Canadian Sikh Heritage | Ossi Thandi
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Ossi Thandi

Ossi Thandi was born in Canada at nearby the Fraser Mills. Her family stayed there until 1950, where soon after they left Canada to move back to India. Ossi doesn’t know much about her family except that her grandfather and father both lived in Canada, as her family never really talked about their family history.  While living at Fraser Mills, Ossi recalls that there was a Gurdwara where Ossi’s grandfather was a priest. Ossi visited the Fraser Mills area for the last time when she came back in 1953 from India. In Fraser Mills there were only around five Indo-Canadian families lived, as well as some single Sikh and Japanese men, who resided there. Ossi with her family left to India so that Ossi could get married. Upon her arrival to India, she found India ‘okay’ as there was no electricity, she saw people sleeping on the sidewalks and also the journey it self was tiring and long because they had spent two months in the boat travelling, then stayed in Hong Kong for two weeks, then finally reached Calcutta from where they caught a train to their village

Ossi was in Punjab when her father began looking for a bride groom for her. He shared his intention with Tayee (ie. Mohinder Kaur Thandi, wife of Sundar Singh Thandi) who had a photo of Sucha Singh. Unusual for those times, Tayee suggested that the boy and girl see each other, and if they like each other then they could be married. Ossi’s father sent Sher Singh to got Mahilpur to meet Sucha, and if he approved of him then Sucha’s papers to immigrate to Canada could be filed. In those days it was easy to get visa. Sher Sngh met up with Sucha Thandi and asked him how he was related with Taya. Sucha also suggested that he will like to finish his grade twelfth in India. Ossi and Sucha got engaged and were soon married.

Ossi’s and Sucha’s journey to Canada was full of events. At that time Sucha traveled on Pan America flight that took them to Hongkong from Delhi. From Hongkong they had to take a ferry, President Cleveland. At Hongkong they had to stay for two days. Generally those traveling stayed at the Gurdwara. The Bhai at the Gurdwara gave them a room to stay. The matter was of serious importance as his wife was expecting by then. They stayed at the Gurdwara for one night and then moved to the Granthis house. He was kind after he saw that Ossi was pregnant.

The Granthi’s wife was Russian born and she did a lot for Ossi. They boarded the next ferry to the USA and landed at San Franscisco. In the boast they met with another Punjabi, who seemed to have been lost. After that they took train to Vancouver. They got off at Seattle where the train had to change. By evening they reached Vancouver, waterfront station. They had forty American dollars with them, which they converted into Canadian dollars.

They came over to Abbotsford and went to the Gur Sikh temple to pay their respects. They took a taxi, driven by a Caucasian driver, who assured them to safely take them to Sundar Taya’s farm. The roads to Abbotsford were small. Once you have been on the highway there was a farm of Hari Singh who was from Sucha’s village. There was only one gas station in Abbotsford. They reached home and the very next day went to the Gur Sikh Temple. There they observed that every one knew each other very well. Langar was being cooked and served.

“I found the Gurdwara to be simple and felt less people at the Gurdwara as compared to the Gurdwaras in Punjab. There was not that much of crowd in the Gurdwara. Nishan Sahib could be seen from a far off distance. It was made of wooden cedar tree trunk and had a bulb fixed on top of it. It was approximately 70 feet. I attended the first Jor Mela ceremony, which was the ceremony of the Guru Nanak Dev’s Prakash’s Utsav,” recall Ossi and Sucha.

Ossi recalls how the Gurpurab celebrations year around were shared among the various Gurdwaras in Victoria, Vancouver and Abbotsford. Since there were few car owners then, everyone gave rides to each other, especially at the time of Gurpurabs. Guru Gobind Singh birthday was celebrated at the Gurdwara at Vancouver; Guru Nanak Dev ji was celebrated at Gur Sikh Temple at Abbotsford.

Both of Sucha Singh and Ossi Kaur Thandi’s sons were married at the Gur Sikh temple. As such, Ossi feels very happy to know that the Gurdwara has been recognized as a National Historic site. She believes that through this Gurdwara the history of Sikh pioneers will be known to the world.