By Anu Sahota
Throughout the month we've followed the story of Darshan Singh Gill, new Canadian, circa 1959. The last time we met up with Darshan he'd taken a job at a lumber mill in Victoria, B.C. Today's clip finds him busy at work, clad in wool socks, workman's boots, checkered flannels and cap. The narrator assures us that though it is the nightshift, Darshan "doesn't mind that - he can sleep in the mornings and have his afternoons free to roam the city and widen his interests as he moves out to greater independence. Gradually he will change and adjust as what is now awkward and strange becomes easy and familiar." Sounds like a David Attenborough voice-over about the infancy of the speckled wood butterfly.
Now, I haven't read my Marx and Engels for some time now, but I dare say that this tidy conclusion, more like a lullaby really, leaves out a great deal, and I am bothered by it. I mentioned the stereotype of the pliant Indian yesterday, and would argue that this program's conclusion reinforces an ideology that prefers the new immigrant, and the labourer, to be obedient and grateful for what little mercies are on offer. No mention that Darshan might aspire to anything more than stenciling and stacking logs - not to imply that this isn't important work, because it is. Set to a rather eerie score, Darshan exits the lumber yard and heads towards town as the narrator again weighs in: "at nineteen (...) life is good (...) what problems there are look more like challenges than threats." The film concludes as Darshan walks up the city's sedate Government street. What would that walk have been like for a dark man in flannels carrying a steel thermos and smelling of sweat and timber? This is a history that cannot be identified in archives.