In service of society
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Central Khalsa Orphanage, where Shaheed Udham Singh stayed, provides a home to young orphans without consideration of caste, colour or religion.

Brittle pages of a register more than a century old, kept under lock and key at the Central Khalsa Orphanage, run by Chief Khalsa Diwan - the oldest Sikh institution show admission entry of Sher Singh (Shaheed Udham Singh) along with his elder brother Sadhu Singh on October 24, 1907. It is the only record, relating to Shaheed Udham Singh’s stay at the orphanage that has been preserved by the management. The two brothers were admitted at the orphanage on behalf of Chhanga Singh and Kishan Singh Raagi.

Main tenet of Sikhism is service to humanity. Based on this philosophy, Chief Khalsa Diwan established Central Orphanage in 1904 and Soorma Singh Ashram (Home for the visually challenged) in 1935. The voluntary, charitable institutions have nourished thousands of orphans, destitute and blind children without any distinction and moulded their destiny to make them useful and productive members of the society.

The centre has a garden, a children’s park and volleyball and basketball grounds. There is also a gurdwara, and a library with more than 10,000 books, besides spectacular buildings of Simran Kendra and Bhai Veer Singh Guest House, constructed for meditation and residential purposes. A neat and clean dispensary, built in the memory of Sardar Charnjit Singh Ghura of England, caters to the medical needs of inmates.

However, room No 2 where Udham Singh lived with his brother and other inmates was demolished to construct a new building which has been named after him.

Udham Singh was born as Sher Singh on December 1899 at Sunam. His father Tahal Singh was a watchman on a railway crossing in the neighbouring Upall village. Sher Singh lost his parents before he was five. Both brothers were administered Sikh initiatory rites at the orphanage and given new names; Sher Singh become Udham Singh and Mukta Singh was named Sadhu Singh. He died in 1917, leaving young Udham Singh alone in the world.

Udham Singh left the orphanage after passing the matriculation examination in 1918. He was at the Jallianwala Bagh on the fateful Baisakhi, April 13, 1919, when General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer ordered his troops to fire, killing over 1000 people. On July 31, 1940, Udham Singh was hanged at Pentonville jail, London. On June 4, he had been arraigned before Mr Justice Atkinson at the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey. Udham Singh was charged with the murder of Sir Michael O’Dwyer, the former Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab who had approved of the action of Brigadier-General R.E.H. Dyer at Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar.

Charnjit Singh Chadha, president, Chief Khalsa Diwan shows the old register where entry of Shaheed Udham Singh was made.
Charnjit Singh Chadha, president, Chief Khalsa Diwan shows the old register where entry of Shaheed Udham Singh was made. — Photo RS

Another treasure trove of the orphanage is 38 rare copies of Guru Granth Sahib. Mr Charnjit Singh Chadha and Mr Bhag Singh Ankhi , president and secretary, showed the spacious room where all the Birs have been preserved according to the Sikh Maryada. There is a small copy of the holy book published by Ramchand Manak of Lahore in Samvat 423, Nanakshahi, an undated handwritten copy of 536 pages, a manuscript of the holy book of 646 pages, a copy published by the Khalsa Orphanage, Gujranwala (Pakistan), another volume with pictures of Lord Krishna and Radha, a Bir published in Peshawar (Pakistan), a stone-block printed Bir of 2,178 pages written in 421 Nanakshahi Samvat and a stone-block printed Bir of 1,554 pages, small copy written in Urdu by Udham Singh and a Gutka in Sanskrit.

Chief Khalsa Diwan has already written to the government for registration of these treasures under the Antiquities and Art treasure Rules, 1973. There is remarkable Gutka of Japuji Sahib (713 pages), first page with golden illustration. It is presumed that this manuscript is more than 100 years old. There is another eye-catching volume of Guru Granth Sahib with illustrations of Raagas and Ragnis.

A senior functionary of CKD, Mr Joginder Singh Kohli says the stone-print Birs were published by Lahore-based Bhai Gulab Singh & Sons, pioneers in this business. The publishing house had stalls at every railway station in the north India.

The orphanage also has Gurkhas children from Nepal, who converted to Sikhism. They sing hymns from the Granth Sahib, play tabla, recite Gurbani and converse in chaste Punjabi. The CKO admits orphans irrespective of caste, creed or colour. The CKO is home to 175 children, including Nepalese. The orphanage was started with one child brought from Sindh (Pakistan) by Harbans Singh Attari. Other founders were Sunder Singh Majithia, Tarlochan Singh and Bhai Veer Singh. All of them were renowned educationists and philanthropists.

Mr Chadha says many Nepalese, brought up in the orphanage have propagated Sikhism in various parts of the world. Many of them were also absorbed in the SGPC. Devoted to Sikhism, they have been exempted from required tests by most Sikh organizations, including the Shiromani Committee. As per constitution of the orphanage, only children above six years are admitted. Mr Chadha says that it was mandatory for every inmate to attain education up to matriculation. For this, the orphanage runs a school and later the children join Khalsa School for higher education. Besides education, training in musical instruments and Shabad Kirtan, musical instruments like tabla, harmonium, dilruba, sitar is imparted to the students in this seminary. The institution has given the Sikh community eminent ragis like Bhai Santa Singh, Bhai Gopal Singh, Bhai Gurmej Singh, Singh Sahib Bhai Fateh. Other alumni of repute include musician Dalip Chander Bedi and Principal S. S. Amol.

The latest entrant in the orphanage is Pardeep Singh (earlier Pardeep Kumar), recommended by the Gurudwara Singh Sabha, Nepal. Mann Bahadur has been rechristened Bahadur Singh. Another student of orphanage is Vinod Singh (previous name Vinod Kumar). Most of the students have forgotten their mother tongue Nepali with the passage of time.

They say they hardly visit Nepal due to the ‘communication gap’ that virtually has separated them from their roots.

The orphanage on the GT Road near Puttali Ghar is spread over four acres of land.



Divali with a difference
P.K. Jaiswar

When residents of the holy city celebrated the festival of lights with their families by distributing sweets and cracking crackers, students of Ryan International School and Ram Ashram School celebrated Divali with a difference.

While the students of Ram Ashram School celebrated Divali with 21 children of the Institute for the Blind, the students of Ryan International School distributed clothes among labourers and their children, setting an example for the people not to forget their social responsibilities.

Not only did the students share their meal with visually challenged children, they also made them feel at home in the environment where they had made efforts to bring happiness in the lives of these children. Mr Davinder Singh and Mr Suresh of Ram Ashram School, who accompanied the children, said it was an unusual festivity for these children who have never experienced this kind of interaction in the past.

Ms Preeti Sharad, Principal, Shri Ram Ashram School, said not only was this occasion planned to bring something different for those impaired but it was a lesson in sensitising children of the school on their social responsibilities. Fitting them with track suits gifted by the school, the visually challenged children from the age of 7 to 16 felt indeed a newness in the festival this time as students of Ram Ashram spared no effort to “light up” the faces of these children.

A poem and an audio skit of “victory of good over evil” was part of the cultural show presented on the occasion. Not to be left behind. Gurdas, a visually challenged boy, played the tabla, while Kuldeep played the harmonium. Hindi and Punjabi songs were sung by Mukesh, Sikhan, Massa and Gurdass that invited loud applause from teachers and students.

Meanwhile, 100 students of Ryan International collected clothes and distributed among more than 200 labourers and their children.

Ms Priyanka, headmistress, said the idea of celebrating Divali by distributing clothes was to teach the children about their social responsibilities.

Earlier, wearing colourful headbands and faces smeared with anti-cracker slogans, the children demonstrated in the city to create awareness about air and noise pollution.

Raising questions on wasteful expenditure, the students along with 10 teachers distributed handmade pamphlets giving the messages of “No pollution! No crackers”.



Experiments prerogative of coach, captain: Kapil
Ashok Sethi

The cricket team had the backing of the entire nation and some inconsistency brought instant flak. The Indian team had to give excellent performance all the time but cricket being a game of glorious uncertainties, we should take victory and defeat in our stride.

These remarks were made by former superstar of Indian cricket, Kapil Dev, after inaugurating exclusive Reid and Taylor showroom here recently.

He said the experiments and reshuffling of the batting order was the prerogative of the captain and the coach. The public saw too much into these changes and felt that the only thing that mattered was victory.

Refusing to be drawn into the recent doping incident involving Pakistan fast bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif, Kapil said it was an internal matter of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

It was up to the PCB to take necessary steps to prevent such incidents in future as it marred the image of the game. He said the International Cricket Council must come out with a clear policy on doping issue.

Kapil said youngsters in the team had enormous talent and had given a good account of themselves in various international outings, hoping that the team would bring honour during the current Champions Trophy.

The former Indian captain refused to comment on the working of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), adding that the board must provide excellent infrastructure in the country to produce talented players to represent the country.

He said the current Indian team with profusion of talent was capable of winning the next world Cup.

Meanwhile, Kapil Dev inaugurated the exclusive showroom of Reid and Taylor. Addressing newspersons, he said India had emerged as a global economic power and produced world-class fabrics and garments.

A brand ambassador for the international suiting brand, Kapil said Indian products were rated amongst the best in the world and he was proud to be associated with this group.

The Chief Executive Officer of brand house development of the company, Mr Tarun Joshi, said with a turnover of Rs 150 crore, they were planning to add more retail outlets throughout the country.



My City
Bauji — a memorable personality
Gunbir Singh

When one looks back in life, one remembers a few people who mattered. Fewer still leave indelible marks on the society as a whole. Only a few are remembered as institutions.

G. R. Sethi, Bauji as I remember him, is an institution embedded in the memory of the holy city. His contributions traversed a century, leaving imprints in the minds of people not only in Amritsar, but beyond as well.

His role in the rehabilitation of refugees during the Partition, formation of the Gurudwara Act 1925, and during the travails of the Punjabi Suba days is well recognised and documented.

Many a volatile situations, during the evolution of present-day Punjab, were diffused by his wisdom. A case in fact is the impending political fire upon the fast unto death of Pheruman.

Calling Sethi Sahib a think-tank for various Deputy Commissioners of Amritsar, starting from Jenkins, would certainly not be out of place. In fact, all of them, without exception, depended upon his judgment and advice.

Born on November 14, 1900, this doyen of journalism passed away, having lived a spartan yet graceful existence. He began his career as an English journalist after his graduation.

He went on to remain the last word in English journalism in the region till the end with contributions in Civil and Military Gazette Lahore, The Tribune, Times of India, The statesman, Hindustan Times, Illustrated Weekly, besides others.

His writings exhibited maturity during the various social traumas of the century, and yet a fearlessness was evident whenever required.

Welfare of the community was foremost in his mind throughout his existence.

Apart from being involved with the Red Cross, he headed The Institute for the Blind, Ram Ashram School and the PBN School for long durations. As a Senator of the Guru Nanak Dev University he enjoyed a long innings straight from the inception of the institution itself. He was also nominated Vice-President of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation for more than 15 years.

During his stint bold decisions were taken for the development of Amritsar, including the laying of concrete road from Lohgarh to Gobindgarh Fort.

In recognition of his lifetime achievements in the field of social service, Taylor Road was renamed after him.

I recall many times when he would invite youth of the city to come and share their problems with him. Succour, words of encouragement, motivation and positive approach was inculcated ever so gently in his words.

The benefits of being taken under his wings were manifold. He was after all the ‘Bisham Pitamah’ of the city.

His brothers, sisters and their children as well benefited from his words of wisdom and advice. They settled well under his guidance.

His sons Lalit and Jagdish went on to become journalist and bank chairman, respectively.

Being the eldest of five brothers and a sister, Sethi Sahib took it upon himself to educate them and settle them well. In the 1930’s Shri Dhanwant became an engineer. Later Shri Uttam Chand became an expert in textile technology, Shri Jagjit a Masters in Arts and a thorough professional, Shri Narinder the media advisor to Prime Ministers Shastri and Indira Gandhi, and the last of them Brigadier Sethi made a career in the armed forces.

Bauji was a fatherly figure to more than just his own immediate family and so has he been immortalised in the memory of many.

We still talk of him fondly and cherish the thought of having had the privilege of spending time in the shadow of this great man.



Computer Science dept win b’ball meet
Our Correspondent

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Guru Nanak Dev University, won the Inter-Departmental Basketball Competitions defeating Electronics Department 35-18. Tejpreet Singh of Computer Science and Engineering Department was the top scorer with 14 points.

The Department of Commerce and Business Management defeated Food Science and Technology Department 46-23 to finish third. Navdeep Singh of Commerce and Business Management, who scored 24 points, was the top scorer.

In the women’s section, Microbiology Department won the championship defeating Sports Medicine Department 28-16 while Chemistry Department was third.

More than 22 teams from the various departments participated in the competitions.

Table tennis competitions

Electronics Technology Department won the Inter-Departmental Tennis Competitions defeating the Computer Science and Engineering Department 3-2. Pharmaceuticals Sciences Department defeated Microbiology Department 3-2. Suraj M. Singh of the Electronics Technology Department remained unbeaten winning all individual matches. More than eight teams took part.



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