Life on Four Continents

by Kelsey Bastien

Dilmohan “Dale” Grewal was born March 21, 1955 in Shimla, India. Because his father Monahar, a cardiologist, travelled for work, Dilmohan often lived with uncles in New Delhi or with his parents and extended family in his mother’s and father’s villages. As a child, Dilmohan experienced both urban and rural life in India.

“My two uncles, my maternal uncles, were both attorneys, lawyers in India. And they lived in the city. And that lifestyle was similar to what you have here. But the majority of my time was spent in the village, which is very much like, if you could look at the people how Amish live, that’s how we lived in the villages. We had no electricity, no running water, except you had to pump the water. You had to milk the cows every morning around 4:30 and everything was natural... We were not allowed to mingle with a certain class of people. You were required to mingle with people of equal status, if not higher.”
– Dale Grewal
, 2019

Young Dale Grewal and Family in India

Grewal Family Portrait, c. 1958. From left to right: Rani (sister), Monahar (father), Dale, Harbans (mother) and Palvinder (brother).

After his father gained employment with the World Health Organization, Dilmohan moved with his family to Nigeria in 1970. There, he attended high school and learned a new way of life.

“It was a whole different country, whole different culture, whole different lifestyle. And being the person I always have been, I was very easygoing. I always found it very easy to make friends…. I made friends with the people who were local Nigerians born in Africa…. Within a year and a half I picked up the language. I went to school with those guys…. I had people who didn’t go to school, but we used to hang out together… The country was absolutely beautiful.” – Dale Grewal, 2019

In 1974 the Grewals moved to London. A few months later Dilmohan followed his brother Palvinder to attend George Brown College in Toronto, Canada. There, Dale battled with malaria, which he had contracted in Nigeria, and soon found other struggles in his new home.

“In Toronto I faced a lot of racism. I got into a lot of fights where people picked on me because I was Indian. But they didn’t know ... what is Indian and what is Pakistani. They used to call us ‘Pakis’…. That was the first time that I saw racism firsthand, where people poured soup on my head, Coke on my head ... [I] got into a lot of altercations, saw a lot of people being picked up and thrown on the subway tracks because they didn’t like Indians. It was a very, very tough time to go through that, because you were always petrified of getting on the bus, travelling by yourself.”
– Dale Grewal
, 2019

Dale and Melissa Grewal on their Wedding Day

Dilmohan and Melissa Grewal on the day of their wedding in 1988.

In 1976, Dale left Toronto to rejoin his parents his parents in Ohio.

“I still remember going through the city of Cleveland. I’m like, ‘This brings back memories of India.’ Because the city looks so much like India. And like I said, coming from Canada where there was so much hostility, so much racism. Here I went to a store to buy something, people were so nice. I was so shocked. 'Am I dreaming?' ...There were times when I went for job interviews and people say, ‘You know, you have an accent.’ I’m like, ‘Unfortunately it is what it is.’ But, that didn’t stop me from moving forward…. There was never, ever any indication that, ‘You’re a foreigner, we don’t like you.’”
– Dale Grewal, 2019

Dale soon moved with his brother Palvinder to New York to attend the Rochester Institute of Technology.  After graduating he worked a number of jobs, followed his parents to the suburbs of Philadelphia, and obtained his American citizenship in 1981. Here, too, he met his future wife.

Grewal Family Laughing Together

The Grewal Family, 2018. From left to right: children Greg, Kirsten, and Major, wife Melissa, and Dale.

“I met Melissa and I had no intention of settling down. I wanted to finish my Masters. Then my father got sick and within a matter of three weeks, he passed away. It was something that Mrs. Grewal said to me at that time. She said, ‘If there’s anything I can do to help you and your family, whether it means I come home and do your dishes or vacuum…’ It was that point that I said, ‘You know what? I want to marry her.’… I proposed to her in ‘88…. Her demeanor has made me into a better father, a better husband.” – Dale Grewal, 2019

After they married, Melissa and Dale settled in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Now a Senior Vice President of Key Bank, and father of three, Dale looks back on his life and what he learned and experienced in moving from place to place. In India, he left behind entitlements from his family's class and status. When leaving Toronto, Canada he left behind a metropolitan, bachelor lifestyle.

“But do I have any regrets? No. Absolutely not. I mean, I love being here and having been blessed with a beautiful family. Would I change it? No. Not for all the gold in the world. Not for all the money in the world would I change it.” – Dale Grewal, 2019

Life on Four Continents