One of Quesnel’s residents turned 101 years old. With the help of family friend Poonam Miglani for translation and personal contact, the story of Leela Wati Dewan can be told so the community can celebrate her birthday together. Miglani wrote Dewan’s story over time, in tribute to one of Quesnel’s longest living residents.
Leela Wati Dewan’s family celebrated her 101st Birthday on the 13th of April, 2023. Leela Wati Dewan was born in Punjab, India, on the 13th of April 1922, on Baisakhi Day. Baisakhi was when the first Guru established Khalsa (Sikh religion). What a day to have a birthday!
She and her brother were born to a well to do Kapoor family. Leela Wati’s father was a landlord and had lots of farming land. She never had any formal education but self-taught herself and would read all religious books. She can read and write in Hindi. She can speak Punjabi and Hindi fluently. She often talks about her childhood and youth and all the fun times she had as a kid. She often talks about the people who served their families.
She has many stories about weddings, get-togethers and other happy and sad moments she shared with her children and grandchildren. Per the rituals in India at the time, she got married early in her life. She was 15 or 16 years while her groom was 19 years old. After marriage, she had three sons and three daughters. She never had formal education, so she ensured all her children were educated and went to school.
Leela Wati and her family moved to Canada on the 1st of December, 1984 after her older daughter married in Canada and sponsored her family. From a well to do background, Leela Wati’s husband started a business in Canada and did quite well for himself and the family. Leela Wati has six children, 20 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren. After losing her husband, she moved in with her second son who runs his business and lives in Quesnel, where she continues to live.
Leela Wati, a very soft-spoken lady, still enjoys her spicy food and loves mango and Indian sweets. She is full of stories when family or friends sit with her. Leela Wati still finds ways to help her daughter-in-law with the household chores. She still insists on helping to chop the vegetables, and if she can sneak into the kitchen, she was once caught doing dishes.
Her daughter-in-law doesn’t want her to do anything, but Leela Wati doesn’t want to sit idle. She offers to cook but is very politely turned down by her daughter-in-law, who often says “Mummy you just enjoy the meals. I’ll cook.”
In 2022 Leela Wati fell and broke her hip. After a doctor’s checkup, it was decided that she would have to undergo an operation, and after all her tests, the doctor said she had a healthy heart, body and brain and had hip surgery.
She uses a walker to walk around the house and is still independent. She has a sharp brain and loves spending much of her time with the great-grandkids visiting her daily. She still continues to learn new things. He great-granddaughter teaches her some English words; she repeats those words and uses them in her sentences at times.
She tells them a lot of stories and plays tea parties with them. She pushes them around in their pram and plays with them. Besides being independent and active, her family ensures she is never left alone, for her safety. She loves travelling to all the places where the family goes. She is also the mother-in-law of our city councillor Sushil Thapar who stayed councillor at City Hall for 15 years.
It is incredible how a woman who celebrated such a noteworthy birthday a few days ago is so physically fit, putting some of us young ones to shame. Family and friends wish her a belated birthday and many more birthdays to follow.