Fauja Singh: EDITOR
The Chic Sikh of 2011
He amazed us with his prowess and determination.
He inspired us and dazzled us with his humility and wisdom.
He reached across geographical boundaries and human divides and taught us, by example, how to celebrate life.
Without any political power or bookish learning, ostentations or pretensions to status or position, he wowed us with his simplicity.
And this year, with the grace of Waheguru, he turned 100 … and then became the oldest human being in history to run a marathon.
Still selfless and generous to the core, he carries on with his ’normal’ routine, as if nothing extraordinary has happened, nothing is changed.
Unsoiled by fame and fortune, accomplishment and acclaim, he has endeared himself to our hearts and souls, to the point that each one of us the world over wants to emulate him … to walk, nay, run, in his footsteps.
For these, and umpteen more reasons described hereunder, we at sikhchic.com take great pride and pleasure in naming, with the assistance and guidance of our readership and our selection panel:
Sardar FAUJA SINGH the CHIC SIKH OF 2011!
* * * * *
This is the fourth year in a row that we have asked our world-wide
readers to propose the names of those men, women, children, groups,
institutions or corporations - Sikh or non-Sikh - who they feel deserve
to be named THE CHIC SIKH OF THE YEAR 2011.
As always, the response from across the diaspora over the course of two months has been thoughtful, spirited and enthusiastic.
As before - but particularly this year - sikhchic.com's selection panel, comprising of Dr. Birinder Singh Ahluwalia, Ravinder Singh, Inni Kaur and Amanjyot Singh, has struggled during the last few days with the excellent list (see below) of possible awardees, and has now selected one who has single-handedly during the last 12 months exemplified the highest of Sikh ideals and values.
We at sikhchic.com join Sikhs from around the world in saluting him and wishing him chardi kalaa and God-speed.
[The list of past winners includes - Harvinder Singh Phoolka (Human Rights Advocate), Jarnail Singh ('The Lion of Delhi'), Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, SALDEF, Saran Singh (Editor, The Sikh Review), The Sikh Coalition and United Sikhs.]
The following is the list of names recommended this year for the honour, through the course of 118 postings on sikhchic.com:
Balbir Singh Seechewal
Bhagwant Singh Dilawari
Davinder Pal Singh
Hardeep Singh Puri
Harnnoor Singh Gill
Kanwar Harbhajan Singh
Kunwar Singh Negi
Harjit Singh Sajjan
Jagtar Singh Hawara
Giani Kulwinder Singh
Nanak Singh Nishtar
Sarbjit Singh Gobindpuri
S.P. Singh Oberoi
Sukhdev Singh Lajj
Tejdeep Singh Rattan
The following article on Fauja Singh is reproduced here, because it captures the collective sentiments of our readership:
A LEARNING MOMENT
by T. Sher Singh
Sikhi is all about learning, a life-long activity which starts at birth and continues to the moment of death.
It’s a journey. The destination remains a mystery throughout.
Therefore, it’s all about the journey itself.
Which makes it so appropriate that this latest learning moment for me has been from one who journeys endlessly - literally, not just metaphorically - several miles a day.
Sure, like the rest of the world, I too am in awe of Fauja Singh’s physical prowess and his mental agility, especially in the face of a centenarian’s years. I marvel at the aplomb with which he handles the media, his savvy in a world full of minefields. I love his fashion sense and his zest for life, his sharp sense of humour, his ability to cut through inanities, his other-worldliness, his buddha-like detachment.
And yet, his eyes are always full of mischief. I have caught him wink at me slyly as I have walked by him, surrounded by adoring young men and women fawning over his fame and desperately hoping to catch the virus of his energy.
Sure, it’s all that. But there’s more.
It dawned on me the other day, watching him interact with the crowds that milled around him during his recent visit to Toronto, that there’s something more that I get from him.
It was a learning moment.
He reminded me of another Baba - Nanak the Teacher - who had a special way about him, as he strode across the continents.
What was unique about Nanak was the way he transformed those he met, even though he never lectured, never preached. He did not pontificate, nor did he issue edicts, make demands, spell out dogma, or dole out threats or deadlines or consequences.
His interface with the Hindus at Hardwar, or the Muslims in Mecca, reveal to us - if we care to look at his method - that he was a teacher nonpareil.
Those around him learnt without the formality of entering a teacher and pupil relationship, or a mentor and disciple role-play. Without joining a class, or paying a fee, or earning a degree.
The learning in the minds of the learners came through self-realization. It was a seamless and effortless process.
I see a bit of Nanak the Teacher in dear Fauja Singh, and in that I see the latter as a Sikh like few others I know.
I look around me and notice how Sikhs the world over have - like me - seen this vision of a gursikh in him and are gaga over his steadfastness in everything he does, be it spiritual or temporal in nature.
He has grabbed us like few others ever have - and I have sifted down a long list through my mind, of scholars and leaders, of the rich and the famous, young and old, back in Punjab or living in the diaspora.
Nobody has captured our imagination the way he has.
Yet, we haven’t dropped everything to follow him to the end of the earth. We haven’t voted him to office, or hailed him as a prophet. Or offered him a share of our wealth in order to buy his favours.
All we have done, while watching him, is to turn inwards and look at ourselves. And we have wondered, quietly or publicly, how we can emulate him - not by becoming his clones, but by improving ourselves at a private and personal level.
Some of us have hurried to change our diet.
Some of us have adopted a new regime of exercise.
Some of us have turned to examining our relationship with Sikhi.
Some of us have made secret resolutions and commitments to ourselves, hidden from even our near and loved ones, to change the way we live - not in giant steps, but in baby, slightly incremental steps.
Because we have somehow realized in these last few days, that there is more to living than meets the eye.
All of the above, strangely, has happened to each one of us separately - “every man is an island!” - not through mass rallies or televangelism or with the help of social media, but through the quite time we have spent, alone with ourselves, after having watched or read about what Fauja Singh does.
How did this simple, unassuming man achieve this, something that even a Billy Graham would give an arm and a leg to accomplish?
Well, here’s what Fauja Singh did NOT do:
He did not hire a PR firm, or an agent, or an advance media team.
He did not buy ads in newspapers, or 30-second spots on TV and radio.
He did not coin slogans, or emblazon a logo.
When asked, he has told us what he eats and drinks. But he doesn’t pester us with a campaign to promote vegetarianism.
He has joined no anti-smoking movement. Nor instigated projects to promote abstinence from alcohol or drugs.
No, he hasn’t created an aerobics DVD.
He has not started selling a 10-week programme on How to Prepare For a Marathon.
Or How to Live to 100.
There is no Red Book or Green Book available, citing his maxims.
There are no videos showing him doing his nitnem.
Haven’t heard him admonishing anyone for not doing paatth.
He doesn’t go around urging people to take Amrit.
No, he doesn’t ever run in a 17th century bana. That’s right, he hasn’t donned the blue.
In fact, he wears the latest in track shirts and pants, be they spandex or whatever. Or Armanis and Hugo Boss when he is not on the track.
Yes, he too was touched by India’s outrages against the Sikhs in 1984.
But he offers no armchair admonishments or solutions.
Yes, he feels Sikhs need to let the world know who they really are, what they really stand for.
But no, he doesn’t go around spewing advice.
All he does is … he simply does it!
He doesn’t wait for others to join him before he ventures out. Alone - he DOES it all.
He gets off his butt everyday and does what he does best, and does it as often as necessary. Whether someone is watching or not.
Because he knows that as long as he does what is right and what is best - not preach what is right, what is best - the rest will fall into place.
And the world will follow, as surely as the children hopped and skipped behind the Pied Piper of Hamelin all the way to the horizon.
He never shies away from telling the truth or speaking his mind. But blunt though he can be at times, his words never hurt.
Yes, all of this I have learnt this week.
And have learnt that you can do all the PR in the world, do conferences and seminars, publish booklets and make movies, preen and prance before cameras and microphones, stand behind high pulpits and preach until you are blue in the face … and people just won’t listen to you.
But if you do it yourself, quietly, without pomp and ceremony, they’ll drop everything and do anything - even run 26 miles to nowhere, seemingly for no worldly reason whatsoever! And then do it over and over again.
Why? Because they’ve seen you do it. And they can also see that what you do is inherently good, not because you say it is good.
There isn’t a soul in Sikhdom who doesn’t have an opinion on what has gone wrong with the world, or on what OTHERS should do to fix it.
Yet, I’ve yet to meet a man or woman who has given himself so selflessly, and done so much for all of us, so that our children will have a better tomorrow.
There isn’t a scholar, anyone with any number of degrees tailing him, who comes close to what this unlettered man has done.
There isn’t a saint or sufi, gurmukh or mahatma, anywhere in sight, no matter how much piety drips off him, whose blessings have rubbed off with so much grace over all of us.
There isn’t a man or woman of wealth - no matter how many millions or billions they wallow in - who has given us more than this simple farmer who has no income, no assets, no real estate, no retirement nest-egg.
There is no dashing man or beauteous woman who has stood before a camera and make us look as good as this weather-beaten, time-hewn, unsophisticated peasant has done.
There is no orator, no wordsmith, no one with any degree of facility with language or image or profile, who has won over the media skeptics as freely as he has.
Yes, if you really look at it, this man who - in modern parlance - without doing “anything much”, without tearing around, without being a busy-body, without being a spokesman, a jathedar, a member of parliament, a minister, a senator, a congressman, anything! - while doing “nothing”, really … he has done more than any PR wiz can do or has done.
This is what Fauja Singh is all about.
This is what Sikhi is all about.
Living Life. Not talking about it.
January 1, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Gurmit Singh (Sydney, Australia), January 01, 2012, 2:46 AM.
2: Devinder Pal Singh (Delhi, India), January 01, 2012, 5:36 AM.
Yes, he definitely deserves the recognition as a tribute to his gigantic achievements. S. Fauja Singh ji is the field marshal of athletics. Thank you all for choosing this silent personality as the Chic Sikh of 2011. May Waheguru grant him all the strength to continue achieving whatever goals he sets.
3: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), January 01, 2012, 6:50 AM.
"Kaho naanak sabh tayree vadi-aa-ee ko-ee naa-o na jaanai mayera" [GGS:383.12] - "Says Nanak, this is all Your greatness; no one even knows my name." Here is a man who. in utter humility, remains self effacing and oblivious to all the fame that follows him. Sher Singh ji, there is nothing more to add to your usual effortless and impeccable piece. He does sikhchic.com and all of us proud to adorn the hall of fame.
4: Manjeet Shergill (Singapore), January 01, 2012, 8:44 AM.
Bravo, bravo bravo! - Fauja Singh is the dude. Best decision.
5: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), January 01, 2012, 12:43 PM.
6: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.), January 01, 2012, 12:46 PM.
Let's not forget to thank and appreciate Harmander Singh, Fauja Singh's coach, mentor and friend. He has devoted more time to Fauja than anyone else. He gave a depressed and beat-up Fauja Singh a new reason to live - not just live, but to thrive and to shine. And he followed through, crossed every hurdle, for over a decade, holding Fauja's hand and showing him the path to realize his new-found dreams. Harmander, you are the sunlight that makes the star of Fauja Singh shine.
7: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), January 01, 2012, 2:47 PM.
A footnote here is that this is the only time any human has done this ... EVER! The comments in the media around the world were simply full of awe and disbelief! If ever inspiration was needed for the over 40's, then this is it!
8: Manpreet Singh (Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.), January 01, 2012, 3:37 PM.
A true inspiration! Sardar Fauja Singh, in his simplicity, humility, dedication and persistence, has personified and exemplified Sikhi as a way of life!
9: Aman (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), January 01, 2012, 9:28 PM.
Sardar Fauja Singh! - The absolute correct pick. Thank you, Singh Sahib, and thank you, sikhchic.com, for getting it right!
10: Shabeg Singh Rakhri (Ferozepur, Punjab), January 02, 2012, 3:50 AM.
Sikh quom di shaan ucchi karn da kum keeta ey, S. Fauja Singh ji ney!
11: Inderjeet Kaur (U.S.A.), January 02, 2012, 6:28 AM.
I concur that Fauja Singh is the best choice, in fact the only real choice, even amongst the distinguished list posted. He is the man who can truly say (although, of course, he won't) that his life is his sermon. We hear him loud and clear. So do non-Sikhs.
12: K.P. Singh (Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A.), January 02, 2012, 10:12 AM.
Dear Sher ji: In your invitation to the Sikh diaspora to nominate the Chic Sikh of the Year, you brought before us a galaxy of very distinguished and venerable candidates for this honor. This in itself is a commendable idea. Thank you for your efforts to connect us at many levels and introduce us to great men and women who are the true pride and treasure of the Sikh Nation. They stand tall on their own meritorious achievements and we salute their gifts to humanity. We do not know that in ancient human history if someone successfully completed a marathon at the age 100. The entire world knows that Fauja Singh successfully crossed that threshold in October 2011 in Toronto, Canada. We honor Fauja Singh, not just for his incredible physical endurance, but for his tremendous humility, majestic grace, sense of humanity, and challenge to us that "Impossible is Nothing." Sardar Fauja Singh places responsibility on our shoulders even as he carries us high on his own. His radiant smile and dazzling aura captures our hearts, his spirit embraces the entire human race in our collective goodness and prayers. In that, Fauja Singh stands as a venerable symbol and exudes what is right, uplifting, and divinely-inspiring in our midst at this moment in human history. He is especially deserving of all honors and accolades, for he seeks and asks for none. Fauja Singh has enshrined the universal lessons of his Sikh faith that have found a resounding echo across faiths, cultures, communities, tribes and nations. Fauja Singh is a man of Peace, a servant of Humanity, and an international 'rattan' - jewel. sikhchic.com and Fauja Singh's legions of ardent admirers and friends should nominate this rare humanitarian gem for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. Fuaja Singh belongs to the entire human race and ages of man and has rightly earned such a consideration. Dear Fauja Singh ji: Sat Sri Akal and our heartiest congratulations. Thank you for inspiring us to step forward, look beyond our personal egos, and honor the Immaculate SatGuru.
13: Roop Dhillon (Reigate, United Kingdom), January 06, 2012, 6:43 AM.
Well deserved ... and the correct choice.
14: Harpreet Singh (Delhi. India), January 06, 2012, 2:05 PM.
Is it possible that we may can read about all the Sikhs nominated for Chic Sikh of the Year by selecting the topic from a single page (as you have mentioned their names in the article.) Moreover, as I have started visiting the site recently, can I see the previous year's nominations, postings, comments, etc. Where? It is really refreshing to know about so many gursikhs doing great service or having achieved great heights in different fields all over the globe. Many thanks. [EDITOR: If you go the COLUMNISTS Section and click on the EDITOR'S PAGE (Previous Columns), you'll find the previous years' nominations, etc. Part of the fun is in searching the site for its various goodies - try the SEARCH tool; as well, explore PEOPLE, to begin with, and then venture beyond into the various other sections ...]