Kids Corner

Above: Pitaji - Bawa Hari Singh ji.


Pitaji's Legacy







Lately, I've been reminiscing.

I hear my mother's voice: "Every morning, your Pitaji (paternal grandfather) would knock at our door at 4:00 for you. I had to be
decently dressed even at that hour. Do you know how hard it was or me?"

I didn't then!

But I do now!

My mother was barely nineteen then.

As an infant I spent every morning in my Pitaji's lap while he did his simran.

He filled my world with simran, sakhis and love for the Divine. His serenity was awe-inspiring. People of all faiths and from all
walks of life were drawn to him. He was my knight in shining armour - larger than life. My childhood memories are full of him.

In April 1970, he left this world. No one told me. But I knew. I was thousands of miles away at a boarding school in Simla, India.
That night I had a dream. I saw the Tenth Master - astride a blue horse and with a hawk on his wrist - take him away.

I screamed and screamed, "Please don't take my Pitaji, please don't take my Pitaji."

He was gone.

My world was shattered.

How could a loving Guru take away my Pitaji? Couldn't He have taken my grandmother instead - (she despised me)?

I was thirteen years old.

At age twenty, sitting on the steps of the Vatican with my husband,  I felt Pitaji's presence.

I sobbed. "How could you leave me?"

"I never did," he replied.

Scenes flashed before my eyes.

At that moment, I realized the gift I had received.

The birth of my first child - the most perfect baby - did wonders for me.

With her in my lap, I did simran (but not at 4 am, I must confess).

I sang out-of-tune shabads.

I blossomed.

The first five years of her life were magical for me.

I reconnected with my childhood and the soulful memories of Pitaji.

I was at peace.

A few years later daughter no. 2 arrived.

The Divine graciously chose to place another sparkling star in my lap.

All I want for my girls is what my Pitaji gave me.

No more, no less! 

*   *   *   *   *


Happy Father's Day!

First published on September 29, 2010; republished on Father's Day, Sunday, June 18, 2017.

Conversation about this article

1: Mlle S (Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.), September 29, 2010, 9:16 AM.

Wow ... You made me cry. My most peaceful memory is napping with my head in my grandmother's lap - each and every time I would go to visit her. There is something about the love of a grandparent that can bring us closer to the One Source.

2: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), September 29, 2010, 11:45 AM.

Inni ji: this could be my story too, but with a twist. In the wintry mornings in the early 50's around 4:00 am, our Bhaaiyya ji would first gently intone "Kaka ji, uttho" (get up, son). Now, just imagine the young boy who had been measuring the length and breadth of the streets and would not be easily woken at that ambrosial hour. Then would come the second call, a little louder and purposeful. If that didn't produce the desired result, it would soon follow with the final call, strident enough to wake the neighbours within a mile. In the meantime, his hands would reach my joorrah - "Oye, utthda wain ki naheen!". The horse had been brought to the water. Reluctantly, accompanied by yawns, the five banis were drilled in us, together with some 'chhakas' of Asa-di-Vaar. Inni, I think fathers are much gentler with their daughters. Obviously, the boys needed a firmer approach ... and therefore the stick played an important role. In the mid-60s, we had the good fortune to have Bhaaiyya ji spend a year with us on the plantation, and he spent most of his time in prayers. He would do a Sehaj Paatth almost every week, and had a car and driver at his command to take him to the Seremban Gurdwara daily. One day it so happened I had just returned home and saw our four-year-old daughter Vimal trying to reach for the electrical plug. I shouted at her to stop her in her tracks. When Bhaaiyya ji heard me, he came up with a 'tuk' from Asa di Vaar - "Mithhat neevee naankaa gun chan-aa tat" [GGS:470.13] - 'Sweetness and humility, O Nanak, are the essence of virtue and goodness!' I started to laugh. "Why are you laughing?" he asked. "Bhaaiyya ji, what happened to the humility and sweetness during our time?" I could still feel the ringing 10-pounder slap. "Oye, rehan vi dey na hun yaar!" - O, let us not dwell on those days!" By then, of course, Bhaaiyya ji had turned into the gentlest and sweetest of fathers, particularly when I needed him most to sit at his feet and learn about gurbani.

3: Harjeet Kaur Randhawa (Sydney, Australia), September 30, 2010, 12:04 AM.

Dear Inni: All I can say is that you were blessed to have such a saintly soul as a grandfather. I feel that having spent your early childhood in the company of such a spiritual person has definitely left an indelible mark on you as you strive to do service in your community. Those times when you felt his presence only confirmed the fact that he was always with you in spirit. I grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and religion played a very major role in my early life. Japji Sahib and Rehras were a must at dawn and dusk. We lived very close to the gurdwara in Sentul and very often it was a four o' clock wake up call as some raagi or parcharak was visiting from Punjab. Even today after so many years, I associate particular shabads with the raagis who rendered them and my mind wanders back to those beautiful and calm dawns. It was good meeting you just two days ago, Inni. Mandhir and I pray that Waheguru will give you the strength to carry on the task you have recently undertaken in writing 'Journey with the Gurus'. You know that Pitaji's blessings are with you.

4: Jugraj Singh Kahai (Gurgaon, India), October 01, 2010, 4:01 PM.

Those having saintly parents or grandparents are indeed lucky and blessed. I was lucky to come across one such person - father of S. Sangat Singh, who writes regularly for I met him because Sangat and I were in the same class and school, and we lived in the same lane in Lyallpur. I knew his father to be very strict because of what Sangat told me. But I never heard him with even a raised voice, but only as a gentle person. He had been a very rich man once, but the depression in the 30s left his business in ruin and he was heavily in debt. Like the God-fearing and honest person he was, he sold all his properties and belongings and paid off his creditors to the last paisa, and moved back to his village Dijkot, a poor man. He began again and, with his hard and honest work, was soon able to move back to Lyallpur (now Faislabad). Here, he rebuilt his life and business once again. But what was great about him was that he never once complained, always thanked the Gurus for whatever he had, and never used a dishonest method to make a fast buck. He therefore was never very rich again in monetary terms, but in moral values he was the richest person I have met in my life. Life had another severe blow for him: in the partition of Punjab and India, he had to move once again to move to Ludhiana, once again with no resources. Here he was allotted a house where he stayed the rest of his life. He spent it in hard and honest work and in regular prayers. His strict discipline and dedication to work and prayer made us, Sangat's friends, respect him and be unafraid. He left behind a great legacy for his children and grand children of hard and honest work, belief in the true values of Sikhi, and an uncomplaining way of life. I cannot give him a greater complement than to say he was a true Sikh.

5: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), October 01, 2010, 6:19 PM.

Thank you, Jugraj, for the piece on Bhaaiyya ji, as we both knew him. Apart from the strict Sikh way of life, he also instilled honest hard work strictly as ordained in 'Naam Japna, Kirat Karni and Wund Chhakhna' guideline. On a mundane level, we kids had to learn new skills during school holidays. Just one example: I had to learn touch-typing at the age of 10 or 11 that I still do and can bash some 40-45 wpm even today in the dark. The only regret was that I should have served him more, loved him more and sat at his feet to share his love for gurbani. Unfortunately, I had to leave India: "Nak nath khasam hath kiratdhakay dai/ Jahaa daanay tahaan khaanay naamkaa sach hay" [GGS:653.12] - "The string through the nose is in the hands of the Lord Master; one's own actions drive one on/ Wherever one's food is, there one eats it, O Nanak, this is the truth." We were lucky we had him in Malaysia in the mid-60's when he spent almost a year with us here and filled the house with his presence, blessings and prayers.

6: Jasjit Singh Grewal (Auckland, New Zealand), October 02, 2010, 9:13 PM.

Reading about my great-grand father was akin to discovering a Will that I did not know of, which had left such a treasure for us that it lay forgotten and buried until I saw the comments above and had a personal claim to his wealth. I admire his honesty and discipline to all fields in life. I am honoured to be apart of his dynasty and I hope his legacy continues to have an impact on me into the future.

7: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.), October 03, 2010, 10:00 AM.

Simple, soulful, focused - These words are reflective of your own person, Inni Kaur ji. You inspire us all.

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