Sucha Singh Bagri arrived in Canada with his father Harnam Singh Bagri on Feb 2, 1935, on the **Empress of Russia, **wearing just shorts and a light jacket. Apart from the overwhelming cold, Sucha has fond memories of his first few days in B.C.
"My father took me around and introduced me to all the white farmers in the [Ladner] area," recalls Bagri. "I think he was quite proud of his only son."
Harnam worked on several farms in the area and Sucha, who was nine years old, started Grade 1.
In 1938, a group of men from Hollywood came to Ladner in search of an East Indian boy to star in a movie called **Gunga Din, **says Bagri. "When they came to my school we had no idea what Hollywood was. People told my father that these men might be lying. They said they heard children were being forced into the army," recalls Bagri. He didn't realize until much later, he says, that he may have missed a great opportunity.
When he was 15 years old, Bagri reluctantly boarded the **Empress of Asia **to return to India with his father. He was told that it was time for the marriage that had been arranged for him when he was five years old. He spent the next nine years working on the family farm in Punjab with his wife, Chanan Kaur Sidhu. The couple had three children by the time Bagri came back to B.C. alone and settled in the remote town of Youbou, where he worked in the local sawmill for five years. His next visit to India was in 1955. He stayed there for three years and he and his wife and had two more children.
After returning to B.C., Bagri eventually became a travelling furniture and appliance salesman. Although the pay, at a dollar an hour, wasn't particularly attractive, Sucha preferred the job to working in a mill.
"It was hard back then," says Bagri, who travelled and made sales calls with his friend and colleague Sandy Sandhu. "At least I was alone, but Sandy had a family in Lake Cowichan. We had to make the best of it.
"Our biggest hook was the TV. At that time the TV was really new and not many people had seen one. We would go to the door of a house and ask them if they wanted a free demonstration. Most of the time, they would say yes because the demo was free," says Bagri.
He spent the next 10 years on the road, using Kamloops as a stopping ground. With no permanent address of his own, Bagri used a friend's home address to receive mail from his family in India. "There were a lot of letters coming to that house in Kamloops for other people who didn't have addresses, either," he says.
The Bagri family was eventually reunited in Kamloops and they bought their first house there in 1968. "The new life was a hard adjustment for them," says Bagri. "Financially it was tough, but we managed to get three meals a day."