My Story – Manjit Lit
From the moment we drove onto his 18 million dollar waterfront mansion I could tell Manjit Lit was not going to be a typical self-made multi-millionaire.
I expected to see the fancy cars in the driveway. I expected the basketball court and even the waterfall was not completely surprising.
The incredible view of the ocean was lovely, but one would think a mansion in White Rock would have such a thing.
What did surprise me was that next to the lovely statue of Buddha keeping watch over the front doors were two very playful-looking cats. Not real cats. Sculptures, elegant and yet child-like. On one of the cats, the words WELCOME FRIENDS could be read. Not your average multi-millionaire. Indeed.
Mister Lit is a very generous man. With his time. With his smile. And with his stories. He is also generous with his money, giving much of it to charity, but we’ll get to that later.
As a young lad growing up in India with his brothers and sisters, he dreamed of being a soldier or serving with the Punjabi police, but this was not to be. “I was too short”, he says with a bemused smile. His father wanted him to stay in India. The last place his father wished him to go was London. Apparently successful men don’t ALWAYS listen to their fathers because in 1967, at the age of 19, with 5 pounds ($10 Canadian) in his pocket, he arrived in England’s Capital City.
3 years later, after many different jobs, he bought a corner store. “We sold everything”, he says. “It was like a 7-11 before there were 7-11’s. But even then I knew I wanted to get into property development. I bought my first property, did some renovations, and in a short time I was able to double my money; then I bought two properties. Then I bought 4.” And so the story goes.
When he was in London he practiced Shotokan Tae Kwon Do. He was quite good at it; eventually, his whole family was doing it, including his son and daughter. “My wife was a fighter”, he says. “Almost too brave.” She passed away seven years ago, but whenever he speaks of her his eyes light up. “I want to show you some pictures”, he says. He then leads us down the stairs to a room filled with boxes of photos. We carry 4 or 5 of them and put them on the pool table and begin the journey through time.
Pictures of his lovely children, of his beautiful wife, pictures of trips to India with his young family in front of the Taj Mahal. Black and white pictures of his grand parents. So many smiles as we share these precious moments around the pool table.
The basketball court out front was for my grandson. We used to play a lot when he was younger. Not so much anymore.” There is even a hoop built into the indoor swimming pool downstairs, again, for his grandson and him to play together when they were younger. “Now I have special barbells designed for the water. I like the aqua fit now. It’s easier on the joints.”
He came to Canada partly because there was more land here to develop and because some of his family was already here. “There was more opportunity here but also more obstacles. For the first commercial property I wanted to invest in, I had to put up 2 million dollars in GST as a bond, in advance. You wouldn’t have to do that in England. In London, you could get the planning done in a year so the return was fast. Here it takes 4 years to get all the permits, and you are looking at 7 to 8 years before you get any return on your investment, so patience is key.”
The Tour continues as he shows us the video entertainment room where he watches soccer games and movies with his friends. “I love Manchester United”, he says. “There’s nothing better than watching a good soccer game or a movie with your friends. You can’t buy that.” “You have to manage stress.” Family, friends, and laughter are his keys.
Manjit has an affinity for the Classics. A huge painting of The Magnificent Seven hangs in the hallway outside the room which is equipped with a giant screen, 30 to 40 plush theatre seats, and naturally some large photos of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean on the back wall. Again, Classics.
I ask him what his favorite movies were. He gets a twinkle in his eye. “War of the Roses”, he says. “Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.” He pauses. “Dumb and Dumber, and Twins.” Clearly, he likes comedy…and Danny DeVito.
The entire lower floor is designed for entertaining. A gigantic ornate bar. The pool table. The swimming pool. There is even a massage room. “Not so popular since Covid”, he says. By the time we’ve looked at the two Bentleys and the Range Rover with a license plate that says “Lit 1” the tour is almost over.
We sit down and Mr. Lit offers his keys to success and happiness.
“When you’re building your fortune you have to be ready to work seven days a week. You can’t be lazy and successful. The foundation is very important. You need to work long hours, be open to ideas and go slow and steady. Not too much risk. Start with one house and build from there.
You need luck, of course, but the most important thing is, to be honest. Don’t cheat.
If you do, all of your work will be for nothing because no one will trust you.” ◆
Questions and Answers – Sukh Dhaliwal’s Story
What began as community-based blood drives in BC has blossomed into an annual campaign that draws thousands of donors to dozens of events across Canada and has spread to other major cities across the globe. Since 1999 the Sikh Nation blood donation campaign has helped save over 165,000 lives and is the most significant contributor to the Canadian blood services pledge-based partners for life (PFL)program.
As an agent for change, Len leads and advises for systemic transformation in universities across North America. He specializes in developing educational programs and services with decolonization and reconciliation as their core values. He comes to us with an open heart and open mind and hopes to be received in the same way.