Kari Gulati's fondest memories of growing up in Vancouver include frequent family picnics with her 10 siblings. "Mother would make rotis and we would go to Stanley Park, where we would have a picnic, swim or play baseball," recalls Gulati, who was born in Vancouver in 1933. "And my dad would often take us to a movie, which cost about five cents or three cents at the time, on Saturday afternoons."
Among Gulati's less pleasant childhood experiences were witnessing the ill treatment of her Japanese peers during the Second World War and living in fear of an air raid. "My Japanese schoolmates were taken away to the Interior to internment camps and we never did see them again. I would ask my big sisters why we had to have our windows covered with tar paper every night and they explained we couldn't have any light shining out. It was scary. Some of us would hide under the bed because we were so scared we were going to be bombed."
Gulati spent her early years in Kitsilano, where the family lived a block away from the Second Avenue Sikh Temple. The family's roots in Vancouver go back to 1904, when her paternal grandfather settled in the city. Her father, Gurdas Singh Johal, immigrated to Vancouver from India in 1926 and her mother, Bhani Kaur, arrived in B.C. in 1927.
"My mom was one of the first ladies here from India and she would help the ladies who came later adjust to the Canadian way of living. She would show them how to go grocery shopping, how to use a wood stove and she'd take them to school so they could register their kids."
Gulati's afternoons were sometimes spent attending Punjabi classes at the gurdwara. "The giani ji used to teach us children. That's where I learned to read and write Punjabi, which helped me with my job later on when I worked as an interpreter for CP Air."
In 1968, she met and married Suraj Gulati, then a captain with the Shipping Corporation of India. "After our marriage we travelled to India on a cargo ship named the State of Punjab," recalls Gulati. "We went to Savannah, Georgia, then to Mombasa, Africa, then to a port near Calcutta. Then we took a train across to Bombay, where the family was waiting to greet me. We stayed in India for seven months, then travelled to Malaysia, Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong."
Gulati spent two years traveling with her husband before the couple settled down in B.C. and he joined the Coast Guard.