In Search of Belonging ...
"There is nothing bigger or older than the universe."
~ Stephen Hawking
"I am not born for one corner; the whole world is my native land."
~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Living with a "border-less" heart in the world of "man-made borders"...
Gurdeep was born into a farming family, in a simple and ordinary village called Siahar in Punjab.
(Baby Gurdeep, around 2 months old)
At their farm, his family would grow many kinds of crops, vegetables and beans, and they would also raise cows and buffaloes that provided milk. So, he was fortunate to grow up eating home-grown and organic meals.
(This is the only photo from Gurdeep's childhood with his mom and dad. His hand on his mom's shoulder says everything. To his right is his oldest sister (with her daughter), who, along with his other sisters, took care of him when his mom had to spend a full year in the hospital after he was born.)
Living on a farm also allowed Gurdeep to grow up close to the land and waters, which fostered a passion for nature. Living on the land embedded in him a respect for"Air (as Guru), Waters (as Father), and Earth (as Mother)"!
(Gurdeep parents' home in the village Siahar in Punjab where he grew up and stared learning about the life and the world.)
In 9th grade, Gurdeep learnt from a friend in his village about a "thing" that existed in the world. His friend, with his sweet childish-innocence, called this thing a "Dishnary" (he meant "Dictionary"). It had an English translation of almost all the Punjabi words. Overjoyed with this new discovery, Gurdeep cycled all the way from his village to a nearby town, so he could buy that "thing"! It opened opportunities for him to learn a new language and communicate with the rest of the world. He read, word-by-word, all from the dictionary.
(About 20 year old Gurdeep during graduation ceremony at Government College, Ludhiana, Punjab. He studied Economics, Psychology, and Public Administration at this college.)
Gurdeep was in grade 6 when he wrote his first poem. By grade 10, he had written numerous creative literature and compositions, including poetry, prose, a full novel, hundreds of stories and a play.
(19 year old Gurdeep)
He moved to Canada in 2006 and has lived in many great Canadian cities, towns and villages, including Squamish, Vancouver, Abbotsford, Saskatoon, Edmonton, North Battleford, Turtleford, Lloydminster, Yellowknife, and now, Whitehorse. Through road trips, Gurdeep has had an opportunity to travel through and extensively explore Canada.
In 2011, he became a Candian citizen. This motivated him to increase his knowledge of this beautiful country, further understanding its land and its people.
From the Yukon in the west to Newfoundland and Labrador in the east, Gurdeep has travelled to almost every large city, while also spending time in small towns and villages. Due to his upbringing in a humble village, he has developed a strong appreciation for small, tight-knit communities. He was especially captivated by wheat farms in Saskatchewan. He would sit by the roadside and watch the prairie-land farmers harvest the wheat crop for hours and reminisce about his similar experience at his family's farm in Punjab.
As a part of Punjabi culture, Gurdeep was born into the world of Bhangra. In his youth, at the age of 17, he began taking professional Bhangra classes in Ludhiana, Punjab. This allowed him to learn to dance from the heart and adopt dance as a part of his lifestyle. Since his days in Punjab, his love for dance has continued to grow and evolve.
After moving to the Yukon in 2012, Gurdeep has pursued his passion for dance, providing Bhangra lessons at many locations in Canada.
(Building cross-cultural bridges in the Yukon)
Gurdeep began posting Bhangra dance videos filmed in the beautiful landscapes of the Yukon. Over time, his posts went viral and his work has been featured on CBC Yukon, CBC National, CTV National News, Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post, SBS Australia, and many other platforms. Even Canadian embassies abroad shared his works to showcase the wonderful side of multiculturalism that is currently present in Canada.
(Gurdeep's old cabin in the Yukon)
Although Gurdeep has spent an ample amount of time travelling across the globe to the many corners of the world, the Yukon is where he calls home. Apart from his village in Punjab, it is the place where he has lived most of his life and he considers himself to be a proud Yukoner. In his free time, Gurdeep enjoys sharing a laugh with his fellow Yukoners at coffee shops or in the streets of the many unique Yukon communities.
(Gurdeep's new transformation in the Yukon)
"The whole Yukon seems like a village of friends", he often reflects positively on his decision to live in his close-knit and friendly town.
Gurdeep believes that life is an art and he makes the most of every moment!
"When you treat each day as a new day, you learn how to start fresh and live in the moment", he often ponders.
"Sometimes saline and sometimes saccharine, life is like a fruit shake with a distinctive diversity of flavours". Gurdeep has created a variety of quotable life lessons.
(Sharing and learning: Gurdeep with school students in the Yukon)
Another quote he often uses is, "Monetary richness without happiness is real poverty and monetary poverty with true happiness is real richness".
He pursues other passions too, including photography, video-editing, web-art, digital-designs, languages, and music. However, written wordography and Bhangra remain his favourite.
(Colin Alexander Painting of Gurdeep Pandher: Yukon painter Colin Alexander painted Gurdeep in 2017)
The vast land, open-air, wide mountains, smiling sun and, even sometimes beautiful drizzles, all taught him to be a free-spirit. Gurdeep celebrates life with an open heart that he found through his love for nature.
(Gurdeep in Old Crow, Yukon, with Stephen Frost Sr., a respected Vuntut Gwitchin First Nations elder and his family.)
Every hour, every minute, and even every second, you're always learning. Stay a student throughout your whole life!
(This moment with CBC's Sandi Coleman had brought a big turning point in Gurdeep's life. The story based on his CBC Yukon interview in 2016 itself went viral and featured on CBC National.)
(A Canadian family learning from Gurdeep online during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. In 2021, Gurdeep provided online lessons to nearly 10,000 school students across Canada during a time when they were struggling to find joy in education and their lives.)
(Gurdeep sharing his Bhangra dance art with First Nations Community of Old Crow, Yukon)
(Gurdeep building cross-cultural bridges in Dawson City, Yukon.)
(Making food for the Whitehorse community in the Yukon.)
(Gurdeep Pandher and community health nurse Sue Rudd from Watson Lake Community Hospital visited Watson Lake Secondary School. Gurdeep visited this school to provide lessons on Pink Shirt Day, discussing the importance of inclusivity.)
(In 2013, while Gurdeep was teaching Bhangra dance lessons in the Francophone building in Whitehorse, a student offered Gurdeep a token of thanks.)
(Children and adults together learning Bhangra from Gurdeep at the L’AFY (Yukon French Association) building in Whitehorse in 2013)
(Kids learning and sharing with Gurdeep in the boreal forest of the Yukon. )
(During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, young students across Canada watched Gurdeep's videos at home to engage in physical exercises through his video lessons.)
Dancing with First Nations Peoples: In the First Nations Community of Old Crow (Yukon), Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm and Gurdeep Pandher danced Bhangra together in 2018.
(Making people happy in Whitehorse. Gurdeep and his dance partner Ana Rita Garcia perform together in 2017.)
(In 2017, Mayor of Whitehorse, Mr. Dan Curtis wore a Gurdeep-style Sikh turban and danced Bhangra with him.)
(Gurdeep never imagined that schools in Canada would be doing projects on his work in their classrooms. This is truly the greatest honour for his. He is extremely grateful for this respect and for using his work to create learning opportunities for school students.)
(Poet and illustrator Theresa Baxter wrote a poem about Gurdeep. Not only that, she also created an illustration of him. He was truly touched by the time and effort Theresa dedicated to creating this poem and illustration.)
(Letter from the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Dr. Andrew Furey, to Gurdeep congratulating him on receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Laws Degree from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador at the 2023 spring convocation.)
(Indeed, there are some meaningful and positive shortcuts to find joy.)