-by Promod Puri

An episode happened when late Dev Anand, one of the most prominent and talented Bollywood stars of yesteryears, visited Vancouver about two decades ago.

A friend of mine from Toronto, who was in the business of organizing live musical events, phoned me that Dev Anand was coming to his show, and he would be honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his significant contribution to the Indian film industry. After the Toronto event, he would like to visit Vancouver, perhaps to explore some sights for his upcoming production.

The friend asked me if I could look after his Vancouver visit. I happily agreed to be his host. But as per Dev Anand’s request, the visit had to be kept very private and secretive as he did not want to be mobbed by the Indian diaspora in Vancouver once the word got around. “No problem,” was my response.

The next day I received Dev Anand at the airport. He had his booking in a hotel, where he checked in. After that, he came to our place, had breakfast, and was then ready for the sightseeing and exploration of the city.

Vancouver is known as North Hollywood. We visited several tourist spots and drove all over the city. The hustle and bustle of Granville Market fascinated him where he enjoyed a big slice of pizza.  

All along, we had interesting conversations while I was impressed by his depth of thoughts on a range of subjects. To my knowledge, Dev Anand did his schooling at the Sacred Heart School in Dalhousie and finished his college education with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Govt. College in Lahore.

After his one-day touring around in Vancouver, Dev Anand planned to go to Victoria, the capital city of the province of British Columbia on Vancouver Island. I did not accompany him but told a connection of mine to receive the superstar from Bombay when he arrives in Victoria but kept the secret.

When I dropped off Dev Anand at the ferry terminal, there was about a half-an-hour wait. We got off the car; Dev Anand took off his red sweater and tied the sleeves in front of his neck. For those who remember him, this was his signature dress style.

While we were strolling around in the parking lot and waiting for the ferry, I heard a Punjabi taxi driver saying, “look at that man in the red sweater as if he is Dev Anand.” Another Indian cab driver said, “ya, look at the cap he is wearing and the way he is walking, Dev Anand style.” The remarks sounded somewhat sarcastic but genuine.

At that moment, I could not refrain from keeping the popular film personality’s visit any more secretive. I went to the bunch of Punjabi taxi drivers and told them, “He is Dev Anand.”  They were all stunned. Within moments the taxi guys surrounded him, taking pictures, requesting autographs, perhaps a few invitations. Being a Punjabi himself, the celebrated hero had friendly chats, shook hands and posed for plenty of photos. It was an encounter with the superstar out of the blue.

“Sorry Dev Sahib, promise broken, no more secret,” I told him.

He smiled at me and said, “thanks, Promod, for your hospitality.” 

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