Jagdish Sra believes he has the best of both worlds.
The Williams Lake resident was born in North India in a rural village about three hours by car from the Golden Temple.
English was taught in the private school he attended, so when he arrived in Canada ready to go into Grade 9 at Lester B. Pearson School in Calgary, language wasn’t an issue.
“I often stop and think how amazing it is that I know two different ways of life,” he says.
When he was 18, 19 and 20, he counted himself as one of the only non-whites among the 250 youths his age in the town of Grand Forks, B.C. where he was living at the time.
“I had a great circle of friends, but I probably only spoke my language about two hours a day, which is why I don’t have an accent today.”
In 2003, Sra returned to India to leisurely work for an uncle and, eventually, he was married to his wife, Pawandeep.
The couple’s first son, 10-year-old Sukhman, was born there.
After living in India for two years, Sra brought his wife and son to Canada to live.
Eventually the Sras decided to move to Williams Lake in May 2009 to take over Subway.
Today they operate two outlets in the city.
Their son Aikam, now five, was a month old when they arrived in the lakecity.
The Sras are members of the Gurdwara Western Singh Sabha Society, and like other members are busy preparing to celebrate Vaisakhi on April 13 at their temple, located on Pine Street.
“Bigger cities have a parade,” Sra explains. “They are having one in Prince George in May. Back home in India we would have one too.”
To celebrate Vaisakhi in Williams Lake, many will wear orange and gather at the temple to enjoy some specialty foods — lots of sweets and certain types of beans cooked with different sauces.
In Williams Lake 50 per cent of the food is prepared by the men, Sra continues.
“Our priest will sing our history so that everyone can understand it, some is sung in English for the younger generation, and the younger generation do prayers.”
In preparation, Sukhman has been learning to play the harmonium so he can sing and participate in the celebration.
Vaisakhi celebrates the day Sikhism was born, Sra explains.
“Guru Gobind Singh created the day.”
Normally around 50 people worship at the Gurdwara Western Singh Sabha Temple on any given Sunday, however, on April 13 Sra anticipates there will be more there because of Vaisakhi.
“People love the celebration,” he says.
The temple also broadcasts a radio station, airing music, spiritual lessons and history talks, 24 hours a day.
“It’s 94.3 FM. This is the only small city I have lived in and they have that.”
Both of his sons know the Punjabi language and Sukhman is fluent.
Because Sra’s parents live with them and they don’t speak English, the grandsons have had to learn the language to communicate with them.
Last week Sra boiled a batch of chai, using Red Rose tea, milk and spices for Sukhman to share with his classmates at Nesika elementary school.
“I just dropped it off, so I haven’t heard what they thought about it yet.”
The family loves living in Williams Lake because it is small and friendly, he explains.
“I know so many good people, I love it here. It’s very homey.”
Sukhman plays hockey and is going to give soccer a try.
Sra loves Banghra dancing and wishes it was happening regularly in Williams Lake.
“I’m pretty good,” he admits.
When asked why he doesn’t wear a turban, a smile lights up his face.
He cut his hair when he came to Canada, but plans to wear one again when he turns 55, he answers.