A Sikh family faces Japanese firing squad

The day my father, his brothers cheated death at hands of Japanese occupation army firing squad. Kuala Lumpur-based PR & advertising veteran MALKLEET SINGH shares a slice of his family story

| Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 26 May 2016 | Asia Samachar |
CAPTURING FAMILY HISTORY: Malkeet Singh, who runs a Kuala Lumpur-based PR and advertising agency, plans to help families to self-publish customised family legacy coffee table books.
CAPTURING FAMILY HISTORY: Malkeet Singh, who runs a Kuala Lumpur-based PR and advertising agency, plans to help families to self-publish customised family legacy coffee table books.

By Malkeet Singh

Many of us are unable to articulate, document and preserve our family history and share stories of the struggles, successes and lessons learnt from our fore fathers with our children and the future generations. It is not just a rags-to-riches story but also a story of fighting the indomitable odds and the many vicissitudes of life to come up from scratch through sheer determination and hardwork. Many of our ancestors including our parents and great grandparents went through endless stretches of  heartless  toil and pain.

Blood. Sweat. Tears.

I have had this relentless fire in my belly in wanting to embark on a family  life story coffee-table book project at an affordable cost. This involves researching into the backgrounds of our forefathers and weaving a story of their lives and values. Many of us have old black and white pictures of them that are waiting to unfold a thousand fascinating stories and life lessons.

I have been thinking a lot of my late dad, N. Gurdial Singh Gill, who came to then Malaya at the tender age of 7 in 1931 with his two elder brothers, Kehar Singh and Banta Singh, and settled in Kamunting, Perak. They had brought with them dairy cows from Punjab to eke out a meagre living in British Malaya.

Surprisingly, I was told that my ancestors were horse owners and traders in the village of Pherurain, Punjab, travelling to Kabul for prized horses.

My father continued his education at the King Edward VII School in Taiping completing the Senior Cambridge Examinations. He worked as a teacher at the Clive Institution in Rawang, Selangor, as a reporter and clerk before he passed away at a relatively young age of 50 in 1974. Sadly, he never returned to the Punjab even once to see his aged parents and elder sisters. My grandmother died a broken woman yearning for the sight of her 7-year-old son who never came back. It was, in her eyes, a cruel world.

I am told my father and his two brothers cheated death at the hands of the Japanese Occupation Forces who had sentenced all three of them to death by a firing squad. Waheguru’s blessings through the prayers of the late Sant Baba Jawala Singh of Kamunting saved them from being executed.

Many of his students at the then Clive Institution in Rawang, fared well in their careers to become surgeons, judges, engineers and even a cabinet minister. It was a time when teachers were held in high esteem and were passionate in delivering quality education.

My father was a talented writer and photographer who filed stories for the then Straits Times on communist insurgency hotspots of Rawang, Batu Arang and Batang Kali. He covered intriguing stories of the famous Templar’s Park tigers chasing cars and devouring cattle. It was an era when the tigers were abundant in numbers, not yet an endangered species. British planters were being ambushed and killed by the communists in many estates surrounding Rawang. The coal mine in Batu Arang was the centre of labour strikes. All these were hot news that earned him front page bylines.

As a child I would sit in my father’s laps as he pointed me to the night skyline and  to  epic journeys of the early Apollo and Soyuz spaceships orbiting the earth. Thanks to his encouragement in getting me to listen to the news broadcasts from the BBC and Voice of America, not only did my knowledge increase but more importantly, my command of the English language accelerated.

My father would take me to drama plays at the Kairali Arts Club in Kuala Lumpur where I would watch in awe the resounding voice of the late Bosco D’Cruz and his theatrical skills.

Sadly, my two sons,  Gurmeet and Manveer, both of whom are working, know very little of the family history because the stories have not been documented or preserved in any written form. If I don’t do anything, these stories will be forgotten forever. They will not be able to share with the future generations.

I am embarking on a mission to self-publish customised family legacy coffee table books at an affordable cost for the future generations and supported by a short film.

Malkeet-FbMalkeet Singh, runs Bloomingdale Worldwide Partners, a public relations and advertising agency based in Kuala Lumpur. He is passionate in preserving family legacies and life stories through customised limited edition publication of coffee-table books. He is making a   special offer which comes with a money-back guarantee of 3 coffee table books for a one-time special price of RM4,500. For full details, please get in touch with me via email: malkeet@bloomingdale.com.my, 019 3320 747 or 03 2276 5693.


[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]


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