| Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 13 Aug 2016 | Asia Samachar |
Here’s an imaginary conversation between key officials of Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia (SNSM), an outfit known over the years for running Gurmat camps for Sikh youth and managing Sikhi parchaar.
Those familiar with the Sabha, as the organisation is commonly called, will know who ‘Father’ is. No, they are not looking for someone’s dad or even a leader of some church. They are most probably looking for Dr Jasbir Singh, a likeable and good-natured volunteer at the organisation.
Jasbir, 52, has taken up various roles in SNSM and is currently its secretary. He has been asked by the out-going team to lead the organisation as it prepares for its annual general meeting (AGM) tomorrow (14 Aug 2016) in Kuala Lumpur.
At the AGM, the out-going exco is putting forward Jasbir as the nominee for the Jathedarship. The SNSM leader is called a Jathedar, which literally means a leader of a group.
“When I came back from Australia [after completing his PhD in Knowledge Management at end-2007], it was not same Sabha. I saw disunity. Many of the older sevadars were shying away from Sabha,” he told Asia Samachar in an interview.
“We need to go back to basics. We have diverted from our actual objectives. We don’t do the Sikhi parchaar that we used to do. For example, the Vaisakhi tours by our local jathas. We have just started with our structured mini-samelan and weekend camps.”
If tasked with the responsibility as the SNSM Jathedar, Jasbir intends to emphasise on Sikhi parchaar and the development of the Sikh youth.
He had outlined five areas: 1. Sikhi Parchaar, 2. Youth development 3. Education, 4. Welfare, and 5. House keeping (internal Sabha affairs).
“We need to make Sikhi parchaar as our main objective. The minute you divert from the Guru is when we see disaster,” he said.
Jasbir also emphasised on the importance of developing the youth to become more dynamic.
“We want them to be ready for the job market. We don’t want to give them fish, but to teach them how to fish. We need to develop structured programmes for them,” he said.
Extract from the interview:
Tell us about your early days with the Sabha?
It started in 1988. I was staying with Suret Singh, who was then the Sabha secretary under Jathedar Jai Singh. I used to follow him for some Sabha meetings. I was helping with the setting up of the library at their office at the Sentul gurdwara.
What was your impression of Sabha then?
I saw Sabha as a simple, sincere organisation. I used to see Jai Singh, Master Pritam Singh, Master Daljit Singh [all former Sabha jathedars]. They were sincere and religious people. Sabha was small, but doing high-impact activities. Kirtan jathas were all done by our naujawans.
At that point of time, people knew Naujawan Sabha as the organisation. Whenever they went on kirtan tours, people looked forward to seeing them. They had many mini-samelans. Every other day, they had satsangs at various gurdwaras [in the Klang Valley].
How did you get involved directly?
I was then invited to join the Exco. I was made Assistant Secretary. Then I went to pursue my degree full time at USM in Penang. I used to attend Satsangs, helped Sukhindarpal Singh and the team.
I later served as Secretary under Harbinder Singh, Meet Jathedar with Bulvant Singh and Harvinder Singh. In 2004, I left for Australia to pursue my studies.
Did you get involve in any Sikhi activities in Australia?
I helped to set up Sikh Naujawan Sabha Melbourne. Among the key people were Master Darshan Singh, Dharminder Kaur and her husband Amardeep Singh, Manpal Singh and Sarjit Singh. They wanted to organise Samelans and other activities.
What is the state of the Sabha today?
When I came back from Australia, it was not the same Sabha. I saw disunity. Many of the older sevadars were shying away from Sabha. I see Sabha as more of a religious body. Unfortunately, we did not practice what we preach.
Why do you call Sabha a religious body?
Our main objective is to do Sikhi parchaar. Unfortunately, we were not doing enough of that. We have diverted from our actual objectives. We don’t do the Sikhi parchaar that we used to do. Seva pavnaa (love for selfless service) is lacking. We were looking too much at pleasing people.
What needs to be done?
We need to bring back all our sevadars. The process to get the involvement of the earlier sevadars has started. It will take time.
What Sabha needs to do?
We need to go back to basics. For example, the Vaisakhi tours by our local jathas. We have just started with our structured mini-samelan and weekend camps.
At the annual samelan last year, we had adopted a different way to prepare the learning modules. We used instructional design techniques. Whatever you want to do, you start with the learning objectives. Once you can define that, you then work backwards to see how to achieve them. The activities will be designed in such a way to achieve those objectives. We may use different methodologies like debates, discussions, case studies.
Moving forward, what should be Sabha’s focus?
We are looking at these five areas: 1. Sikhi Parchaar, 2. Youth development 3. Education, 4. Welfare, and 5. House keeping (internal Sabha affairs).
We need to make Sikhi parchaar as our main objective. The minute you divert from the Guru is when we see disaster. We must remain on the path of the Guru’s teachings. We must always put the Guru before us.
What do you mean by Sikhi parchaar?
We are talking about Sikhi parchaar for all. In parchaar, we also want to relook at the Akaal Purakh ki Fauj. The Fauj was supposed to be a structured way of teaching Sikhi. When we had this movement, the outcome could be seen at Samelans. When you talk to camp participants [who had gone throught the Fauj programmes], you could see they could grasp things better. When we had the Fauj programmes back in the early days, the participants would come eagerly to samelans.
The next thing we need to do is develop our youth to become more dynamic. We want them to be ready for the job market. We don’t want to give them fish, but to teach them how to fish. We need to develop structured programmes for them.
Any change in approach to the way Sabha should do things?
We should not do things on our own. We should collaborate with other organisations, We should maximise our resources. The aim is to get all the youth together.
In January 2016, we collaborated with EKTA, a group of professional Sikh women who believe in life long learning. We will work with them to help SPM students on things like soft skills, how to prepare resumes, selection of courses.
On education, we should emulate what the Sri Murugan Centre (SMC) is doing. We should target primary students, with the help of university students. We want to get our academicians’ help to see how we can best do this.
On the welfare front, we should emulate what the UK-based Sikh Helpline is doing. We should not do it on our own. We should join hands with the Sikh Welfare Society Malaysia (SWSM), Malaysian Sikh Education Aid Fund (MSEAF), other relevants organisations a well as individuals. We would like to get psychologist and relevant people to join in as well.
Lastly, Sabha needs to keep our house in order. Administratively, we need to have in place a proper filing system and governance in terms of managing our finance.
How do you propose to fund all these projects?
The Sabha should launch a full scale daswand scheme. In our pilot project, we already have 60 people who are contributing a minimum of RM30 a month. Some are giving more. The scheme is known as One for Guru. It means we set aside RM1 a day for the Guru. We are looking at a sustainable income. We cannot depend on government handouts. Whenever we have project, we go to the Sanggat. With this, we will have a flow of sustainable income.
What about the Khalsa Land in KKB?
This will be good for the long term development of Khalsa Land in Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB). We must look at developing the land. That’s going to be our permanent samelan ground. We have to plan it in such a way that it is used year-round with activities. It should be self-sustaining.
[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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