By Malkeet Singh
My father, the late N. Gurdial Singh Gill, was a teacher for several years at the then Clive Institution on Maxwell Road, Rawang for many years. It was an era when teachers’ were highly respected and it was considered a very noble profession. Due to his passion for writing, he was also a stringer (part-time correspondent) for the then, Straits Times and Malay Mail. I used to treasure his old news clippings and read in awe some of the fascinating war time coverage he did during the communist insurgency especially filing reports from the hot-beds of Batang Kali, Batu Arang and Rawang.
Then, there were also plenty of stories on the roaming tigers of Templer’s Park jumping onto roof-tops of cars and chasing motor-cyclists along the old Kanching Road to Rawang. We had one of our cow’s eaten alive by a tiger, which was later shot dead by the game wardens and brought on a Police Land Rover for us to see! (I shall post a picture on FB soon.)
In 1961, when I was in Standard One, my father left the teaching profession and joined Malayan Cement as a Wages Clerk. However, he still pursued filing stories for the media until his passing in 1974.
Interestingly, in 1970, he had the pleasure of meeting a new colleague, the late Mr. Naranjan Singh Bandal, who was a Nil Restriction Chargeman from the Dungun Mines at Malayan Cement. Naranjan had just joined Malayan Cement after serving the Bukit Besi Iron Ore Mines, Dungun. He took up residence in the company’s staff quarters which were not too far away from the plant.
My father had a trusty old bicycle which he gave to his new buddy so that he could move around Rawang town. I recall, as young naive children we fondly named Uncle Naranjan, the “New Singh”. It was a name that stuck with him for many years.
This trusty old bicycle led from one thing to another. When Uncle Naranjan’s family moved to Rawang in 1971, my father learnt that Naranjan’s wife was the sister to his old Clive Institution student, the illustrious late Prof. Dr. Satwant Singh Dhaliwal. Prof. Satwant’s father was the Post Master in Serendah and his children were my dad’s students.
I will never forget my first encounter with Prof Satwant when my father proudly introduced me to one of his most brilliant student. I was in Form 5 and used to do group studies. On finding this, Prof Satwant advised me against it because it cultivated a culture of dependency. “Do not become a parasite and be dependent on your group. Stand tall and be independent.” He had an utter disdain for the mundane and mediocre.
The bicycle saga continued with me getting to know Uncle Naranjan’s eldest son, Harmandhar Singh aka Sledgehammer in later years. Ham thought he had moved to the Punjab because he never encountered so many Sikhs before in Dungun! Rawang was like home coming and nurturing grounds in crafting his future career.
The karmic and bicycle episode was set to reveal more things. Sadly, Ham’s mother was involved in a tragic car accident and passed away in Rawang. Little did I know, that my future father-in-law would come into the picture. Jernail Singh, then a policeman at the Rawang Police Station was the first to rush to the scene of the accident and helped the victims to the hospital.
Although tragedy had struck the family, the Creator made sure the children were well taken care of and the Unseen Hand guided them into brilliant careers.
My first dedicated seva to the Dhan Dhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib was to take care of the holy book from Uncle Naranjan’s family after the passing of aunty. I recall we used to dedicate every Thursday to the singing of congregational hymns in the presence of the Holy Sri Granth Sahib all the way from Dungun. The late Santa Singh was instrumental in bringing the Sri Guru Granth Sahib to our home and ensuring there was a weekly congregation involving friends. By then, Ham had his own bicycle and cycled to my house for the weekly prayer session.
Some years later, I graduated and was working at Ogilvy & Mather as a writer and by a sheer stroke of fate inspired Ham to move into the writing business at McCann’s. And, Ham never looked back ever after. I always believe, his late mother’s devotion to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib was guiding the family to success.
Today, my youngest son, Manveer is doing his internship with Ham’s younger brother, Surinder aka Shin, who runs Passion Pictures, a highly successful boutique production house in this region.
Sitting back and reflecting, I am in awe and humbled by how the Raleigh bicycle chartered our future and that of our children.
Malkeet Singh runs a Kuala Lumpur-based advertising agency. – ASIA SAMACHAR (26 Feb 2015)
[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE! Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]