Asa Johal's contribution to Punjabi
July 14, 2021
Since his passing away on July 5, there has been a lot of well-deserved media coverage of Asa Singh Johal’s life, achievements and so many of his positive attributes. According to the family’s wishes and the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Johal’s funeral on Sunday, July 11 was private. As such, only family, close family friends and a few others selected people were able to attend the funeral. However, quite a few of Mr. Johal’s well -wishers and admirers made it to Gurdwara Nanak Niwas over three days-July9 to 11 to attend the Akhand Paath in his memory. A number of representatives of various Gurdwaras including Khalsa Diwan Society, Vancouver, Khalsa Diwan Society, New Westminster, Punjabi Market Association and many others were able to pay tribute to this icon of our community. Various speakers including members of Asa’s family paid very fitting tributes to this pillar of our community.
As everyone knows, Asa Singh Johal provided employment to thousands of people. A large number of his former and current employees made it to the Gurdwara and expressed their gratitude. During these conversations a lot of his acts of generosity came to light that Mr. Johal never mentioned it to anyone. Certainly, his generous donations to Children’s Hospital, Vancouver general Hospital, Richmond Hospital, BC Cancer Society, and UBC and to his ancestral village Jandiala are well known. However, a lot of his acts of generosity have not been mentioned. One such act of generosity of Asa Singh Johal is his contribution to promoting Punjabi.
Punjabi language instruction at UBC has been going on since early1987. Asa Singh Johal’s donation for Punjabi language to UBC ensured the continuation of the Punjabi program at UBC. My friend Sadhu Binning who has taught Punjabi at UBC for more than 20 years has brought this to my attention. A large number of South Asian and mainstream students at UBC have benefited greatly from learning Punjabi at UBC. AS a matter of fact both of my sons as well as my daughters –in-law are among many of the young professionals who have benefitted from Mr. Johal’s generous contribution to the Punjabi program at UBC.
Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) holds International Mother Language Day every year. At this annual function, PLEA honours some distinguished persons who have made significant contributions to promotion of Punjabi language here. A few years ago, our PLEA Board decided to honour Mr. Johal on this special day. We were glad to see Mrs. Kashmir Kaur Johal and their son Darcy joins Mr. Johal at this function. Thus, it was an honour for PLEA to recognize Mr. Johal and his family. A few days after this event, Mr. Johal and I were chatting at the Gurdwara. Suddenly, he pulled out a cheque for a fairly large amount made out to PLEA from his pocket and presented it to me. I was taken aback and thanked him for this kind gesture. This is a reflection of this great pioneer, philanthropist, humble lumber king and an Icon. We will ever be so thankful to him for what he has done for all of us. We will sorely miss him.
President, Punjabi Language Education Association
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