By Hernaikh Singh (On Behalf of Towner Boys) | SINGAPORE | IN MEMORY |
I have been requested to write this eulogy on behalf of Towner Boys for the late Mr Harawant Singh. I am privileged and humbled by this honour, and I know that it is also a difficult responsibility. This is because Mr Harawant was part of so many beautiful experiences for the Towner Boys. Any attempt to speak about this great human being may fall short of reflecting what he really was.
I met Mr Harawant sometime in the late 1970s. Sikh Sewaks Singapore was informally established in 1978to serve the Sikh youth and sangat. Mr Harawant was one of the pioneers of the group. I was part of a group of impressionable youngsters back then. Many, if not all of us, came from not-well-to-do families. Our passion was football. Some of us attended Punjabi classes at the Singapore Khalsa Association every Saturday afternoon and the 20-minute recess was a time for us to play football in the field.Honestly, we looked forward to that more than the classes!
When Sikh Sewaks decided to start a football team, Mr Harawant took us under his wing. Of course, we were delighted for it provided another avenue for us to come together to play football. We represented Sikh Sewaks for a while. I recall Mr Harawant carrying a red pail with orange mix and ice to our trainings every week. Realising that we were committed and passionate, Mr Harawant then brought his younger brother, Mr Karpal Singh, as the coach of the team. Mr Hawarant also realised that football was a bond that could keep us away from mischief and trouble. It would also keep us together for a long time. There was a nice balance between the two brothers. Mr Karpal was a strict no-nonsense coach while Mr Harawant as the jovial, friendly and approachable manager
Soon, believing they could do more for us, Mr Harawant and Mr Karpal decided to make the team more professional. They decided to participate in football tournaments and in the league. We became Towner Sikh (since Central Sikh Temple where Sikh Sewaks Singapore was based was in Towner Road) and then Towner Sports Club since we could not participate in national-level competitions donning a religious name. We brought non-Sikhs into the team. Under Mr Harawant’s and Mr Karpal’s guidance, we became one of the more successful non-league teams and probably the only one with an official sponsor – Hummel.
Training was torturous at times but we kept coming back every week. Which teenager in the right frame of mind would wake up to train from 9.00am to 12.00nn every Sunday, sometimes without even touching the football during the session? We did! We were a family. Mr Harawant even arranged for us to travel to Malaysia for friendly matches. Our first trip was to Pontian and then Seremban. We stayed in the gurdwara. For us, these trips meant a lot since we could not afford to travel on our own. Our parents trusted us in Mr Harawant’s care. They knew he would look after us. On his part, Mr Hawarant made us feel wanted. He had a great personality. He never got angry and never scolded us. He was such a wonderful and caring mentor.
In all those growing up years, Mr Harawant looked after us like a father would his children. We certainly would have gone awry. There were so many distractions around us. He did not let that happen. He took real good care of us and made sure we did well.
We grew up, got married and became parents. He was present at our weddings. Now some of us are based overseas – in Australia and the United States. We would find occasions to meet when the overseas-based Towner Boys came back. Whenever we met with Mr Harawant, he would express his joy at how well we turned out. You could see the glow and happiness on his face.
In a conversation with one of the Towner Boys, Mr Harjinder Singh, which encapsulates his feeling for all of us, Mr Harawant said, “I am so happy for all of you. You guys are just like my children…See you guys grew up from all sorts of backgrounds…All grown up now with families of your own…All having good jobs and self-sustaining and not dependent on anybody. I cannot imagine I have so many small grandkids. Always meet with our fellow Towner Boys; make sure all of you keep in touch and remember the hard times you guys went through. Tell your kids and you grandchildren our stories…our outings…our games…our gatherings. Laugh about the good old days. Memories will always stay!
This wonderful person left us suddenly on 6 January 2019. Till today, all the Towner Boys are finding it so difficult to come to terms with our loss. We have known Mr Harawant for almost 40 years. When you lose someone you have known for so long, it is really tough. But when you lose someone like Mr Harawant, it is really hard to express the sadness and emptiness. It is said that good people don’t die; they become God’s angels. We know for certain that Mr Harawant is up there looking over all the Towner Boys and our families.
We will always cherish Mr Harawant’s time with us, and our time with him. He shall always remain in our hearts and he shall always be in our prayers.We will always miss him.
Hernaikh Singh, one of the Towner Boys, is the current president of Singapore Khalsa Association