All Stories

Celebrating a New Essential with Manni Sawhney & Varinder Singh

Alongside the problem solvers, wonder seekers and world changers we endearingly call nerds, we’re sharing stories of essential workers: the smart, driven, compassionate people who make up the fabric of our neighbourhood.

Halfway up the ramp to our OMNIMAX® Theatre, Vancouver bus drivers Manni and Varinder reflect on the evolution of passenger-capacity limits and seating instructions for all city busses since March 2020.

Most recently, Translink has mandated masks or face coverings starting August 24, which both Manni and Varinder agree is a great decision for everyone’s safety, and a rule they appreciate deeply as bus drivers who share enclosed spaces with the public for several hours a day.

The biggest professional shift for both men since the pandemic hit BC has been learning how to strike a balance between driving a bus and fielding requests from passengers who see them as authority figures who can direct riders' behaviours. 

Manni says, “Of course, we can make recommendations, but we can’t enforce them.”

For over 3 years, Manni has worked for Translink, a supporting partner for Science World's current feature exhibition Towers of Tomorrow with LEGO® Bricks and sponsored by White Spot and Concert Properties.

Science World invited essential service workers like Varinder and Manni for advanced access before its grand reopening as part of our way of saying “thank you” to those who have kept the city running safely over the last few months.

When COVID-19 hit BC, transit ridership dropped significantly, prompting both the provincial and federal government to step in through their respective Restart Plans. It’s this response that helped Manni and Varinder keep their jobs.

“We were essential to keeping the city going,” says Varinder.

As a bus driver, Manni says that since COVID-19, most of the riders on his route use transit “only when they need to.” Now that BC is in Phase 3, he believes it’s a good thing people are finding new ways to spend their time during the pandemic. “People have started to like staying at home now. They’ve learned other ways to have fun.”

Varinder says that for him, a good thing that has come out of the pandemic is a new perspective on how the public understand his job: “When you see places opening up only for essential workers, and your job is included in that? It makes you feel more valued. I know now that I’m doing a job people appreciate.”

Manni loves Science World. “I’ve been here several times with my friends, and with my parents when they visited--it’s fun. A great way to spend time,” he says. “Varinder’s lived here 8 or 9 years and has never been!”    

Years ago, Varinder saw Science World’s geodesic dome for the first time in a music video. “It’s a famous building because it appears in many Punjabi films and music videos filmed in this neighbourhood.”

On his first time here, Varinder says he had the most fun at the facial expression exhibit in BodyWorks that brings to life the subtle and nuanced ways a face can change its message without words.

And Manni agrees. “We see many facial expressions at work,” he says, laughing. “Guessing what people are thinking and feeling is part of our everyday life.”       

The world needs more people like Manni and Varinder.

As we call on our local community to fund the future, we’re sharing the personal narratives of the heroes who keep us safe. Please donate today, so Science World can be here for the next generation of people who care about science.