When Gurdeep Pandher first uploaded a video of himself performing a traditional Punjabi Bhangra dance, he had no idea that he was putting himself on a path to viral stardom.
“I didn’t have any plans to show it to the world,” the 42-year-old Sikh immigrant said in a phone call with Victoria Buzz. “I posted it just to show my friends and family.”
That was Canada Day, 2016. Overnight, 300,000 people had seen the video of Pandher showing off his dance moves.
Now, he’s become a viral sensation who is recognized all over the country.
“It happens every day. It has become normal for me to find people every day who approach me just to talk, take photos.”
Pandher became a Canadian citizen in 2011. He has lived in several different provinces and cities, including Squamish, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Saskatoon, and now makes his home in the Yukon.
“After travelling Canada, I went to the Yukon, and felt that place was magical. It’s remote. There’s 40,000 people in the whole territory.”
This week though, he has been spotted posting dance videos on Vancouver Island.
Hello from Victoria, BC!
I am at Vancouver Island for 10 days! pic.twitter.com/UzeiAwiyZ1
— Gurdeep Pandher of the Yukon (@GurdeepPandher) August 7, 2020
Pandher arrived in Victoria on August 7 for a 10 day visit and quickly found his inbox flooded with messages of welcome, along with a deluge of requests to meet up.
“I’m going to the legislature on Friday morning, I was invited to do an introduction in the house.”
While he had intended the trip to be a vacation, Pandher says he embraces his fame as an opportunity to spread positivity, especially during a difficult time.
“COVID affected all of us in different ways,” he adds. “I’ve received messages from health care professionals expressing that it was very tough for them to be at work. Being positive or happy isn’t easy.”
Pandher says he has been trying to post at least one video per day during the pandemic. While he has always received positive messages, recent ones are particularly humbling to read.
“People started sending me feedback, saying things like ‘our day was tough, but we watched your video and it made us happy.’ There’s a lot of negativity in the news, and on social media. When I hear that feedback, it touches my heart.”
Meanwhile, Pander is finding time to enjoy the sights on the Island and has been encountering plenty of fans along the way.
“Someone recognized me [in Tofino] while I was surfing. People are very welcoming.It’s unbelievable, the number of messages I’ve received.”
He heads back home on Sunday, humbled and ready to spread joy to other communities.
“It’s sometimes hard for me to describe or put into words. I’m feeling very blessed.”
Joyful dance and surfing at Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC pic.twitter.com/BlUCDFp25G
— Gurdeep Pandher of Yukon (@GurdeepPandher) August 11, 2020
In Victoria (BC) downtown, this human was playing his guitar.
I asked him if he could match the tempo with my music.
He tried, and it matched.
Everything is just matching tempos away.
— Gurdeep Pandher of Yukon (@GurdeepPandher) August 8, 2020