Petaling Jaya: What to do with old gurdwara builiding?

What to do the old gurdwara builiding? Some suggestions for consideration of Petaling Jaya gurdwara which holds its AGM on Sunday. MOHAN SINGH RENDHAWA reports

Petaling Jaya, Malaysia | 12 May 2017 | Asia Samachar |
UNKEPT: The state of Petaling Jaya old gurdwara building – PHOTO / MOHAN SINGH

By Mohan Singh Rendhawa

It is hoped the annual general meeting (AGM) of the Gurdwara Sahib Petaling Jaya (GSPJ) on Sunday (14 May 2017) will decide on the fate of the old Petaling Jaya gurdwara land and make a decision on what can be done to this valuable property.

It is hoped the Sangat (congregation) will take this matter more seriously and give priority to the redevelopment of the old gurdwara building in addition to the renovation of the present gurdwara building facilities. If not another few years will pass and the place will remain the same.

The AGM should vote a sum of RM1 million for this purpose and set up a committee of youthful members of the GSPJ to work on this project. Forty eight years have gone by since we moved out of the old gurdwara and nothing has been done to add value to the property.

Most  Gurdwaras like the Gurdwara Sahib Tatt Khalsa Diwal in Kuala Lumpur have multiple sources of income. In addition to the “mehha tek” (golak) and degh money, they have a big hall that is rented for additional income. I believe their car park generates monthly income of around RM15,000. They have rooms and shops lots rented out.

Earning money from other sources is not a new practice. I know Gurdwara Sahib Kuching has income from shops that are on rent since more then 50 years ago. Gurdwara Sahib Rawang also has income from shops on the main road that are rented out. GSPJ is only earning  RM600 per month (from the old gurdwara building). This can be increased if we make strategic use of the land of the old gurdwara to benefit our youth and next generation.

SEE ALSO: Petaling Jaya old gurdwara building in dire straits

SEE ALSO: Managing gurdwara funds transparently, with accountability

Since writing the Letter to Editor of Asia Samachar on 5 May 2017, I have been approached by many of my friends and people whom I did not know before to tell me that they were not aware that this place existed. Many felt sad that the Petaling Jaya gurdwara management committees (GMC) over the last 48  years have neglected this place and allowed it to deteriorate to such a level. Many felt that the land is strategically location, being next to the Assunta Hospital and the Majlis Perbandaran Petaling Jaya (MBPJ) sports complex. They gave the view that it will be good if we build a two or three storey apartments to be rented out as the 252 room hospital will have many outstation visitors and families of people  undergoing treatment who will want a place to stay close to the hospital to visit their loved ones.

Others came and shared their childhood stories of how they used to make Guru Ka Langgar using charcoal stoves as we did not use gas those days. I met an ex-RMAF veteran who said he and his family rented the old gurdwara builiding and stayed there for 30 years. According to this veteran, he used to repair and maintain the place while he was living there. He confirmed that the place, being all made of wood, is infested with termites and he had to put in additional pillars to prevent the house from collapsing.

Manmohan Singh from MAS said: “My grandfather Ala Singh, a retired accountant from Malayan Railways, was the first GSPJ treasurer and my father Chatar Singh, Senior Engineer LLN, was the gurdwara’s first secretary.” He added that during big celebrations donations were usually in kind. One person will donate all the dhall for the day, another all the atta and yet another all the degh.

Manmohan is not sure of the details but he said: “A group of senior citizens paid for the house around 1962/63. They could be my grandfather Ala Singh, Darshan Singh, Labh Singh, Lall Singh and may be Gurbachan Singh the father of our current GSPJ manager Jaspal Singh. They broke the walls and converted the place into a big hall with three rooms at the back. Two rooms were for the granthi and one room for Punjabi class. Even at that time, importance was given to teaching of Gurmukhi as the foundation of reading the SGGS.”

It must have been a struggle for these senior citizens to come up with the funds to buy this place and convert it into a gurdwara for the Sangat. It is important that we today show respect to these senior citizens and develop the land into something that will add value to the Sangat today and respect the legacy of the senior citizens who bought this place.

I  consulted my good friend retired Associate Professor Autar Singh of UITM, Shah Alam, who is very active in the Sikh community. I have run Adventure Camps and other youth camps with him. His views are that we should  build a multi purpose hall for wedding sangeets and receptions.

I agree with this idea as hall rentals today are high and families wanting to conduct small sangeets and family functions find it hard to find a suitable space. Government halls are available but they have rules of not allowing any form of alcoholic beverages inside the hall. The old gurdwara land build up space is about 2,400 sq ft. I guess this will be sufficient for the Sangeet of a decent size.

Associate Professor Autar also suggested that Sikh NGO’s like Sikh Women’s Awareness Network (SWAN), Selangor Sikh Association (SSA) and others can rent office space. If a kitchen space can be added to the multipurpose hall, then SWAN can also use the place to have cooking classes for ladies and teenagers. “It will also be good if we can include a couple of seminar rooms with a capacity of 75 to 150 participants,” he said.

I guess a multipurpose hall of the size of 2,400 sq ft can easily accommodate this need. He also recommended one floor for short term stay to generate revenue for the gurdwara and we look into providing adequate parking space underground. These suggestions, if followed, will create a facility that the community can use for many years to come.

The question is that the AGM on Sunday has to decide on what can be done to use the old gurdwara land to achieve maximum benefit for the next generation. Turning it into a sports center for youth will be a waste of resources as there is a more beautiful and well equipped Majlis Petaling Jaya Sports Complex 200 meters from this location that our youth can use. Below are some of the options we have that will not only generate income but also add value to the Sangat. We will have an additional facility for the Petaling Jaya future generation.

Three-level building: Area 60’x80’. After set back 40’x 60’ = 2400 sq ft available to build. We can build 4×600 sq ft apartments per level. At the moment we look at 3 levels.

Each  unit can be rented out for RM 800.

Income per floor RM 800x 4 = RM 3,200 x 3 floors = RM 9,600 per month.

Approximate construction cost: RM200 per sq ft x 600 sq ft = RM 120,000 per unit x 4 units = 480,000 per floor. RM480,000 x 3 floors = RM 1,440,000. For a start the AGM can vote a sum of RM1 million for this project.

Two-level building: On the other hand if we only build two floors of apartments and use one floor to build a multi purpose hall that can be portioned into four smaller training rooms when required and combined when required into one big hall. This way we can  provide a facility for sangeet nights and receptions. This could be the ground floor level. There is a big demand for meeting rooms in the Klang Valey.

On Sunday evenings, a Gurmat vichaar group is paying RM500 for a two-hour use of an AV Room with PA system and LCD projector at the Brickfields College Asia (BCA) building located within walking distance of the present GSPJ.

Eight unit apartment with training rooms: The other alternative is to build 8 units of apartments and 4 training rooms. If we build only 8 apartments and 4 air conditioned meeting rooms equipped with PA system, LCD projectors and chairs, just like BCA, we can charge RM500 per day, compared to RM500 for two hours. If all the training rooms are used only 5 times per month the Gurdwara earns RM500 x 4 x 5  = RM 10,000 per month. The rest of the time these AV rooms can be used by our youth to conduct training programs. Apartment  Income: RM 800 x 8 = RM 6,400. Total income will be RM16,400 per month. On the other hand, if we rent the training rooms out for 15 days a month, the income from the training rooms alone will be RM 30,000 per month. This is achievable if we do aggressive marketing of the facility.

The 14 May AGM has to make a decision to redevelop the old gurdwara building into a useful place for the Sangat. The views expressed here are only one or two persons views but leaving the old gurdwara building is going to be a waste of a valuable resource.

Another 48 years will pass before some one else like me takes up this as an issue. It is , therefore, very important that the AGM elect a committee made up of youthful members of the Sangat to come up with a plan on how best to utilise this valuable land. The meeting should also vote a sum of RM1 million to the development of the old gurdwara builiding and set up a committee to get the project started.

Lt. Col. (Rtd) Mohan Singh Rendhawa

[Lt Col (Rtd) Mohan Singh Rendhawa, who retired from the Malaysian armed forces, is an active social worker and a trainer. This article is a follow-up to his earlier Letter to Editor where he first highlighted the issue concerning the state of the building which once used to house the Petaling Jaya gurdwara. He can be contacted at  +6017 8889512 or vial email]


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