Date of Birth:
Amritsar, Punjab, India
Sukhwinder Kaur was born in Amritsar, Punjab on October 3, 1949. She had a degree in nursing and wanted to come to Canada for better opportunities. In 1972, Sukhwinder was married and since her husband, Dalip Singh, lived in Canada, she came with him in the same year a visitor. At first, Sukhwinder Kaur didn’t feel at home for the first year because she felt there wasn’t much of a social life then. She left it was a small community and it was quiet. Since her husband had gone to India to marry her, he didn’t have a job when he came back and neither did she. Since Sukhwinder didn’t feel at home, they went to Fort St. James to visit her sister-in-law. There, the community was also very small and quiet. It snowed a lot and it was difficult to go anywhere. Her husband had worked at the railroad for three days when they moved back to Vancouver.
Finding a job was very difficult for Sukhwinder. Although she had a degree in nursing, an agency told her that she had to re-take the course in order for her degree to be validated. Feeling hopeless she walked out of that office with her eyes filled with tears. However, with her husband’s support and encouragement she found a job without re-writing the exam. Sukhwinder’s husband had an interest in business; however, it was very difficult for him to find a job because he wore a turban. One day her husband called a local business owner and asked if they were hiring. On the phone, the owner replied saying yes, but as soon as he saw Sukhwinder’s husband’s turban he lied and said that they had already given it to someone else. Her husband went to a pay phone and called again, this time changing his name to a Caucasian name. Again, the owner said yes. When Dalip Singh went back to the store, the owner denied it again. When her husband confronted the owner, he replied saying that he wasn’t going to hire him until he cut his hair. Her husband told the owner that he wasn’t going to cut his hair for a job. Instead, he challenged the owner saying that he would open up his own shop near his. This is when Sukhwinder and her husband opened their own clothing store. On the first day that they opened, they made a $50 profit. That’s when they knew that the store was going to be successful. After working as a nurse for five years, Sukhwinder quit because their business was growing. After working at the shop for eight years, they made a bigger store right in front of the old one. When the business started to slow down, Sukhwinder went back to her old job as a nurse. Instead of selling retail and wholesale at the same time, they began selling wholesale only. For many years, Sukhwinder worked the night shift at the hospital. At one point, she worked two shifts a day. Her morning shift would go from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm and her afternoon shift would start at 3:30 pm and end at 11:00 pm. Before heading out for work, she would check her children’s homework and do their hair while they were asleep. Since she was at work the whole day, she regrets not being able to spend more time with her children.
There wasn’t as much of a community social life in the 1970’s as there is now. Everyone either went to the gurdwara or the movie theater on the weekends and even then only one Hindi movie played on the weekend. Sometimes they would go for walks. There wasn’t much that they could do because they didn’t have much money and Sukhwinder believed that many of the other Punjabi people avoided new immigrants from India. The Punjabi community started to increase after 1974. The only place that Sukhwinder met other Punjabi people was at the gurdwara. Sukhwinder and her husband took their children to visit India every two years because they wanted them to stay connected to their roots. As the eldest child in her family, she took up the family responsibilities when her father passed away. She sponsored one brother and two sisters to come to Canada and also helped out her other siblings. She and her husband also sponsored her in-laws and their family. Although Sukhwinder and her family faced a lot of struggles, they are now well settled. All three of her kids are successful and well educated.