President, Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA)
Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) had a very successful International Mother Language Day celebration on Sunday, February 26. The 14th annual function was held at the North Delta Recreation Centre in Delta. Close to 250 attendees took the time to join us in this celebration. The program started with an impressive poem about Punjabi language by a strong promoter of Punjabi and UBC student Gurinder Mann, followed by a wonderful song “Ma Boli” by Tamanawis Secondary student Harmeet Gill. It was an honour for me as PLEA’s president to welcome the guests, recognize our Board members and give the audience an overview of PLEA’s efforts in promoting Punjabi in BC’s public schools, colleges, universities and the community. It is a great honour for me to work with very dedicated Board members of PLEA. They include Sadhu Binning, Parvinder Dhariwal, Harman Pandher, Parabhjot Kaur, Paul Binning, Ranbir Johal, Rajinder Pandher and Dayah Kaur Johal.
As part of this year’s celebration, PLEA decided to pay tribute to a great Punjabi performer and promoter of Punjabi language, Om Puri, who passed away a few months ago. PLEA’s Sadhu Binning, a close friend of Om Puri paid a very fitting tribute to this stalwart of Bollywood. Former Surrey Newton MP and promoter of Punjabi Jinny Sims commended PLEA for its efforts and urged parents to encourage their children to learn Punjabi. PLEA’s own Parabhjot Kaur emphasized the richness of Punjabi language and literature. Parvinder Dhariwal’s Kwantlen student Lang Kuoch explained the benefits of learning Punjabi. Kuoch, a Canadian of Cambodian heritage spoke about his love for Punjabi and its role in connecting with his Punjabi friends.
Every year, PLEA recognizes a prominent member of our community who has made significant contribution to Punjabi language and the community. Lumber magnate Asa Singh Johal is not only a respected pioneer of our community but also a very generous donor to a variety of causes. These include UBC, BC Children’s Hospital, and many other organizations. Mr. Johal’s generous donation to UBC has made the Punjabi classes possible there over the years. The story of Asa Singh Johal parallels the story of our community’s trials and tribulations in Canada. Mr. Johal, along with his wife Kashmir Kaur Johal and son Darshy took the time to join us on Sunday. Asa Singh Johal was warmly welcomed by the attendees. He was presented with a plaque by the organizers. Mr. Johal thanked PLEA for this honour.
Former OMNI Punjabi TV news manager and one of the voices of Hockey Night in Punjabi, Bhupinder Singh Hundal, presented an impressive picture of Hockey Night in Punjabi’s success, influence and popularity not only in the Punjabi community but also in the community at-large. He mentioned that hockey icons like Wayne Gretzky are also fans of this program and admire his team’s contribution. Bhupinder urged parents and students to be proud of their heritage and take pride in learning Punjabi. Surrey School Board Trustee Garry Thind commended PLEA for its efforts in promoting Punjabi in schools, colleges, universities and community. He pledged his full support to PLEA in this regard.
The main focus of this year’s celebration was to encourage our young students and give them the platform to share their poems, songs and essays with the audience. Here is a list of students who participated: Kamaljit Kaur Bajwa’s grade 5 students from Green Timbers Elementary School in Surrey: Sukhman Kaur Kambo and Sahib Singh Kambo, Ravinder Dhaliwal from Satnam Sangra’s New Westminster Secondary School, Harman Pandher’s grade 5 students from Beaver Creek Elementary School in Surrey: Ravleen Chharahhan, Ashmeen Sandhu, Navreet Virk, Parleen Sahota, Aarmen Sidhu, Surkhab Dhillon, Karn Sandhu. And Ravinder Parhar’s grade 6 Beaver Creek students: Gursagar Dosanjh, Guneet Jhaj, Sidakdeep Lalli, Giya Gill, and Jasmeet Sidhu.
Gurpreet Bains’ students from L.A. Matheson Secondary School in Surrey, Gurneet Kaur Sethi and Harnoor Singh entertained the audience with their lovely poems. Similarly, Amandeep Chhina’s students from Surrey’s Princess Margaret School -Loveleen walia,Ishreet Sran,Tamanpreet Behl,Prableen Rai, Ainroop Kaur- also shared their heartwarming poems with the audience. They were followed by Davinder Dhillon’s Beaver Creek grade 7 class: Rohan Verma, Sukhraj Gill, Karan Bains, Arjun Rai, Seva Pandher, Sehaj Bajwa, Gurdit Auluck, Sukhman Sandhu, Sanvi Jethi and Puneet Bhullar. Tajdeep Sandhu from Tamanawis Secondary was the final student presenter of the day.
Altogether, it was a very well attended and student focused celebration of our mother tongue Punjabi. Each one of the Participants made a commendable contribution to the success of this tribute to Punjabi. MC Harman Pandher, teacher in Surrey and School Trustee in Burnaby, did an excellent job in keeping everything on track. On behalf of PLEA I am very thankful to our media-both electronic and print- for their co-operation and support. Also, I would like to thanks Jas and Paul Binning for their on-going support and looking after the tea and refreshments on Sunday. PLEA is also very thankful to all of the well-wishers of Punjabi and volunteers including Chandra Bodalia, Makhan Tutt, Preet Binning and Sukhwant Hundal. Finally, I would like to thank my fellow Board members, volunteers and the community for their on-going encouragement and support.