May 06, 2015 - Balvinder

May 06, 2015 - Balvinder (1st person I approached)
To be honest, the past few days have been, let’s call it ‘reflective.’ There have a been a few really great happenings, and then a few kind of flat line moments as well. Transition of any kind, is a challenge. In my case it’s striking out on my own, and pursuing this dream I have. I’m up for it. Some days are just a little tougher than others.


I decided it should be a park today. I needed to get out and be in the sunshine. I also was aware that finding a stranger to chat with would be just what I needed. I walked through a small park not far from my house, but didn’t see anyone that was sitting alone. The next park destination is about a ten minute walk. Along the way, I spotted the bright red of Balvinder’s turban, from across the street. Red is one of my favourite colours and the vivid warmth beckoned me. Just as I was about to walk over to him, he got up, and I thought I might have to chase him down. Fortunately for me, he walked to a newspaper box, returned a newspaper and went back to sit down. 


Balvinder told me he had “five or six minutes left of a break,” and that he would be happy to chat with me in that time. One of the recent changes I’ve made in my life, for now, is to cancel my phone and data plan. Trying to show someone my Facebook page to verify who I am, can then present a challenge (note to self - really need business cards). I showed him a couple photo’s that are on  my phone, of other folk I’ve chatted with.

“That’s fine, we can talk,” he said, generously.

“I was born in Ludhiana, near Chandigarh, in India. It is a large, popular modern city,” he said.

“I’m third from the top, and second from the last,” he told when I asked about siblings and where he fit in the line of children.

“I have two sisters and one brother. We were very close as a family, yes.”


“All of my schooling until university was in Ludhiana. After I graduated from high-school, we go to college in India. It’s like a preparation for going to work, or to university. You get a Bachelor’s degree from the four years in college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I started,” he said, smiling.

“I went into Sciences, but decided that it was not for me. So I studied Arts, Political Science and Economics,” Balvinder said. 


We had a discussion about Arts as a subject. I of course thought of painting and art history. However, Balvinder had studied liberal arts as in social sciences.

“And we had to study English as well, for the degree. I had started learning English since I was a small child. We were taught our lessons in Punjabi, we learned Hindi as our second language and English as well,” he said.


There wasn't much of a gap between his academic endeavours.

“After getting my Bachelors degree, there were not many jobs going, and so I decided I would continue with my studies,” he said. Balvinder went to Punjab University in Chandigarh, getting his Master’s degree in Economics.

“When I finished my Master’s degree, I thought I should take some class in computers, so I did a course in Computer Science. It was just for six months,” he said. 


“My parents met through an arranged marriage. It is our custom,” he told me.

“My parents chose for me as well. It’s not just about getting you married. They look into the background of the bride and groom-to-be. For compatibility, similar educations, interests. It’s not going to be a one hundred percent match,” he said, smiling.

“My parents chose well for me.” Balvinder’s family have had ties to British Columbia since the 1960’s.

“We had relatives that were here.”


Balvinder and his wife have three children.

“They are all grown-up now,” he said.

“One of my daughters is already married,” he told me. I had to ask if he and his wife were involved in who his daughter chose to marry. He smiled, telling me,

“Well, not in the traditional manner no. But we had met my son-in-law beforehand and the families met as well.”


Even though Balvinder kept his sunglasses on throughout our short conversation, I was surprised that he had three grown children. We didn’t discuss his age, but I did tell him he had a very youthful energy about him.

“Thank you very much,” he said, softly. 


He checked his phone for the time, and wanted to take note of my project.

“My wife looks after the Facebook,” he said, writing down the page name.

“It was good you found me sitting out here today. I’m usually sitting inside on my breaks from work,” he said. It was my good fortune. Our time was up. And I felt grounded. #notastranger