By Promod Puri
The grey stucco building at the south-east corner of Main Street and 6th Avenue in Vancouver was once a hub of the Indo-Canadian community in the early ‘70s and part of ‘80s.
It was the Indo-Canadian media center along with small businesses owned by the community members having their offices in the building.
Prominent among its occupants were veteran broadcaster and the voice of the community Sushma, and her business partner Nizar Dhamji. They had their recording studios for TV and radio broadcasting.
Much before Sushma and Nizar moved in, the building had the distinction of being the venue of first Indo-Canadian radio programming hosted by late Malkiat Parhar in the ‘60s.
Besides being a pioneer broadcaster, Mr. Parhar was an icon of the community involved in multiple interests. He was the source person to help anybody seeking his guidance and services.
In 1978, The Link newspaper moved its offices from Winnipeg, and the first and only choice for me as the publisher was Main and 6th for its convenient location as our apartment was a few blocks away from the building. A frequent visitor to our office was lawyer-turned-politician Ujjal Dosanjh to drop off his regular column for The Link.
And the legendary Indo-Canadian photographer, Chandra Bodalia, started his photo-journalism career from this building working for The Link.
Besides, the two prominent media, in electronics and print, there were several offices having businesses catering mostly to the Indo-Canadian community. Mr. Dhami had his drafting business, and later prominent clothing wholesaler, Mr. Ram Mahtani, set up his headquarters. He was the main supplier of fabrics from Japan to almost all the Indian stores in Vancouver’s Punjabi Market. There was a non-profit organization as well mostly staffed by Indo-Canadians to help the community. On the ground floor of the building was the office of Ace Accounting, owned by an Ismaili gentleman, a professional in his job, but an extremely humble person.
During the height of the Khalistan movement, a few gentlemen rented office space in the building to run a magazine promoting the separatist cause.
Advertising promotion product suppliers, Masal Graphics, owned by cordial couple Madanpal and Channi Salooja, had an office here too. Their son, a teen at that time, was a born salesman, selling promotional pens to whomsoever he came across.
The two-story Main and 6th building was a lively place all the time, full of traffic and activities all day. However, more than that the whole ambiance was extremely friendly. We were bumping into each other several times of the day. And it seemed like all of us were running a joint enterprise with different products and services. If I remember correctly, Sushma and Nizar held musical mehfils a few times on their premises. Nizar, himself was an ace singer who could sing both Hindi film songs and ghazals.
One of the best times working in the building was the lunchtime when there was always a smorgasbord of home cooked food happily shared by all of us. Paranthas and spiced dishes along with desi pickles had its aroma which spread and lingered on in almost all the offices.
While all of us were busy endeavoring in our individual fields, the building itself contributed to happy days of sweet memories.
Just wondering, can Main and 6th Street building and that corner be declared as a historical place from the Indo-Canadian perspective.
While taking pictures, an employee of the pub across the street told me that the owner has already submitted an application to demolish the “historic” building for the proposed high-rise condo apartment. Is it too late to save it?
(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer, and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions).