Third Annual Celebration of Punjabi at UBC, Vancouver, April 2/11

The Third Annual Celebration of Punjabi
at UBC
In honour of the memory of Harjit K. Sidhu
Saturday, April 2, 2011

Program
2 p.m.
Welcome and introductions
2:15-3:15
Lecture by Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair, University of Michigan
“Beyond Secular and Religious Apologetics: Re-evaluating the Concept of Shabad Guru”
3:15-3:45
Lifetime achievement award for local Punjabi-language writer Ravinder Ravi and
awards for student essay contest winners.
3:45-4:00
Tea and coffee
4:00-5:30:
Student performances from the Punjabi 200 class at UBC, and short documentary video projects by Punjabi 300 students

Today’s lecture
Beyond Secular and Religious Apologetics: Re-evaluating the Concept of Shabad Guru
Arvind-pal Singh Mandair, University of Michigan

Arvind Mandair is Associate Professor and S.B.S.C. Chair of Sikh Studies at the University of Michigan. His recent publications include: Religion and the Specter of the West: Sikhism, India, Postcoloniality and the Politics of Translation (Columbia University Press, 2009); Secularism and Religion-Making (co-edited Oxford University Press, 2011); and Teachings of the Sikh Gurus (Routledge, 2005), co-authored and co-translated with Christopher Shackle. He is a founding editor of the journal Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture and Theory and is Assistant Editor of the journal Culture and Religion, both published by Routledge.

Lifetime achievement award for local writer Ravinder Ravi
Every year this event honors a local writer either for overall contribution to Punjabi literature or, every other year, for a recent contribution to Punjabi literature. This year, we are proud to honor Ravinder Ravi for his overall contribution to Punjabi letters and the Punjabi literary world both in BC and abroad.

About Mr. Ravi
Ravinder Ravi was born on March 8, 1937 in Sialkot, in present-day Pakistan. His first book in Punjabi “dil dariā samundarõṅ ḍūṅge” or “The River of Hearts is Deeper than the Ocean,” was published in 1961. During his long literary journey, he has written 18 poetry collections, 12 poem-plays, 9 collections of short stories, one travel narrative, and two literary autobiographies, and has written or edited a dozen or more books of criticism or prose. He taught in Kenya, British Columbia and Punjab and retired from teaching in 2003. Today he lives in the British Columbia city of Terrance.
The decision to award Mr. Ravi this honor was made by a committee made up of representatives of the University and the B.C. Punjabi language literary community.

Harjit Kaur Sidhu
This program has been established in loving memory of Harjit Kaur Sidhu (nee Gill), devoted wife, mother, and strong advocate for education, Punjabi culture and language, and women’s issues.

Mrs. Sidhu was born in Amritsar in 1937. She grew up in what is now Pakistan and resettled with her parents, brothers and sisters in Ludhiana after partition. She received both an MA and MEd. She went on to lecture at Sidwa College in 1966 and 1967. She immigrated to Canada with her husband, Balvindar Singh Sidhu, in 1968. The couple lived in the Yukon for 32 years, during which time Mrs. Sidhu’s passion became early childhood education. After the birth of her sons Ravindar (1971) and Rajvindar (1972), she worked as a teacher in multiple early childhood settings: preschool, prekindergarten programs and in kindergarten.

In 2001, Harjit and Balvindar moved to Vancouver where there youngest son was a practicing dentist and where, later, their oldest son started a career at UBC as a surgeon in the Faculty of Medicine. During her time in Vancouver, Harjit rediscovered her passion for Punjabi language and culture. She was a strong advocate for Punjabi culture, and for women in Punjabi society.

After two and a half year courageous battle with cancer, she passed away in her home on July 23, 2007. She is survived by her husband, two sons and their wives, two grandsons and one granddaughter.

Sincere thanks to the Sidhu family for making this program possible, and to the students, writers, and Punjabi cultural enthusiasts who contribute so much to the life of Punjabi in British Columbia.
Special thanks to Ranbir Johal of Kwantlen University; the Punjabi Language Education Association, its President Balwant Sanghera, and all its members; and to the members of the Writer’s Award Committee for their support, collaboration, and for making this event possible.

Organized by
The Department of Asian Studies
University of British Columbia
1871 West Mall
UBC Asian Centre
Vancouver BC V6T 1Z2
Anne Murphy
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UBC Students of Punjabi Literature, Delightful Performers!

This post was going to indulge in a discussion on different ways to further develop Punjabi literary communities in Canada with reference to the UBC Conference on Modern Punjabi Literature but then Sadhu Binning sent me photos that brought back all the smiles and laughs drawn by a skit performed by the ‘junior’ students of Punjabi at that Conference.

The package also includes an expected group photo with newly emptied tables that i am happy to present to you here.

UBC Conference on Modern Punjabi Literature, First Day

For the rest, please stay posted.

The skit ‘Mr. Binning’s Retirement’ was presented by the UBC students of Punjabi to celeberate the life long tenure of their teacher Sadhu Binning. A 20-delightful-minute long exploration of all available career options of a retired South Asian Canadian teacher of Punjabi literature in Vancouver, the skit was a light-hearted view of a teacher and the system.

Before we proceed further, it will be helpful to see this mobile-phone photo of a youth who could so easily project the body language of his teacher.

Sandhler as Mr. BinningShamsher Sandlas, the ‘Mr. Binning’, ready to hail Nasiruddin Shah?

The ‘Mr. Binning’ character played by Shamsher Sandlas brings out all of Sadhu’s laid back mannersim where though disinterested in climbing social ladders, he does oblige Mrs. Binning (Rupinder Gosal) time and again by giving a good shot to each presented career choice by turning it into a viable opportunity. From making an on-the-spot call to Actor Om Puri in India and arriving there for an audition on the next flight from Canada- to playing golf with BC Liberal Politician Ujjal Dosanj as a career move- to going all out for a chance to become a Punjabi Pop Singer- Mr. Binning tries everything with mild enthusiasm, and good-natured submission to various hiring requirements. Yet he FAILs at everything. This leaves an open stage and eight happy artists to ponder over various new possibilities.

The Seven UBC Students who predict Sadhu Binning’s post-retirement career options as being NIL. Shamsher Sandlas (Mr. Binning), Rupinder Gosal (Mrs. Binning, in red shirt), Daljit Mahal (Om Puri, Ujjal Dosanjh), Harman Bains (Actress), Rupeela Gill (Director’s help), Akashdeep Villing (Actor and Music producer), and Aman Oberoi (Music producer) in ‘Mr. Binning’s Retirement’.

The Eighth, if you are wondering, is Sadhu outside the frame at this point; and, if you find that people are not standing where their names indicate than please be my guest because i also can not understand all the moves made by our youth.

Moral of the story? Mr Binning CAN NOT do anything but teach Punjabi, and/or that Mr. Binning MUST NOT do anything but teach Punjabi. Sounds good to me because i know that teaching Punjabi the last few decades has not stopped Sadhu from working on his creative writing, and that is what matters the most.

An interesting observation is that the teacher role of Sadhu presented by his students who all appeared to be second generation Punjabi Canadians, is the same as is revered in South Asia for centuries where the love of teaching a particular discipline makes a teacher a strong role model for the students or at least, someone that they respect, learn from and remember as they move along to shape their lives. Yet at the same time, unlike the traditional model of a teacher in South Asia, Sadhu does not create distance as means to command respect but remains informal and communicative with his students, a quality attributed to teachers in the ‘Western’ education system. The character that comes out is a cross between the two traditions.

Another observation is that each time Mr. Binning enters his living room and takes a seat after a day’s hard work, the ominious remote (weapon of TV) control finds his right hand in a brisk and un-observing manner, compliments of course, to the groundedness of Mrs. Binning played by Rupinder Gosal.

Daljit Mahal was comfortable with enacting both character actor Om Puri and our own leader Ujjal Dosanjh. Harman Bains and Rupeela Gill, the actress and the director’s assistant in the film scene, provided faster tempo and some tension to Mr. and Mrs. Binning’s slow and comfortable drawl. Akashdeep Villing (Actor and Music producer) and Aman Oberoi (Music producer) came out strong in their roles as well. And of course, in the shape of Shamsher Sandlas we may be looking at an expatriot Nasiruuddin Shah, to say the very least!

That was a lot of fun Shamsher, Daljit, Harman, Rupeela, Akashdeep and Aman, thanks; it was a great group effort to write/direct/produce the skit in such a short period of time. We also must thank Bibi Anna Kaur Murphy for her advisory role in the skit, and so, thanks Anne.

Also view Rana Nayar’s forceful comment on Modern Punjabi Literature at UBC: A Glass Half Full, that goes right into the discussion that is about to take place in the next post. Before we split, let me tell you that from 40-50 new people that i had the pleasure to meet, Rana Nayar got me the most confused in that after hearing his first presentation par excellence i was sure he was a British Punjabi from London but he turned out to be a Punjabi Punjabi from Chandigarh thus challenging some of my myths and assumptions.
No More Watnu Dur by Sadhu Binning
Earthy Tones by Gurdial Singh and Rana Nayar
Punjabi Books at Amazon