By Asia Samachar Team | MALAYSIA |
Retired teacher Pritam Singh will be remembered as a jovial person with a deep and abiding dedication to the Sikh youth. Above all, he will be remembered as a thrifty family man and community worker who walked the talk when it came to living the Sikh faith.
The former jathedar of Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia (SNSM) passed away today (12 April). He was 79.
He leaves spouse Naranjan Kaur Jagindar Singh, four children Jasbir Kaur, Sharanjit Kaur, Ravinder Kaur and Amreek Singh, and three granddaughters.
There was an immediate outpouring of love and grief on the social media circle connected to the Kuala Lumpur-based Sikh organisation when news of his death began making its around.
“A beautiful soul that left a void that cannot be replaced in the hearts of not just the Sangat, but SNSM in particular,” wrote Khushwant Singh, a former honorary secretary of SNSM, in a note widely shared within the local Sikh circle. “One who always met the Sangat with love and respect didn’t shy from his duties or responsibilities as the Jathedar of Sabha or Sewadar at our beloved Sabha House….”
Pritam, who is fondly known as Master Ji, was one of SNSM founding members who later served as its jathedar, or chief, between 1988 and 1991. He was also its trustee.
Born on 6 October 1941 at Kuala Kubu Bharu, Selangor, his parents were Pan Singh and Ganesh Kaur. He retired as an acting headmaster of SM La Salle Sentul, Kuala Lumpur, but continued with gusto his involvement in SNSM.
There are very few like him who have spent his entire life serving the Panth, especially the youth,” fellow Sikh community leader Santokh Singh told Asia Samachar.
He would know a thing or two about Pritam whom he first met when they both, in their late teens, attended a Sikh camp in Port Dickson in 1963. It was believed to be the first Gurmat Samelan organised by the youth body.
“We kept in touch. We use to meet up at the Samelans and became good friends,” said Santokh who is president of the Ipoh-based Khalsa Diwan Malaysia (KDM), an organisation actively running the weekend Panjabi language centres nationwide.
“After retiring from teaching, he went full time with the Naujawan Sabha. He told me he wanted to dedicate his live for the youth. He dedicated his life in service of the community. He considered youth as the paneeri (future), and would always say that we should take care of them,” he said.
DEDICATION TO THE CORE
Manmohan Singh, a former SNSM senior member, noted that Pritam was the main parcharak (preacher) for the Sabha kirtan tours that began in 1973.
“He would grab the sangat’s [congregation’s] attention by citing local examples and, of course, cracking jokes in between. He was also one of the main parcharaks for Samelans from the Klang Samelan in 1973 onwards,” he said.
Manmohan recalled the time when Pritam served in the SNSM committee led by Manmohan’s father, Chatar Singh, between 1974 and 1977. SNSM office was then at Chatar’s house in Petaling Jaya.
“Master Ji would come from Tanjung Karang for meetings, rain or shine, on his motorbike,” he said. That’s close to a 100km trip, one way.
Many fondly recall Pritam’s jovial nature.
“Jovial, always a joke up his sleeves, witty, straight forward, no mincing, knowledgeable,” said Harnarinder Singh, another active SNSM volunteer who retired as the CEO of Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council (MPOCC).
Behind the laughter is a man ever willing to walk an extra mile to help a fellow human being.
Harnarinder, who is known as Harry within the SNSM circles, recalls the days when his wife was posted to teach at Tanjung Karang.
“He met her and gave her the confidence to be around an almost 100% Malay surrounding,”
Some years later, Harnarinder’s youngest sister also ended up in Tanjung Karang for her first posting as a primary school teacher. “And again, Master ji was there to help find accommodation for her,” he said.
Amarjit Singh, another former SNSM jathedar, said Pritam’s life was a lesson in thrift for today’s generation. He brought up four children on a government teacher’s salary, with a house fully paid for and some set aside for a rainy day.
He noted that Pritam was a master of the Panjabi language and could handle MC duties effortlessly.
The SNSM acquired a bungalow in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, as its headquarters during the jathedhari of Pritam.
“He was a complete Sabha loyalist … one of the remaining founding fathers from Master Gurbachan Singh’s time,” he said, referring to SNSM’s first Jathedar. “His was a journey of pure love, devotion and untiring commitment to the Sabha and its mission.”
Dedication, indeed. As captured by Khushwant’s spontaneous rupture of emotions, he noted: “Master Ji had always been a Sabha at heart and served with all his might and dedication, just like our other legendary Jathedars. One who never complained of tiredness despite riding his motorcycle on trunk roads or in the wee hours or the morning for the love of Sabha.”
His saskaar (cremation) will be at Jalan Loke Yew Crematorium, Kuala Lumpur, at 3pm, 13 April 2021 (Tuesday). Last respects can be paid at the same place from 2pm to 3pm.
SNSM elects Harjinder Singh as new jathedar (Asia Samachar, 19 Sept 2020)