Malacca, Malaysia | Asia Samachar | 20 May 2015
Meet the step-in granthi sahib who took over some of the responsibilities of Baba Sohan Singh at Malacca when he was not well.
Bhai Bilwant Singh came forward to handle the sembhal (caring) of the Guru Granth Sahib when the Baba Sohan was ill with diabetics in the late 1960s, and later when taken to Ipoh in 1971.
“Baba ji used to ask for me. I used to apply oil on his feet,” he told Asia Samachar when recently met at the Gurdwara Sahib Malacca. “I also used to sweep and clean around the gurdwara.”
Bilwant, 80, and the local Malacca Sikh sanggat (congregation) are preparing to greet the thousands of Sikhs expected to converge at the gurdwara for a four-day selaana yaadgar semagam starting May 21.
It is held in memory of Sohan Singh (1901-1972), a well-respected Sikh missionary, who have touched many hearts in Malaysia and Singapore.
Bilwant worked at the HSBC Bank in Malacca from 1961 to 1991, first as a jaga (Malay for security guard) and later as a clerk. The bank was then located by the beach, he said.
He had also served as a granthi for five years, 2004-2009, at the Sant Sohan Singh Ji Melaka Memorial Society headquarters, popularly known as the Vidyala, located just behind the Malacca gurdwara.
Like many who fell in love with the Baba Sohan the missionary, Bilwant, too, recalls many sweet moments with him.
“I had learnt the muharni [Punjabi alphabets] with him, then paath (reading of Guru Granth Sahib). I also picked up Sikhia and katha vachak from Baba ji,” he said.
Back then, Bilwant used to trim his beard. Someone tried getting Baba Sohan to compel him to desist. “Let it be. No need to tell him. He will do it himself,” Baba Sohan replied, as recalled by Bilwant.
Some time later, Bilwant went to Tampin, Negeri Sembilan, for an akhand path. There, he was asked to take part in the non-stop reading of the GGS. The paathis (readers of the GGS) usually observed the basic Sikh tenets, including maintaining unshorn hair and untrimmed beard.
“I decided to keep my beard proper. After that, I had travelled all over the country for akhand paths and kirtan,” he said. At times, he travelled with the kirtan jatha (group) of Bhai Gurdev Singh from Seremban.
Like a few others spoke to before him, Bilwant also feels the Malacca sanggat did not, as they put it, ‘gain much’ from Baba Sohan’s presence there.
“The sanggat outside gained more. They valued him more than those of use who stayed in his midst,” he said.
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