Family eager to share stories of South Asian pioneers with all Canadians

  •, Hindustan Times, Vancouver
  • Updated: May 02, 2015 19:22 IST

Vancouver Desi will celebrate the Asian Heritage Month with inspirational stories of South Asian pioneers in B.C., in collaboration with 100 Year Journey founders Rana and Rupa Vig.

The 100 Year Journey celebrates contributions of 100 pioneers and commemorates the arrival of the Komagata Maru in Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914.

Some of these pioneer stories will be published on through the month of May.

“We had started to collect the stories of South Asian pioneers back in the mid ’90s when we were publishing Mehfil Magazine,” Rana Vig said.

“It was probably the most popular column in the magazine. When we stopped publishing in 2010, I knew in the back of my mind that I would one day publish a book as a collective edition of a number of the pioneer stories.”

The aim was to “highlight positives … the hard work and the contributions that the South Asian community has made to this country, rather than focusing on the dark side of a chapter in Canadian history,” Vig said in connection with the Komagata Maru incident.

“These stories of perseverance and humanity helped make our communities so vibrant and diverse today.”

But the project hasn’t ended with these 100 stories in a coffee table book.

“People are talking to us every day about their family history. This is exactly what we were hoping for — to start the conversation,” Vig said, adding “the next big project will be to build an incredible website that will house hundreds of stories.”

“Imagine if we had a place to go where we could learn more about our community, our friends, our families … all of our relations,” Vig said. “Imagine if we had a tool that we could use, ourselves, to make permanent our treasured stories and images — to capture the narrative that won’t show up in our history books.

“This is our vision for the 100 Year Journey web project: a digital archival system to collect the history and stories of the South Asian community and to place them on the free and open Internet, for now and forever.”

The Vig family wants to share this information, not just with South Asians but all Canadians, as they believe it will help the community.

“It will lead to better intercultural understanding which, if we do a good job, will lead to more respect for the community as a whole,” said Vig.

“After all, we all have to live together, and in such a diverse environment as our multicultural Canada, we’d better make great efforts to learn about each other or problems of intolerance and the like will persist.”

This is the reason they will be getting some of the stories translated into other languages, starting with French, Mandarin and Punjabi, Vig said.

A special handcrafted copy of the 100 Year Journey was B.C.’s official gift to Indian PM Narendra Modi when he visited Vancouver on April 16.

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