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"An Uncommon Road" ~ Book Review

How Canadian Sikhs Struggled Out of the Fringes and Into the Mainstream

Book Review - An Uncommon Road: How Canadian Sikhs Struggled Out of the Fringes and Into the Mainstream
by Inderjeet Singh 

Sardar Jaiteg Singh Anant, a prolific Punjabi writer from Canada sent me the book, An Uncommon Road: How Canadian Sikhs Struggled Out of the Fringes and Into the Mainstream by Gian Singh Sandhu, the founder of World Sikh Organisation of Canada. After reading the book I can say, I am glad that Sardar Anant sent me this captivating book. 

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The book is an account of Gian Singh’s personal life in Canada and the turbulence in Punjab. The two narratives run in parallel throughout the book. One may not agree with some of the interpretations, but the book has enough for anyone remotely interested in Sikhs in Canada to read it. 

The author arrived in Canada in 1970 and in order to fit in, like many Sikhs, cut his Kes, unshaven hair but after few years he became a Khalsa, an Amritdhari Sikh. It seems that he never lost his faith unlike some others which became a guiding principle in his life. 

Every Sikh was affected by the events in Punjab in 1980s especially the 1984. Tragically the then Indian Prime Minister in order to flush out few ‘militants’ decided the attack the most scared place of the Sikhs on the martyrdom day of the fifth Sikh Guru when it was fully of devotees. Consequently, many innocent people died. Later that year, the state sponsored carnage of Sikhs in Delhi, Kanpur, Bokaro and number of other states shock the Sikh nation. 

Interestingly, the author went to Pakistan to confirm the strong rumour that the leader of the Sikh movement had survived and escaped to the neighbouring country. Obviously, he was not there but till 2001 his parent organisation kept on telling the Qaum that he was very much alive. The same year, Gian Singh Sandhu became the founding president of the World Sikh Organization of Canada in 1984. The next year, the bombing of Air India Flight 182 casted a shadow on Canadian Sikhs which lasted well over a decade. Not surprisingly, many questions regarding the bombing and conspirators were left unanswered. During this period the Organisation was closely monitored by the governments including the home country. The author was ‘blacklisted’ by the Indian Government and was only able to visit Punjab in 2016, after 38 years. His neighbours were denied visa to Punjab, just because they happened to live next door to him. As a Sikh one can easily relate to this book. The author gives a background of issues and events relating to Punjab which will benefit the readers from non-Sikh/Punjabi background. 

The book mentions personality clashes within the community and the challenges the World Sikh Organization faced. The Organization has come a long way from successfully fighting for the rights of Sikhs in the RCMP (Canadian Police) to wear turbans to championing the acceptance of gay marriage. The author’s charity work was recognized in 2002 with the Order of British Columbia. 

The author does not touch on the proposed boundaries and how the new free Sikh state will run which is sought by his organization and many others? These vexed questions continue to haunt us. He seems to hint on it by writing that the wishes of people of Punjab need to be honoured. 

The beauty of the book is that it is easy to read like a novel but relates to recent events. To his credit, the author touches number of topics about which not much has been written by anyone. The author deserves accolades for writing an engrossing piece of work which can be enjoyed by serious students of history, current affairs and general public.

The hardbound book is well presented and is 237 pages long. The Kindle edition is slightly longer at 258 pages. The book is available on Amazon. 
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Editorial Reviews by others:

"An Uncommon Road provides the first credible compilation of facts, evidence and missed opportunities pertaining to and affecting Canadian Sikhs."
--David Kilgour, human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee

"Gian Singh Sandhu takes us on a journey rarely articulated so passionately. By weaving his personal life into the largest story of Sikhs in Canada, An Uncommon Road encapsulates his entire being. It's an engrossing read."
--Kiranjot Kaur, scholar and former General Secretary of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee

"An Uncommon Road is a classic treatise on a community's attempts at diplomacy, statesmanship and advocacy. Although told in first person, it is neither parochial nor self-centered, but an extremely well written account of the Canadian Sikh community's movement toward a broad humanistic and secular outlook."
--Jagmohan Singh, editor, World Sikh News

"An Uncommon Road is a work of nonfiction that reads like a novel and presents a truly unique perspective. It's a valuable resource for the casual reader and the scholar alike. I expect it will be included in any array ofuniversity courses. Moreover, it's an entertaining read!
--Corey D. Steinberg, lawyer and author
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About the Author

Gian Singh Sandhu became the founding president of the World Sikh Organization of Canada in 1984 and remains active in that group today. Having emigrated from India in 1970 to Williams Lake, B.C., he is also a proud Canadian and was recognized in 2002 with the Order of British Columbia. He lives in Surrey, B.C.

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