A burning passion to capture stories of Sikhs in Malaysia

Dr Manjit Singh Sidhu, author of 'Pride of Lions: Eminent Sikhs in Malaysia', is working on the second volume, with 40 people already interviewed

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Dr Manjit Singh Sidhu – Photo: Asia Samachar
By Asia Samachar Team | MALAYSIA |

It took the passing away of his father to spur him into capturing the first draft of the history of Sikhs in Malaysia. Otherwise, Dr Manjit Singh Sidhu may have remained cocooned in his cosen academic field.

The nudge resulted in him capturing the life and times some five dozen Sikhs in a book entitled Pride of Lions: Eminent Sikhs in Malaysia released in 2017.

“The passing away of my father Bhai Kirpal Singh sent a shock wave in me. I had been complacent and had not recorded the family history. With that came the realization that the history of Sikh emigrants from Punjab to South-East Asia would soon be forgotten,” he shares in the book’s introduction.

His father, who passed away in 1975, was no ordinary person, as well. He had participated in the Jaito and Guru-ka-Bagh Morchas in the 1920s, making him one of the freedom fighters for the Indian independence. Morcha refers to an organised march or rally.

Dr Manjit, now well into retirement after years of teaching at institutions of higher learning, is working on the second volume of the book.

“At this juncture, I have a list of some 40 people whom I have already interviewed. They will appear in the next book,” Dr Manjit tells Asia Samachar in a telephone interview.

The 77-year old author lives in Mantin, Negeri Sembilan and frequents Gurdwara Sahib Mantin. He retired as an associate professor from Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) in 1999. He began his teaching career at University Malaya (UM) in 1975.

Neighbouring Singapore, too, had a similar book. In 2015, Young Sikh Association – Singapore (YSA) published the Singapore at 50 – 50 Sikhs and their Contributions to celebrate Singapore’s 50th birthday (SG50).

Launched by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the book featured 50 notable Sikhs who have contributed to Singapore’s development and nation-building across various fields.

CLICK HERE TO READ ENTRIES OF THE SINGAPORE BOOK

As with both books, you can never fit into them all the names that deserve mentioning. The Singapore compendium was the result of a team work while Dr Manjit’s book is a one man’s effort.

“There are still so many Sikhs on whom something should be written about,” said Dr Manjit.

For the second volume, he has interviewed another batch of Sikhs with interesting stories to tell. They include retired Federal Court judge Pajan Singh Gill, Penang Hospital forensic pathologist Dr Bhupinder Singh and Sabah-based senior planter k Jaswant Singh Kler.

Aside from the selection of personalities covered, the book also lacks some robust and in-depth background research.

“Dr Manjit is old-school. He’s not savvy with online research. So, you will detect gaps in the people he has written about,” said one of the persons featured in the book. “However, he has made it up with his persistency in chasing the people he is writing about. He met many of them in person. So, he has presented a great first draft for others to work on.”

Pride of Lions is far from his only work. Dr Manjit is also the author of the Sikhs in Malaysia. Published in 1991, the book is valuable as it has captured for posterity interviews, conducted in 1978 and 1979, of 100 Malaysian Sikhs who were born in India and Pakistan. He had completed similar books for Sikhs in Thailand and Kenya.

TO READ MORE ON DR MANJIT SINGH SIDHU, CLICK HERE

The retired Malaysian university lecturer had also released another book, ‘Sikhs and Sikh Institutions In Pakistan’ in 2017. Subsequently, the book was translated by Dr Kulwinder Kaur Minhas into Punjabi, resulting in the release of Pakistan Vich Sikh Ate Sikh Sansthawan.

HERE ARE THE 57 PERSONS COVERED IN Pride of Lions: Eminent Sikhs in Malaysia:

1. Dr. Ajeet Kaur Gill (nee Sandhu), Australian-trained medical doctor
2. Sardar Ajmer Singh, Tokoh Guru
3. Madam Ajaib Kaur, Social Worker
4. Tan Sri Ajit Singh, Malaysia’s First Sikh Ambassador
5. Sardar Budh Singh, President, MIC

Sardar Budh Singh was the second president of the then Malayan Indian Congress. He is captured here in an oil painting placed at the MIC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. On the left is the first MIC president John Thivy. – PHOTO / ASIA SAMACHAR

6. Sardar Balwant Singh Sidhu, Senior lawyer
7. Datuk Balwant Singh Kler, Malaysia’s sports official
8. Professor Dr. Chatar Singh, Professor of physics and Queen’s scholar
9. Dato’ Sri Chet Singh, GM, Penang Development Corp
10. Engineer Dalip Singh, Dep GM, Malayan Railways
11. Colonel Dara Singh, Ex Chinese Army Colonel, Protector of Aborigines, Game-warden
12. Sardar Ginder Singh Gill, Negeri Sembilan transport company operator

Ginder Singh Gill – Photo / Pride of Lions

13. Datuk Gurbakhs Singh Kler, Father of Sabah Sports
14. Sardar Gurchan Singh, Singa, The Lion of Malaya; Aide-de-camp to Malaysia’s first PM Tunku Abdul Rahman
15. Dr. Gurdev Singh, Penang leading veterinary doctor
16. Tan Sri G.S. Gill, Sikh businessman in sports goods
17. Professor Gurdial Singh, UM law professors
18. Mr. Gurmit Singh, Environment crusader
19. Dr. Harbans Kaur Virik, First child specialist in Malaysia
20. Sardar Habhajan Singh, Journalist & newspaper editor
21. Dato Harjit Singh Hullon, TV new editor & RTM news reader
22. Dato Dr. Harjit Singh, Johor Cricket Council president
23. Madam Harwanth Kaur, First Sikh female lawyer & first lady magistrate in Malaysia
24. Sardar Ishar Singh, Accidental zoo keeper
25. The Legendary Jagat Singh of Perlis, Richest Sikh in Southeast Asia in 1950s
26. Sardar Jagdeep Singh Deo, Penang state executive councillor
27. Mr. Joginder Singh, Teacher to lawyer
28. Sardar Jaswant Singh Khosa, Scribe, Guru Granth Sahib
29. Dato Jagjit Singh, Retired Sessions Court judge
30. Dato Dr. Kaka Singh, dental surgeon & social worker
31. Sardar Karamjit Singh, The Flying Sikh & 2002 Sportsman of the Year (rally car driver)
32. Dato’ Karam Singh Walia, TV3 news editor & leading environment issues journalist
33. Mr. Karpal Singh, DAP chairman, Opposition politician, Tiger of Jelutong
34. Dr. Karpal Singh, Pantai Hospital general & pediatric surgeon
35. Madam Kirpal Kaur, Women entrepreneur & Gulati Stores owner
36. Sardar Kartar Singh, Winner of nation’s highest galantry award
37. Madam Kirenjit Kaur, First Rotary lady governor in Malaysia
38. Datuk Dr. Keshmahinder Singh, Opthhalmologist (eye specialist)
39. Prof. Kernial Singh Sandhu, ISEAS Singapore director

Prof Kernial Singh Sandhu: Director, Institute of South-East Asian Studies, Singapore

40. Sardar Kuldip Singh Sandhu, High ranking Sikh police officer in Singapore
41. Dato’ Lakhbir Singh Chahl, Lawyer, Senior public officer, international diplomat, sportman
42. Sardar Lall Singh, Malaysia’s cricketing legend

Cricket legend Lall Singh

43. Sardar Malkit Singh Lopo, Sikhs in Malaysia chronicler, novelist
44. Bhai Mani Singh Ji, An extraordinary saint
45. Datuk Dr. Mohinder Singh Malhotra, Versatile soil scientist, cooperative leader (Koperasi Khalsa)
46. Dato Nashatar Singh Sidhu, National sports coach, javelin champion, Malaysian rugby captain
47. Madam Preetam Kaur Gill, social worker & women’s rights activist
48. Sardar Pritam Singh, First Asian Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) in Malaysia
49. Major General Datuk Ranjit Singh Ramday, First Sikh major general in Malaysian armed forces
50. Dato Rhina Bhar, Lawyer, politician & first Sikh woman senator in Malaysia
51. Professor Satwant Singh Dhaliwal, Queen’s scholar & genetics professor

Prof Satwant Singh Dhaliwal

52. Tan Sri Sarwan Singh Gill, Court interpreter to chief justice, Malaya
53. Sardar Shamsher Singh, Police officer to rubber planter
54. Sant Sohan Singh Ji, A genuine Sikh saint
55. Dr. Tara Singh Shergill, Negeri Sembilan Father of eye surgery
56. Giani Tirlochan Singh, Editor of Malaya Samachar
57. Dr. Veerinderjeet Singh, Leading tax expert

HOW TO GET A COPY?

Limited copies of PRIDE OF LION are still available. Price: RM50 (add RM10 for postage within Malaysia). Call author at +6017-2291106. For further assistance, Whatsapp to Asia Samachar at +6017-335-1399

 

RELATED STORY:

Pride of Lions (Asia Samachar, 28 Oct 2017)

Book on Pakistan Sikhs translated into Punjabi (Asia Samachar, 25 Dec 2019)

Sikhs have long tradition of serving community, says Singapore PM (Asia Samachar, 28 Nov 2015)

ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs / Punjabis in Southeast Asia and beyond. Facebook | WhatsApp +6017-335-1399 | Email: editor@asiasamachar.com | Twitter | Instagram | Obituary announcements, click here |

1 COMMENT

  1. Kudos. Excellent effort. Some noteworthy names are missing in the list which is to be expected as it is obviously difficult to capture all. I hope that a future edition will include them – Dr Sunder Singh Penang, Dr Jagat Singh Penang, Gobind Singh Deo Puchong MP, Sardar Suaran Singh Penang, Sardar Harcharan Singh Sentul, Dato Mahinder Singh Dulku Penang, Dato Dr Gurcharan Singh Gombak, Dato Ajit Singh Jessy Penang and indeed many others who have made extraordinary contributions.

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