Kishan Singh & Kartar Kaur Sidhu Memorial Bursary

Kishan Singh Sidhu (1890 -1956) of Village Dhaudhar and Kartar Kaur Sidhu (1910 -2000) of Village Takhatupura were both born in District Ferozepur, Punjab, India.  Kishan Singh immigrated to Kisumu, Kenya with his brother in 1907. After many years of hard work on the assembly of fuel storage tanks and ships that plied the waters of Lake Victoria, and transporting goods to nearby towns and villages by ox-cart, they bought 25 acres of land, cleared it with oxen and planted sugar cane to make raw brown sugar or jaggery.  Gradually they introduced mechanization and through resourcefulness and enterprise, the family expanded the farm to 1300 acres.

In 1922 Kartar Kaur Sidhu married Kishan Singh Sidhu, and came to Kenya.  While neither had any formal education they did learn to read and write Punjabi, and speak fluent Swahili and Luo (two of the native languages of Kenya) as well as Hindi, and a smattering of Gujarati and English.  The couple had 4 children, a daughter Mrs. Jagir Kaur Gill (Jagir Singh), and 3 sons, Parm Jasbir Singh (who died at age 12 years of falciparum malaria), Balbir Singh (Gulwant Kaur) and Harbajan Singh (Mohinder Kaur).  Kishan Singh’s brother had 6 children; both raised their families together on the farm, 13 miles from the nearest town.  The entire family lived and worked together as a single resourceful and caring unit.

In time another generation was born including Dr. Tejinder Kaur Sidhu, (daughter of Balbir Singh and Gulwant Kaur) the granddaughter of Kishan Singh and Kartar Kaur. Her grandfather passed around sweets in honour of her birth. When the children were of school age the grandmothers lived in town so that the children could attend school, as the family saw education as an essential priority.

Kishan Singh Sidhu died in 1956 of complications due to diabetes.  In 1967, his son Balbir Singh and daughter-in-law Gulwant Kaur immigrated to Canada and settled in Victoria.  Balbir Singh became a realtor and Gulwant Kaur worked in the food services industry while Kartar Kaur the grandmother remained at home with the children (Tejinder Kaur and Dhanvinder Singh), always keeping busy, cooking, sewing, knitting and quilting.  In the 1970’s, Harbajan Singh also immigrated to Canada with his wife Mohinder Kaur, son Dr. Pushpinder Singh and daughter Surinder Kaur.

Procrastination was not in Kartar Kaur’s vocabulary.  During her lifetime, she was involved in taking care of those less fortunate and providing a network within the Sikh community for others that were marginalized or needed employment.  Looked upon with deep respect, affection and admiration she cared for young and old and brought comfort where and when it was needed.

In her 90th year Kartar Kaur was active at home and in the community, and in contact with her extended family in Kenya, India, Ireland, England, France, Japan and North America.  She was an adored and an adoring grandmother, great grandmother and great-great grandmother.  On June 30th, 2000 she died in the early morning from complications due to sarcoidosis, surrounded by her family and friends.

In memory of these two exceptional courageous pioneers the children and grandchildren of the Sidhu family have established the Kishan Singh and Kartar Kaur Sidhu Memorial Bursary at the University of Victoria for a graduate student in Neuro-psychology, science or social work.  While Kishan Singh and Kartar Kaur Sidhu had no formal education themselves their resourcefulness, courage, determination and true pioneer spirit have provided their children and grandchildren with the resources to establish this bursary in their name as a lasting legacy of their lives well loved and well lived.

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