Kids Corner


The Extraordinaries:
Five Young Men Of Brampton








The celebration of the annual Sikh Heritage Month in Ontario, Canada last month (April 2015) was a giant step forward in our community’s life and role in the diaspora. It was a delight to see our young men and women step up to the plate and assume responsibility for telling our stories at a new, heightened level of professionalism.

The result was heart-warming.

Though events took place in various towns and cities across the province, I had the opportunity to attend only two locales. But I received rave reviews on the others from those who live and work in those scattered communities.

Art and photo exhibits, lectures and seminars, children’s games and workshops, parades and receptions galore. The ones I saw were put together, and then delivered, with meticulous and loving detail.

We have never been lacking in passion. This year, however, I saw an added spark, the trade-mark Sikh desire to excel and, while at it, to always do the right thing.

For years I’ve been saying how impressed I am with our post-1984 youth and how they have taken the practice of Sikhi to a new level of awareness and observance, sharper and clearer and purer than ever before in our busy and eventful, often tumultuous, five-century history.

This year, going around in Brampton and Mississauga, looking at what our young men and  women had planned and executed last month, I feel reinforced in my belief that today’s Sikhi is not only flourishing, despite unprecedented challenges and some setbacks, but is actually on the cusp of greater things.

Though there are countless young men and women providing yeoman seva, the work of five men in particular stood out for me as exemplifying the good things that are happening in the community not only across Ontario and Canada, but worldwide.

They are, I believe, easily worthy of inclusion in the honour roll of the ongoing series called “The Extraordinaries” here on


Generally, I’m no fan of politicians. Only because the institution of democracy, while remaining the best we still have to govern ourselves, requires so many compromises and sell-outs by its players that it has, across the board, managed to -- but for a few gallant exceptions -- separate the wheat from the chaff, and then keep the chaff, and throw the wheat to the winds!

This is a sad generality true for every part of the world. Even those who are lucky enough to live in liberated and civilized societies -- and the tale gets yet more sombre when we go into the dark beyond -- know that we have to kiss legions of frogs before we find a prince or princess who can truly lead.

Jagmeet Singh is an exception.

Already a second term Member of Parliament in Ontario, Canada, he has impressed all by his integrity and sharp mind, his resolve to do (not just say!) the right thing. And to represent not just his own (Sikh) community or riding (Bramalea-Gore-Malton) or party (New Democratic Party - NDP), but the larger, wider, public interest.

At a mere 36 years of age and still a relative rookie in what is sometimes termed the world’s second oldest profession, he has already impressed his peers and the electorate to be named Deputy Leader of his party!     

But I don’t cite him today for his politics. Or for the fact that he is considered a fashion icon by the fashionistas of this country and even internationally. Or that he is often referred to for his exemplary dedication and commitment to issues around protecting our environment …

I consider him Extraordinary, having seen all that has been achieved during the recent Sikh Heritage Month, and realizing that none of it would’ve happened without the gumption, foresight and commitment of one man: Jagmeet Singh.

He was instrumental in enacting the legislation which declared the month of April, annually, a Sikh Heritage Month, which then in turn triggered a host of potentials and possibilities.

Not a giant step. But a small step which will have far-reaching implications for Sikhs around the globe.

Not a cynical pandering to his own community and its votes, but actually a daring move, in the face of heavy odds, to rectify an imbalance in public education which has systematically been ignored to date not only by other legislators but even by a whole slew of our own 'representatives'.

Every gain made through this courageous and long-overdue move, through the coming years and decades, will be to the credit of young Jagmeet Singh, no matter where he goes.

And, just watch, he’s going places.

*     *    *    *    *

There are four other young men, in no particular order -- each backed, of course, by their respective partners, families, colleagues, and teams -- who have helped put together what I saw and enjoyed in Brampton.

Sandeep, of course, is the inimitable creator of the pioneer website. Through the decades, he has never rested on his laurels. Instead, he continues to add to his repertoire -- and therefore ours -- by using innovative and state-of-the-art techniques to create and present exhibits on a wide range of Sikh subjects.

What makes him unique is his relentless hunger to research and gather collectibles, to track down their history and all possible connections, and then record them for posterity. In the most delightful permanent exhibitions he loads on his site online.

He is the one, for example, who has helped track down the grave of Sikh-Canadian World War I hero, Buckam Singh in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. The search began when he came across and acquired a medal that had been awarded to the soldier a century ago!

If that wasn’t achievement enough, Sandeep has now sown the seeds of an annual Sikh Remembrance Day held at Buckam Singh’s gravesite, and has inspired communities around the world to start doing the same to honour the community’s war heroes on the same day each year.

Sandeep’s latest and biggest project is his -- a virtual museum which, I guarantee you, will leave you speechless by its sheer reach and depth, as well by the professionalism of an entire museum brought to your door!

All of the above aside, Sandeep’s role last month was manifold.

First, like all things he touches, is his wonderful photography. His photos and murals of Sikhs and Sikhi, of Punjab and scenes from around the diaspora, adorned the walls and hallways of the Peel Art Gallery.

His exhibit at the same venue, titled “Kaurs: Women of the Five Rivers”, consisting of a collection of portraits, was only matched by his interactive kiosk  comprising a 3D exploration of a contemporary “Sikh Wedding“.

His talks on subjects as exotic as, to take but one example, “More than Meets the Eye” added an entirely new dimension to the month-long celebration. In this particular presentation and slide-show, Sandeep analyzed August Schoefft's 174-year-old masterpiece painting of Maharaja Ranjit Singh on the parikarma of the Golden Temple in Amritsar.   

And, his presentation on “The Lost Palace of Amritsar” opened our eyes to things many of us never knew.

All I can say is, 'You Had To Be There' to get a real taste of Sandeep’s cornucopia.


Kanwar is an artist par excellence. Some of my very favourite paintings of Sikh subjects -- of all times -- have flowed from his brush.

He wields no ordinary brush. He has perfected the art of computer art, and brings alive personages from Sikh history, and seminal scenes and events connected with them, by invoking a riot of colours and emotions.

I am fickle when it comes to his works. Each time I look at them, I have a new favourite. Or I vacillate shamelessly, like a child in a Toys “R“ Us store.

Is it the Akali Phoola Singh and His Horse? Or is it Guru Hargobind towering over his battered Akal Takht? Guru Gobind Singh in bir aasan before the newly minted punj pyarey. Banda Singh Bahadar surveying a battle scene. Mata Sahib Kaur holding the baata of amrit as if it’s her child.

Kanwar’s works have taken the Sikh world by storm. Hitherto, it was Sobha Singh’s and Kirpal Singh’s paintings that shaped our mental image of our past. Today, increasingly the world over, Sikhs automatically turn to Kanwar’s iconic works when they conjure a thought or emotion around a Sikh Elder from history or a moment from the past which inspires them. Our children and their children are growing up in a world in which Kanwar Singh’s genius will have replaced Sobha Singh’s and Kirpal Singh’s in the popular imagination.    

The Peel Art Gallery boasted copies of his paintings, and in a burst of wild abandon, dedicated an entire gallery one Sunday to his works.

Which is when he unveiled his latest masterpiece -- a close-to-life-size portrait of Guru Tegh Bahadar in simran within the precincts of the Darbar Sahib in Amritsar! 


All who have ever met or heard of Pardeep Singh know him as a phenomenon.

He is a bundle of nuclear energy who, at regular intervals, bursts on to the national or international scene, and bowls us over with his passion and level-headedness.

The first you would’ve heard of him would be, when as a champion boxer, he took on the international boxing establishment, when they cowered at his ambition to compete in the Olympics wearing a patka and an unshorn beard.

I know him -- as I do, I need to confess, each of the five I have listed here -- personally, but as a collector of antique cars. His eyes light up and he turns into a young boy -- I say this as an unadulterated compliment -- when he gets behind the wheel and goes off bouncing (literally) in one of his lowrider hydraulic cars.

Antique cars are not the only things he collects. He’s a pack rat -- and it is a blessing to our community that he is. Like Sandeep above, he too collects anything and everything Sikh.

And his collections invariably end up, in various permutations and combinations -- just like Sandeep’s -- as mini-exhibitions and find their way all over the world.

Mercifully, he was inspired to find a permanent home for at least a part of his treasure chest. It has taken grand form as The Sikh Heritage Museum in Mississauga, Ontario, and enthralls visitors from all over each weekend, free, with its rotating exhibits.

Some of his best stuff also found its way to the Peel Art Gallery, Museum & Archives and dazzled visitors throughout the month of April.

His showcases holding coins, medals and medallions, historic photos and antique paintings, books and artifacts and memorabilia, are matched only by Sandeep’s own collection. My dream is to one day -- soon -- be able to see their collections, combined with those of a number of other wonderful collectors surprisingly also in the Greater Toronto region, all under the same, permanent roof!    

At the Peel gallery and museum, Pardeep also offered his talks on specialized topics, with accompanying exhibits. Such as “Amritsar's Bungay: The Lost Centers of Learning”. Or “We Remember: Stories of Sikh Service and Sacrifice During The Two Great Wars.“ And “The Sikhs of Canada”.

Walking from one gallery to the next, I had the feeling I was in Ali Baba’s cave of goodies.


Last but not least, this extraordinary young man -- a criminal defence lawyer and community organizer by day -- who also happens to be Jagmeet Singh‘s brother.

A fashion icon in his own right, like his multi-talented brother, Gurratan too is a renaissance man.

It is our good fortune that he was recruited to oversee the entire Sikh Heritage Month project in Brampton and I must say, thanks to his professionalism -- added to that of each of the other three exhibitors I have named, and the dozens more who remain unnamed today due to lack of space and time -- the entire venture was a pleasant surprise.

I hope that he will remain involved, not only in its annual reincarnations, but in giving similar leadership within the community to many, many more projects.

*     *    *    *    *

Every time I think of the promise I saw in Brampton in April, I feel a boost to my chardi kalaa, and I can’t help saying to myself: “All’s well with world!”

May 4, 2015

Conversation about this article

1: Jasjeet Kaur Brar (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), May 04, 2015, 7:09 PM.

These five are a great pride for the Sikh community-at-large and we hope to see all continue to do great things, including for Canada as a whole, in the future.

2: Sandeep Singh Brar (Canada), May 04, 2015, 9:30 PM.

Thank you so much for the kind words about my work. I like to keep a low profile and let my work speak for itself. As Sikh Heritage Month comes to an end I feel compelled to provide some of my thoughts on the folks mentioned in this article. I can't say enough about how encouraged I am vis-a-vis the future of Sikhi. The incredible young Sikh men and women that I had the pleasure of meeting and working with really left me in awe. Their passion in their love of Sikhi and enthusiasm to celebrate Sikh culture really left me feeling that the light of Guru Nanak's religion is burning bright with a white hot intensity. It's so refreshing to see this new generation of Sikhs in action compared to the previous generation of alcohol glass-in-hand social butterfly Sikhs. Jagmeet Singh is a true visionary. We have thousands of venues to celebrate Punjabi culture, but it was his vision that saw the need to celebrate Sikh culture by creating a Sikh Heritage Month in Ontario. Just as Jews and Muslims celebrate their cultures while being from different countries, we Sikhs are also now for the first time seeing ourselves as a global people, all of us born in different countries with different life experiences (I was born in Kenya, Jagmeet in Canada, Kanwar in Amritsar, Punjab), yet all of us having a common Sikh culture that we can celebrate together. Although I have been a fan of Kanwar Singh's artwork for some time, this was actually the first time I had a chance to meet him in person. He really is the Sobha Singh of our age, not in terms of his style, but in terms of his really defining how we view Sikh history through the lens of art. Although he does not wear a turban, when I looked into his eyes, I saw that thousand-mile look in them. He has a quiet intensity about him and seemed to be in another place. His work is clearly inspired by a very personal and spiritual relationship with the Guru. What a special gift he has been given. Pardeep Singh Nagra and his Sikh Heritage Museum of Canada team are really hitting their stride as they step out of the shadows of what others are doing. They are now moving into completely uncharted territory in the preservation of Sikh heritage and I was blown away by the Sikhs in Canada Timeline exhibit that was unveiled at the Sikh Heritage Museum this month. What a simple yet brilliant way of engaging all Sikhs and all Canadians and done so professionally. Finally, I come to Gurratan Singh, a man of killer fashion as well as killer intellect. Gurratan really was the glue that held us all together during Sikh Heritage Month. He is a natural leader. All of us are doing ground-breaking work in our own areas and used to doing things our own way, but all of us came together under the leadership of Gurratan because here was someone that we all respected immensely due to his strength of character and personal integrity. This kind of inspirational leadership is very rare in any community. It was a real honour working with these inspiring individuals during Sikh Heritage Month.

3: Jasjit Bitu (Milton, Ontario, Canada), May 05, 2015, 9:13 AM.

Sikh Heritage Month was unbelievable. Our family was looking forward to the new events on a daily / weekly basis. Kudos to these five young men and especially Jagmeet Singh who has given us a model of Sikh Leadership. Jagmeet has also not backed down since the Govt of India tried to intimidate him by refusing him a visitor's visa to India, seems like he's doubled up his efforts - stay in Chardi Kalaa!

4: Kanwar Singh (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), May 05, 2015, 10:06 AM.

Thank you,! Sikh Heritage Month in Brampton was such a pleasure to be a part of. As I was more heavily involved behind the scenes, I think it falls on me to thank some of the other key players. In our case it was the women who (typically) were the backbone of the event. Three in particular: Firstly, Rakhi Mutta, an extraordinary photographer in her own right, was our project manager and helped organize a sea of information and keep us on track and on time. Satvir Lachhar, also project managed but, in addition, was the on-the-ground event manager. All month long, every event ran smoothly under her watchful eye and sometimes three events simultaneously! Finally, Annemarie Haggan, Curator at the museum was a key ally throughout this endeavour; she simply found a way to help realize our ideas, no matter what obstacles.

5: Rup Singh (Canada), May 05, 2015, 9:39 PM.

Thank you so much for this article. Very encouraging to see these fine individuals doing such great work, the future is brighter for sure. Also, they will serve as great role models for the next generation, educated, stylish, playing sports, etc., proving a Sikh can do it all while adhering to his/her faith. So refreshing to see. Thanks to all of you for your hard work. God Bless.

6: Tony Singh (Canada), May 05, 2015, 10:06 PM.

Nice to see an article covering positive aspects of our youth and community. Just goes to show that there is more to our community than the usual negative portrayal in the media. The five people mentioned in this article are reflective of the great number of youngsters who are stepping up and taking a leadership role in the community.

7: Dr Birinder Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), May 06, 2015, 1:13 PM.

Congratulations to the extraordinary "Five Young Men of Brampton" for their exemplary and inspiring work/service for the community. Keep up the great work.

8: Bant Singh (New York City, USA), May 06, 2015, 8:53 PM.

Kudos to the 'Brampton Punj' and the 'punj sau (500)' who worked behind the scenes organizing the Sikh Heritage Month in Ontario. It's a sign of coming of age of a community. You are an inspiration to Sikhs everywhere. I'm waiting for the US Sikhs to create a mark in our country. It'll be a while, but I'm confident it will happen.

9: GC Singh (USA), May 07, 2015, 10:22 AM.

The shameless state of affairs of the Sikh nation and the depressed state of Sikhs in India can be judged by the fact that Jagmeet Singh, a member of parliament of Ontario, a Sikh icon and role model, has been denied a visitor's visa by a country which hides its nefarious activities behind the sham of being a so-called democracy while being the most egregious violator of human rights of minorities. Just today they have banned in India, the Facebook page of a Sikh human rights NGO, "Sikhs For Justice" because the organization is exposing the brutalities of the regime and seeking justice. News reports coming from India are suggesting that Indian Government agencies are considering to ban the the production of movies which even remotely show the atrocities against and the genocide of the Sikhs.

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Five Young Men Of Brampton"

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