Jarnail (Rosie) Basran was born in New Westminster on Oct. 20, 1930, one year into the Great Depression. "Times were tough, people were riding freight trains, looking for jobs," says Basran. "I remember hearing my mom talking about **apnas ** who would travel with just a pack sack on their backs."
Basran grew up in the close-knit Indo-Canadian community of New Westminster's Queensborough neighbourhood. "Everyone helped each other," she says. "If somebody was out of work, other families would help. You would just go to their house and bring ** daal and rotis." **
Basran, whose father owned a trucking business, says the highlight of the week for her and her four siblings was when their father would take them into town on Saturdays. "The stores used to be open until about nine o'clock at night. A treat was an ice-cream cone, that was our treat."
Sundays were spent socializing with other Indo-Canadian families. "In those days, the gurdwara used to start at six o'clock in the morning and everyone went to church every Sunday. After church, people would visit each other. Hardly anyone had a telephone. You wouldn't phone anyone to tell them you'd be coming over. The door was always open. Nobody locked their doors. Everyone was welcome."
Basran was only 10 years old when her father was killed in a fiery truck accident. "My mother had nobody, " she recalls. "To help out, some people would take material from my mom and they would sew our clothes or take wool from my mom and knit our sweaters. There were also two close friends of my dad's and they helped us a lot by getting my brothers started in the truck business."
Basran is glad to see that Indo-Canadians today don't face the same barriers that people in the community confronted during her youth. "They (Caucasians) would give a job to their own first before they would give a job to an East Indian in those days. East Indians had to work so hard. Where there were two Canadians doing one job in a mill, there would be one East Indian doing that same job.
"It was hard to find jobs. After they started hiring East Indian girls and boys, it kind of changed."
Rosie Kaur married Resham (Ray) Basran in 1946. The couple raised four sons and one daughter. Ray Basran passed away in 1996. Today Rosie Basran lives in Queensborough, New Westminster, B.C.