Pall marks 10 years helping with Vancouver’s Vaisakhi parade

Pall marks 10 years helping with Vancouver’s Vaisakhi parade

A portrait of Pall Veesla

For 10 years, Pall Beesla with Coast Mountain Bus Company has been leading the planning and organization of the annual Vancouver Vaisakhi parade.

Vaisakhi is an important religious and cultural festival for the Sikh calendar and this year, it falls on April 14 with celebrations taking place in Sikh communities around the world. 2023 also marks the return of the parade in both Vancouver and Surrey after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

“It’s always a colourful and vibrant celebration and I love the free food given in the spirit of seva, which is a key tenet of the faith that is put into practice on Vaisakhi,” says Pall, who has been attending the parades since he was a child. He is an instructor for operator training with Coast Mountain Bus Company.

The Vaisakhi bus turns onto 49th Avenue from Main Street

In Punjabi, seva means “selfless service” or to give back, while nagar kirtan means “singing of the hymns” and refers to the procession of the parade. During Vaisakhi, food is often tied to seva because of another core tenet that no one should go hungry.

Pall explains, “By eating together, we’re eliminating the differences in our society, we’re able to eat together regardless of faith, socioeconomic status, or gender. It puts into practice the belief in equality.”

After years of witnessing others practice seva at parades, it inspired Pall to volunteer and contribute more of his time to Vaisakhi as part of his seva. From coordinating with first responders and the Vancouver Police Department to create a safety plan, to liaising with city staff and many other meetings, Pall admits that it takes a lot of work to plan.

“It’s my way of doing the seva,” he says. “Despite all the time I put in, if it wasn’t for all the folks who provide their time to set up booths, stages, and food, and give back their resources, the parade would not be possible.”

The Vaisakhi bus travelling on 49th Avenue

Pall first joined Coast Mountain Bus Company in 2008 as a transit operator after his uncle, who is also an operator, encouraged Pall to apply. After eight years of driving, Pall then went on to join the operator training department as an instructor.

“We have a big community of employees and transit operators who celebrate Vaisakhi and in previous years, some operators would participate by driving seniors along the parade route as part of their seva,” adds Pall, who also helps coordinate employee participation in the parade. “In a lot of ways, it’s come full circle, being able to support the community through my job.”

This year, TransLink and Coast Mountain Bus Company debuted an art-wrapped bus for Vaisakhi parades, which are open and welcome to everyone.

“Take transit and bring an appetite,” recommends Pall. “Come with an open mind and an open heart, it’s not just a celebration for Sikhs, it’s for the community. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, too. Through better cultural understanding we can create harmony.”

The Vaisakhi bus travelling northbound on Main Street