Jewels of the Qila
The Remarkable Story of an Indo-Canadian Family
Canadians categorize Indo-Canadians as visible minorities, yet the histories of their communities remain invisible. In Jewels of the Qila, Hugh Johnston draws on memoirs and interviews, newspaper articles and photographs, to tell the story of three generations of a remarkable Sikh family and the communities they lived in and supported in both Canada and India.
The Siddoos are Punjabi. Kapoor Singh, father and grandfather, arrived in British Columbia in 1912 and overcame racial prejudice and legal discrimination to transform himself from day labourer to lumber baron, publisher, philanthropist, and community leader. As he campaigned for citizenship and immigration rights for his people, he and his wife, Besant Kaur, fostered in their daughters a vision of service that, as adults, they fulfilled by establishing a family-run hospital in Punjab and by introducing a Westernized version of an Indian spiritual tradition to Canada.
Jewels of the Qila is about long, bitter struggles rooted in prejudice, race, and empire and about friendships built on shared goals, values, and experiences. The Siddoos are the heart of the story, but their history tells a larger tale of an immigrant community’s triumphs and tribulations and the strong connections that Indo-Canadians continue to forge with their homeland.
This book will appeal to anyone interested in BC history, Canadian ethnic studies, or the Punjabi and South Asian diaspora.
Hugh Johnston swept me away on the long arc of his narrative ... Jewels of the Qila is a deeply researched and engagingly written story of an unconventional family sustained by faith, friendships made and tested in Canada, and concern for the welfare of the people of India.
Johnston’s vast knowledge of Canadian immigration history has resulted in a book that will long set the standard for those aspiring to recover the social history of British Columbia.
Jewels of the Qila is not just a success story about one unusual family. This is a splendidly serious, smart and multifaceted investigation of events and characters in both India and Canada. Using Kapoor [Singh Siddoo]'s wide-ranging life as a prism, Johnston has provided an authoritative and engaging overview of Sikhs in B.C.
A wonderful book! Johnston brings his many years of scholarship to bear on a very important family narrative and history, one that spans several continents, generations, and regions in Canada.
Hugh J.M. Johnston is a historian affiliated with Simon Fraser University. He is the author of two previous books on Punjabis in Canada, The Voyage of the Komagata Maru and The Four Quarters of the Night: The Life Journey of an Emigrant Sikh.
2 Jagirdar Families
3 Emigrant Jathas
4 Settling in Canada
5 Trouble in British Columbia
6 Refuge in Ontario
7 Lumber Business
8 Women and Children at Mayo Siding
9 Village Life in Canada and India
10 Ending a Partnership: Life in the City
11 Citizens without Votes
12 A Real United Nations in Practice
13 Lessons about India and Spirituality
14 The Hospital at Aur
15 Finding a Teacher and Losing a Father
16 Marriages and Losing a Mother
17 Canada and India
18 The Span of a Century
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