BritishPunjabis 9th August 2014

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ATUL PATHAK Inspiring a new generation of entrepreneur

Faithful & Fierce

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British Punjabis: A class of its own


he British Punjabis are receiving more and more recognition over the last few years, though it is not enough. The migration of the sons and daughters of Punjab to the UK began in the aftermath of the World War II, especially after the independence of India. Punjab or both the sides of the border suffered heavily during those riots, culminating from the demand of a separate state for Muslims. The largest number of death and destruction were suffered by Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims. The Indian State of Punjab after partition was deprived of water from five rivers, which over the ages brought prosperity to the state. The pain of partition, bloodshed, shortage of water and several other challenges faced by the Punjabis, were tackled by their traditional hard working nature and fortitude. The giant Bhakra Nangal Dam ensured dependable perennial supply of water. The farmers of Punjab rose to the occasion and since 1950s, Punjab has become the granary of India. Punjabi soldiers who fought in Europe and North Africa were recognised as dedicated and dependable workers too. The owners of the rubber factory in Southall were the first to recruit the former soldiers, mainly from Punjab and the trickle began to Britain. The pioneering migrants worked at the most hazardous conditions, suffered so much of racism and exploitation, but by sheer dent of the Punjabi determination, they began to establish from industrial labour to skilled labour, internal trading and the seeds began flowering in 1980s. Today the results are there for all to see. Amongst the most successful immigrants from Indian subcontinent, Punjabis surely come on top. In trade and commerce, in new industries, professions and many more entrepreneurial fields, Punjabis (Sikhs and Hindus) are marching with incremental pace. In public life, especially the Punjabis shine out amongst the British Indian community. In the Lords and House of Commons, there are a sizeable number of Punjabis. The turban is is now ever present and well respected in Britain. In the Coalition government somehow, for reasons beyond my imagination, the Prime Minister has not yet recognised the manifold capabilities of Baroness Sandip Verma and other Punjabi members of the House of Lords and House of Commons such as Alok Sharma, Paul Uppal and other Punjabi MPs. It is high time that

appropriate position of power is also graced by the British Punjabis. Equally in the Labour party members like Seema Malhotra and Virendra Sharma are contributing so much to engage the Labour party with the communities. In the history, support of the British Raj war soldiers was paramount. Not only on the plains, but on the mountains of North West and Afghanistan, the blood and toil of the Sikh soldiers have been recognised, though not adequately, I believe. On the battlefields of Belgium, Holland and the in the early stage of World War I, almost exactly a 100 years ago, Punjabis paved the way to resist the Nazi aggression and in several battles, when large number of comrades perished, they did not give in an inch till their last breadth. The British army in particular and defence services in general have not yet reciprocated by celebrating Vaisakhi or Diwali, which is at the core of a Punjabi heart. Asian Voice has been covering the huge contributions of Indian soldiers in both the World Wars, and we would and we should do a lot more. I welcome any suggestion, advise and information. In this special issue, I am happy that my team has included several short profiles of a range of talented personalities with proven track records. There are, I am sure many more who deserve to be included. In the field of entrepreneurship, amongst all the recent migrants, Punjabis are showing outstanding excellence in 'old' and 'new' businesses. Dr Rami Ranger, the owner of Sun Mark Limited has won five consecutive Queen's Awards and he deserved the recent visit by the British Prime Minister David Cameron, who for the first time was visiting an Asian enterprise. To the opinion makers and the power brokers, to those who encourage and sustain excellence in education, skills and entrepreneurship, I would like to say that British Punjabis deserve some more attention and you will reap the rewards at the earliest. I genuinely believe what has been achieved, inspite of the hurdles in the last few decades, this is just the beginning. The best is definitely yet to come. CB Patel Publisher/Editor Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014




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Atul Pathak: Inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs


leven years ago Atul Pathak opened his first McDonald’s restaurant in West London. Today he operates twenty six restaurants across London and Berkshire through his company Appt Corporation. His 2,000 employees serve more than 11 million customers each year. Atul came to the UK from India as a young man. From unloading potatoes at a cash and carry to long hours working in hotels, his rise has been driven by hard work and dedication. He believes that his staff are his most valuable asset and offers them the opportunity to gain both workplace skills and nationally recognized qualifications. 149 crew members have successfully completed an Apprenticeship Programme with his latest group of apprentices being taken to No. 11 Downing Street to meet the Chancellor of the Exchequer as an example of great practice. Nearly 400 have taken GCSE Maths and English exams giving them the extra life skills necessary to make the most of career opportunities in the future. Many of his staff members do not have English as a first language and so these qualifications boost their confidence and help equip them for the next stage of their career. McDonald's restaurants are a familiar site in the centre of the communities that they serve. Atul and his staff seek to make as much of a contribution as possible in return through initiatives such as cleaning up local neighbourhoods such as the Windmill Estate in Ealing and working with local grassroots football teams. Atul has raised more than £250,000 for charity over the last three years alone, including £20,000 after he hiked across the Sahara. This year Atul has established the Atul Pathak Community awards. These do not simply provide funding to small local charities but forge longer lasting ties. Each

Radio 4 presenter Justin Webb giving Atul an award for his community work

of this year's seven winning charities received a cash award and more importantly access to every avenue of assistance that APPT Corporation can provide; from catering to accountancy. By helping the smaller charities become sustainable with these one year partnerships, they are able to develop on their own, but maintain a lasting relationship with the business to provide a growing legacy in their local area. Atul explained why he puts so much focus on his work in the community. “Embedding CSR into the DNA of each restaurant has been important to me and helps develop more customer-focused, rounded employees. It establishes our restaurants as a place to which the community can turn for support and partnership.” Atul continues to be an excellent role model for entrepreneurs and people considering starting their own business, especially British Punjabis. He has spoken at the British Library to budding businessmen and was cited as a case study in a keynote report about the contribution to the UK by Migrant Entrepreneurs. Appt Corporation has been shortlisted as a finalist for the Santander Corporate Citizenship Award by the Daily Telegraph National Business Award panel for Atul's contribution to his community.

Atul with the winners of the Atul Pathak Community Awards 2014

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014


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Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014

■ Rani Singh


The Higgs Hunter

ir Tejinder Singh Virdee FRS is one of the world’s top particle physicists, based at CERN , the Centre for European Particle Physics Research in Geneva, Switzerland. Recently knighted on the Queen’s birthday, he is a Professor of Physics at Imperial College London and is listed among The Times 100 most influential figures in British science. Tejinder has played a leading role in the remarkable discovery of a Higgs Boson, a particle that completes the Standard Model of Physics and for which he was one of the recipients of the prestigious High Energy Particle Physics Prize awarded by the European Physical Society in 2013. “With the 2012 discovery of a Higgs boson we now know how fundamental particles like electrons, acquire mass. It is mass that gives our universe substance,” He told me in a phone interview from Switzerland. He went on to explain that in the early 90s, physicists had ideas of how to build a new super-collider and this would become the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). However, new more powerful detectors had to be invented for the experiments. In 1990 Tejinder, with a few colleagues, conceived, designed and then went on to oversee the long and challenging construction of the most powerful scientific experiment ever built. This became the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector weighing over 14,000 tons. CMS is like a 3D 100 mpix camera designed to take 40 million photos, or as they are called “events”, every second to examine the results of every collision. He explained that the LHC collides protons at very high energies which can recreate some of the rare events occurring in our universe a fraction of a billionth of a second after the Big Bang so as to examine what our universe was like at that time. A billion pairs of protons collide every second in the heart of the experiment. CMS also needed financial and human resources to construct, assemble and operate it. One of Tejinder’s major goals was to encourage scientists around the globe to join, fund and build the experiment for the search for the elusive Higgs boson, amongst other new phenomena. “From just four of us, over the course of 25 years, we

became an international collaboration of 3000” he said. The detector is housed in a massive cathedral-like cavern located 100 metres underground on the outskirts of Geneva. The journey takes a short 20 minutes by car from the main site of CERN through the French countryside. “So far we have examined some 2000 trillion proton-proton interactions and discovered a Higgs boson. The LHC accelerator and CMS are due to restart operations in spring of 2015 at double the energy.” Top physicists just keep experimenting, it seems. “In the next decade and more CMS will examine first ten, and then 100, times more proton-proton collisions. The 10-100 times more Higgs bosons produced will enable their properties to be studied in fine detail. We also shall look for, and if found study, the widely anticipated new and revolutionary physics beyond the highly successful Standard Model of particle physics. Particle physics projects can take several decades from conception to first operation and to the full exploitation of their scientific potential. So it’s not too early to discuss new projects. One is to build an accelerator in a new 100 km tunnel in the Lake Geneva basin in which protons would collide at 10 times the energy of the current LHC. This could be ready some 25 years from now.” You’ve found the Higgs Boson, and it completes the Standard Model, but what physics lies beyond the so-called Standard Model of particle physics? I asked Tejinder. “The Standard Model explains in exquisite detail the visible universe – which constitutes only 5% of our universe. We still don’t know the composition of the other 95%, labeled as dark matter and dark energy – because we cannot “see” these. So the other questions we are asking are: What is dark matter or dark energy? Why is there more matter than antimatter in our universe? Do we live in more dimensions? There is much more still to discover. It’s only by doing experiments like CMS that we prove or refute our conjectures about how Nature really works. This Higgs Boson represents the coronation of the Standard Model of particle physics and is one of the great scientific and intellectual achievements of humankind”.



Sir Tejinder Singh Virdee

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014


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Striving to be better ■ Tanveer Mann & Daniel Santosh

S Sathnam Sanghera


athnam Sanghera is a British writer/ journalist who is the well-known author of 'Marriage Material: A Novel' and 'The Boy With the Topknot: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies'. Sanghera is both an engaging and versatile writer who explores Politics, racial differences and the complexities of the modern world, especially modern Britain. In his books, Sanghera writes with a sense of seriousness but also approaches the matter with a bit of humour as shown very clearly in his latest novel, Marriage Material. Sanghera was born to Punjabi parents in the West Midlands in 1976, attended Wolverhampton Grammar School and graduated from Christ’s College, Cambridge with a first class degree in English Language and Literature in 1998. Before becoming a writer Sathnam worked at a burger chain, a hospital laundry, a sewing factory and a literacy project in New York. Between 1998 and 2006 he was at The Financial Times, where he worked as a news reporter in the UK and the US. He then joined The Times in 2007. Speaking exclusively to British Punjabi Magazine, Sanghera explained his drive towards writing and journalism. “I think as a journalist I just want to tell interesting and important stories that have never been told before. I feel that books and journalism often makes you feel that something has not been said and you just have to say it otherwise you are going to explode.” However, he highlighted that it was not easy breaking into the media. “As an Indian writer who wanted to work in the media, I did find it difficult, not because of my racial background but because I was working class. A lot of the jobs went to friends and families of the white middle class.” When asked what inspires him to write, he explained how he is negatively motivated. “I just don't want to do a really bad job. Instead of thinking that I am going to write a great piece, I think that I am going to write something terrible. Which is what makes me motivated and not feel embarrassed about what I wrote.”

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014

Much has been said about Sanghera's conflict of identity as both an Indian and a British writer. Asking him to elaborate, Sanghera explained: “I have always been proud of my culture. I think everyone goes through the teenage years where they want to escape their background. But I have always been proud of it. I feel that being English is a part of me but I also feel very Indian. I think that those two things compliment each other well.”

Sanghera has won numerous prizes for his journalism, including Article of the Year in the 2005 Management Today Writing Awards, Newspaper Feature of the Year in the 2005 Workworld Media Awards, HR Journalist of the Year in the 2006 and 2009 Watson Wyatt Awards for Excellence and the accolade of Young Journalist of the Year in 2002. Regardless of his accomplishments, he remains extremely humble. He said, “compared to the people I worked with at that time I see myself as a failure as they won more awards and were a lot more successful than me. But it is good because as a writer, you are always striving to be better.”

Vic Sethi: A Proud British


ic Sethi is a self esteemed humble personality and a true visionary. He follows the teachings of his faith and elders which is "Work is worship and Charity is the path to eternal satisfaction and the freedom to the eternal of Dharna" Vic is a passionate and a true supporter of good causes and strongly believes that sometimes to reach out to the needy it is easier to support charities who are already helping others. Vic Sethi also known to many as Kulvinder Singh Sethi was born in New Delhi but migrated with his family to Kuwait in early 70’s. He grew up in Kuwait and for further studies travelled to London. He started his computer business in Kuwait, but on the 2nd of August 1990 everything came to an end when Saddam Hussein of Iraq send his forces into Kuwait and invaded Kuwait. In 1991 Vic came to Britain as he was finding it quite difficult to settle in India. He joined his uncle Mr Jaswinder Kohli (Bawa) and settled in Manchester. In 1994 Vic married Dimple Sethi and moved to Leicester to join the family business Anand International Ltd founded by his father in law Mr and Mrs Anand. He joined the family business and worked along with his uncle Babu Anand and his brother-in-law Harjot Anand. With a great team in place the business grew from strength to strength year on year. The company specialises in the distribution of premium brand consumer electronic products, batteries, LED lighting, Electronic smoking sundries (Non Tobacco based) and other related products. In 1991 they acquired the brand name Daewoo International for bringing in products under the brand “Daewoo International” and in 2009 they acquired the brand license “Hyundai”. In 1999 Vic along with the family decided to give back to the community and started by contributing to the Leicester City Football Club, GNG football club, Leicestershire County Cricket Club and many more… Where he is a successful businessman running various businesses He also takes pride in community work. He has or still sits on boards of various organisations such as The Prince’s Trust, The Courts of University of Leicester, Crimestopper’s, GNG FC and

many more globally. He always praises his family who are very supportive for him carrying out these tasks as they are his backbone. Currently he is the Chief Patron of GNG FC (est. 1969) and Crimestopper’s and is one of the founders of The Monty Panesar Foundation. Vic has won various awards in different fields in India and UK and was also involved with the Commonwealth Games Delhi in 2010, where he go Monty Panesar involved with the Batten relay in the Buckingham Palace in the presence of HM The Queen, The President of India along with a few of the ministers of India. Vic also has maintained a great relationship with His Excellency Khaled Al Duwaisan, the Ambassador to the Embassy of the State of Kuwait. He says if it wasn’t to Kuwait he would not be where he or his family is today and is very grateful to the ruling families of Kuwait for the love and affection they have shown to the Indians. With Vic’s Middle East and Indian connections he along with his very close Kuwaiti friend Waleed Al Hashash and a British lawyer Navinder Kalsi setup UK Wealth Group, with offices in the Leicester, London and Kuwait are working with the British Embassy’s in the Middle East working along with HNI and bringing foreign investments into the UK. Some of the services they provide to the investors in the fields of Real Estate, Wealth Management, Schooling, Immigration Visa’s etc. From their Kuwait offices they will be handling other countries such as UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other Gulf States. Vic always says, “We should always be loyal to the country we reside in and should obey and respect the laws of the country. I am proud to be British it is a country which has ruled the world for many years but had never stopped anyone one from practising their religious ceremonies. It is a country of free speech and respects everyone regardless of colour or faith. I am very loyal to India and Kuwait too because like UK they are also my homeland.” Vic's mission statement - "Human form is the most supreme form of life, so do such deeds in life that people remember you forever even after you have gone. You will spiritually live in the heart and minds of many".



Vic Sethi

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014


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A family business with a vision for future


aspal Singh Bhambra founded SND Electrical alongside his two brothers. With over 45 years of experience in the electrical field, Jaspal’s knowledge originates from his involvement with his father’s business which successfully ran in Kampala, Uganda back in the 1960’s. After being expelled from Uganda, by Idi Amin in the early 1970’s, the whole family were uprooted & relocated to the UK. Undoubtedly it was an extremely difficult time but after some years, Jaspal & his brothers were in a position to start over in the electrical field. In 1982, SND Electrical was founded. Jaspal is married & has two daughters & one son & enjoys spending quality time with his two young granddaughters. As well as Jaspal’s success in his work field, he has been a member of the Institute of Asian Businesses (IAB), which is a part of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, & is heavily involved in charity work. SND has sponsored many sports events over the years & donated towards many good causes & continues to do so. Furthermore, SND is currently sponsoring Varun Chopra who is a leading young cricketer & captain at Warwickshire County Cricket Club. They are also sponsoring England’s Ladies Kabbadi Team. Today, SND is renowned within the electrical trade for being one of the largest independent Asian electrical wholesalers in the UK. The SND Group of Companies has gradually expanded on a national level with distribution centres in Leicester, London, Manchester & Wolverhampton. It aims to provide great customer service, offer competitive prices & keep high levels of stock. With the policy of steady growth & investment, the company has ensured that it achieves its aim of being "The Ultimate Supplier", occupying over 30,000 square foot of space. SND Electrical is light years ahead of the rest and prides itself on its wide range of high quality products. With so much on offer & the expert knowledge to back it up, one can find everything one needs at SND. That is simply why they are one of the most recognised & successful independent elec-

trical suppliers. Besides supplying to retail, trade and industry, SND also supplies to the general public and to renowned companies such as Aston Villa FC, Birmingham City FC, East End Foods, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, various McDonalds and Subway restaurants in Birmingham, Gatecrasher Nightclub and numerous other bars & restaurants as well as religious institutes around the UK. You can visit their newly refurbished 2 floor Lighting showroom where you will find a huge range of exclusive domestic lighting & the biggest selection of crystal chandeliers anywhere in the Midlands. Their friendly & experienced staff will be happy to help and show you around.



Jaspal Singh Bhambra

Website: Email: Follow us on Facebook:

SND Electrical Wholesalers (UK) Ltd SND House, 19-25 Constitution Hill, Hockley, Birmingham B19 3LG Domestic Lighting and Biggest selection of crystal chandeliers showroom in the Midlands Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014


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Kiran Bali: ‘Walking the Talk’ ■ Sunetra Senior

Y Kiran Bali


ou can tell Kiran is big-hearted and open right off the bat. She is happy to chat despite her jet-lag and seasonal cold. A consummate champion of philanthropy, her projects include human and animal rights, working with youth, and promoting co-operation between different religious groups through her social entrepreneurial skills. Accolades include recognition for social services at the Pride of India Awards, an MBE from the Queen, a lifetime achievement award and being the youngest chair of the largest interfaith organization in the world, United Religions Initiative. But, as Kiran pointed out, 'you don't do it for prestige. You do it because it's important. You need to walk the talk'. 'I've just come back from a round-trip of Asia,' she gushed. I travel to give inspirational speeches and create a sense of togetherness through discussion for impactful action.’ A good example is her work at the Yorkshire and Humber Faith forum, which gave a voice to religious communities to shape regional strategies to combat discrimination. However, a large part of Kiran’s social building work is encouraging others to work together, from organizing sports events, health awareness and interfaith services to forming support groups for the subjugated. ‘Volunteering is integral,’ she added. ‘Whilst discussion is valuable for start-up it is really a mechanism to reach more fruitful outcomes. When people of different backgrounds find common ground and act together, communities will thrive. Positive relationships stave off hate.’ Astute though this is, it is not just plain theory. Kiran has lived it and she speaks from the heart. Growing up in Huddersfield, she found herself marginalized, ‘I felt discrimination as an Asian female. Unfortunately a lot was from within my own Asian community, eventually due to my religion as a Hindu. I was about six when certain events happened in 1984 and dynamics changed. Everything seemed pleasant in my young eyes. We were one big family, going to Gurdwara and Mandir together; so much the fabric of each other. In the school playground however, I began to see bullying on the grounds of religion. That hit home for me; we cannot take sense of society for

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014

granted. We must be strong so we don’t bend to hostility and use challenges as an opportunity to come together. Today, we celebrate a powerful bond between the Hindu and Sikh Communities. The Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan passes through the Mandir where we pay our respects and serve the Sangat’. So, the idea that the beauty of living values should not be muddied by animosity and extremism, is something Kiran came upon through spiritual introspection, perhaps the highest form of experience: ‘As a global community, it’s just our practices that differ, and even then there’s commonality. Every religion preaches love thy neighbor and mutual respect. Negativity never resolves anything. We have the same basic requirements; let’s use that mutuality and work towards meaningful solutions e.g equitable food distribution, fighting injustice, and preserving the environment. The divine can be awakened in diverse ways. That’s what makes us unique. Let’s use our differences for positivity. Religions are different colours of the rainbow, all emanating from one light ’ Putting our energy into every-day universal causes and fostering a solid interpersonal network instead of empty arguments centered on whose religion is better, certainly makes sense: ‘I believe in Ahimsa Parmo dharma’, Kiran continues. ‘This means peaceful dialogue as well as non-violent action. Also Sarve Bhavantu Sukhina meaning happiness is holistic. I care deeply about animal welfare; compassion is universal and shouldn’t be limited to humans. I’m able to articulate but animals don’t have a voice. In India, I’ve provided education for street children and for the empowerment of women. Female foeticide numbers and dowry deaths are shocking in Punjab. It really resonates because of my cultural ties. Housework is important but only part of our unlimited potential. Luckily my father supported me all the way and is still my inspiration. Truly, Kiran has emerged stronger, mentoring around the world and demonstrating those infinite female abilities with a black belt 2nd dan in Karate, and acting and dancing at global events as part of her career. Earnestness ringing true, she concluded with a final cultural mantra: “Be the Change you Want to See. M.G.”

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The Punjabi Silk following in the Tradition of Nehru and Gandhi ■ Rani Singh


o Sidhu QC was born in Southall and attended local state schools. He graduated from the University of Oxford in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and obtained a Masters in the Politics of the World Economy at the London School of Economics. Before becoming a barrister he was a BBC senior researcher, a local authority policy advisor, a caseworker for Southall Monitoring Group and a Councillor with the London Borough of Ealing. He has served as the Chair of his primary school governing body for 18 years. Called to the Bar in 1993, he took silk in 2012. He is a leading specialist in criminal law with expertise in terrorism cases, homicides, and conspiracies involving frauds, robberies and drugs trafficking. He is the elected President of the Society of Asian Lawyers, Vice Chair of the Equality & Diversity Committee of the Bar Council, and a member of the Criminal Bar Association. He practises law from chambers at 25 Bedford Row, London. He arrived promptly for our interview in a week when he was defending in a weighty murder trial. I asked him about his Presidency of the Society of Asian Lawyers. “The Society of Asian Lawyers is the UK’s largest minority lawyers’ organisation, with 3,000 members including solicitors, barristers and Judges. Our key challenge today is to save hundreds of Asian solicitor firms from decimation following unprecedented cuts in the legal aid budget. Asian barristers who often depend on them for work will also find it harder to practise.” It’s rare to get barristers to open up much about serious court work, but Jo spoke freely. “The clients I defend on a murder trial could be from any background, but are often Asian or black teenagers caught up in gang violence. They may be as young as 16 and are invariably poorly educated. But I have found that my own upbringing in a community like Southall enables them to relate to me more easily. These days murder trials are incredibly complex and involve a great deal of forensic evidence. Apart from DNA and fingerprints, CCTV and telecommunications evidence form a big part of police investigations. A conviction

can mean over 25 years in prison, so the pressure in court is intense. Barristers frequently work seven days a week, very long hours, and sometimes through the night. You cannot arrive at court without being fully prepared. So what tends to get sacrificed is sleep, recreation and family time.” Despite his high intensity working life, Jo has enjoyed his last 21 years as a barrister. “Particularly since I became a QC, I deal with the most serious criminal trials on a daily basis. The work can be hugely demanding but I also derive enormous professional satisfaction from it. I feel it is the best vocation I could have chosen. Our English lawyers and legal system are rightly regarded as the finest in the world. No doubt, it’s a tough and seriously competitive environment to work in but I feel that I am continuing a great Asian tradition. The SubContinent’s founding fathers; Nehru, Gandhi and Jinnah, all trained here at the Bar. As a barrister, I am exposed to the best and the worst of our community. Lawyers from my background have been instrumental in protecting our people from injustice and discrimination. And it fills me with pride to see Asian police officers and others serving the public.” But Jo has also observed a worrying trend in criminal behaviour, particularly among some Asian youngsters. “There is a troubling increase in the number of Asian defendants appearing in our courts. What was once the most law abiding community in the UK is now supplying a growing number of our prison inmates. Their offences range from petty crime to murder and terrorism. My worry is that poorer Asian families in ghettoised areas are finding it harder to supervise their children or invest time in encouraging them with their education. Some youth are losing any sense of responsibility to their families and communities, preferring loyalty to their peers rather than their parents. They don’t feel restrained to behave well in the same way as the older generation. Embarrassment and shame are now rare emotions. So I feel we need to reinforce the value of a sense of obligation to our community and not just to ourselves as individuals. This is a ticking time bomb and maybe it’s time our community had a serious conversation with itself.”

Jo Sidhu

Since I became a QC, I deal with the most serious criminal trials on a daily basis

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014


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Punjabis in Parliament

Baroness Prashar, known to her family and friends as Usha Prashar was born 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 Sandip Verma is a businesswoman, member of the House of Lords, and has been a junior minister at the Department of Energy and Climate Change since 6 September 2012. She was formerly a Government Whip and Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, International Development and Equalities and Women's Issues. Until the formation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition following the May 2010 general election she had been an Opposition Whip and Spokesperson for Education and Skills and for Health. In 2006 Lady Verma was made a Patron of the Tory Reform Group. Baroness Shreela Flather, is the first Asian to receive a peerage. She has been a life peer 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. She is also quite well known for her work behind the setting up of Memorial Gates at the Constitution Hill, to commemorate the fallen Commonwealth soldiers in the two World Wars. Lord Swraj 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 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. He died in January 2013.


Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014

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 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 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 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. Parmjit Dhanda, born in London to Indian immigrants of Sikh Punjabi background 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.

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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 was an 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. He resigned in 2012 due to ill health. 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 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 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. Lord Ranbir Singh Suri Ranbir Singh Suri has been recently appointed as a Conservative Life Peer in the UK. Lord Suri was the Founder and Chairman of the British Asian Conservative Link, which was set up in 1998 to encourage Asians to participate more fully in political life. He is also the former general secretary of the Board of British Sikhs. Lord Suri is the Chairman of the Oceanic Jewellers Limited.

Dear Readers, Diwali is now three months away. The New Year is knocking at the door waiting to bring in colours and light to our lives with fervour of joy and ever lasting happiness. Asian Voice and Gujarat Samachar as every year will be publishing the ‘Diwali Special’ Magazine for our fabulous and supportive readers like yourself. This year in the English section, we are doing something special for our young readers. l If you are between 7-25 years of age, write an article in English on 'how you celebrate your Diwali every year' or 'your most memorable Diwali with friends and family' or 'how you celebrate Diwali in your school' in no more than 700 words, along with a suitable photo. Or l If you are an organisation, which has a youth wing or support youth activities, tell us how your young members or youth wing celebrates Diwali in 500-600 words with 2 pictures (in no less than 300dpi). Last date of entry is Sunday 20 September 2014. Please email your article to with your full name, aage and contact number. - Asian Voice

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014


16-Tavneet Suri.qxp_A4 Temp 15/08/2014 14:04 Page 16



The US-based Professor who Straddles Three Continents ■ Rani Singh

T Tavneet Suri


avneet Suri is the Maurice F. Strong Career Development Professor and an Associate Professor of Applied Economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management, USA. Tavneet is a development economist, with a regional focus on sub-Saharan Africa. A large body of her work focuses on the constraints to technology adoption in agriculture. She has also conducted a lot of research on the impacts of mobile money (for example, M-PESA in Kenya) and applications of the mobile money platform for credit contracts (e.g. trade credit and credit for solar panels). Her most recent work has focused on governance issues in the Kibera slum in Nairobi and a large scale field experiment she conducted in Kenya during the 2013 general election (the project where “they sent a million text messages, literally!”). She spends a lot of time in the field, collecting her own data, primarily in Kenya, Sierra Leone and Rwanda. She is the Scientific Director for Africa for J-PAL; a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and an affiliate of BREAD and CEPR. Tavneet holds a BA in economics from Trinity College, Cambridge University, as well as an MA in international and development economics, an MPhil in economics, and a PhD from Yale University. When Tavneet first studied economics in secondary school in Nairobi, Kenya, she was not a fan. She was used to studying sciences and math for most of her life and economics was just different. But her father would not let her drop the subject. “I don’t care if you get a C,” she remembers him telling her. “It’s good for you to try new things.” So Tavneet stayed on track and eventually scored well in the subject, and soon, economics was her favourite subject. It’s no surprise that she is now a distinguished development economist at MIT. Tavneet’s passion for her work shines through in a phone interview from MIT, USA. She says that because she was born and raised in East Africa, she always knew

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014

that she wanted to work on Africa. “I have several research projects on the ground which means I am on the continent every few months to check up on them.” For each of these projects, she has to raise grant money, writing maybe three to four proposals for each grant that is awarded. She likes to focus hard on specific ways of alleviating poverty: how to improve food yields, the role of mobile money, new forms of access to credit, and political participation. Tavneet has lived on three different continents: Africa, Europe and the USA. Asking her about cultural similarities and differences, she points out how Kenyans are very warm and welcoming, though Nairobi is a high crime city. She adds “At Cambridge University in England, I made friends that have stayed with me all my life. Being an Indian, I saw the plus side of all the traditions at Cambridge.” She also spoke about her life in the US, “… it is a fantastic academic environment, very open and inspiring. Nobody tells me what to work on. I get to choose my own research topics. It often feels like being your own boss, I have the same freedoms but I get paid a salary and don’t have to worry about paying others.” Tavneet is a fourth-generation Kenyan: her great-great-uncle emigrated from undivided India, from what is now Pakistan, to work on roads and railways in British-controlled Kenya. His nephew — Tavneet’s grandfather — soon followed. Her father was born in Kenya and was educated as an engineer in Britain, before returning to Kenya and her mother is a doctor. Tavneet is cosmopolitan and very proud of her Punjabi roots. She retains her Kenyan nationality, has a permanent position at MIT, yet her Punjabiness is self-evident. “My family left India about a hundred years ago but I read and write Punjabi, which is is pretty cool. My mother forced me learn it over school vacations when I was a kid and I am eternally grateful.” In fact, she is trilingual as English and Swahili were both being taught in schools at the same time. Tavneet’s ambition is to “keep doing more and better research and policy work.”

17-Punjab Bank-1/2.qxp_A4 Temp 15/08/2014 16:04 Page 17


S. Bhupinder Singh Passi


Managing Director Punjab National Bank (International) Limited, UK A seasoned banker with an extensive experience of over 35 years in the banking industry across Credit, Marketing, Corporate Governance, Audit, Compliance, Investments, Human Resource and Merchant Banking. Mr Bhupinder Singh has been a leader since the inception of his career. His out of the box thinking and innovative ideas have immensely contributed to the bank and the businesses as a whole. A philanthropist and a humble Sikh, he takes his duty as a ‘SEWA’ (selfless service) to the society. The ‘Punjabi Society of British Isles’, a 86 years old society, conferred on him ‘Pride of Punjab Award – for bring-

Jagatwani Achievers Awards 2014. Currently, leading Punjab National Bank (I) Ltd as Managing Director in London, he has been instrumental in driving the

Bhupinder Singh receiving the Award from The Speaker of The House of Commons - John Bercow MP in presence of Mr. Rami Ranger, MBE and other Punjabi Society officials

ing Honour to the Community & Country through Outstanding Contribution’ – in Banking services in November, last year. This award was given by John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons. Also, last year he was awarded by the MultiCultural Welfare Organisation (UK) for his

dedicated services to the community. The Sikh Directory, United Kingdom ranked Mr Bhupinder Singh at 26th Position amongst the Top 100 Most Powerful Sikhs in The World. Recently, he has been awarded at the House of Lords for Outstanding Achievement in Banking powered by

Bhupinder Singh receiving Jagatwani Award from The Chief Editor, Mr. Manoj Kumar, in presence of Baroness Sandeep Verma

Bank to reach amongst the top Performing Indian banks operating in the United Kingdom.


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19 september 2014 Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014


18-Dr Onkar Sahota .qxp_A4 Temp 15/08/2014 14:05 Page 18



The Dashing Doctor Influencing the Political Health Agenda ■ Rani Singh


Dr Onkar Sahota


r Onkar Sahota is the Labour Assembly Member for Ealing and Hillingdon. He is a GP with two surgeries in West London and some 12,000 patients. He graduated from Sheffield University Medical School and has an MBA from the London Business School. He attended the John F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. For three years, the Department for International Development in Russia and Uzbekistan funded Onkar to work on Primary Care reform. Onkar sits on London Assembly committees that include Environment and Health. Onkar’s grandfather, Sardar Chanan Singh, a retired Patwari in Punjab, came to London with him in the early 60s and exposed Onkar to influential members of the new Southall community where Onkar lived. “I met people like Vishnu Dutt Sharma, an able speaker and member of the Communist Party, Sidney Bidwell MP, Cllr Sardul Singh Gill (the first Indian Councillor in the UK), Giani Darshan Singh Gill (President of the Indian Workers Association). Onkar recalls meeting poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi, and Sobha Singh. The Vietnam War was on. I remember going to Trafalgar Square. In Southall, I remember the riots and the National Front coming there.” Onkar was interested in politics, but his father, Pargat Singh, ensured that he would go into medicine. This delayed Onkar’s political career, but he feels that politicians with “reallife experiences have more breadth. There are people who go to university, join a think tank, and go into politics. There are other people who bring richness and perspective. As a doctor I deal with the common person and get insights into the impact of social inequalities.” Onkar acknowledges the previous and current “pioneering” political giants of Southall politics. Onkar feels he is a different, “transitional” politician, suited to the needs of the time. “I came here at an early age but grew up with a British value system. I respect the values of the people of my parent’s generation but also have a vision for the needs and aspirations of their children and grandchildren who were born in this country. I believe that I have the ability and

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014

understanding to represent my constituents effectively.” Onkar encourages the young and people with various life experiences to enter politics and play an active role in British Society. “The relationship with India has matured. I mean that the first generation immigrants looked upon India as their mother country and wanted to go back when they had earned enough money. However, their children, grandchildren and their children now regard the UK as the mother country but remember where their forefathers came from. It’s like the Italian community in the United States. Though their allegiance is to the US, they still retain the cultural identity of their European roots. The Italians brought the pizza to America and love the USA but they also remember that their forefathers who brought the recipes, come from Italy.” I point out that politicians are often ambitious, and Onkar agrees. “Politicians are ambitious, but so long as their desire is to do good, it’s no bad thing. Politicians are by nature competitive because they want to make a difference. Politics is about making choices; about value systems, society, and how we lead our lives. If you want to improve your life and the lives of your fellow citizens, politics is the right thing. I want to make a difference for a fairer, more just, more equal society where social mobility is based on merit and not class. I commit myself to work for these goals. ” Onkar is often asked about being a successful doctor versus being a politician. “I can go on record that doctors earn more money than politicians and lead a much more private life. But I want to make a contribution and give a voice to people who don’t have a voice, and use my experience to improve the health service”. Onkar feels the NHS is the envy of the world and flagship of the British Nation.” I am privileged to be a doctor working in the NHS, but there are some things I cannot change from my consulting room desk. I can’t help people with their housing problems, cost of living pressures, tuition fees or the NHS management from my surgery. These issues are dealt with by politicians. I’m in politics to make a change in society for the better, to give voice to the common person and inspiration to the young.”

19-Vivek Chadha + Advert.qxp_A4 Temp 15/08/2014 14:06 Page 19



Vivek Chadha is a Hotel Owner, Residential Developer and Commercial Investor in UK Real Estate. Vivek graduated from University College London in 2010 with a MEng in Civil Engineering. Vivek the Director of S&J Group has acquired various distressed developments and investments. He completed his very own project only in 2012 of 23 pre fabricated low carbon footprint modular houses. He then acquired various going concern investment portfolios and currently through various acquisitions has over 120 tenants from Regus, Santander, Iceland, HMCS Government Courts, 26 he also is a franchisee of ‘Intercontinental Hotel

Vivek receiving Award from Former Speaker of House of Commons Betty Boothroyd in Presence of CB Patel

Group’ and owns and operates 3 ‘Holiday Inn’ Hotels in London, Birmingham and Essex. In February 2014, at the Public & Political Life Awards, held at the House of Commons, Vivek was bestowed with the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. The Awards Ceremony was organized by Asian Voice and the selection panel was chaired by Mr. Keith Vaz, MP. At this tender age Vivek has achieved a lot in business. We are confident that Vivek will excel even further in his busiFlagship Hotel Holiday Inn ness and personal career. Birmingham North

Vivek Chadha with his Parents, sister and Brother in Law

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Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014


20-World War-1 .qxp_A4 Temp 15/08/2014 15:47 Page 20



Remembering the Sikh Soldiers of WWI

■ Tanveer Mann


mandeep Madra, the Chairman of UK Punjab Heritage Association (UKPHA), an organization which works to portray the contribution of Sikh soldiers in World War One, is an independent researcher based in London. He has worked on numerous international Sikh projects and is one of the curators of the exhibition "Empire, Faith & War: The Sikhs and World War One", currently being shown at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, University of London. As the world turns to remembrance at the centenary of the Great War this summer, the landmark exhibition is UKPHA's way of commemorating the remarkable but largely forgotten contribution and experiences of Sikh soldiers, as well as the families they left behind. The exhibition acts as the launch event of a three year project to reveal the untold story of how one of the world's smallest communities played a disproportionately large role in the ‘war to end all wars'. Speaking to British Punjabi Magazine, Mr Madra said, “The role of Sikhs in the Great War is largely unknown but is a fascinating part of the story of the Allied war effort and indeed ‘the British story’.” Mr. Madra has a strong belief in the importance of the stories of individuals who were even in the slightest manner linked to the First World War, even if they did not fight. The United Kingdom Punjab Heritage Association was given £450,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to sponsor research into regimental histories, dispatches, correspondence and interviews with descendants of soldiers. Describing the process by which artifacts were collected for the exhibition, Madra said, “Research was very difficult on the Indian Army because at the time of Independence, the bulk of information got split between Pakistan and India's records. Britain kept some of them. So getting access to them was very simple but there was a scarcity of records specifically on Sikhs. Here we try to tell the stories of real people which was quite challenging.” Speaking about his role, he added, “As I am the Chair, I get a lot of credit for a lot of other people's hard work. There are a lot of teams including a couple of volunteers who just wanted to be a part of the research. One went as far as asking aircraft enthusiasts in New Zealand to film them flying their World War aircraft that they had restored. We then used that footage for interviews and to show World War One flying. It is a great achievement, not just for someone who runs the organisation, but also for


Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014

the story editors and young people who want to express themselves.” The Association also plans to educate younger children on the Sikh contributions in the War. Elaborating on this, Mr Madra said, “We have produced fantastic education packs to ensure that children receive an all-rounded, strong education. We are working with some of the top schools, from the independents to the states Amandeep Madra schools, to develop a pack for students so that they can take that information and integrate it with the knowledge they already have.” “We are going to work with as many partners as we can including the government, and the middleman between government departments and schools. Also, all state schools are sending two students to battlefields in the next four years. We hope to encourage the children to pick out stories of Indian soldiers to explore. If we can get a small percent of schools to do that across the country, I think that starts a wave of greater recognition.” This initiative is being hailed by the Asian community as an educational and unique insight into World War One, bringing to light the remarkable Anglo-Sikh relationship of the last 150 years and praising Britain's most recognisable minorities' contribution to the British Empire. However, only time will tell the lasting impact and influence the centenary celebrations will have on future generations to come.

21-Joginder Sanger.qxp_A4 Temp 15/08/2014 14:09 Page 21

■ Rani Singh


The Busy Businessman

oginder Sanger is a self-made businessman. He arrived in the UK in 1961. Amongst his properties are; The Bentley Hotel, South Kensington, The Courthouse Hotel, Regent Street, London, and The Washington Hotel, Mayfair. He is Chairman of Bharitiya Vidya Bhavan , UK. In this piece, we focus on the important role at The Bhavan of this high net worth Punjabi gentleman, whose family is originally from V.P.O Apra, Jallandhar, India. He continues to acquire new assets through 2014. Mr Sanger talked to me about being Chairman of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. “I am a believer and fan of our cultural traditions. I believe our culture and traditions are family oriented. If those traditions are maintained the way we were taught, it naturally builds the future of the children. Everyone wants children to have a better future. I became a member of the Bhavan when it was opened in the early 70s. I was the Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Fund raising committee from 1987 to 2011.The Bhavan preaches, teaches and spreads Indian culture and art in India and abroad. When you are living abroad children will learn local languages, local traditions in school and in society. But they will only learn their own traditions and native language, either from the family, and or from places like the Bhavan. I will give you an example. The eldest child always speaks the native language. I am a Punjabi, so my eldest child will speak Punjabi better than the younger children. The parents speak in their own language to the elder child. He or she will pick it up. But the younger child will always have access to his or her older sibling. They will speak in English or the local language and thus will not speak the native language as well the elder child.” Mr Sanger then made a comparison with Indian habits and traditions. “The same applies to our traditions. We all love our culture. We all love important places to visit, whether it is religious, or historical. We all say our culture is great but we don’t think about our contribution towards it. We can go to India and visit our temples, our religious and other places. Our children can go. But what about our grandchildren, and great grandchildren? To imbue in them such a good culture and tradition, it is very impor-

tant that we should create such institutions and centres in the countries we live in so that such good culture and tradition continue to serve humanity. This will be our contribution.” The Bhavan Chairman made a distinction between mainstream society and ethnic culture. “Here in the schools and colleges; Indian culture is a lesser subject. But for the Bhavan and others, that’s the whole motive. I do believe now; I can see for the last 15-20 years, even the host community, British society, has started realising, Indian traditions, Vedic traditions, are good traditions. They are more family-oriented, with more unity, more togetherness and non violence. If people start believing this, then violence and selfish attitudes will disappear. That’s my main aim. Unlike many other organisations, the Bhavan spends almost 95 % on its core activities and a minimal amount on administrative expenses etc. In the Bhavan, many people are so dedicated, including the staff, the members, children, and others, that our expenditure is hardly 5% of revenue. Our teachers are so dedicated. Take for example Dr Nandakumara, the Executive Director. He works tirelessly for the Bhavan. His remuneration is modest and although he receives donations and remuneration for personal services such as Poojas and speeches. Almost all of it he hands it over to the Bhavan. And when I ask him, ‘Why, Nandaji, do you do this, it’s your money,’ he says ‘No, I’m very happy, my children are settled, I’m enjoying my work, the Bhavan has been good to me, and I think this is my way of serving the Bhavan.’ Where do you find such people these days? That’s what I appreciate and that’s why I love to be a part of the Bhavan.” Mr Sanger is so humble that he appears reluctant to talk with journalists, I discovered over a two- day period. On the first day, he was a little tired and needed to rest after I waited at the end of a Bhavan function to speak to him. So the next day, at his office in the late afternoon, I waited again for him. When he appeared after a meeting, Mr Sanger made sure that his official papers were a priority before he eventually called me in with an “Aiye!” to see him. This quiet gentleman has many more important things than publicity on his mind.



Joginder Sanger

“I am a believer and fan of our cultural traditions.”

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014


22-Jaspal Singh Kooner.qxp_A4 Temp 15/08/2014 17:15 Page 22



Jaspal Singh Kooner: Medicine Unmasked ■ Sunetra Senior


edicine is often a mystery for those who are not in the profession. A frantic scene with people in scrubs and white coats, representing some sort of hierarchal order, running alongside a writhing individual, is what springs to mind. The reality, as we found out from leading UK cardiologist Jaspal Singh Kooner, is more relatable, and dare we say it, that little bit more organised. It has been a demanding but measured Jaspal Singh Kooner with family journey in becoming the established man that he is today: Kooner has numerous publications in seminal medical journals such as ‘Nature’, ‘Nature Genetics’ and ‘The Lancet’, made Tatler’s Best Doctor list in 2013, and was awarded the honour of Academy Fellow of Medical Sciences the year before this. As with any skilled trade, the journey to the top has required great focus. After completing medical school, Kooner started out as a house-officer, the entry-level position in medicine: ‘this exposed me to the world of surgery including heart bypass operations,’ he explained. ‘I learnt a lot, but always wanted to do more. A special mention must go to Professors Sir Stanley Peart at St Mary’s and Sir Colin Dollery at Hammersmith, whom I was fortunate enough to work with. When you are working with visionaries, it really rubs off’.’ Today, Kooner’s vocation is not only vibrantly diverse as Professor of Clinical Cardiology and Cardiac Consultant, but is respected across the world; ‘Health- heroism’ as dubbed by ‘The Globe’ magazine: ‘there is clinical care of my patients,’ he elaborated in his modest but charming manner. ‘This includes consulting in clinics and wards, managing patients with heart attacks and carrying out complex coronary surgeries; I also conduct research. Currently my team are investigating the high-rates of coronary heart disease and diabetes in South-Asians. We’ve made fantastic discoveries in recent years which are being recognised internationally. Another important area is teaching. In addition to training med-


Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014

ical students and junior doctors at Imperial, I run popular post-graduate courses which to date have been attended by over 20,000 doctors; and finally, I manage. I run the teams on multiple sites and am constantly fund-raising for our various endeavours’. Rising to his challenges, Kooner’s success has been an equal exchange with fortune. In addition to brainpower, and a super-strain of multitasking, he has engaged level-headededness and resilience: ‘I was born in Nairobi and brought up in Kent. We were one of 5 Asian families in a town of about a hundred thousand. So, though I came from an English-speaking country, everything you did got noticed. I really had to sharpen my act. Medicine was really the only option for me.’ The considered ease with which the doctor spoke, despite emergency messages bleeping in the background, emphasised the idea that keeping true to ambition has led to equanimity: ‘If faced with racial discrimination, I have sought to apply myself to pursuing scholarly or clinic excellence. It is only ever a small group who have issues and even this tends to be ignorance.’ Focusing on his unique talent has come to draw several rewards, emotionally, reputably and spiritually: ‘In Sikhism one of the main principles is serving mankind. Many of my patients are breadwinners with whole families and children behind them, so it is immensely gratifying to work in a job where I am benefitting others.’ Indeed, Kooner’s study into the South-Asian community will help people world-wide: ‘our discovery of biomarkers that predict heart disease and diabetes in South Asians may impact up to a ¼ of the world’s population,’ the consultant stated. ‘We can identify patients earlier and prevent major diseases.’ If this was not holistic enough, Kooner proceeded to add that the children are also going into medicine: ‘I didn’t have many photos of them with me until recently,’ he joked, ‘and then my daughter got married.’ With this, the conversation began to roll to an end. It felt as if we had not just gained some inspiring knowledge about medicine, but encouragement for all those with big ambitions: ‘Medicine is a diverse subject and it is about picking up on the areas where you’re doing well,’ Kooner aptly concluded. ‘But young people nowadays are very bright and able. They will find their way no matter what.’

23-Kanika Kapoor.qxp_A4 Temp 15/08/2014 14:09 Page 23

The Singer who Feels for Children ■ Rani Singh


hirty three year old Punjabi Kanika Kapoor is a British Indian singer whose favourite musical genre is soulful Sufi inspired Hindi music. She grew up in Lucknow, UP. Her talent was evident early on but Kanika realised she needed training. Aged seven, she was privately tutored for 12 years in Indian classical music from Pandit Ganesh Prasad Mishra. She took an MA in Indian classical music at Bhatkande Music College in 1999. She is also a Kathak dancer. She likes to sing in Punjabi, Hindi, English and Arabic. Her first release was a 2012 YouTube sensation called Jugni Ji, produced by wBritish Asian Dr Zeus. In 2013, she was nominated as one of the 20 most glamorous women in India by Hello India. Breaking India was not easy, Kanika told me on a recent visit to the UK. “I had to work hard. Being a new artiste with one hit, I had to prove myself to mainstream Bollywood. Luckily, my brother’s childhood friends, the Meet brothers, had heard about Jugni Ji and asked me to do a trial; they sent me a track and I sang it for a voice test. They wanted to see if my voice suited the song. They flew me to Mumbai to do the final vocals; I spent two days in studio, and Baby Doll was released eight months later.” In 2013, she was signed by director Ekta Kapoor of Balaji Films Pvt Ltd to sing for the movie Ragini MMS. The song titled ‘Baby Doll’ in association with Meet Brothers took her to the top of the charts. The song hit 50 million views on YouTube and some say it was the most downloaded Bollywood track on iTunes. Consequently, Kanika sang with other artistes at the IPL (Indian Premiere League) alongside Shahrukh Khan. “It was a dream come true to be on a world tour with Sharukh Khan. He is humble, professional, straightforward and good. Whatever he said he would do, he did,” Kanika explained to me. Kanika takes care of her voice instrument by not drinking, not smoking, and not

taking ice. She says that practise sessions can go from 10 minutes to six hours. “It depends how long I am in studio. The voice opens as you sing.” This year she will sing in the Farah Khan- directed by Shahrukh Khan- Deepika Padogone movie, ‘Happy New Year’. The song has been produced by Vishal & Shekar and Dr Zeus, and is releasing August 2014. In July 2014, a Meet Brothers song called Love Letter from the movie ‘The Legend of Michael Mishra’ will hit cinemas. She will be releasing the India & Middle East launch of her hit single Jugni Ji in collaboration with T-Series. Towards the end of 2014, the Ranbir Kapoor movie ‘Roy’ will also feature a Kanika song. Kanika recently became an ambassador for Pratham UK, the UK arm of the largest non-governmental Indian children’s education charity. She will perform this year at a charity gala dinner for them at the Natural History Museum. “I used to follow them, and had good relations with the team,” she explained. “Pratham covers 26 Indian cities. The education of children is very important for me. Recently in Mumbai I saw some slums. I saw little Pratham schools for different stages of education; little childcare, primary, then secondary. They’ve converted community areas and temples into classrooms. I found it distressing to see the slum children; they don’t even have the basics.” She is also a supporter of a charity called KalaKriti that her mother started 22 years ago, to give jobs to less fortunate Muslim women in her hometown. These women specialise in hand embroidery, ‘Chikankari’ and work for her mother’s fashion label. Kanika also supports Alicia Keys’s charity, Keep a Child Alive. In August, she is performing in Pune for the charity and children will be invited along. “Alicia has also invited me to her international ball in October in New York.” She said, clearly looking forward to supporting her favourite children’s charities.



Kanika Kapoor

“The voice opens as you sing.”

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014


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Satjit Singh: Business and Benevolence ■ Sunetra Senior

I Satjit Singh


t is a popular belief that to be successful one must be ruthless. Director of Shogins Consultancy Mr. Satjit Singh is so much an exception that he subverts the rule. If probono work for The Prince’s Trust and the City Livery Company were not enough, he has the personality to boot. Speaking about his career, his vast vocational history and the aspects of life he holds dear, what became most apparent was not the impressive knowledge of finance, or his business savvy, though these can certainly be boasted too; it was the virtuous attitude that underlay it all. A self-founded enterprise, Satjit’s consultancy specialises in interim management and strategy: ‘it’s about open-mindedness and humility,’ he gently explained. ‘In process consulting, one works with people who already have knowledge, for example when I worked for Watford General Hospital. There was trouble with day-surgery. I helped identify that it was mainly because it could be unsafe for elderly patients. So I listened and developed protocols to assess potential patients accordingly, effecting higher rates. What is reached with inputs from different parties is better than compromise; it’s an improvement.’ As well as several expert fields such as healthcare, engineering, and telecoms, Satjit’s conciliatory attitude has carried him across the globe. His penchant for problemsolving and people has benefitted various clients from the local likes of the NHS and the General Optical Council to governments in Palestine, China, and Bangladesh: ‘I also delivered a healthcare strategy in Bengal increasing facility coverage. For the first time, the international donors in India came together for its implementation. Recently, I developed a three-year plan for the World Bank in Cambodia.’ Perceptive as Satjit appeared to be, it was little surprise when he announced that he also writes freelance, serving on the editorial board for India Link magazine: ‘My first essay was on India’s nuclear options at the age of thirteen! I write about politics and society; for example the role of religion in liberal society. It bothers me that we are becoming less tolerant, e.g. the burning of Churches by India’s right-wing. Truly secular states like the

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2014

UK have more respect for how others do things. As a British Sikh, in all my thirty years here, my skin colour has never proved problematic’. Continuing in the vein of profundity over precept, when probing Singh about receiving the Pride of India Literature and Media award, he elaborated on his appreciation of fiction: ‘My favourite author is Dickens. He shone a light on the dark underbelly of Britain’s Industrial-Revolution and greatly influenced our life today regarding union rights, environmental issues and child-labour laws.’ It suddenly makes sense why Satjit would suggest the National Liberal Club, recreational home to leading modernist writers like Virginia Woolf who continued to institute change, as an interview location. A unique multicultural background played a large part in the consultant’s ethics: ‘though my family is from Punjab, I grew up in Delhi and though I am Sikh, I went to four different Catholic schools. They never clashed and they’ve all been enriching. The Ten Commandments could be in any faith. It’s about leading a good life. Sikhs believe in one God, the same being in Christianity, Hinduism etc. Let us not claim him only for ourselves.’ With a degree in economics from St. Stephens, College, Delhi, and an MBA from Imperial College London, university education was also split across cultures, but it was not just brick buildings that informed his cosmopolitanism: ‘I would recite the Lord’s Prayer in the Sikh Temple. When my father found out he said, “Son, you can keep saying the Lord’s Prayer. God is multilingual.” For us Sikhism was spiritual, not ritualistic. Although dad was in the Army, he always found time to spend with us and write.’ Today Satjit returns the paternal care he received as a child to his own family at his stunning home and workplace in Northwood, Middlesex: ‘I make sure to prioritise family. As a father, I keep promises to my daughter and treat her fairly. When she was ten, I remember checking if it was alright to leave for Britain for a spell, and she always says “I’ll never forget that because I felt so valued.” And so, as all these rich and moving insights came to a close, the idea that boundless success comes of good intention seemed an unequivocal truth.

GS New- 2014.qxp_New Layout 14/08/2014 16:12 Page 1

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