Diaries

“…Ros, Rus and I went down to the wharf at 8 and waited there till 12 expecting to see the ‘sojers’ make sausage meat out of the Hindus on the Komagata Maru but the ‘Rainbow’ anchored about a block off from it and nothing happened.” From the Diary of Neil Gilchrist dated July 21, 1914.

The diaries collected here provide keen insight into a wide variety of experiences of the Komagata Maru and the South Asian community. On one hand we have the personal account of Neil Gilchrist, at the time a youth living in Vancouver, reminiscing about a day spent with friends. One can surely imagine someone like Neil and his friends in the pictures included here, venturing out to Burrard Inlet to see the ships face off. On the other hand, we have the recollections of the lawyer for the Komagata Maru passengers, J. Edward Bird, who gave his own perspective of events in his unpublished autobiography. Although he received numerous death threats and was forced to leave Vancouver before the saga of the Komagata Maru ended, Bird maintained his relationship with the South Asian community and he - as well as his son Edward I. Bird - were retained as lawyers for the Khalsa Diwan Society for many years afterwards.

We also have the South Asian perspective of the events of the Komagata Maru and beyond presented here in a two volume diary from the Khalsa Diwan Society and another documenting the activities of the United India Home Rule League of Canada. These rich resources from the Arjan Singh Brar Collection are presented here in Punjabi as well as in diligent, English translations provided by historian, poet, and scholar Nadeem Kulwant Parmar and translator Dr. Raminder Kang. Each of these South Asian diaries reflects the impact of the Komagata Maru. Whether documenting the daily events surrounding 1914 or the responses to the Komagata Maru once it returned to India, the trauma of this “incident” bruised the soul of the community. In these private documents, one can see how community members tried to come to terms with the past.