My Dad Liked to Light Candles ... PARDEEP SINGH NAGRA
A Tribute To Harpreet Singh Dhariwal
“My Dad liked to light candles …,” said young Amrit Singh, 12, as he stood bravely, tall and erect, before several hundred of us last Friday.
As difficult as it may seem to have to attend the funeral of a friend, or any funeral for that matter, I am still numb a few days later, after attending the funeral of Harpreet Singh Dhariwal.
I know much has been written about Harpreet, including the eulogy by Sher and the deeply moving comments that followed, but it was another thing to hear what was said about Harpreet by those who spoke at the funeral.
Yes, Harpreet was involved in Basketball. Yes, Harpreet was involved in the greater Sikh community. Yes, Harpreet was involved in his job/career. Yes, Harpreet was an involved father, son, husband, brother. Yes, Harpreet was involved with his children’s school. Yes, Harpreet was involved in his local neighbourhood and community. Yes, Harpreet liked to do magic tricks. And yes, Harpreet was a Sikh Chaplain with the Toronto Police Force.
But, believe it or not, all of this was secondary to Harpreet, the man.
Harpreet didn’t talk about problems, but rather solutions and never, never, never wanted any recognition or accolade for his toil, or even acknowledgment of what he was doing or was involved with.
Harpreet would never say that he runs a Basketball Drop-in for youth, instead he would simply say that there is a Basketball Drop-in for youth.
This was just the tip of the iceberg, as it also revealed that through his involvement with the largest community outreach program for youth by the Toronto Police (The Annual South and West Asian Youth Basketball Tournament). The senior members of the police force who he worked along side for the basketball tournament were not even aware that he was also serving as a Chaplain with the Force.
This was Harpreet.
It was never about him.
Talking about his humility brought speaker after speaker to tears. Each thought they knew Harpreet, only to hear from another speaker what “nuisance” Harpreet had been up to in yet another sphere.
Two things became very clear: nothing Harpreet did was for himself, and everything Harpreet did was for a bigger reason than himself.
His work with the local city councillor on things like street lights, stop signs, cross walks, and a new recreational centre, was all about a safe and active community.
His work with the school across his street was for better outcomes for students, the classic tale of Parent and Community engagement with the school, at its best.
His work with the basketball program and drop-in was to develop greater community cohesion and a stronger relationship with the police force. His work as a Chaplain was not only to educate but also support members of the Toronto Police Force so that they can serve to the best of their potential.
His work at the University of Toronto was to make learning more accessible and create better student success.
His work within the Sikh community was to instil pride and confidence in the youth and lessen the impact of racism, of which Harpreet was all too familiar growing up.
Ultimately, what became clear was that the intensity of Harpreet’s involvement, was only superceded by the purity of his relationships. Harpreet changed people. Not by force or coercion, not through ego or ulterior motives, not by demanding or pressuring. Simply put, Harpreet changed people for the better by being a better self.
Harpreet’s life reminds me of a quote by Bernard Shaw – “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.”
It was an privilege to be present at the funeral, it was nothing short of inspirational.
Harpreet left us with so much … may we continue to light the candles in the spirit of Harpreet.
Please join family and friends for a kirtan darbar in celebration of Harpreet's life, on Saturday, October 6, 2012 (7:00 - 11:00 pm), at the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Mission, 585 Peter Robertson Blvd., Brampton, Ontario, Canada - Ph: 1.905.799.2682. [It is located on the SW corner of Dixie Road and Peter Robertson Blvd.]
October 2, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Paramjit Grewal (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), October 04, 2012, 10:20 PM.
First of all, it is very shocking to know that we have lost a loving father, brother, son and husband. May his soul rest in peace and may God give strength to the family to bear this untimely loss of a great man.
2: Kirpal Singh (Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S.A.), October 05, 2012, 3:45 PM.
I never knew Harpreet but his life story is immensely inspirational. Thank you for sharing it. Your style of writing is commendable.