By Harmit Singh | IN MEMORY | MALAYSIA |
Amidst the chaos of an annual samelan, Uncle Balwant found the time to carve out steps – three steps with a makeshift railing – in the muddy slope next to the boy’s dormitories. In more or less no time, he found the equipment he needed and quietly went about improving our communal home.
He had ideas. But he always seemed to operate in the background. Blink and you’ll miss him at work. One moment the slope is a dangerous mess and the next a respectable path.
Yesterday, we lost a ‘doer’. In a world filled with people ready to give life to stale debates and empty discussions, Uncle Balwant Got. Stuff. Done..
He never argued nor did he sit down long enough to catch his breath. To him, life resembled a continuous project for improvement. He did things because he identified things to do. There was always something to do.
I am convinced that Uncle Balwant’s work ethic is an anachronism, a relic from a distant past. He reminds me of a time long before I was born, a time of strong characters and even stronger principles.
There was nothing to gain from building the steps in the gurmat samelan (Gurmat camp) – no applause or compliments, no one waiting to shake his hand at the end of it all. He understood the need because he identified with the ‘Khalsa Land’. He loved the idea of a space for young people to come together and have a good time, regardless of race or ideology.
The beautiful 20-acres camp site called the Khalsa Land is located at the foothills of a mountain range in Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB), about 65km from Kuala Lumpur. In June 2012, about two dozen Sikh youth had set foot for the maiden camp at the campsite. Uncle Balwant was around.
In this way you understand how Uncle Balwant looked out for all of us. He did not live his life for himself. Instead, he found meaning in ‘us’ as a tribe – the human family. He managed to do things for others only because the wellbeing of those around him affected his happiness. Some people talk about it, but Uncle Balwant lived the idea of selfless service.
If our community were a pyramid, Uncle Balwant is one of those cornerstones on which the entire structure rests upon. It is through people like him that I understood our Malaysian brand of Sikhi. Our struggle is one of development and our purpose is to lift each other.
Uncle Balwant is survived by his lovely wife Aunty Sokh and his three children, Seyvaq, Harsajjan and Amanpreet. I assure you that my best friend, Seyvaq is just as versatile as his father and the entire family embodies Uncle Balwant’s kindness and his ability to make anyone feel comfortable. My thoughts and prayers are with the family, as they endure this difficult time.
The samelan ground in Kuala Kubu Baru was extremely dear to Uncle Balwant. In typical Uncle Balwant fashion, he visited KKB once a week and kept close ties with those that worked on ‘our home’ rather than those who administer it. I hope to see KKB fully functioning in the near future, Uncle Balwant would have been proud.
(Balwant Singh was earlier attached to a Malaysian public listed company, with a one-time stint in Sri Lanka. He then ran his own enterprise. He was known for his generous and giving heart when it came to people, regardless of race, religion or colour – Editor’s Note]
Khalsa Land set to host Malaysia’s largest Gurmat camp (Asia Samachar, 19 Dec 2015)