On Monday, March 8, the University of British Columbia celebrated its 50th anniversary with a special event: Punjabi Canadian Diaspora Literature Symposium. The program began with Eleanor Yuen, head of the Asian Library, and Sarbjit Kaur Randhawa, the Indic Librarian at UBC introducing the UBC Asian Library which was established in 1960. In 1968, the library started its South Asian collection with the contributions from the Shastri Library Program and now has one of the best holdings of Indian Studies materials in Canada, approximately 70,000 volumes in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Gujrati, Bengali, Marathi, and Tamil. The Library possesses a vast collection of Punjabi and Hindi DVDs as well as a unique collection of microfilms in Sanskrit and Prakrit.
Ravinder Ravi, a well-known writer and poet who has written more than 80 publications, was the key note speaker, began his lecture with the value of the Asian Library for our community. Ravi gave a brief introduction of the population of Punjabi speakers in the world, which is currently 120 million. He stated that Punjabi is the 11th most spoken language in the world. In England, Punjabi is the second most spoken language, while in Canada it is the fourth. Ravi emphasized the importance of speaking Punjabi at home with children, since it is the main way to keep the language alive. Sakhwant Hundal, a UBC lecturer, was the next speaker and he informed that UBC offers courses ranging from the Punjabi alphabet to a M.A in the Punjabi language. Hundal said that in Canada, Punjabi writers have published 4000 books. After a delicious lunch break, the well-known poet and writer of five publications, Manjit Meet read out passages from his new book: “Global Warming.” Ravinder Ravi entertained the audience with his two poems: “Ma Da Ik Sirnava” and “Apna Desh.” Harchand Singh Bagri, who has contributed 11 poetry Punjabi publications, entertained the audience by reading out several of his poems including one on the importance of women, since March 8th was also International Women’s Day. Since March 8th was the 50th anniversary of the Asian Library and also the birthday of Ravinder Ravi as well, cake was cut and served to the guests. Everyone was served with delicious food as well.
Sarbjit Kaur Randhawa ended the program with thanking all the speakers and guests. She also thanked Ravinder Ravi, Gill Moranwali, Charan Singh, Mohan Gill, Gurbhajan Gill, Shahgir Gill for their generous donation to the UBC Asian Library. She expressed her thanks to Eleanor Yuen, head of the Asian Library, Lea Star, Associate University Librarian – Public Services, Shakeela Begum, Director of Development Office, Rudi Traichel, Cataloguing & Technical Services Librarian, and other library staff for their valuable support.