Have you seen the flowerbeds outside the Subaru/Kia dealership?
They are, in a word, immaculate.
Nestled together in concrete planters, the Geraniums, Petunias and Marigolds burst forth in almost psychedelic technicolour. It all leaves one to ruminate about the tender loving care that has been invested in the garden.
The gardener’s name is Joginder Grewal – Joe for short. He moved to Whitehorse from India in 1987 with his wife, Surinder, and his children Raman and Gureeta.
Joe was excited about coming to Canada, but he also felt a strong sense of responsibility toward his new home. “Canada is the best country in the world and when we came here I prayed to God to give me the courage and strength to be good for this country.”
Canada has certainly been good for the Grewal family. Now Raman owns the Subaru/Kia dealership and Joe is only too happy to pitch in where he can.
“It’s a family business, so everybody is involved,” he says. The evidence bears this out Raman’s wife, Harminder, works here. And on this particular day, two of Joe’s grandchildre are also making themselves at home.
It was a natural choice to put Joe in charge of the flowers. “It is in my blood. Wherever I was, whenever I got the chance, I would plant things. Even when I was a child.” However, despite all the practice, he does not believe there is a set of rules that governs good gardening. Rather, he believes the secret to his success is mostly a result of his attitude.
“I love these flowers just as you do for a human being. They have life.” Later he adds, “When you love to do something, it changes the whole chemistry. When I work in the garden I am interconnected with the whole universe.”
According to Joe, this feeling of oneness with the world leads him to an elevated spiritual plane. “It brings me complete satisfaction with life. I become timeless.” He adds that he could write a whole thesis on the subject.
Joe seems so completely in control of the garden that it is hard to imagine he ever had a partner in the enterprise. But up until last year, he and Surinder split the responsibilities.
“It was a giant effort for me and my wife,” he says. “She would say ‘I think we need some big rocks over here’ and I would go and get them.” A little smile comes over his face.
Things changed when Surinder finally lost her battle with cancer. On the top level of the dealership, there is a room dedicated to her memory. It is filled with awards, pictures and other indications of a life well lived.
Joe is still in love with her.
“I couldn’t have imagined a better wife,” he says, “and she raised excellent children.”
Now Joe is 84 years old, and he continues to press on with the gardening by himself … or so it would seem. When asked whether his job is harder now that he is doing it alone, Joe looks slightly into the distance.
“I don’t consider her to be away from me because souls never die. The flowers this year are better than the flowers last year. It is because of her.”