My Amazing FatherBALJIT SINGH
A father is a role model in any child’s life. He is like a superhero from whom the child expects wondrous things. A father is like a tree who burns himself in the sun but gives shelter, shade and fruit to his children.
For me, my father - Sardar Zorawar Singh Raina - was my whole world. After his death three years ago, I realized what hardships actually are. Being a father myself, I can relate how hard it is to be a father.
As I sit alone in the dark corner of my room writing about my beloved father, I realize how much I loved him. My eyes are filled with tears as I recall all the great memories I have of him.
My father grew up without the warmth of a father. His father, Sardar Kartar Singh, passed away, when he was just 14 months old. A few years later his mother also passed away. He was raised by his grandfather, Sardar Sardool Singh.
My father was a very wise man. Even at a very young age, he knew all the nitnem banis by heart. He learned all this from his grandfather, who with the frequency of a programmed alarm clock said his daily prayers in a high-pitched recitation.
His grandfather was a prominent gursikh in a small town called Chakothi (now in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan). My father used to spend time with his grandfather and after the latter’s death, he was again orphaned.
But this time around he was left the priceless wealth of gurbani.
At the tragic partition of Punjab and the subcontinent, my father had to flee his ancestral homeland and seek refuge in Jammu & Kashmir, at the ashram of the renowned Akali Kaur Singh. In no time, my father became Akali Kaur Singh’s beloved student because of the gurbani and kirtan he had picked up from his grandfather.
My father had a great passion for the two: whenever he had some time, he would turn to his harmonium and practice kirtan.
Before long, my father married and eventually had five sons. I still remember how he used to spend time with us, introducing us to the practice of Sikhi. He was the one who taught us Punjabi and Gurmukhi, gurbani and history. Every day, we were taught new lessons and were expected to recite older ones before going to school. It cannot be explained in words how much he enjoyed seeing us recite the lesson correctly.
Being the president of a truck union (in Jammu & Kashmir), he had to deal with a good number of truck drivers who were alcoholics but by the blessings of Guru Sahib, he was never inclined towards the curse of drinking.
His piety needed no introduction; the people of his company and in the J & K state still remember and admire him.
Being perfect in a single area or relationship does not make one a great person. What makes one great is striving to be the best in all matters, and with all people. My father was also a politically responsible person; he knew the weight he carried personally on his shoulders. He stood up for Sikh rights during turbulent times and participated in a number of struggles and protest movements. He led the Akali Party in Jammu and Kashmir.
Political life is never easy and it takes a lot out from you. You can get frustrated at times but my father had a smile even in tough times. I don’t remember ever seeing him angry. He was always patient, polite and content. Being politically involved made him a great negotiator and often represented the Sikh community. He had authority in his voice which could compel and impress anyone.
After moving to Canada in 1991, he found himself tackling new territory but, as they say, “Talent has no boundaries” - the saying perfectly fitted my father. With his immense knowledge of Sikhi, he made a lot of friends in his new homeland and enjoyed spending time with them. He was a fount of gurbani and loved it when he found kindred souls.
I consider my elder brother the luckiest amongst us. Since he sponsored us to move to Canada, he got a golden chance to live with my father. Because of this, his children too became students and thus heirs to his rich legacy.
I do not say that my father was perfect in every field of life but whatever he tried, it spoke of his great abilities. For example, my father penned quite a lot on Sikh history and literature with children in mind. One of my goals now is to see them published.
After a life of constant seeking and learning, my father finally found rest at the age of 89. His lessons to us, however, survive and we are the richer for them.
Parents are the biggest assets in our lives. Having been fortunate enough to have been able to serve him in his last 15 days in the hospital, I feel if I ever get a chance to come back to this world again, I would like to once again be Sardar Zorawar Singh’s son.
January 4, 2017
Conversation about this article
1: jasmine Kaur (Virginia, USA), January 06, 2017, 9:33 PM.
I have very fond memories of Uncleji/Papaji from his visit to San Antonio. He would lovingly call me 'librarian' as I let him borrow books from the SikhRI office library. He would share lots of stories with us and we would have great laughs.
2: Harpreet Kaur (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), January 09, 2017, 9:02 AM.
I am very fortunate to be a daughter-in-law of this soul. Papaji gave me love of a father and was always inspiring to me. His following advice from Gurbani always stays with me and is a constant reminder to me. "What is that word, what is that virtue, and what is that magic mantra? / What are those clothes, which I can wear to captivate my Husband Lord? ||126|| Humility is the word, forgiveness is the virtue, and sweet speech is the magic mantra. / Wear these three robes, O sister, and you will captivate your Husband Lord. ||127||"
3: Sandeep Singh (India), January 10, 2017, 3:34 AM.
The first time I had a glance of this great man was in Bidar (Karnataka, India) where he had come for admission of his son Baljit Singh. Coincidentally I also happened to be there along with my grand father for my admission. We were having lunch when Baljit Singh along with his father came there. My grand father and Baljit's father met each other as if they were very good friends and were known to each other for quite some time. Later from their friendly gossiping, we came to know that they were known to each other before the Partition of Punjab. Since both were self-made men and had gone through the same hardships in life, they talked about their old times and shared their experiences with us. We also started chatting slowly and eventually became friends. Although I had met Baljit's father very few times but whenever I happened to meet him, I had always seen him in Chardi Kalaa. He was in fact the living practical example of the state of Chardi Kalaa. He used to charge me up inside as he had a very positive aura around him. He was a very strong believer and practitioner of Sikh values. Whenever I had met him, he used to greet me the very same way I saw him greeting my grand father in Bidar. He was a great personality and it cannot be expressed in mere words. His warmth could be just felt. May God bless him. We really miss him.