, Dev Anand, and many other well-known personalities.

Davinder believes that the community set up was very different in the 1970s because the size of the Punjabi community in Vancouver was much smaller and he hardly knew ten or eleven Sikhs who wore a turban. There also wasn’t much awareness among the people about the Sikh and Punjabi community, which was why Davinder believed they were called names such as “Hindu.” However, he feels like a lot of changes came in the 1980s and people started gaining a lot of awareness about Punjabi culture. In fact, he feels that having an Indian restaurant became a medium for people from other communities to learn about Punjabi culture as they found it very interesting to learn about Punjabi food.

Davinder has been living in Vancouver for the past forty to fifty years and feels that it’s a very safe and pleasant city. He still continues to run his restaurant and hosts several Bollywood artists who visit Vancouver regularly. He believes that there are a lot of doors open for newly arriving immigrants these days, but the real struggle was faced by the ones who came before him and set up the base for future immigrants. He visits India every four to five years and recently got the opportunity to meet the His Holiness the Dalai Lama.