Dr. Bikkar Singh Lalli
Date of Birth:
Dr. Bikkar Singh Lalli was born on June 5th, 1928, in a small village close to Phagwada, Punjab, India. The village he lived in had no schools so he went to another village for his schooling. He used to teach at Global College in Ludhiana. Later he received an opportunity for a fellowship at UBC in which they provided him with a one-way air fare. He came to Canada when he was thirty-four years old in November to do his PhD in Mathematics. He landed in Vancouver with a direct flight from India and UBC student representatives received him at the airport and provided accommodation. After he landed in Canada Bikkar Singh found his new home to be significantly different due to the different culture and different food.
In 1962, Bikkar Singh was teaching a second-year calculus class at UBC and three and a half years later, he completed his PhD. He lived alone for 11 years. Bikkar Singh noticed a difference in his weight during his education in Canada as he had gained twenty pounds because of the change in food and climate. It was hard for him to all of a sudden become a student after teaching for so many years. He felt a difference in the style of teaching in Canada in terms of the depth of the subject matter and the level of teaching. Though everything was hard to cope with, he succeeded well. During his first five years in Canada, he was living alone and was busy with his research so he had no distractions. During this time of his studies Bikkar Singh’s family was back home in India – he had three children who later joined him when he completed his PhD.
Bikkar Singh was an assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan in 1996 and within two years he was promoted to associate professor. Following this, and within the next six years he became a full fledged Professor. After two years as a Professor he became head of the department. During this time Bikkar Singh and his family lived in Saskatoon for 30 years. He knew some people living there and found it to be a good place to raise his children as it seemed to be an educated community. His children have all graduated from university. Bikkar Singh also kept visiting India for seminars and gave lectures at Punjab University, Chandigarh. He also gave lectures in South India in Madras at the Birla Institute of Technology, IIT and Bangalore Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. For his research, he would also travel to Japan, China, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Ukraine.
Bikkar Singh never faced much discrimination but did have some troubles finding housing when he first moved to Vancouver and then later on when he and his family moved to Saskatoon. In Vancouver, he had faced discrimination once when he was searching for houses and got rejected because he was wearing a black turban and had a beard back then. In Saskatoon, Bikkar Singh and his family weren’t able to find any houses for a while so they stayed in a motel for three weeks. When they found a house, the university helped them with a down payment.
In 1999, Bikkar Singh was elected to the UBC senate and and he served the university for eighteen years after which he stopped due to health reasons.
Regarding Indigenous peoples in Canada, Bikkar Singh has had a few experiences with Indigenous peoples, as he once stayed on a reserve with them for two nights. According to him they loved the South Asian community but lived a very hard life. Bikkar Singh believes that new immigrants that move to Canada should adapt to Canadian traditions. He also strongly believes that girls should have equal opportunities and access to education.