Surinder Kundan Singh T. SHER SINGH
1948 - 2012
Sunday, July 8, 2012
I can’t remember exactly where or when I first met him.
It would’ve been in the heart of downtown Toronto, and the year would’ve been 1973. I was 23.
I had just started on my first full-time job as a lowly clerk in the internal audit department of a large stock-brokerage firm (Gairdner & Co). Our offices were on the top floors of the 54-storeyed Toronto Dominion Tower - then the tallest building in the commonwealth. The construction of the CN Tower a few blocks away - to be the tallest man-made structure in the world in a few years - was about to be commenced.
At lunch time, we’d descend to ground level and forage for food around a mere handful of restaurants and cafes within the few blocks then known as the commercial district.
For months I had assumed that there were no other Sardars working in the downtown core … until one day I saw another maroon turban bobbing over the heads of pedestrians at a street corner.
That’s how I first met Surinder Kundan Singh.
Young and slim, smart and slickly dressed in the obligatory pin-striped suit, he was polite, soft- and well-spoken.
We arranged to meet for lunch the next day.
It turned out he too worked for a brokerage house - Brown, Baldwin, Nisker, a mid-size firm I think it was - as a stock and bond analyst. He was a couple of years older than me, had a recent MBA from McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario) under his belt, and was a bachelor too.
We hit it off and it didn’t take us long to become friends.
His position and work were far above what I was doing, so he became a mentor of sorts, something I sorely needed because I was still wet under the ears.
We got together often and quickly discovered that we shared the same view of the stock-market. With the added advantage that both of us had, as insiders yet sitting on the fringe of all the goings-on, we had come to the conclusion that it was an out-and-out scam and con-job, but if you kept your eyes open and kept your hat (turban!) on, not a bad way of making some quick money.
Surinder introduced me to the world of penny stocks - it was all I could afford with the pittance I earned.
We’d guffaw over lunch, comparing notes of our conquests (mostly his) and debacles (mostly mine). But what gave us the most entertainment was the exchange of stories of the shenanigans we witnessed in our respective offices vis-à-vis the brokers we had got to know and worked with.
Surinder and I were both owners of second-hand cars at this, early stage of our careers, and could therefore conclude with some confidence that the stock-brokers we knew were, as a breed, a notch or two lower than used-car salesmen. (It was too early then to put lawyers in the picture!)
Not surprisingly, we fled as far as we could from the stock-market industry as soon as we could, but it took each of us a few years to accomplish the escape.
In 1974, our family moved to a distant town called Unionville in the then barely heard-of township called Markham. I continued working in downtown Toronto, which meant an hour’s drive through miles and miles of open country and the Massey farmlands before I got to work.
Being young, I began to bristle for the excitement of city living before long. Moreover, I was at an age when I wanted to flex my muscles of adulthood, which meant giving my parents as much grief as I could.
Surinder was renting a 2-bedroom apartment in the city and said he could use the money sub-letting one room.
Though not yet ready to leave the nest, I decided it was time to test the waters. Using the distance and long-drive to and from work every day as excuses, I announced that I would move into town and share Surinder’s place, but only for the summer!
I had a car. I had a job. I had youth. I was unstoppable.
So, Surinder and I shared his place for a while. We had fun.
But, I missed home: the cooking and the laundry service especially. And Surinder was getting summons from his family in India to come and find a bride.
I moved back to Unionville, but Surinder and I remained close friends and, still working in the city, got together weekly for our entertaining lunches.
Until Surinder managed to flee, by joining IBM which was head-quartered in suburban Don Mills.
I too finally escaped being drawn into becoming a broker - I had already completed my Canadian Securities course and was being pulled inch by inch towards the fire-pit.
I wandered in the proverbial wilderness for a while, doing odd jobs and saving money. The period was punctuated by some peaks as well: I got married, and two years later we had a jewel of a baby. And, before long, we headed off to my law school.
Surinder and I didn’t lose touch, though I saw far less of him.
He had met and married a bright and charming Sunayna and they were now bringing up a lovely family of their own.
Surinder started his own business in computers and, at the same time, became a pillar of the Sikh community in his area, helping out in the Scarborough Gurdwara in a multiple of ways.
The greatest joy parents can get is to see their children do well, but particularly if they break new ground, do bigger, better things.
So imagine my pleasure to run into Surinder and Sunayna’s eldest - Ashvinder “Ash” Singh - when I was in Singapore a few years ago. He’s made his parents proud as he builds, among other things, a media empire.
So have his siblings … all are flourishing and well on their way.
This week, however, out of the blue, comes the shocking and heart-breaking news that Surinder has moved on in his journey.
On July 4, 2012, Surinder Kundan Singh died in hospital after a sudden, unexpected but short-lived illness.
Our prayers and deepest condolences are with Sunayna and their loving family. It's a deep loss to us all. He'll be sorely missed.
Surinder Kundan Singh passed away on Wednesday, July 4, 2012, in his 64th year. Beloved husband to Sunayna. Loving father to Ashvinder (Simran), Noorneet, Manikdeep, Dashminder (Michelle) and Amrit. Grandfather to Akaash and Adara. Son of Sushil Kaur and loving brother to Tejinder (Hersh). Forever a servant to the Sikh Community. Surinder will be sadly missed. A private cremation ceremony was held on Saturday, July 7, 2012.
The bhog service will be at the Scarborough Gurdwara in Toronto on Monday, July 9, 2012 at 6:00 pm.
July 8, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Satpal Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), July 13, 2012, 4:43 AM.
Ash ji and Simran, heartfelt condolences.