The story of a Malaysian Sikh family

“From eating scraps for meals, we grew in strength to succeed in our careers and lives.” - POLA SINGH, one of the nine siblings of a cowherd from Malacca. NEW STRAIT STIMES talks to him as the nation celebrates Malaysia Day and 60th National Day


| Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 17 Sept 2017 | Asia Samachar |

Dr Pola Singh launches his book Reflections of Life with family members all around

By Adrian David | New Straits Times

TARA Singh’s three sons are fine examples of Malaysians who have earned their stripes despite the odds.

Brothers Pola Singh, Lieutenant-Colonel (Rtd) Heera Singh and Lieutenant-Colonel Inderjit Singh are the proud sons of a cowherd from Air Leleh, Melaka, who raised nine children who served the nation prominently.

Paying tribute to his parents, Tara and Ram Kaur, née Chan Yoke Lin, Pola said he and his siblings were grateful for their unconditional love and sacrifice in moulding them to face life’s challenges.

“We have learnt to appreciate life in a meaningful way, thanks to our upbringing.

“From eating scraps for meals, we grew in strength to succeed in our careers and lives,” said Pola, who retired as Maritime Institute of Malaysia director-general in 2011.

SEE ALSO: My Reflections of Life: New book by former Malaysian DG Pola Singh

After retiring from the army, Heera is now a business consultant, while Inderjit is still in military service and played hockey for the armed forces.

Pola’s other siblings have also shone in their careers, but he declined to divulge details.

Pola is the fourth among nine siblings, — sisters Ajaib, Harcharan, Iswander, Kulwant and Sarjit Kaur, and brothers Heera, Harban and Inderjit.

In a period when the nation celebrated Malaysia Day and its 60th National Day, Pola spoke of how fortunate it was to live in such a wonderful country.

“Through hard work and diligence, people like me are able to become head of a government department after joining the  administrative and diplomatic service in 1972.

“We have to thank our country for our blessings,” said Pola, who turned 68 on July 16.

He remembers well his past experiences and so volunteers at Sikh temples and helps distribute food with his Sikh Soup Kitchen team all around Kuala Lumpur every Friday.

As Friends of Bukit Kiara co-founder and Taman Tun Dr Ismail Resident’s Association committee member, Pola also helps with environmental conservation and community upkeep.

“I know how hard it can be for the less fortunate to earn a living, let alone survive.

“Even many of the residents in my neighbourhood are in dire need of advice and guidance, and I am happy to help where I can,” said Pola, who is probably the first from Air Leleh, or even Melaka, to earn a doctorate in marketing from the University of Alabama in the United States in 1992.

After retirement, Pola was the Initiative for Asean Integration unit head based in Jakarta, Indonesia, for four years until 2006.

He is also a prolific writer, having just finished writing his book, My Reflections of Life, and is a regular contributor on social affairs for local newspapers.

He was a sports stringer with The Malay Mail in the 1980s, under the pen name S. Paul.

Describing his life’s journey as purposeful, Pola said he earned satisfaction in seeing everyday community issues being resolved after being highlighted in the New Straits Times’s “Letters to the Editor”.

“The encouraging feedback from people in voicing their grievances spurred me to write with a greater purpose so that I can help make a difference for them.”

He reminded the younger generation of the importance of family and friends who would support them at all times.

“One can succeed through sheer grit, determination, hard work and fortitude.

“Accepting rejection is part and parcel of life. If you do not make mistakes, you are not trying and will never succeed,” said Pola.

He said since retirement, he had more time to reflect on his experiences — joyful events, friendships, setbacks, rejections, work-life imbalance, beliefs and values.

“In short, general issues that matter to us and affect us the most.

“That is why I have compiled all my writings in a book so that I can fulfil my dream of writing a book and share my experiences with others,” said Pola, who is married to Karina Kaur, née Leong Mei Yeen, 66.

The couple’s daughter, Cheryl Kaur, 38, is Affin Hwang Asset Management Bhd deputy head of equities, while son Dillon Singh Pola, 37, is a banker in Melbourne, Australia.

The article, entitled ”Thank the country for our blessings’, appeared at New Straits Times (17 Sept 2017). See here.


My Reflections of Life: New book by former Malaysian DG Pola Singh (Asia Samachar, 15 Aug 2017)


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  1. “Thank our country for our blessings” says Dr Pola Singh. I hope more Malaysian Sikhs who have been blessed should write. I have been fortunate so I hope to write soon. At the same time if you feel the country could have done better for you, you should write too so the rest of us, if given the opportunity, will know what to say.