BritishPunjabis 18th May 2012

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May 2012


Faithful & Fierce

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l Free and instant remittance to any PNB branch in India l Quick remittance to any Bank in India l International Debit Card l Retail and Corporate Internet Banking l NRI account with Punjab National Bank in India l Attractive rates of interest on Deposits l Nominal charges for Business Accounts l Money Transfer and Banking from wherever you are in the UK Corporate Office London: GuildHall House, 87, Gresham Street, London EC2V 7NQ, UK. Tel: +44 (O) 207796 9600 Fax: +44 (O) 207 796 1015

Branch Offices Southall: 90 South Road, Southall, Middlesex UB1 1RD. UK. Tel: +44 (O) 208 574 5500 Fax: +44(O)208 574 9400 London: GuildHall House, 87 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7NQ, UK. Tel: +44 (O) 207 796 9600 Fax: +44 (O) 207 796 1015 Birmingham: 290 Soho Road, Birmingham B21 9LZ, UK. Tel: + 44(O) 121 554 9082 Fax + 44 (O)121 554 9083 Leicester: 160 Belgrave Road, Leicester, LE4 5AU UK. Tel: +44(O)116 266 1960 Fax: +44 (O)116 266 1954 Ilford: 47 Cranbrook Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4PG, UK. Tel: +44(O)208 514 9440 Fax: +44(O) 208 514 9445 Wembley: 188 Eagling Road, Wembley, Middlesex. HA0 4QD. Tel: +44(O) 208 903 7667 Fax: +44(O)208 903 6536 Wolverhampton: Hazana House, 502-504 Dudley Road, Wolverthampton, WV2 3AA. Tel: +44(O) 1902 870 380 Fax: +(O) 1902 870 0001 Authorised and Regulated by the Financial Services Authority

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Punjabis touch our lives, one way or another embers of the Punjabi community, wherever they are- in Fiji, Malaysia, the USA, India, the UAE, East Africa, Australia or Honolulu, have made an immense contribution to the culture and community of that country. Punjabis are not only martially active, but also, whether it is in the army, politics, law, history, sports, economics, business, the arts, music, carpentry, the media or education- Punjabis always outdo themselves in every field. Most of us are affected by Punjabis, one way or another! In Britain, ever since their immigration, they have not only enriched Britain's society but have also made unbelievable additions to its heritage. Dr Sahota's recent electoral victory over Richard Barnes, a politician who has remained at the helm of cultural cohesion for years in Britain, proves the growing prominence of the community in the mainstream. This magazine is our modest effort to highlight those names that have made the community proud in different ways. For the last three years we have been putting together an annual magazine that covers the Punjabi story from the 1950s and 60s to now. We know that we have a way to go in surpassing ourselves. Our first magazine, which was the largest volume so far, was a historical review of the journey of the Punjabis from the time that they first settled in Britain. It was a story of the hard work and effort they put in to make the community so commendable. The second edition of the magazine gave a modern perspective to the community’s achievements. This edition of British Punjabis is different than the years before in many ways. First, this magazine has been compiled and co-edited by Rani Singh, our Special Assignments Editor. Rani, a Punjabi herself, is aware of her community’s accomplishments and is more in tune with it than most. Rani, who is a former BBC reporter and the talented author of a book on Sonia Gandhi, was given the responsibility of selecting and working with some highly reputable people of Punjabi origin from various walks of life. I believe that she has performed her task well. Second, this magazine focuses principally on a professional crowd, mostly second generation Punjabis, with a record of their


accomplishments to date. It also includes profiles on businesses that have emerged as the 'pride' of the entire Indian diaspora. For instance, it covers Dr Rami Ranger. “Ramibhai,” as I call him, has always been active in the community and has fought for Indian causes many times. His forefathers were in the army and his father was an Indian freedom fighter. Rami has been one of the senior figures behind the success of many organisations like the Hindu Forum of Britain. His company recently received the Queen's Award for the fourth time in a row- which is not a small achievement by any means. It is perhaps worth mentioning here that the fastest growing Indian bank in Britain is the Punjab National Bank –hence their deserved presence in this magazine. Third, this edition of British Punjabis is written in a very contemporary style. The profiles are in the format of narrations and they tell the tales of some extraordinary achievers, many of whom started their journeys in modest ways. On our 40th year anniversary, this is our tribute to such triumphs. This magazine does not claim to be the last word on the British Punjabi community, but it is a compilation of some outstanding names and their acquirements. In my opinion, it is a scintillating snapshot of some of the best of British Punjabi society in 2012space and time did not permit us to include every single Punjabi who has made a mark in Britain since the community first took root in the UK! But in terms of where the community is, how it got here, and many of its characteristics and concerns, I believe that this edition of British Punjabis is a historical document that will stand the test of time. It will be of relevance to those who have an interest in the vibrant Punjabi community, whether they are part of it or not. This edition demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt how well Punjabis have integrated with every layer of British society while maintaining their own cultural integrity. On that note, I must congratulate my team, the advertisers and supporters for their assistance in making the third edition of this magazine the wonderful read that it is. Yours sincerely CB Patel Publisher/Editor Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012


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It has been a real pleasure to edit the 2012 British Punjabis ABPL magazine. Publisher/Editor CB Patel and Associate Editor Rupanjana Dutta gave me the freedom, in the main, to create a contributor portfolio of my own choice - and I have thoroughly enjoyed the process. In this edition we present a mix of contemporary luminaries from music and the arts, academic researchers, historians, Britain’s most senior Punjabi legal figure and a curator representing one of the most important art collections in the country for British Punjabis. We have a piece about a guardian of tomorrow’s children, and articles on contributors who have been an important part of the British Punjabi landscape for a great many years. We are proud to include the newest Punjabi in the House of Lords and Parliament’s only turbaned Sikh member. Apart from the obvious UK-South Asia links, we also have a geographical spread across the United Kingdom. We include a profile on India’s Honorary Consul to Northern Ireland, with messages from Scotland’s First Minister and a Minister in the British Cabinet. Each one of those I asked to write for me or to be interviewed made a huge effort and gave up precious time to contribute to what I hope is a representative picture of the variety and scope of British Punjabi society in 2012. I am grateful to them, to Rupanjana and her team, and to CB for entrusting me with this worthwhile project. I have learnt a great deal while being reminded of the depth, the wealth and the affection contained in my own cultural heritage. Rani Singh Special Assignments Editor, Asian Voice

Punjabi culture is among the world’s oldest and richest. With the largest Punjabi population outside of South Asia it has greatly enriched British culture too. Through hard work and dedication, British Punjabis have made their mark in all aspects of British life. Britain is much stronger because of the contribution of British Punjabis and I'm sure they'll continue to play a positive part in the vibrant society we all live in. Rt Hon Eric Pickles Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

I am delighted that the Asian Voice is publishing a British Punjabi Magazine. The contribution of the Punjabi Community in the United Kingdom is immense. In business and in industry and commerce they have excelled themselves. In almost all cases they started with little or no resources to a stage where they are making a significant contribution to the British economy. Look at all areas where this peace loving community have settled. You have Gurudwaras and Community Centres catering for the needs of the community. The concept of equality is enshrined at every level in the Punjabi society. We now see colleagues like Lord King, Baroness Verma, Lord Loomba and Lord Inderjit Singh playing an important role in the politics of Britain. The Community is a success story of how migrants and now the successive generations born here are making vital contributions in all spheres of life in the UK. I am glad that Asian Voice is to highlight their significant achievements. Rt Hon Lord Navnit Dholakia, OBE, PC, DL Deputy Leader, Lib Dems in the House of Lords Congratulation to CB Patel for bringing out, once again, an issue of Asian Voice magazine about British Punjabis. Punjabis are to be found in almost every country. The largest number outside India is to be found in the United Kingdom. They are easily recognisable, particularly in the case of Sikhs, by their appearance. Punjabis are a robust, vibrant community, full of confidence, always prepared to meet the challenges of life with the vigour that is one of their characteristics. They were, I believe, the first to venture out of India. Wherever they have gone and settled, they have made their mark. They have brought distinction and credit to their country of origin. Punjabis have found no difficulty in integrating into the society in which they have chosen to live, and have done so without compromising their religious or cultural traits or more importantly, without treading on other peoples’ toes. They revel in being what they are; they take pride in their history, their culture, their food. They have a lot to live up to. Their unquestioned ability and their resoluteness in preserving their distinct identity, sometimes in the face of bias or prejudice, sometimes overt, sometimes covert, and overcoming it with the magnanimity of their spirit and their unbounded confidence in the belief that ultimately decency and fairness will prevail, is their source of strength. Punjabis are people of faith and, as Soren Kierkegaard, the Philosopher, said, if there was no faith, there would be despair. The Punjabis’ buoyancy does not countenance despair. HH Judge Mota Singh, QC


Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012

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Messages Scotland is proud to be the home of many people of Punjabi origin. Scots Asians have made a rich contribution to many aspects of Scottish life, be it business or cultural and their history and traditions are now deeply woven into the fabric of Scottish life. And they will play an important part in Scotland’s future. We are currently considering our country’s future in a peaceful and inclusive way to find the best system of government for the people of Scotland to bring fairness and prosperity to us and our children. As we move towards the referendum on independence which will allow the people of Scotland the chance to shape their future, the Scottish Government is determined to listen to society as a whole. The referendum will proceed in the interests of the people of Scotland, not those of any individual or party. I would like to know the views of Scots Asians – whatever those views are. The referendum will be held in autumn 2014 in the same way as any Scottish election, to the same standards and with the same guarantee of fairness, democracy and inclusiveness. The contributions those of Punjabi origin have made across Scotland are visible in our workplaces, in our communities. Scotland is a better and more vibrant country as a result –and I will continue to listen to Scots Asians about how we can make our country even more welcoming and successful. Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland I applaud the initiative of the ABPL Group in producing a British Punjabis magazine for the third year running. As a member of the British Punjabi community I have lived in one of its hearts, Southall in West London, for most of my life and am proud to be representing the community in Parliament. British Punjabis make a massive contribution in all walks of life, and I am incredibly proud to be able to say that I am one. They are active in raising huge funds for charities, particularly those concerned with disabilities, diabetes and cancer. They also support non-governmental organisations in India and work very hard at building relationships between the Punjabi diaspora and other parts of the world. I wish the 2012 British Punjabis magazine team the very best and I am sure this year’s contents will make for an interesting read. Rt Hon Virendra Sharma Member of Parliament For Ealing Southall

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To save the weak against evil

t is a great privilege to be contributing to this splendid edition again this year. I would like to begin by congratulating Mr CB Patel and his team for all the efforts they have put in to ensure the South Asian community as a whole is actively connected and informed. I have just returned back from a parliamentary visit in India and thought that I should reflect on my experience of that trip. In all my visits both private and parliamentary and of course where ever a platform has enabled me to speak I have raised questions regarding the plight of women and girls. Being born in the great city of Amritsar, Punjab, I have a strong affection and commitment towards India. That of course gives me a right to raise and challenge certain issues. This trip was no less a challenge, one where on one side India is seen as an emerging economic power house globally, where there is a great push for better education for more children, better healthcare and businesses and opportunities are seriously beginning to improve especially for employees, yet at the same time a baby girl is being beaten so badly that she dies after a few days! It is a crime to have been born as a girl in India, is this the same country that reveres its mothers, where women have led charges against invaders, where religion teaches us about the great equality of gender in our faiths? And yet a man violently abuses his young wife assisted by his mother and then turns on his three month old baby daughter because she was a girl!! He then beats her up so violently that she goes into a coma with so many bones in her tiny body fractured and dies later. I was so taken aback by the vileness of the crime that I felt as we see Winter leave and Spring come in, as we celebrate Vaisakhi, and all that it means to us particularly from the Sikh faith of equality and protection of those weaker than us, I think this little girl was a poignant reminder of why it is so important that we rid ourselves of a culture that belittles the birth of a girl and treats her as a burden, changing the perception to one of celebration and great luck. Is this an issue that will ever be resolved, sadly it appears not, as someone said to me whilst doctors can play God and can be bought, where educated people are as equally complicit as those that are not and where we place dowry and subservience as a tenet to being a girl, these issues will never disappear. As we see new flowers blossom and a newness around us surely it is time we press even harder to see these evil inequalities removed. My faith tells me we are one in the eyes of God, I was raised to see all people as equal, to fight for those weaker than myself and to build a just society around me. The death of this little three month baby girl has made me even more determined. I hope you will join me on this quest. Baroness Sandip Verma


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The first turbaned Member of Parliament ■ Rani Singh ord Indarjit Singh is one of the most famous Sikhs in the UK and it is his passion for his faith that has driven him to where he is today, the first turbaned Sikh in Parliament and newly-minted member of the House of Lords. The most popular Sikh broadcaster on BBC Radio 4’s spiritual slot, Thought for the Day, as well as Radio 2’s Pause for Thought, Lord Indarjit Singh’s engaging short essays in sound are much less about religion than they are about common sense ethical teachings on current issues seen from a Sikh perspective. The son of one of the first Sikh families in the UK told British Punjabis magazine, “I’ve always been interested in the Sikh religion. There were very few Sikhs in this country when I was growing up, and my parents were busy and struggling to establish a medical practice. As we (my siblings and I) grew up there was no formal instruction in the religion. But my parents lived as good Sikhs and took an interest in the less fortunate.” The young Indarjit was highly motivated and in his teenage years taught himself Gurmukhi, the Punjabi script that the holy book of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib is written in. He also taught himself Paath, the reading and recitation of holy texts. “I learnt Sikhism mainly through the medium of English. My mother was in India and she would write letters to me in English. She was making an effort, so I thought, why shouldn’t I? I made my own primer of Punjabi and wrote back to her in Punjabi.” The main Sikh temple in London in those early days was located in Shepherds Bush, which is where Indarjit would go and where his father was president throughout the war years. Indarjit’s father, Dr Diwan Singh, as a young qualified doctor, was part of India’s non-violent resistance movement to free the country from the British. Indarjit grew up with an acute awareness of the political struggles in India and visited the country at

L Lord Indarjit Singh


Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012

a sensitive time for Sikh autonomy. When the boy who left India at the age of six months and took an engineering degree at Birmingham University tried to establish his career in the UK he was told that British miners “would not stand for a Sikh mine manager” – so he moved to India, where he became a mine manager in a large British mining company. His time in India coincided with a period when Sikhs were suffering a degree of oppression, so Indarjit started writing letters to Indian national newspapers like the Hindustan Times under assumed names like Mr Pendry, an Englishman, so that he his message would be viewed impartially. His success as a literary campaigner continued after he got married and returned to England in the late 60s. Pamela Wylam, the then editor of the Sikh Courier in London, asked Indarjit to work with her. “Do what you can,” she told him, “it is for others to take inspiration.” He founded the Sikh Messenger in 1984, having decided to create an awareness of religion and what it has to offer society. Concentrating on the essence of Sikh teaching, Indarjit quickly established himself on the Interfaith Network. “The gurus wanted respect between different faiths,” he pointed out. Of being elevated to the House of Lords and thereby becoming parliament’s first turbaned member, Indarjit told BP magazine, “I will take up issues that go against human rights and the teachings of the gurus. I don’t see myself as an enclosed Punjabi who doesn’t see the beauty of other cultures.” He is aware of the upside and downside of being a turbaned Sikh. “In some ways, the more different you are, the more difficult it is to be accepted. But I believe I am in the House of Lords because of being a Sikh, not despite being one. Mine is not a token appointment; it is because people appreciate Sikhism.” As evidence, he revealed that when he was telephoned to be given news of the appointment after his interview, he was informed that the panel “unanimously and enthusiastically wanted me.”

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Lord Rana: Creating opportunities for the younger generation ■ By Sam Butler Punjab-born Lord Diljit Rana is now among the most successful and respected businessmen in Northern Ireland, and is someone who has continued to support initiatives in his native India. He has been at the forefront of peace building in Ireland. e came to Northern Ireland in 1966 to pursue business interests. Diljit Rana left India for England three years earlier to progress a career in public administration, building on his experience in the Punjab government. But the career opportunities he sought in England weren’t available, then, to migrants from India. “When I moved to England, the only jobs open to Indians were working in factories. I found that difficult and decided that the only way to a worthwhile career was by buying a small business. I chose Belfast because it seemed that it would be easier and cheaper to buy a business there, using a small sum of money I had saved in England. My first business was a small café. It succeeded and by 1971 I had four restaurants.” The restaurants fell victim to terrorism in 1971, which also led to a fall in business throughout Belfast. They weren’t the targets but were wrecked when premises nearby were bombed. “I had no income and little cash in the bank then to feed my family and pay the mortgage on my home. I used my savings to buy a small fashion shop. Business was also difficult because the terrorism meant shoppers stayed away from the city. I persevered and built the business. I invested in property and then decided to build a hotel, the first in Belfast for 20 years. It was bombed several times. During the terrorism, there were 30 attacks on my properties. So, life hasn’t been easy. But it’s much better now than ever before, and I have five successful hotels.” Peace work in Northern Ireland earned him recognition in 2004 from Tony Blair, then UK Prime Minister, and a place in Parliament in London. “What I did was to offer neutral venues for politicians to discuss issues with the UK government. The talks were held in one of my restaurants and subsequently at my home. The discussions enabled politicians to consid-


er issues away from the media.” He has also contributed to community development projects in Northern Ireland and India. “I have a strong social conscience and make a practice of putting money aside for community ventures particularly in education. I’ve been a long-term supporter of schools that bring Protestant and Roman Catholic children in Belfast together. “In India, I have been developing the Cordia Education Complex at Sanghol, my home village in Punjab, which is bringing university education to a rural area. The project is based on my conviction that education is one of the best ways to tackle poverty.” The complex offers degree-level courses in key disciplines. A vocational training centre is the most recent development at the complex and will enable young people to gain skills for employment. Diljit Rana has also promoted business between India and Northern Ireland, enabling 60 Northern Ireland companies to set up operations in Mumbia, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. These companies are employing Indian people and helping to bring new skills and experience to the country. These relationships have also led Indian companies to set up in Northern Ireland. As the first Honorary Consul for India in Northern Ireland he represents the interests of Indian people to government agencies and is a founder member of the Indian Community Centre in Belfast, which enables Indian people to meet and to pursue cultural, social and education activities. Lord Rana’s commitment to education is also seen in his work with the Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Ulster, encouraging both to form partnerships in India for knowledge-transfer, exchanges of academic staff, students and researchers, and joint research. Looking ahead, Lord Rana has his sights set on expanding the role of the Cordia Education Complex and increasing employment and career opportunities for young people in Punjab to gain knowledge and skills to support the region’s economy. He is convinced that the complex will become a magnet that will bring new technologies to the region.

Lord Diljit Rana

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012


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Punjab’s Culture: Too Good to Lose Parmjit Singh is an author and historian. His most recent work, The Golden Temple of Amritsar: Reflections of the Past (18081959), accompanied a hit exhibition he curated at the Brunei Gallery in London, 2011. am a British born Sikh and Punjabi and my life initially followed a typical trajectory as I graduated from university and qualified as a chartered accountant. However, it had always bothered me that my cultural inheritance, which I knew extended far beyond the folk culture and shallow representations I saw in the media, was being misrepresented in the press, on TV and in the cinema. As Punjabis, we have much to be proud of, arguably the best of the Indian subcontinent’s culture in so many respects. Punjabis have reached the heights in many fields of classical culture, from music to the arts of war, from natural medicine to spirituality, from logic and reasoning to poetry and literature. Yet as a community we have not been able to comprehend the greatness of our own culture, let alone communicate it effectively to our future generations or the rest of the world. And it's not just in the diaspora, it's arguably even worse back in the motherland. Why? Well, I believe it’s because we don’t have a creative media industry dedicated to promoting the best of what we have to offer the world. Literature and the creative arts play an important role in the cultural, educational and social well-being of any community, so it was incredibly disconcerting growing up in West London during the 1980s and 90s and seeing the Sikh community’s so-called leaders squandering hardearned community resources on innumerable building funds and self-serving political ventures, rather than investing in these crucial areas of development. We need to invest seriously in initiatives that help develop and support the work of our own talented authors, artists and film-makers, because the mainstream players—comprising publishers, television channels and film studios—will never step in to produce the high quality literature, television programming or feature films that we so desperately need to do justice to the past and inspire our future. However, all is not lost. For the past


Parmjit Singh

The Golden Temple of Amritsar: Reflections of the Past (1808-1959) 'A stunning book that will bring a lifetime of illumination and pleasure' (Sathnam Sanghera, award-winning journalist and author) Available now from Stay in touch:


Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012

two decades, I’ve been privileged to work with an incredibly talented team of authors, designers, developers, patrons and supporters who are looking to reinvigorate our cultural landscape in exciting ways within our lifetimes. This unique team is poised to bring about a renaissance in the awe-inspiring history, traditions and teachings emanating from Punjab. By doing so, we’re aiming to place the incredibly rich cultural heritage of undivided Punjab on the world stage where it belongs. Serving this demand has been tough going, but we have made good progress. First off we established a voluntary organisation, the UK Punjab Heritage Association to provide a vehicle for our collective endeavours—see for a list of our past projects and future plans. We took another major step in 2006 with the launch of Kashi House (, our first foray into the wonderful world of independent book publishing. This not-for-profit social enterprise took inspiration from Guru Gobind Singh’s scholarly legacy and is dedicated to publishing ‘illuminating books that illuminate minds’. Kashi House’s first two publications were only possible thanks to patronage and talent from within the community, and have already given rise to a hugely popular radio programme on BBC World Service, a major exhibition in Central London and a brand new online magazine inspired by the Golden Temple of Amritsar ( With another major exhibition due in 2014 celebrating the contributions of Sikhs in the World Wars, and our first film project being planned for later this year, we have, in our own way, begun the fightback. Having established a platform, we invite like-minded individuals to join us, collaborate and share. And if you're looking for a good cause to support, look no further. We are ambitious and talented, but require the modern-day equivalents of the patrons of old to help us achieve our goals. By working together as a community we can push ourselves to new heights of creativity and inspiration, and bring out the best of our past to ensure a brighter future for us all.

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The Diasporic Dimension of Punjabiyat ■ Dr Pritam Singh Dr Singh teaches development economics at Oxford Brookes University. His books include Economy, Culture and Human Rights: Turbulence in Punjab, India and Beyond; and Federalism, Nationalism and Development: India and the Punjab Economy. He co-edited Punjabi Identity in a Global Context. His B.A. and M.A. are from Panjab University, Chandigarh, where he taught, and his MPhil is from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, where he was a Visiting Professor. He has a DPhil from Oriel College, University of Oxford. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Punjab Studies, and is the Economic Advisor to the All Party Parliamentary Committee on Punjabis in Britain. ilently and slowly, in the debates on Punjabi identity, a force has been emerging: the growth of the Punjabi diaspora. Since the 1960s, the spatial and cultural relocation of Punjabis from India and Pakistan to the West has opened a new space for articulation of the common dimensions of Punjabi identity. Parallel to and opposed to this is the phenomenon of a section of the diaspora becoming a major player in articulating sectarian religious divisions within that identity. The diaspora’s contradictory voice has acquired special significance in the accelerating process of the globalisation of the world economy and the media. The process of globalisation has opened hitherto unknown opportunities for the exchange of commodities and ideas and, to a lesser extent, of labour between India, Pakistan and the rest of the world. In turn, the temptations of economic gain from increased trade relations between Indian Punjab and Pakistani Punjab have ignited a series of reinventions of common Punjabi heritage and identity. In recent years, the global Punjabi diaspora’s imagination has been fired by the realisation of its power as a possible catalyst in the making of a global Punjabi identity. The organising of world Punjabi conferences has become the theatre of action for this project. New technological possibilities of instant translations between different scripts of Punjabi language have removed many barriers of communication and national borders. These attempted reinventions of common Punjabi identities unsettle many sensibilities of both Indian and


Pakistani nationalism, viewed nervously as potential critiques of the legitimacy of these two nation states. Punjabi nationalists, however, gleefully view the benefits that might accrue to them if globalisation weakens the nation state. Both the nervousness of the Indian and Pakistani nationalists and the glee of the Punjabi nationalists might be overplayed, however, because globalisation is a contradictory and complex process with uncertain outcomes. Diasporas like global Punjabis are highly differentiated. Not only have cleavages of religion, caste, language and script not disappeared, occasionally they have become stronger in the diaspora than in the homeland. It is the new generations of diaspora Punjabis who are attempting not only to transcend the barriers of religion and caste, but also to forge artistic and social ties with other cultures. Bhangra music, for instance, has grown to become the focal point of Punjabi and these new hybrid identities, while also spawning a new interest in learning Punjabi language in diverse scripts. The shared Punjabi identity has received a massive boost by the popular appeal of Punjabi language and culture in cinema, literature and music. Bollywood has become a site and carrier of celebration of the shared Punjabi culture. Even the image of the sardar has been transformed in this new enterprise of Punjabi celebration: no longer presented as a buffoon, the Singh is now a king, powerful, smart, sexy and glamorous. A Bollywood film is considered commercially successful if it runs well in East Punjab (and now increasingly in West Punjab) and in the Punjabi diaspora. In the globalising world of today, the reinvented global Punjabi identity has to compete with globalised versions of Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam. In the contest between Punjabi identity and globalised religion, the old contest between language and culture on one side and the religion on the other is being replayed. Religion could cannibalise language and culture or people’s linguistic and cultural affinities could overcome the challenge of religious sectarianism. The Punjabi diaspora can play a pivotal role in strengthening the linguistic and cultural ties between different segments of the Punjabi people to provide an enduring foundation for the project of Punjabiyat.

Dr Pritam Singh

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012


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Uncovering our Hidden Histories

Neena Sohal, co-director, Talking Pictures

Neena Sohal is an arts and heritage consultant and co-director of Talking Pictures (UK) Ltd, with her filmmaker, husband, Satinder. As Punjabis, living most of their lives in the UK, they have chosen to specialize in an area of work that helps them to uncover and share stories that unpick the historical relevance of Asians in Britain. With their complementary skills and shared interest i n Indian arts and heritage, they have pioneered a number of innovative multimedia projects, making the heritage of British Asians both accessible and engaging. They have begun to provide a lasting legacy, for history that has, to date, been ‘hidden,’ and generated a new enthusiasm for all Punjabis to value their heritage. y studying Hindi, Punjabi, History and Indian music at SOAS, Neena was able to consolidate her keen interest to discover and appreciate her rich cultural heritage. In between campaigning for student issues as President of the SOAS Union, she organised visiting Indian artists, such as Shiv Kumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia, to perform traditional baithak style concerts at the University before they embarked on the London stage. She was fortunate enough to have been able to pursue this interest in arts and heritage during a 20-year career, holding senior roles in a number of local authorities and museums in London. As a result, she has always ensured that Indian artists and Indian heritage projects were offered an equal footing – in access to funding and showcasing opportunities. She pioneered the first Mela style open-air event, hosted concerts with Surinder Kaur and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and was instrumental in establishing the largest public art gallery in West London at Pitshanger Manor. Moreover, she was responsible for integrating Indian music into the school curriculum. Today, she channels her experience and energies into researching and reviving little known stories that help audiences to re-examine and value the ongoing historical and cultural contributions of Asians in British society. Talking Pictures’ recent



Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012

installation projects – In Court with Queen Victoria: A Maharajah and a Munshi and Oxasians, uniquely blend historically inspired set design and latest technology. In Court with Queen Victoria brings to life the little known stories of two Indians from contrasting backgrounds in Victorian Britain, through dramatisation and academic interviews. Uncovering Queen Victoria’s close relationships with both Maharajah Duleep Singh and her servant, later secretary, Abdul Karim – the project illustrates how India came to Queen Victoria without her ever-setting foot on the Subcontinent. The installation takes visitors on a journey with Duleep Singh, the last Sikh ruler of the Punjab, exiled to Britain as a youth, forced to convert to Christianity and subjugated into ‘presenting’ the Queen with the Kohinoor diamond. Despite living under the grace and favour of the Crown, he attempts to regain his lost Kingdom in later life. Meanwhile, much to the annoyance of the royal household, Victoria, challenging the racist attitudes of the time, elevated Abdul Karim to the status of a Munshi. He taught the Queen Urdu and became her close confidante. The touring interactive Oxasians exhibition provides an insight into the student lives of 10 well-known South Asian Oxford Graduates since 1889. Amongst other celebrated personalities, it features, Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. Dr Ian Little, his 90 year-old ex-Professor interviewed for the project remarked that Singh had “no obvious Prime Ministerial qualities…but I remember him as being very retiring, utterly reliable and deeply honest”. Princesses Catherine and Bamba, daughters of the exiled Maharajah Duleep Singh were the earliest Punjabi Oxford students in the 1890s who were forced into keeping a low profile, while their father set out to regain Punjab from the British. Neena has a number of other exciting projects in the pipeline, including some that explore India’s rich musical heritage and others that continue to highlight the significant roles of Indians in Britain.

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London calling all Punjabis! ■ Cllr Jagdish Sharma MBE JP MA Leader of the Council, London Borough of Hounslow unjabis in Hounslow have helped define the very nature of this part of London. In our part of London, Punjabis make up one of our largest minority groups and are an extremely well-established community, in business, politics, community, media and everyday life. We are an adventurous people, and that is the spirit which first brought me, along with so many of my contemporaries, to London in 1960. Many people were given ‘employment vouchers’. Most of them were skilled in their trades back home in Punjab and some lacked a formal education, but that did not matter. Punjabis, hardworking by nature, are willing to turn their hand to anything and, importantly, it was the Punjabi community who helped itself to prosper by its spirit of unity and brotherhood. There were many skilled plumbers, electricians and builders who found themselves without formal jobs once coming to England but by starting out on their own as trades-people on a small-scale to fellow Punjabis and Asians they eventually burgeoned into well-established businesses. Parts of west London have been transformed with large double fronted family houses reminiscent of the large joint family homes in Punjab! The quality of building constructions has seen the community flourish in this industry just as they had back

P Cllr Jagdish Sharma


Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012

Annual Vaisakhi celebrations in Hounslow this April

home and small businesses have become large-scale with shops and companies with lucrative turnovers. Over time, Punjabi areas such as Southall and Hounslow flourished as the community found a way to continue their unique culture in the UK. People opened Indian shops selling saris, suits and lenghas alongside Indian vegetables shops and music and film stores. Indian restaurants popped up, one after the other and of course, the Indian sweet shops, all important for the many festivals throughout the year. Temples and gurudwaras were built, with money donated by the community, and the area became a cultural hub, a home from home for Punjabis and other Indians to work, rest and play. Areas such as Southall have become economic assets to the UK. This economic prosperity has not seen the community simply indulge in its own wealth but pour that wealth into causes for the good of it’s own community just as they did when they all arrived in the UK. In Hounslow and the neighbouring towns of Southall, Harrow and Brent, people got together to form voluntary and community groups to get together to share support and cultural values. The Indian Workers Association in Southall was one of the first of the groups to

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be founded and was already well-established in the 60’s when I arrived. The group allowed the community to get together, find friends, support and camaraderie, enjoy cultural festivities together, and generally continue the closeness and friendship they had back home. Eventually, the organisation’s members, through their own financial contributions, even bought the old cinema in Southall and it became an exciting Bollywood film hub for Indians all over the UK, with celebrity guests such as Raj Kapoor, Sunil Dutt and singer Suresh Wadkar even gracing its theatre halls to the excitement of the throngs of movie-going Indians. The community were thrilled to be paid visit by the stars who came of their own accord, unpaid, and announced it was especially to “show their love and affection for the community overseas”. Groups such as the Indian Workers Association allowed people to talk about the issues which faced them in their new home, England, and talk about problems they faced finding work, and dealing with racism. It allowed them to talk about how they were going to really settle into a new country successfully and be accepted by the host nation. The community steadily made in-roads by establishing themselves as a strong and hardworking community that wanted to be recognised and taken seriously as economic assets and community-minded people. Gradually, politicians started to take note and paid visits to the communities having realised that they were an important part of this country and needed to be listened to. I was there when Michael Foot, who was a Cabinet Minister at that time, then Prime Minister James Callaghan and later, PM Harold Wilson all paid visit to Southall as the government began to forge relations and reassure the community that the UK was going to treat them with equality and respect. I was a teacher in the 1970’s and Head of Department at a School in Southall when Harold Wilson paid a visit there, having been invited by the local Labour party. He recognised that the majority of Asians had come to the UK with excellent qualifications but were not being given jobs in the UK which matched their capabilities. He was able to fully grasp the reality of the issues being faced in this country and took massive steps to address them. He opened up the doors of the civil service and Asians were welcomed in. Because the community is so strong, it has always maintained very close and important links with India. Not only did Indians in the UK want to keep these links with home but as they fast established themselves in every aspect of UK life and as an influential power in the UK, Indian politicians wanted to maintain links with the overseas diaspora. Indira Gandhi was one of the first Indian politicians to visit in the 70’s. Then, before he became Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpeyee as Foreign Minister came over to visit, and then did LK Advani as leader of the BJP. Later, Morarji Desai came to address the oversees Indians at the Royal Albert Hall and then, when elected Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee held a dinner for hundreds of UK Indians in their honour at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in London. Going back to the roots of my political career, it was

Cllr Jagdish Sharma is presented with the Asian Voice Local Government Award by Leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband

by sheer chance that one election day in 1968 when I was campaigning for the Labour party outside Martindale School in Hounslow, the local ward councillor met me and insisted I join the party. I had been a dedicated supporter of the Congress party in India, ideologically similar to the Labour Party in the UK as the voice of the common man. So, I joined and there started my so-far 38-year political career. When I was first elected as a councillor in 1974, I was the first Asian to ever have been elected to the Council. I was appointed as a magistrate in 1975 and in my second term on the Council in 1979, I was elected Mayor –the first Asian Mayor in the UK since 1938. Since my participation in politics and my contact with the community I know that many other Punjabis and Indians have been inspired to become actively involved too. Throughout my career I have seen the participation in local groups and politics increase hugely. In 2012, Hounslow Council has 17 sitting Punjabi councillors who represent an ever-growing community of Hounslow residents, both Punjabi and non-Punjabi who contribute so much to the borough. Recent Vaisakhi celebration on the streets of Hounslow this month saw the borough filled with thousands of worshippers and festival goers from all backgrounds. This is testament to the rich and open-hearted nature of the community which welcomes all into its

Cllr Jagdish Sharma, Leader of Hounslow Council at Army Barracks, Hounslow with whom the Council has a strong relationship Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012


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The importance of being connected with the local community ■ Rupanjana Dutta eema Malhotra is the newest Asian MP in London and its surrounding areas, and Britain's first female Punjabi MP. Previously engaged as a Management consultant with Accenture and PWC, she is the founder of the Fabian Women's Network and was a previous National Chair of the Young Fabians. When Harriet Harman led the Labour Party, Seema worked as her adviser. Capable, confident and efficient as she is, Seema shared her journey with the Asian Voice- from childhood to becoming the successful name and politician she is today. Seema grew up in Hounslow with a strong family spirit and extended family environment. Her parents always spoke Punjabi to each other and if ever friends or relatives visited, it wouldn’t be long before jokes and poetry were being shared. Seema's parents, who were originally from the Pakistan side of Punjab, settled in Jalandhar and Delhi. They have always felt it was extremely important to be connected with the local community and move beyond the family circle. Her parents came to the UK in 1960s. Seema, her three sisters and her brother were all born in West London. They grew up with their grandmother. Though their grandmother mainly spoke Multani and Punjabi only, she could touch hearts wherever she went. She had never been to school and could not read or write. But she brought up a family on her own after their grandfather died, sewing by night so she could look after and feed her children by day. The shop where Seema and her family grew up in, serving customers in Osterley, was very much part of the expression of blending east and west and her family business and entrepreneurial culture have always been influential and valued amongst them. With her parents a big inspiration for the way they worked to support the family, Seema had a sense of right and wrong from a very young age. “I have for example always felt it wrong if people treated me differently by virtue of being a female. I don’t think I would ever have really noticed such things if it wasn’t for having a brother so close in age to me. But it made me become aware very

S Seema Malhotra


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early on in life that people are treated worse for no good reason other than who they are. Coupled with that, I was actively involved at school with my Amnesty International and Anti Apartheid movements. It was a time when Nelson Mandela was still in prison. Through my campaigning activity I came to believe that in order to be part of change in society, you need to be part of how decisions are made. When I met someone in the Labour Party – a local community activist when I was aged 17, it was the right moment for me. I joined, and have never looked back.” As Seema grew up she visited Punjab and learning about her history and heritage helped shape a lot of her values. However talking about one of her experiences from 20 years ago, Seema pensively added, “I do recall (an experience) which is a bit less positive. It was a time of some social unrest. One evening at the end of the market opening time, it was to be a curfew and police came from nowhere to get everyone to disperse. I must have been about 18 years old and had never seen anything like it. Everyone rushed off in a panic; I nearly lost my Massi Ji (aunt) and I had one of the most important experiences for my political life; what it was to live in an area with social tension and what it meant for your every day peace of mind and sense of safety.” When asked about her success as a woman in politics, she said, “politics like any other business, is often a club-like world with in-groups and out-groups, power dynamics and there is an acute need to be well networked.” Though she also believes “being a women hasn’t been a hindrance but it has on occasion been harder, as too often it is still the women that need to adapt to get on.” With all obstacles and issues, Seema believes that her upbringing, her community and history has helped her immensely to reach this far. But of course she realises that there is so much more to do before she retires. With strong determination and the hard working values of her parents and grandmother, Seema's ambition is to push ahead using the power of politics to do what she is meant to do for her people, her community and her country and we wish her good luck!

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Treasures from India at The Wallace Collection, London ■ David Edge he Wallace Collection is one of our richest and yet most intimate national museums. Opened in 1900, it houses one of the finest collections of decorative art ever assembled by one family, and to this day still constitutes the greatest bequest of art ever left to the British nation. At Hertford House, in the centre of London, you will find some of the greatest names of European art... and (rather more unusually) one of the most important displays of princely Indian arms and armour in the country. The Collection is named after Sir Richard Wallace, who died in 1890. He was an enthusiastic collector of European art, including arms and armour. The spectacular collection of exotic Indian weapons (well over one hundred, dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries, and including some rare and splendid pieces from the Punjab) was actually acquired by his father, Richard SeymourConway, Fourth Marquess of Hertford (18001870). Although Lord Hertford collected without specialist knowledge, he nevertheless succeeded in assembling a high-quality Indian collection which included items of truly exceptional importance. A rare Sikh ‘turban’ helmet, for example, decorated in gold… most of those encountered today are fake! And a set of char-aina armour bearing the portrait of Guru Gobind Singh, again richly damascened in gold. Many of these prizes came from the collections of fellow-aristocrats; between 1859 and 1870 Hertford bought at some of the most important auction sales in Europe, choosing his pick from the collections of such as the duc de Morny (1865), the comte de Pourtalès-Gorgier (1865) and Prince Anatole Demidoff (1870). Prizing pieces for their extraordinarily fine craftsmanship, opulence and exotic beauty, Hertford’s collection included not only arms from India, but also the Middle East and the old Ottoman Empire, all probably intended to furnish a gentleman’s Study in the prevailing ‘Orientalist’ fashion of the day. Throughout Europe at this time the taste for Orientalist works of art was stimulated by European political involvement in India and the Middle East, which intensified throughout

T Sir Richard Wallace


Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012

Lord Hertford’s lifetime. The decline of the great empires of the East is reflected in the composition of the collection. The Fourth Marquess naturally bought the most sumptuously-decorated arms he could find, richly adorned with gold or silver, set with jewels in abundance. Many had been made for the rulers and noblemen of their day... the Mughal Indian Emperor Shah Jahan, for example, probable owner of the most magnificent dagger in the entire Collection, its hilt wrought in solid gold profusely set with rubies and emeralds. Princely weapons from India, in fact, feature particularly strongly in the Collection. The first half of the 19th century saw much conflict there… the Mysore, Mahratta, Afghan and Anglo-Sikh Wars to name but a few. In one way or another, all these gave rise to major re-allocations of property, wealth and power, leading to the release of many princely treasures onto the markets of the world. Lord Hertford lived in France for most of his life (it was his son Richard Wallace who brought the collection to England in 1870, to save it from being plundered during the Franco-Prussian War) and it was thus in Paris, at an auction sale in the 1860s, that he acquired one of his greatest treasures, a solid-gold mounted sword described as ‘the hunting sword of Ranjit Singh’ (illustrated). Today, this sword can be seen in the Oriental Gallery, with other treasures from the Punjab… a gold-encrusted shield decorated with portraits of the ruler, his family, and court, and in adjacent displaycases, a fabulous array of Sikh armour, swords, and daggers. The Wallace Collection is free to enter, and strives constantly to reach the broadest possible audience… its visitor figures have grown 30% over the last few years alone. If you cannot visit in person, then there is always the free on-line database ‘Wallace Live’, making at least some of these treasures available to scholars and public worldwide (Wallace Collection website Take a look, and start planning your visit… you don’t know what you’re missing! David Edge has been Armourer at the Wallace Collection since 1975, becoming Head of Conservation in 2004.

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Tibby Singh the Carpentry King ■ Romil Patel irbhavan “Tibby” Singh Chodha, a 23 year old British Punjabi from Leeds has carved quite a name for himself by being crowned ‘Young Carpenter of the Year’ by BBC3’s Young Talent of the Year show. “From a young age, I have been used to making things – anything out of timber,” he recalled. Indeed his ability to assemble and create objects out of raw material came to the fore as the competition progressed with the panel admiring his finesse and ability to remain calm under pressure. During the competition, Tibby was required to build a duck house, install a fully functioning kitchen in just three hours and face “an interview from hell” in which he scored 80%. “I could have done better,” he added modestly.


Tibby highlighted the support which he has received from his family as a source of inspiration. “My family have been very supportive [of this career path],” he said. “My dad was very practical and he went into mechanics. He has been in my shoes and has been with me all the way.” The age-old value of humility came to the fore when he offered his profuse gratitude to his family and to the wider Asian community for all the support which he has received. Tibby was keen to express the importance of the three separate qualifications he obtained over the course of six years, in

order to make a successful career in carpentry possible. These include a carpentry and joinery apprenticeship, a site supervisor course and a Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Construction Studies. Recognising the impact of the apprenticeship in particular, Tibby called for a greater number of these to be made available to young people citing “it is a golden opportunity and it gives kids the chance to shine. It is important to encourage youngsters as it gives them an extra option. It’s a practical education in preparation for a hands-on career. Education is also important in this field [carpentry and joinery] as it involves a lot of maths and you need to have good English.” Tibby often attends school and business events in a bid to inspire the younger generation to consider alternative careers. He gives talks on apprenticeships and strongly advises youngsters to pursue a profession which they are passionate about. Aside from his career, Tibby is also an active member of the Sikh community. He regularly partakes in Seva (the voluntary service of others), plays the harmonium and the tabla and does Kirtan, chanting in the name of God. “It’s not all about what I think or making money,” he said whilst reflecting on selfless giving. “If you’ve got talent, put something back into the community. I am more satisfied with seva than with anything else. It has given me a real sense of fulfilment.” On Easter Sunday, Tibby participated in an event for charity 'Khalsa aid' (a charity with a moto- “recognise the whole human race as one”) in order to provide basic needs – such as water pumps for running water – to people. After raising funds, Tibby was required to hike up and down Snowdon (the highest mountain in Wales) in just four hours. Having achieved a great deal at such a young age, what does the future hold for Tibby? A business venture may be next on the agenda but for now, he is “over the moon to have represented the Asian community,” which has “really motivated” him to achieve more. For more information on Tibby, please visit

Tirbhavan Singh Chodha

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Rajinder Singh Sandhu, Headmaster of the Guru Nanak Sikh Academy, London ■ Romil Patel & Rani Singh hen it was originally opened as an independent school in 1993, the Guru Nanak Sikh Academy had to overcome various difficulties in order to evolve into a centre for educational excellence. The school was helped through its challenging times by its spriritual guide, known as Sant Baba Amar Singh Ji, who is also its founder. His vision is to help humanity through students achieving academically. Situated in Hayes, West London, the site is vast and it encompasses both a primary and secondary schools. In 1999, the academy became the UK’s first state-funded Sikh school. It is now achieving scholastic pre-eminence. Ofsted, an independent body which is responsible for monitoring the standards and performances of schools in England and Wales, assessed schools in 29 categories (up to December 2011). Both primary and secondary sections of the Guru Nanak Sikh Academy were given “outstanding” status in each of the 58 departments in Ofsted’s latest report. Unsurprisingly, the academy is heavily oversubscribed. The academy focuses on Sikh beliefs such as seva (the voluntary servitude of others), nimrata (humility) and simran (God). Mr Sandhu often quotes the founder, who said; “If you take seeds and put them outside in the light, they never germinate. They don’t grow. When put in the darkness of the earth, however, they germinate into trees which bear fruit. Similarly, if you do seva, which is invisible, then that bears fruit” and it is this message which the students are taught. In a wide-ranging curriculum, written and spoken Punjabi are key. The school has adopted a policy of openness and every week, there is a forum on pertinent topics. “We talk about issues like euthanasia and we talk about abortion…kids are free thinkers here,” Mr Sandhu said. The Sikh values embedded in the students became apparent during a recent sixthform visit to the slums of Delhi, India. The purpose of the trip was for the children to see the work of the charitable Guru Nanak Garib Niwaj Society, founded by Sant Baba Amar Singh Ji, which aids and educates people liv-


Rajinder Singh Sandhu


Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012

ing in these deprived areas. The idea is that the slum children can be given the skills to break out from a poverty-ridden lifestyle. “We wanted our kids to see this and for them to really understand that there are so many unfortunate people,” Mr Sandhu recalled. When it was the turn of the children from the Guru Nanak Sikh Academy to eat, they refused. They made it clear that they wanted to serve their less fortunate counterparts (400 people) before filling their own stomachs. Often, sceptics argue that faith schools work against the social fabric of Britain’s diverse population. The Guru Nanak Sikh Academy dispels this point of view. Indeed, the Christian pillar “Love thy neighbour as thyself” is fundamental to the way in which things are run. According to the admissions policy of the school, children in public care are prioritised followed by children of the Sikh faith and then children of other faiths. Similarly, teachers are appointed on merit. A striking feature in the school is the Gurudwara (Sikh temple), which is a tribute to diversity. Its four doors signify that this place of worship embraces everybody. There are numerous, wall-mounted plaques here which advocate respect for all religions. It demonstrates that this school is a celebration of integration and all that is good in humanity. Recently, the school received an investment of £44 million of which £40 million was provided by the British government. The other £4 million, Mr Sandhu said, was raised jointly by the founder’s international congregation of supporters, parents of the academy and through bank loans. In the upcoming academic year, the school will be introducing a motor mechanics apprenticeship. This scheme will be open to children whose future lies outside academia and 50% of places for the apprenticeship will be reserved for children from the wider community. The concept of seva is visible right throughout the endeavours of the school. Almost two decades after the Academy was first germinated, the seeds sown by its Headteacher, Rajinder Singh Sandhu, have grown into those he hopes will be the Nelson Mandelas and Mother Teresas of the future.

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Giving back to the society, that gives you so much

ami is a successful businessman with recognition from Her Majesty the Queen six times, five times for business and once personally for community service. He was born two months after the assassination of his illustrious father, Shaheed Nanak Singh, who was against the breakup of India on the basis of religion. He said “India’s unity and diversity are like the colours of a rainbow, if one were removed, its charm and beauty would be diminished”. Unfortunately, the fanatics could not appreDr. Rami Ranger ciate his vision of united India and assassiMBE, FRSA nated him when he was trying to save 600 students of DAV School, Multan who were caught up in communal riots. The students were saved though he lost his life and became a martyr for the sake of Hindu Muslim unity and religious tolerance in India. Rami having lost his ancestral home and bread winner started life in a refugee camp in India with his mother and siblings. Rami was brought up by his mother who was a teacher and could not give him much financial support but instilled the right values which became the bedrock of his success. As they say, the rest is history. Rami is the Chairman of Sun Mark Ltd and Sea Air & Land Forwarding Ltd, two of Britain's fastest growing companies with a combined turnover of over GBP £150 million. Both of his companies received the most prestigious awards from Her Majesty the Queen, the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement 1999 and the Queens Award for Enterprise 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Sun Mark Ltd is the only company in Britain to Dr Rami Ranger FRSA Receiving The MBE receive this accolade. from HRH Prince of Wales In 2005 Rami was made a Member of the British Empire, for his services to British Business and the Asian Community. Rami co-founded the British Asian Conservative Link to make Asians more publicly and politically spirited and to encourage them to take part in the decision making process in Britain. Due to work done by the BACL, the Conservative Party, which previ-



Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012

Her Majesty the Queen greeting Dr. Rami Ranger MBE, in International Trade at Buckingham Palace, London

ously had no Asian Members of Parliament, now has five. Rami, along with the other founder member, organised hundreds of high profile events to bring Tory leaders face to face with the Asians and the Asians face to face with the Tory leaders so that their perception of each other could be corrected. The Asian perception was that the Conservative Party was the party for the rich and elite and many in the Conservative party were under the impression that Asians were staunch Labour supporters. Rami is the founder member of the Hindu Forum Britain which was set up to unite all the different Hindu Organizations in Britain under one umbrella so that they could project a cohesive voice to British government departments. He felt that it was essential for the public to know about the Hindu religion otherwise they would continue to depict Hindu deities in derogatory ways such as on carrier bags, shoes, TShirts etc. This would also damage the self esteem of Hindus. He organized the first ever prestigious Hindu Ball at the Hilton Hotel, Park Lane, London to celebrate Hindu culture and its contribution in enriching British society. The Ball helped the local population understand more about Hinduism and also stopped people from using images of Hindu Gods frivolously. Rami is also the Chairman of the British Sikh Association which promotes interfaith dialogue and peaceful coexistence. This was set up to stop the extremist Sikh organizations from representing the Sikh point of view in Britain. He has vigorously argued with these extremist organiza-

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tions that the Sikhs were created to defend the unity, integrity and the basic human rights of every Indian and not to break her up. When Sikh Gurus never claimed a separate kingdom for themselves, then why should their followers demand one? Rami set up the Pakistan, India & UK Friendship Forum soon after the 7/7 and 21/7 bombings of the London Underground by British citizens of Pakistani origin. He realised that we have to make a conscious effort to build bridges with the Muslim community which was feeling isolated and dejected. He realised that Britain could not move forward by leaving any section of her population behind. Rami recruited prominent Pakistanis in Britain and launched the Pakistan, India & UK Friendship Forum. The Forum proved to be an instant success and thousands of The Rt. Hon. Vince Cable MP, presenting Pakistanis and Indians are now celebrating what unites Dr. Rami Ranger MBE, with the Business Person of the Year them in Britain. He organized for the first time ever anyaward at the 11th AAA in presence of Subaskaran Alirajah, where in the world the joint Independence Day celebraChairman, Lycamobile tions of India and Pakistan in London and in the process he is working to encourage British Indians to become made history. This proved a watershed in the relationship more public and politically spirited. He is also the Patron between the people of India and of the Ethnic Minority Business Group Pakistan and now they are openly supporting ethnic businesses in talking about peace between the Britain. two countries which they had not He is the Vice President of the experienced since their Punjabi Society of the British Isles proIndependence in 1947. His message moting Punjabi culture in Britain. He is, we now have one country and received the GOPIO Community Queen and as a result, have Service Award in 2012. become one. He also received the award for As a patron of the Princes Business Person of the Year 2011 at Trust, Rami spends his time mentorthe 11th Asian Achievers Awards in ing the underprivileged youth so London, was also the winner of the The Lord Lieutenant of Greater London that they too can realise their ambiBusiness & Commerce Award from tions and become upstanding citi- Sir David Brewer CMG, JP, presenting the third Lloyds TSB in 2009 and was a finalist Queens Award for Enterprise in International zens able to contribute positively to in the Growing Business Awards by Trade to Dr. Rami Ranger MBE their families and country. He tells the CBI. them that they do not need a rich family or elite education He was awarded a Doctorate by Preston University to be successful in life. However, self-respect, work ethics in Wyoming USA which has a branch office in the UK for and empathy for others will help them reap rewards like his contribution to Business. The India Association UK preRami has. sented him with an award for “Community Service” and Rami was a patron of the “Great Walk” undertaken the Indo British Partnership presented him with an award by the Chairman of the India for increasing bilateral trade and Association UK helped raise business investment between the £100,000 for research into the two countries. cure for AIDS and cancer for the He received an Award for Northwick Park and St. Marks Industry from the India International Hospitals in Harrow. Foundation. The NRI (Non Resident He is a member of the Indian) organization honoured him Memorial Gates Committee for his contribution to Business. which keeps alive the memory of Rami was given a Community the soldiers of the Service Award by the Secretary of Commonwealth who defended State for Families, the Rt. Hon. Ed world freedom. He is a patron of Balls MP on behalf of the Asian HAVEN a UK registered charity Stuart Winton (Head of Entrepreneur Lloyds TSB), Voice. He was also a finalist in the providing medical and education- Dr. Rami Ranger MBE and Kamel Hothi (Lloyds Ernst Young Entrepreneur of the Year al facilities to poor and needy peo- TSB) The winner of the Business & Commerce Award. Dr Ranger received the Pride ple in India. Award 2009 of India Award by the Punjabi Society He is a Patron of the India International Foundation of British Isles in November 2008. which celebrates success of Indians in Britain. In all, Rami does his best to put back in society from As a Patron of the Shaheed Nanak Singh Foundation where he has benefited so much. Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012


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IT director turns cake shop owner Opens Southall’s first Eggfree Cake Shop ■ Shweta Desai hirty three year old Ranjit Wasu never fancied eating cakes or pastries so the thought of opening his own cake shop never occurred in his mind, until one day his father advised him to do just the same, when the young man was scouting for business ideas. Now, months later since that incident Wasu is thankful for taking his father’s advice seriously as he proudly stands in the bright orange environs of the newly opened `The Eggfree Cake Box in Southall, Middlesex.’ “I had never considered opening a cake shop myself, but when I visited one of the Cake Box’s franchisee in Harrow, I loved the offerings and even finished my own cake slice,’’ says the 33 year old IT director turned entrepreneur. The fact that The Eggfree Cake Box makes delicious cakes without the use of eggs also purred the decision to go ahead with this new business idea. Wasu explains that like his mother who has taken Amrit --holy water used in the baptism ceremony by the Sikhs-- there are number of religious people of Indian origin or even from other countries in Asia who are strictly vegetarian. A large number of such population can be found around London’s very own `little India’ in Southall. A bit of research on the location of the proposed shop, narrowed Wasu’s options to King Street which houses Europe’s largest Gurudwara and thus a large Asian population. “Traditionally there’s only one bakery here which sells pastries, coffees and cakes. While they do serve eggless food products a lot of people are sceptical due to the fear of these products being sold alongside non-vegetarian ones. That’s when I thought that opening the Eggfree Cake Box here would be a perfect idea.’’ A former IT director, Wasu felt the need


Ranjit Wasu cakeboxsouthall

Shop Address 53 King Street, Southall UB2 4DQ Tel: 020 8571 4143 Opening Times: Mon-Sat: to Sun: to Open on bank holidays and religious festivals.


Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012

to venture into the business world from long, due to his strong communication skills and ability to make a connection with people/clients. He left his stable job to pursue new avenues in trade and business, however success wasn’t so easy. After his attempt to start a mobile phone company failed, Wasu considered starting his own property agency or an investment retail business. It was on one of these days he happened to visit the Eggfree Cake shop with his family only to be told by his father to consider the idea of opening a franchisee. “I told my dad, `I can’t sell cakes, I don’t even like them!!!’ but after a lot of research and consideration, I was convinced about it,’’ he says with a content smile. With local support staff, Wasu has been able to keep the shop open all seven days- a typical Indian trick, which he is confident of roping in more business with. The meagre price range of products in the cake shop, starting from £1.5 for a cupcake to £500 or above for a specially designed wedding cake also helps in attracting customers. “All the cakes are made fresh every day. We make the cake just an hour before the delivery to retain its flavours and freshness. We are also quick and effective with our services, a wedding cake can be made to deliver within 24 hours!!!’’ As the innovatively designed cupcakes, scrumptious pastries and delightful Sundaes disappear from the display rack with customers queuing in since the open hours of the cake shop; Wasu is busy making plans of his next outlet. “I have the plans ready, I am just waiting for the right opportunity,’’ says the young entrepreneur.

11-15-23-Adverts_A4 Temp 11/05/2012 14:20 Page 23

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Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012


24-Kulvinder Singh Sethi _A4 Temp 11/05/2012 11:03 Page 24

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Respect, a very important ingredient to success

ulvinder Singh Sethi also know to many as Vic Sethi came to Britain in 1991 during the Invasion of Kuwait in 1990. He was born in Delhi and migrated to Kuwait at a very young age. His parents wanted the children to be raised in a multicultural environment so they could grow up to socialise and respect people of every faith. Indian culture would be practised by default being in an Indian family, Arabic language and Islamic education would be covered by default, therefore he was admitted into a Convent School to learn about Kulvinder Singh Christianity as well. (Vic) Sethi Vic got married to Dimple Sethi and moved to Leicester in 1994 where he partnered with his (father-in-law/father) Mr Anand’s and joined Anand International Ltd. The company had been trading since 1981 specialising in the wholesale and retail of premium brand Audio/Video products, Batteries and Photographic products. Vic along with his (brother in Law/brother) Harjot Singh Anand and uncle Joginder Singh Anand (Babu) formed a great team and started to grow the business. “If it wasn’t to our father Mr Anand and Mrs Anand’s hardwork we would not be where we are today, as they had laid the foundation for us, we have just grew on what they had already made for us” says Vic. While in business Vic and the family is a firm believer of contributing back to the community. He always quotes that the famous saying is HRH The Prince of Wales with Vic Sethi and “Charity begins at home, Dimple Sethi during a private dinner at the Palace of Holyroodhouse the official residence but does not say ends at of HM The Queen in Edinburgh home, meaning that once one has got their family in a comfort zone it is time to go and help the needy. Being a Human it is our duty towards mankind” Vic has also been involved with a lot of community work and supports community projects globally. He was awarded “The Industry Award 2009” by Rt Hon Dominic Grieve, “Businessman of the year 2010” by Rt Hon.



Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012

David Miliband and many more. “Entrepreneur of the Year 2012” was awarded to Vic Sethi by the Secretary to the State Rt. Hon. Gregory Barker at the Houses of Parliament in March, 2012 by the IBBF Forum. Vic is also a Patron of Crimestoppers and the GNG Football Club. He also sits on the board of The Prince’s Trust and Crimestoppers East Midlands. Vic’s parents Mr Atamjit Singh Sethi and Mrs Kuldip Kaur Sethi are still based in Kuwait. He has two sisters who are based in Delhi and Zurich. He lives with his Leicester parents Mr Rajwans Singh Anand and Mrs Harwinder Kaur Anand and is proud to say that he is blessed with three parents in Kuwait, Leicester and Montreal. Vic always says that he has been given the responsibility to carry the Baton, on behalf of all his families and organsiations. He says “all this would have not been achieved without the blessings of The Almight, blessings of our elders, our three parents, relatives, friends, well wishers and most of all the support of his brother Harjot, uncle Joginder (Babu) and the three pillars our mother Mrs Harwinder K. Anand, Preety K Anand and my dearest wife Dimple K Sethi. Others who play a very significant role in our success is our companies team, suppliers and our customers” He is a loyalist and respects all the three countries he has lived in his life which is India, Kuwait and Britain and maintains his relationship with all three countries. Vic would like to see more and more UK retailers and consumers to support British produced products and would wish to see the government imposing heavy import duties on out of EEC imported products to support the products manufactured in the domestic markets. This will help to revive the British industry and create more jobs which will help Britain out of recession. Vic is very Patriotic and is very grateful the Royal Family. He told Asian Voice, "If it wasn’t to the Royal Family, we would not be where we are today and we should always respect and respect the laws of the countries which we reside in as it gives us our livelihood.”

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The Punjab: Migrations and Memories of the Homeland ■ Dr Pippa Virdee Pippa Virdee is a Senior Lecturer in Modern South Asian History at De Montfort University. Her publications include Coming to Coventry: Stories from the South Asian Pioneers and the co-edited Refugees and the End of Empire. he region of Punjab has been home to the first known Indian civilisation in Harrapa and other empires. The Punjab formed the main invasion route to the Indus plains so its people are mainly descendants of Aryan tribes that invaded India from the North-west. This led to an assimilation of different tribes and many of the great Punjabi castes such as the Jats and Rajputs are a product of the amalgamation of Iranians, Turks, Afghans, Arabs and the indigenous population. As Malcolm Darling observed when travelling through the Punjab just prior to independence in 1947: In crossing the Chenab we entered the central Punjab, where Muslim and Sikh are as intermingled as barley and wheat when sown together, where too the Muslim is for the most part a converted Hindu. There are many villages where Muslim and Sikh are of the same tribe, and both of Hindu ancestry, with still some customs in common. Malcolm Darling, At Freedom's Door (OUP, 1979; first published 1949) So when this region was divided in August 1947, it had a significant impact on the psyche of the area. The violence that erupted and the subsequent forced migration of an estimated 12 million people resulted in re-shaping the demographic and religious character of a divided Punjab. Today West Punjab is the most populous province in Pakistan, which is estimated at 74 million people (1998). Following a number of boundary changes that saw the creation of Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, in 1966 East Punjab was reduced to nearly one-seventh of the area that it used to be under the British. However, for the first time the Sikhs had a majority state with a new purposebuilt capital at Chandigarh, shared jointly by Punjab and Haryana. East Punjab is significantly smaller, both geographically and in


the size of the population, which is approximately 28 million (2011). Apart from the divided Punjabs, the Punjabi diaspora is a significant third component of the area. There is a long history of migration from the region, which during the colonial period thrived and resulted in Punjabis being scattered all over the world. During colonial rule the Punjab was an area of high army recruitment so many Punjabis had served abroad. A large number of Punjabis also migrated to East Africa from 1895 onwards to work on the construction of the East African Railway. The people of Punjab had therefore taken advantage of early colonial policies creating a community that had been exposed to migration. More recently, post-war migration has resulted in Punjabis (from both sides of the border) seeking opportunities in places like Britain, Canada, America, and Australia. That early exposure to migration could not compare with the event of 1947, which was a forced migration and unsettled people to the core. Although lives were rebuilt, childhood memories of ancestral homelands remained confined to the pre-partition period. The uprooting of millions of people has impacted on the collective loss experienced by Punjab which has left an indelible impression on the Punjabi identity. Great historic cities like Amritsar and Lahore are now separated by an international boundary and remain inaccessible to the majority of people who lie on the ‘other’ side of the border. Having migrated myself, first from India to Kenya and from there to Britain, the process of being uprooted and dislocated is a painful one. Even for those who choose to migrate, there is upheaval and dislocation. Growing up in three different countries has enriched my experiences, rather than cause me confusion. Yet, after interviewing many people in India and Pakistan who were forced to migrate in 1947, it became apparent that although they had all resettled in their new homes, there is something quite nostalgic and romantic about the place where they were born and raised. That ancestral ‘homeland’ of their childhood, for many of these migrants, is now confined to their distant memory and only occasionally resurfaces in the form of reminisces.

Dr Pippa Virdee

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012


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The Dhol Maestro with a Difference ■ Rani Singh ohnny Kalsi and his Dhol Foundation have just returned to London after playing to a packed 30,000 strong, allwhite Eastern European audience, ecstatic that the dhol maestro and his amazing drumplaying troupe performed for it. Audiences can’t help but come alive when they see Johnny stride to the front of the stage, trademark sleeveless T shirt or a long Nehru - style jacket complementing his turban and trousers, followed by his troupe of drummers who fan out either side of him in Riverdance fashion. The dhol drumbeats raise the heart rate so watching and listening to the Dhol Foundation provides the adrenalin rush of a good workout. Johnny Kalsi has a DVD releasing soon, four albums, and numerous Hollywood soundtrack compositions under his slim belt. He has huge international events coming up through 2012 and beyond and the GCSE in dhol-playing he pioneered is now an established part of the British education curriculum. It all started with the classes. In 1989, Johnny was asked to help out at a Bhangra dance lesson in Slough – his friend, a dancer, asked if Johnny would come along and show the children a couple of beats on his doublesided drum. “From there it snowballed- by word of mouth, it grew month after month until I had 400 students of my own in less than a year” Johnny told British Punjabis magazine. He redesigned the traditional Punjabi drum which is traditionally used for celebratory events like the Spring Baisakhi festival and immediately transformed the way in which the dhol could be presented on stage. “I soon had an orchard of dhol players – I cherry picked the best to play with me. I did it when nobody else was doing it. In the Punjab it’s unheard of to have an ensemble of dhol players- mostly they work in pairs, two from one village, two from another, and each area has its speciality. In Amritsar, the dhol is played with a hand on one side and the other with a stick, that is just a different technique.” He described the barrel-shaped drum with skins on each side as a “much travelled instrument, with links to Persia, yet


Johnny Kalsi


Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012

appearing in Romania, Japan and Senegal. Mostly it is associated with the harvest.” To develop his instrumental expertise, Johnny listed to tapes, played with DJs, and joined the top UK Punjabi group of the era – Alaap- in 1986. In 1990 he toured with them for the first time. “They created the dhol player position and then the dhol became a necessity.” Johnny’s popularity and the ever growing Dhol Foundation Classes led to breakaway students forming copycat groups. “The bubble burst and other groups sprang up–but they all remember where they started.” In any case, Johnny was forging ahead with innovative ideas. He absorbed different musical styles from east and west and collaborated with musicians like the Kaiser Chiefs and Peter Gabriel who recorded an album with Johnny on his own label, Real World Records. Meanwhile, with his classes oversubscribed and bringing the dhol into schools, it wasn’t long before Johnny was asked to design a course for one of Punjab’s most famous musical exports to be recognized as part of the British education curriculum. Thanks to Mr Kalsi, the Dhol can now be studied at GCSE level- and is, amid much noise! It was almost inevitable that Johnny’s high-octane compositions would be soon sought after by film makers. As soon as film producer David Arnold asked for Johnny to play on the soundtrack for the Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, an event the musical maestro calls his “springboard,” The offers came flooding in for his energetic dramatic scores and instrumentals; Rabbit Proof Fence, Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, Ang Lee’s The Incredible Hulk, Stigmata and many others. While forging a trail for the Dhol round the world, Johnny does not forget to give back to society. He recorded with Avril Lavigne for an MTV Charity CD called “War Child”. Avril sang a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin on Heaven’s Door” and Johnny produced this with an Indian flavour. Johnny also plays at London Parade for the SCOPE charity. One of Punjab’s most distinguished sons is transforming its legendary drum with unmatched artistry.

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Chaman Lal Chaman: Panjabi Broadcasting! o magazine on British Punjabis would be complete without a profile of Chaman Lal Chaman who has singlehandedly kept a flame burning for South Asian arts all his life. There are few exponents of Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu who can spontaneously produce poetic couplets in all three languages yet have also made solid inroads into mainstream British arts and culture. He is in his late seventies but Chaman, with his twinkling brown eyes, fair skin, and the height and stature of a typical Punjabi, has a brain which is constantly in motion. To reviewers’ acclaim, his latest collection of poems in Hindi and Urdu called Phool Khile Chaman Chaman (flowers blooming in the garden) has just been published. The mark of success is longevity and Chaman Lal Chaman has been going a long time. A multi-award winner, not everyone knows that he composed lyrics for singing duo Jagjit and Chitra Singh, for Anup Jalota, and for the movie soundtrack Bride and Prejudice. This is in addition to composing lyrics for Indian Bhangra bands like Alaap and Hole Hole, and singers like Asha Bhosle, Kumar Sanu, Deedar Singh Pardesi, Habib Kausar and Rajab Ali. Like a true artiste, Chaman works across disciplines and has written over 500 scripts for radio and television. Plays, short stories and poems in four languages –English, Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi are in his canon. He co-edited an anthology of Asian poetry with English translations called Slivers and has run oral history projects with Asian elders and in Milton Keynes, fully aware that the testimony of the first generation of Asian immigrants needs to be captured before it disappears. There are not so many in the UK with Chaman’s literary ability and experience across mainstream media, so for that reason his value to the community is rare and immense. In Kenya, in the early 1970s, he was head of radio operations for the Voice of


Kenya station which involved planning for all services including English, Kiswahili, Hindustani and 14 African languages. He had been in Kenyan media since 1956, presenting, editing and reading the news on TV as well as radio. Never one to rest easy, he also reviewed the arts on a weekly basis for the leading English daily newspaper, the East African Standard. Moving to Britain in the mid 70s, Chaman worked with various BBC networks, presenting, interviewing, writing scripts, reading the news, and researching. On BBC1 television he presented a weekly programme called Asian Magazine, the only one of its kind, and for BBC Radio 4, a weekly show titled Make Yourself at Home. Both were landmark shows and the pioneers of programming for Asian viewers. He was also busy at the World Service and LBC. Alongside, in true Chaman Lal Chaman style, he managed the Asian music repertoire for EMI in London in the late 70s. For at least two decades Chaman made a great impact on the Hounslow arts scene, first as the organizer of the Hounslow Multi-Cultural Centre, where he initiated and enabled social and cultural activities, and then as ethnic arts adviser for the London Borough of Hounslow where he used the arts budget at his disposal for innovative projects across all sections of the community. Though he left a great legacy of work, his touch and oversight is missed in the borough even today. All the while, Chaman has never stopped producing, presenting and writing, and is in constant demand as a host, speech- maker and poet – for he can perform and entertain impromptu to the delight of audiences everywhere, whatever language he chooses to speak in. Today, Chaman broadcasts daily on Panjab Radio, based in Hayes, West London. He is precious to the British Punjabi community; he has always served it and the wider society well. Chaman Lal Chaman deserves to be treasured and we salute him.

Chaman Lal Chaman

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012


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How a cycle wallah published the UK’s first Sikh magazine ■ Shweta Desai s a young sardar owning a cycle shop in Amritsar, Punjab, India in the 1960s, Amar Singh Chhatwal was enticed into leaving India by attractions abroad. Many of his peers crossed the seven seas to the `other world’ where whiteskinned people spoke English and dressed impeccably. Little did he know then that travelling to England for better opportunities would not only change his life but also make him one of the most prominent sardars in the UK. He would make a valuable contribution to the Sikh religion by publishing `The Sikh Courier ’ for over 50 years. The magazine holds the distinction of being the longest running religious magazine to be published outside India. In the 1960s when Mr Chhatwal came to London it was not as multicultural as it is today. A brown man would often be called a `Paki’- a piece of racist abuse conferred on immigrants from Pakistan who came to Britain in large numbers during those years. It was abuse like this that made Mr Chhatwal realise that the British people needed to be made aware of the Sikh religion. After all, he was a proud sardar, wearing a turban, keeping a full beard and observing the five Ks, the outward symbols of the Sikh faith. Mr Chhatwal began by starting a small charity; `The Sikh Cultural Society of Great Britain’ with the aim of educating people about Sikhism. A few months later, a chance meeting with Dr Jit Singh Chandan, publisher of ‘The Sikh Courier,’ directly benefited Mr Chhatwal’s mission to spread information about Sikhism. Dr Chandan had successfully put out two issues of ‘The Sikh Courier’ but was facing the daunting task of trying to continue publication when he was actually immigrating to America. “This was a perfect opportunity for my father to continue his work on the Sikh religion by using the platform of the magazine,’’


Babli Bharara

The Sikh Courier’ is the longest running religious magazine to be published outside India. Here is the story of its late founder, Amar Singh Chhatwal, and his quest to spread an awareness of Sikhism among Europeans.


Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012

says Mr Chhatwal’s daughter Babli Bharara, who now publishes the magazine along with her brother- in- law, Dr Amarjit Singh Chopra. With religious teachings, hymns, stories, songs, poems, important messages, letters and contributions from prominent Sikhs including Khushwant Singh, Lt.Gen J S Aurora and Chief Justice (Retd) R S Narula, ‘The Sikh Courier’ found readers not just in England but among Sikhs living in France, Germany, Italy and other parts of Europe. Stable subscriptions and financial help from well-wishers led to the magazine’s quarterly publication - some feat for a religious magazine published outside India in English and relying solely on contributions. Mr Chhatwal’s love for The Sikh Courier was so profound that he treated the magazine as if it were a child of his. After his death in 2002, Mr Chhatwal left behind four equal parts of his retirement earnings: three for his daughters and one part for ‘The Sikh Courier ’ for editing and running the quarterly. “He treated the magazine like the son he never had,’’ says Babli. It was this financial help which saw the magazine through hard times; when contributions from friends and well-wishers declined and it became difficult to put out four editions a year. “We still don’t have to seek outside help, yet,’’ says Babli though cautiously, “due to the money left behind by my father.’’ One of the reasons why ‘The Sikh Courier’ faces tough challenges is due to Mr Chhatwal’s long-time editorial policy of no `advertorial publicity.’ He was against businessmen and prominent people using religious magazines for their own promotion by placing their photographs alongside the paid advertisement. “He was not against advertisements but had a strict no photographs policy.’ As a result we lost a considerable chunk of advertisements to other religious and community magazines which have less editorial and more advertorial,’’ says Babli. As she and her brother-in-law, Dr Amarjit Singh Chopra, continue to publish two editions a year, uncertainty over the survival of ‘The Sikh Courier ‘ looms large on the horizon.

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Punjabis in Parliament Baroness Prashar, known to her family and friends as Usha Prashar was born on 29th June 1948, in Kenya and moved with her family to UK in 1960s. She was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1994, and in 1999 was made a life peer, sitting as a cross-bencher in the House of Lords. A student of political studies and then social administration, she has had a long standing career in public service and not-for-profit sector. Baroness Verma, born in Amritsar, India she moved to England with her family in 1960. Sandip Verma a businesswoman, wife and mother of two, is a member of the House of Lords and was created a Conservative life peer of Leicester in the County of Leicestershire in 2006. She sits in the Opposition Whip and Opposition Spokesperson for Education and Skills for Health. Baroness Flather, born on 13th February 1934 is the first Asian to receive a peerage. She has been a life peer for the Conservative party since the 11th June 1990 as Baroness Flather, of Windsor and Maidenhead in the Royal County of Berkshire. She has held senior posts in numerous organisations involved in refugee, community, carer, race relations and prison work. Lord Paul of Marylebone is an Msc in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 1983 and elevated to the British peerage in 1996. Swraj Paul was born in a town in Punjab and he started his career with a humble beginning at Apeejay Surrendra Group and has since founded the now large, Caparo Group of companies. Lord King of West Bromwich , was born in 1937 and was raised to the peerage as Baron King of West Bromwich, in the County of West Midlands in 1999. He attended Khalsa High School and Punjab University in India. He also attended National Foundry College, Aston University, Teacher Training College and Essex University. He is a member of the National Policy Forum and the Black Country Consortium. He had special interests in local government, education and small businesses. Lord Diljit Rana, was created a life peer as Baron Rana of Malone in the County of Antrim in 2004. He is the President of GOPIO International and the elected President of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He is India's honorary consul in Belfast. Founder and Chairman of Andras House Limited, his company has substantial interests in hotels, restaurants and commercial property in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Lord Raj Loomba, born on 13 November 1943, in Dhilwan, Punjab, India is a philanthropist, founder and Executive Chairman of clothing company Rinku Group. Lord Loomba has become well known for his fundraising and campaigning. Following a sustained campaign, on the 21st December 2010 the United Nations General Assembly formally recognised, by unanimous acclaim, the 23rd June as International Widows Day, the anniversary of his mother’s widowhood. Lord Indarjit Singh of Wimbledon was born in 1932 at Rawalpindi in British India. Lord Singh, is a British journalist and broadcaster. He is editor of the Sikh Messenger and widely known as a frequent presenter of the "Thought for the Day" segment on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, and BBC Radio 2's Pause for Thought. He also contributes to British and overseas newspapers and journals including The Times, The Guardian and The Independent.

Alok Sharma is one of the newest additions to the list of parliamentarians of Indian origin. He was elected in 2010 as an MP for Reading West county constituency. Sharma is currently a governor of a local primary school in Reading. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society for the advancement of the Arts, Manufacturing and Commerce. Previously he served as a chairman of the political think tank Bow Group's economic affairs committee. Parmjit Singh Gill was the first ever ethnic minority from the Liberal Democrat party. He was first elected to the House of Commons at Leicester South. Born on 20th December 1966 in Leicester, he has lived all his life in the UK. He has experience in the fields of crime prevention, taxi licensing and racism. His political experience covers ten years. He is highly committed to fighting inequality and injustice. Parmjit Dhanda, born in London to Indian immigrants of Sikh Punjabi background on 17th September 1971, was the MP for Gloucester from 2001 to 2010 for the Labour Party. He was educated at Mellow Lane School Hayes, Middlesex, before attending the University of Nottingham, where he received a Bachelor of Engineering degree in 1993, and a MA in information technology in 1995. Piara Khabra, the Labour MP for Ealing Southall was the fifth Asian, and the first Sikh, to become a British MP. Originally from the Punjab in India, Mr Khabra came to Britain in the 1950s and was elected as a Labour MP in 1992. Khabra was the oldest MP sitting in the House of Commons, and at the end of his career was the only sitting MP to have served in the forces during the Second World War. He served the Labour party until his death in 2007. Marsha Singh has been the MP for Bradford West since 1997 from the Labour party. Prior to his political career he worked for the Bradford Community Health Trust and was also a part of the Directorate of Education for Bradford council. He has a degree in Languages, Politics and Economics of Modern Europe from Loughborough University. Paul Uppal is a Conservative Party politician who was elected as the Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton South West in the 2010 general election. He has the distinction of being the first Punjabi to represent the Conservative Party in the House of Commons, after winning the elections this year. He holds a season ticket for Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club, and is a trustee of the second largest Gurdwara in Wolverhampton. Virendra Kumar Sharma was born in India in 1947 and came to England in 1968. He started out as a bus conductor before studying at the London School of Economics. He is a British Labour politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Ealing Southall since 2007. Sharma held on to the seat at the 2010 General Election. He is a local school governor at the Three Bridges Primary School as well as a member of the International Development Select Committee and the Human Rights Committee. Seema Malhotra (born 1972) is a British Labour Party Co-operative politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Feltham and Heston since 2011. She is a former management consultant who worked for Accenture and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. She founded the Fabian Women's Network and was a previous National Chair of the Young Fabians. She was also the special adviser to Harriet Harman during her tenure as Leader of the Labour Party. Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2012


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