Surreypur – Where everybody knows your name!

Inderjeet Singh | Surrey, Canada | Asia Samachar | 11 April 2015


As we approach the dawn of Vaisakhi, allow me to share some experiences I have had in this city I now call home, which resembles Punjab, India more than Vancouver, Canada.  Am not going to mask its ills, and we do have some, but would rather share the positives as my mother always says, “always see the good in a situation”.

The term chardee kallaa is commonly used amongst Sikhs to depict a positive spirit, which was propagated by our Gurus, and practiced amongst the general Sikh populace, especially in India.  The Sikhs in other parts of the world, while they have become very successful, seemed to have forgotten this unique gift and concept.

When we first arrived in Canada, I was fascinated with the sheer number of Punjabi businesses. They run are construction companies, pizza outlets, electrical and plumbing companies, clothing and furniture stores. These are the same people, who till they came to Canada, did not have a clue on how to make, build or cook these things.

Like pizzas, for instance. There is a pizza outlet in every corner in Surrey and they make the best pizzas you could ever eat.  We call them Punjabi pizzas, for the way they top the pizzas with anything from saron da saag; vege pizza with adhrak and thanian; tandoori pizza etc. It is even served to you with sliced piaz (onions) and hari mirch (green chillies), just like any other Punjabi food. The Italians may have invented the pizza, the Punjabis have perfected it!

There is nothing that the Punjabis have not ventured into, and I am certain that it is due to this chardee kallaa spirit.  Whenever you ask a Paaji (brother) here for advise or an opinion, the most common answer or advise you will get is “Ho Ju Gaa” or “Kaardaa(n) Gey” [will be done or we’ll do it].  I love it! Even if your question wasn’t answered, you leave rejuvenated.

Raised, a Sikh lady, ran the Surrey mayor elections last year. She lost the elections. But her participation shows how deep the involvement of Sikhs in the country.
Raised, a Sikh lady, ran the Surrey mayor elections last year. She lost the elections. But her participation shows how deep the involvement of Sikhs in the country.

It is this “we shall not be defeated” attitude that has taken Sikhs in Canada to the upper echelons of society. There are almost 10 MPs in Canadian Parliament with two Sikh Federal Ministers currently serving in the Canadian government.  The former Premier of British Columbia from 2000-2001 was Mr. Ujjal Dev Singh Dosanjh.  Sikhs are in the RCMP, Canadian Army and now also serve as judges.

There are no less that 10 Punjabi dailies; countless Punjabi magazines which cover an array of genres from fashion to religion; three main Punjabi radio stations, featuring nitnem (Sikh daily prayers), kirtan (religious hymns), Punjabi folks songs, bhangra and contemporary Punjabi music, and television networks which primarily cover local news and news from Punjab. Being obsessed with ice hockey fans, there is a show called Monday Night Hockey, with Punjabi commentators who do a chakday phetay job!

The Sikhs in Greater Vancouver area also give back to society in the form of seva by serving the less fortunate and homeless by making langgar.  The Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen’s team serves between 650-800 homeless people every Sunday, come rain or snow, in downtown Vancouver. It’s been running for more than eight years now.

The Sikh Nation, as it is called, has now overtaken the Canadian Fire fighters as the largest blood donors in Canada.  These donors have helped a total of 92,000 lives, since its inception in 1999.

To raise funds for the new hospital in Surrey, Sikhs were again one of the largest donors. We are credited for The Guru Nanak Emergency & Trauma Center and The Mata Khivi Maternity and Birthing Unit, at the new Surrey Memorial Hospital, which was renovated in 2014.

Even my evening walks in Surrey are fascinating as you are constantly greeted with a warm “Sat Sri Akaal” every 100-or so yards, by a friendly Uncle Ji or Aunty Ji.  It always brings a smile to my face and a tingling feeling in the heart, which is an added bonus to my exercise.

Surreypur, there is nothing anywhere else like it; its also referred to as Apna Town or Amritsar West, and a place I gladly call home.


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[Inderjeet Singh is a Malaysian Apna, now residing in Surrey, Canada. He has always been active in Sikhi-related activities. He can be contacted at]


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