Surrey Khalsa Day parade organizer is fuelled by faith

VANCOUVER DESI

Gian Singh Gill

Behind the thousands of volunteers preparing the largest Vaisakhi event outside of India is the gentle guiding hand of Gian Singh Gill.

Gian Singh Gill is a man fuelled by his faith.

Known for his gentle demeanour, the towering Gill is the President of Dasmesh Darbar Sikh Temple in Surrey and the man behind the city’s mammoth Khalsa Day parade which attracts over 200,000 people annually.

For days prior to Vaisakhi, thousands of volunteers work feverishly to prepare the thousands of pounds of food which will be given away for free during the event. At a single stall alone, up to five hundred kilograms of cooked chickpeas or curried vegetables may be given out. Multiply that by over 100 stalls and it’s easy to understand how sold quanititie of flour, milk, and sugar spike during the month of April by multiples of tonnes in the Surrey area.

Yet walking through the throngs of people at Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar, Gill is an image of serenity, completely unfazed by all the moving parts.

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He inspects the shimmering golden float that will carry the Guru Granth Sahib, Sikh Holy Book. Strewn around the giant float on the ground are dozens of floral arrangements that will adorn the most important vehicle in the parade.

“Volunteers will soon have this float prepared for the Guru,” he said as the feverish preparations were underway. “The local Sikh community donates everything. They provide money, clothing, food and their time to make the whole event a success.”

As President, Gill is constantly moving from one meeting to the next. And when not providing guidance to a colleague in person, he is on the phone consulting with the many stakeholders in the event.

“We plan the parade with the help of City of Surrey, RCMP, Canadian Armed Forces, Fraser Health Authority and thousands of volunteers,” he says. “Everyone’s input is valued.”

This is evident in the temple dining room where a representative of Fraser Health has established a booth where food vendors can apply for permits to offer free food and beverages at the parade.

Gill was born in the village of Moga in the province of Punjab. His parents had six sons and three daughters, and when their son showed a special interest in religion he travelled to the ancient Indian city of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges where he studied Sanskrit for 12 years.

Fast forward 35 years and that religious education has become the basis of Gill’s presidency of Dasmesh Darbar. In addition to the chief executive role he has held for four years, the 57 year-old husband and father of two has worked as a mill worker at the Richmond Plywood Corporation since 1991.

He and his wife also own the Kwantlen Square Laundrymat – although Mrs. Gill generously allows her husband special dispensation to attend to his other two jobs.

“I’m very happy as a volunteer,” he said, “I get to deal with different people every day – especially the next generation of Sikhs.”

This content is produced as part of a joint venture between Vancouverdesi.com and the South Asian Post.

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