The Grandparents Bringing Punjab to Suburban Canada

Baljit Singh‘s¬†grandparents lived through the partition of Punjab when Pakistan was established in 1947. They travel frequently between their old lives and their new homes in America. Udaan, literally meaning ‘flight’ or ‘soar’, is Singh’s series of photographs that documents the lives of her Punjabi grandparents and their community in the Greater Toronto area as a comment on immigration and heritage:

Our grandparents are the bridges that connect us to our homeland. And in the literal sense of the title, they migrate like birds from Punjab to the diaspora every six months. I’ve lived with my grandparents my whole life and still do: my maternal grandparents and my paternal grandmother (my paternal grandfather passed away when I was 10). Having them living with us, I’ve always had a bigger family than intended. My parents worked 8-12 hour shifts and my grandparents were the ones who took care of me and my two siblings. They were really the ones who passed down the language, the culture, and the stories from the homeland. Of course with the good comes the bad; the more traditional “backwards” values. It has been an (un)learning process and it’s nice that they are as somewhat open-minded as they are now.

My grandfather takes every chance he can get to step into the kitchen and help make food (pictured below making food). Since my grandfather doesn’t really like leaving the house empty, he’s sometimes home alone when the rest of the family goes out. We have to always tell him not to make anything, but despite our efforts he always has 1-2 dishes made by the time we come back. I’m pretty sure he’d rather see us out of the house all the time so he can have the kitchen all to himself! But I get it, cooking Punjabi food can be a therapeutic way for him to connect to his motherland.

It‚Äôs safe to say my grandmothers are an interesting pair. My maternal grandmother (pictured below at the bus stop) and paternal grandmother (pictured beside her roses) are basically like a good cop bad cop duo, respectively. And both personalities were necessary when managing our household. In a house of eight loud personalities there were many arguments and fights, but things were always quickly resolved when both of them were around. They both also got a chance to de-stress in the backyard with gardening. Because of them our garden always stayed bountiful and flourishing which meant fresh homemade food all the time. And when the grandparents all leave to Punjab for six months, it’s pizza and takeout for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the rest of us!

 

Baljit Singh

Baljit Singh

Baljit Singh

Baljit Singh

Baljit Singh

Baljit Singh

Baljit Singh

Baljit Singh

Baljit Singh

Baljit Singh

Baljit Singh

Baljit Singh

 

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