“When I was really little my parents sent me to Punjabi school on the weekends to learn to read and write Punjabi. I think being there helped me connect with the roots of the community. It was there I learned that Kaurs are special, hold importance and are meant to be equal in society.
This concept of equality spilled over into other parts of my life. My parents encouraged me to participate in sports and dance. I was in track and field, skating, swimming, and dance, particularly jazz and ballet. Living in Abbotsford and despite there being a large Punjabi population, I was the only Indian girl in ballet. It didn’t even cross my mind until other people pointed it out. I was just raised that I could do anything and that I didn’t have to refrain from doing things because I was a girl, Indian, or a Kaur. I just did things because they felt right.
I think a lot of who I am is credited to the values of Sikhi. Values like sharing, humility, openness, respect, and learning are what I live by. I am not religious in that I don’t go to the Gurudwara or do paath, but I live my life following the Sikhi values I learned from Saakhis as a child. To me, the word Sikh may literally translate to student, but to be a student you must be willing to learn.
I was a super nerdy kid. I loved to read and learn and I don’t think those skills have ever left me. I spent tons of time reading in the library or lugging big stacks of books home. I just loved school and learning.
I love how my profession combines a heavy science base in the context of our world. As a geotechnical engineer my learning never stops. I have been an engineering consultant for nearly a decade and I am never bored. I continue to learn and be challenged by new things every day. For example, when I am working on a highway widening project, I examine a multitude of variables and make complex decisions. It’s very fascinating.
Sometimes it’s hard being one of the few females or Kaurs in my field of work. I have had challenges because I am a woman, a minority, and young. Early on, people thought I was hired on as admin or that because I was a woman I couldn’t do field work. Luckily, I’ve had male mentors that helped me along the way. My only wish is that there were more Kaurs and women for mentoring opportunities in this field. I know of one other Kaur in California, who is an engineer in my field. She is a role model and doesn’t conform to business attire; she wears Punjabi suits to work. She makes me feel proud.
Now when new engineers are hired on, whether they are male or female, I feel it’s my responsibility to help guide and encourage them. And when I visit smaller communities or am asked about my background, I love that I have an opportunity to talk about the values of Sikhism, our culture, and even India.
I recently started ballet again. I had stopped when I got busy with school and work years ago. I found the barre work to be challenging but the floor work I got the hang of quickly. Getting back to it has made me smile from my stomach. It’s inspired me to start classes in Bharata Natyam and continue to pursue things that I am passionate about.”