Piara Hundal was 13 when he and his older brother were reunited with their father after 11 years. The boys had been living in India with their mother and three sisters while their father, Atma Singh, lived and worked in B.C.
"My father wanted both his sons to come to Canada right after the Second World War," says Hundal, who was born in 1933 in the village of Dhudial, Punjab. "We arrived in 1946, aboard one of the first passenger ships to cross the Pacific Ocean to Canada after the war."
After Hundal and his brother arrived, their father, who had been living in B.C. since 1935, bought a house in West Point Grey. Piara, who was nicknamed Perry, was enrolled at Lord Byng school. "I was the only East Indian student and I couldn't speak English" he recalls. "I was living in the house alone because Dad went to Port Alberni, where he had a job in a mill. With no one to make sure I went to school, I'd just stay at home half of the time. By the time Dad found out I wasn't doing well at school, it was too late and I quit. I went to work in sawmills and logging camps on Vancouver Island."
In the late 1950's Hundal moved to Regina, where he got engaged to a young woman whose family had recently immigrated from Germany. "We decided we'd move to Vancouver and I would work in the forestry industry again. Ricky and I were married in 1961 at the temple in Port Alberni, even though many people didn't like the idea of a white woman getting married in the temple. The wedding invitations went out and a lot of people didn't come."
Hundal says he's faced discrimination in one form or another many times over the years but decided a long time ago that he wasn't going to dwell on such incidents.
"When I first came to Canada, it bothered me. Then I thought, 'If I'm going to let this bother me, then I might as well go back to India.' But I decided no one was going to scare me out of this country. This is my country."
This interview originally appeared in the December/January 2004 edition of **Mehfil Magazine.**
The first member of the Hundal family to settle in Canada was Piara's grandfather, Hakam Singh, who arrived in B.C. in 1906.