LAST weekend I was back in Ontario after 14 years (I was assistant producer with Roger’s multicultural TV, now known as OMNI, in 1999-2000) to attend the wedding of my best friend, Amarjit Ahluwalia’s younger son, Sabir, who was born in India before my friend and his wife, Reena, moved to Canada in 1989. I followed them here in 1990 and stayed with them in Toronto before moving to Vancouver the following year.
Indeed, how time flies!
Anyway, what really made this wedding so exciting for me, besides meeting with some friends after 14 years and some others after 24 years, was the experience I had traveling around with two young white guys who had gone to school with Sabir – Anders Robinson, who flew in from Alberta, and Jonathan Brown.
Both Anders and Jonathan wore spiffy “achkans” and fancy traditional Indian shoes usually worn at weddings – and turbans.
And they were all smiles, so proud of their appearance.
I decided to go with them in their vehicle as we headed from my friend’s house in Brampton to the wedding ceremony. They were in the front seats and I was in the back. At a red light, I noticed a white guy two lanes away staring at them with a quizzical expression that I found terribly amusing. I did expect him to blurt out something and told Anders and Jonathan to be prepared for it.
We weren’t disappointed as he soon rolled down his window, stuck out his head and yelled: “You guys aren’t from India, are you?”
We all had a good laugh as the lights turned green and we had to move on.
Then on our way back home after the wedding, we stopped at a Starbucks and all the customers looked really amused. The white woman in front of us in the lineup was all excited and asked them why they were wearing turbans and the Indian dress and shoes.
“Are you a boy band? … Just tell me your name – I know most of them,” she inquired in an excited tone.
“And why aren’t you dressed like them?” she asked me, as I was wearing a regular suit.
I told her I was their security guy and to keep a distance from them, much to everyone’s amusement.
We finally told her about the wedding and then she asked them if she could take a photo. As she focussed her camera on them, her daughter whispered something in her ear. I asked her what her daughter had told her and she replied that she wanted their fancy shoes to be included in the shot as she had been focussing primarily on their turbaned heads.
Then at another red light, a black guy rolled down his window and politely asked Anders and Jonathan if he could take a photo of them, and they posed for him with big smiles.
On the other side, some South Asian guys took out a camera too, but then the lights changed and everyone had to move on.
Anders and Jonathan were so thrilled with all the neat attention that they refused to take off their turbans all day!
This got me wondering why they had attracted so much attention because here in B.C. I guess it wouldn’t have been such an “adventure.”
Sikh groups have been organizing turban-tying events besides doing turban-tying at mainstream events, among other things. This kind of activity helps break down prejudice. I guess Sikhs in Brampton need to do more to reach out to other communities.
It was also neat meeting popular Punjabi singer Gursewak Mann, brother of Harbhajan Mann, who is a relative of Sabir’s wife, Gurpreet. He even sang at the wedding reception. He told me he was also a pilot and had actually grown up in the Lower Mainland in B.C. He and his brother are working on a new album.
I also got to meet with the NDP’s star MPP (as MLAs are called in Ontario), Jagmeet Singh, at the wedding. He had just been re-elected last Thursday from Bramalea-Gore-Malton.