April 19, 2023
When Ajaib (Jab) Sidhoo left a gift to UBC through his estate, he was following in a family tradition. His legacy gift supported student awards at UBC, including an award for students in Punjabi and Sikh studies, and the Naranjan Singh Sidhoo Memorial Scholarship—an award in the Faculty of Medicine which had been established by his mother’s estate.
Jab’s gift also created the Ajaib (Jab) and Nirmal (Munni) Sidhoo Fund, to support a UBC Department of History initiative to bring leading academics from around the world to deliver lectures on India’s contributions to the two World Wars. For history professor Anne Murphy, the Sidhoos’ generosity creates a unique opportunity for intergenerational learning.
“This funding is an opportunity to expose students to cutting-edge research that relates to India’s contributions to the war effort,” says Professor Murphy.
Jab Sidhoo arrived in BC in 1929 at age six. He joined his father, who had relocated two years earlier to the Kapoor sawmill near Sooke, BC, on Vancouver Island. In 1939, his family moved to the mainland, settling in Vancouver, where Jab attended Kitsilano Secondary, also playing on the school rugby team.
After transferring to Vancouver Technical Secondary, he was one of three students recruited in 1943 by the Canadian Air Force to be trained in aircraft maintenance. Jab served as a fleet mechanic at bases in Caron, Saskatchewan and in the Yukon—one of the first South-Asian Canadians to serve in the Second World War.
Following the war, Jab returned to Vancouver and founded East India Traders. During a buying trip to Delhi in 1949, he met his future wife, Nirmal Dutt (also known as Munni). The couple soon opened East India Carpets at Fir and 2nd Avenue in Vancouver, where the family business still thrives in Vancouver’s burgeoning Armoury District.
Jab had long been a believer in investing in long-term prospects, being one of the original investors in the BC Lions football team. He carried that attitude to philanthropy, knowing the value of education in a person’s life. His son Ravi recalled his father’s attitude toward wealth—and its implication for others.
“He would look at money like a pie, and he made sure there was always a piece leftover for people who weren’t eating,” says Ravi. “That was dad.”
Jab Sidhoo passed away, at age 93, in 2016, with Munni predeceasing him in 2001. For Ravi, the gift Jab left to UBC is typical of his father’s vision and philanthropy. “For decades, Dad maintained a tradition of support for many educational and healthcare endeavours in Canada and India.”
Recently recognized as North America’s most international university, UBC offers courses in Punjabi language, literature, culture and history—with the curriculum continually growing. Thanks to the visionary support of Jab and Munni Sidhoo, new generations of learners will learn from the past while looking to the future.
This story is also available in Punjabi