Of bridges and rainbows: a Golden Anniversary celebration

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, August 27, 2015

Rome and Sue Anand, original owners of Cochrane’s Jaipur Indian Cuisine Restaurant, celebrated their 50th anniversary amid a houseful of guests who, like themselves, are widely acclaimed community bridge builders and rainbows of hope. Photo by Warren Harbeck

When Romesh and Surjit Anand invited my wife and me to join them in celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this past weekend, we could not have imagined the bridges and rainbows awaiting us.

Romesh “Rome” and Surjit “Sue” are familiar faces throughout the Bow Valley. The original owners of Jaipur Indian Cuisine Restaurant in Cochrane, and before that, the Omar Khayyam and Rajdoot restaurants in Calgary, they’re widely known for their efforts in promoting inter-community and inter-faith understanding and goodwill.

Some years ago, Rome taught me an important lesson that I hope has helped shape the direction these columns have taken. He told me a story from India, the land of his birth, about a very long bridge that was built to link two warring peoples together. Stone by stone, it stretched across a divide to restore peace to the land.

The lesson? “The same materials needed to build a wall can be used to build a bridge,” he said.

When Mary Anna and I arrived at Rome and Sue’s home, we found ourselves among a houseful of guests, almost all with roots deep in the Indian subcontinent, who have committed themselves as Canadians to building bridges instead of walls.

Some were in the hospitality industry, others in education and Information Technology. Several were leaders in medicine. I was privileged to have a long conversation with a retired surgeon with the honorary name, Chief Rainbow.

Dr. Brij Sood was born in India and practiced medicine in Kenya before immigrating to Canada in 1964. The following year he moved to Banff, where he met the late Stoney Nakoda Chief Walking Buffalo (see my July 9, 2015 column). And thus begins the story of his honorary name.

When then 96-year-old Walking Buffalo fell seriously ill during the 1966 Banff Indian Days and was taken to the hospital unconscious, Dr. Sood was the doctor on call for emergencies. He told me how the Stoney Nakoda chief had been wrongly diagnosed by the ambulance driver as “a drunken Indian.”

Upon a examining him, however, Dr. Sood quickly realized that Walking Buffalo was not drunk at all, but had suffered a massive stroke. With his characteristic interpersonal sensitivity, he began treatments that got the globetrotting chief back on his feet and won his respect.

How much respect? Dr. Sood told me that Walking Buffalo adopted him as his “honorary son” and gave him the name “Chief Rainbow.”

When Walking Buffalo passed away on Boxing Day 1967, Dr. Sood was by his side, a rainbow of hope honouring a life that had brought hope to many around the world.

In 2003 Dr. Sood was made a Member of the Order of Canada for his community bridge-building efforts, not only between two Indian traditions from opposite sides of the world, but also for his many other humanitarian initiatives.

Rome and Sue, like Dr. Sood, are leaders among the Calgary Hindu community. For them, the hospitality industry has provided a bridge over which peoples of many religious and cultural traditions can meet peacefully to build a better world. Like Dr. Sood, they too are rainbows of hope.

Congratulations again, Rome and Sue, on your Golden Anniversary!

© 2015 Warren Harbeck

Return to Coffee With Warren home page