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Brig Hardit Singh – Soldier-Saint
(An Obituary)

Lt Gen Kartar Singh*

I have come across a number of Sant Mahatmas in Punjab, who had retired from the Armed Forces. This does indicate that the Spartan life thereon, along with the scenes of death and suffering that they had witnessed during Wars, had their impact on these sensitive individuals. On retirement, they turn to God and tend to lead a hermit’s life. Our dearly loved and highly respected member – Brig Hardit Singh Ji, who passed away on 1st April, 2007, was one such Soldier-Saint.

Born on 7th March, 1919, in a village Panshta in Hoshiarpur District of Punjab, Hardit Singh lost his father at a very early age. His mother struggled for a living, and to help her and the family, he joined the Army soon after his matriculation in the year 1941. He was soon commissioned with the Punjab Regiment and took part in the Jammu and Kashmir operations in 1948. For his valour in the capture of Ramgarh, he was awarded ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’ and also nominated to the prestigious Staff College Course at Wellington in the Nilgiris, which he successfully completed in 1949. He commanded the 16 Madras (Travancore) Battalion and after a staff tenure was chosen to take charge as Commander, Madras Regiment Centre, once again at Wellington. After a very rewarding 4-year stint, he was posted as DIG Assam Rifles in the East. In 1962, he was promoted as a brigade and took charge of Jorhat Sub-Area during the Indo-Chinese War. After a short stint as an Infantry Brigadier Commander in the vital Chhamba area of J & K, he was selected by Gen Kalwant Singh to command and reorganise the fledgling Jammu and Kashmir Militia. For 4 years he went through the rigors of lifting the training and battle efficiency of his command until he succeeded in incorporating this force as a regular wing of the Indian Army. This was an outstanding achievement.

Having served in the substantive rank of Brigadier for 4 years, rules existing compelled him to retire at the early age of 48 years in1968. Shri Vishnu Sahai ICS, then Governor of J&K, was so impressed by this officer that he arranged to allot a petrol pump as a resettlement benefit to him for his distinguished service in the Army. And so started the retired service of this pious officer and he chose Chandigarh as his permanent abode. He was successful in whatever he did. As a poultry farmer he headed their Association and granted them facilities to sell their products directly in the flourishing Delhi market. Later, when he was allotted a petrol pump in Sector-21 Chandigarh, he left poultry farming and made a successful businessman. He helped in the re-employment of Ex-Servicemen in his business. Within a year his petrol pump was declared by Indian Oil Company as the highest selling pump in Northern India. This honour he carried on his shoulders for four years.
Now came the turning point in his life – the desire to spurn worldly wealth and turn to religion for solace. He became a total vegetarian and handed over the business to his son and family. He enjoyed writing for the IOSS Magazine and also took active part in their deliberations. At home he spent hours reciting the Guru Granth Sahib and absorbing its teachings. He piously applied the Guru’s gospel to his daily life, which was devoted to the service of others.

A very interesting fact of his life was his love and fascination for traveling. He was already member of the Bhai Vir Singh Study Circle and he used to visit Dehradun regularly. At this time, he lost vision from one eye due to Kala Motia. Doctors also diagnosed one of his heart valves as weak and needing replacement. He refused to undergo any operation. In fact this soldier who had a sterling record of never having been admitted in a hospital throughout his Army career believed in natural cure more than medication. For 20 years, he carried this so-called week heart valve without any medical attention. Bhagti was his daily diet and also his talisman for good health.

During his later years his sole interest was Sikh History and Sikh Religion. His advice to us at the IOSS was always most valuable and instructive. In my presentations on the “International Sikh Confederation” he listened most attentively and then wrote detailed comments on the contents and forwarded these to me. This was indeed invaluable in arriving at the final product. His was indeed a mature and sharp mind, honed by the hours of study that he had put in for years.

Hardit Singh Ji found God’s name in every object. The ticking of the clock, the whirr of the fan and the rhythmic sound of a running train were translated into music of God. He heard the word ‘Waheguru’ in all such music. His wife Mrs Lajwant Kaur, his son Col Harjit Singh and his daughters Harmesh and Kanwal were very devoted to him and took good care of him. He started spending many hours in Bhagti. He would be up at midnight and at all hours of day to be in communion with God. Age brought in a bit of fragility in health, but he suffered from no major health problem. His regimen was to have long walks, regular light diet and a heavy dose of prayer which he obviously enjoyed. His family was convinced that he had now achieved a rare peace of mind and a direct communion with God. They feel that he had a very definite premonition about his departure from the world. On his 88th birthday in March 2007, he invited all his family members and friends. There was a grand celebration followed by distribution of sweets to all staff members.

Three days before he left the world, he was admitted to command Military Hospital at Chandi Mandir. Because he shunned dependence on others, nurses found him to be a very co-operative patient. For three days he suffered medication and nursing. His loving family, including Harmesh Kaur, his daughter and son-in-law Brig. Gurdip Singh were with him during visiting hours. On Saturday, 1st April, his grandchildren went to visit him and they found their grandfather at peace with the world with a prayer on his lips and without a sign of pain; Hardit Singh Ji had left the world. A Soldier-Saint, who had left a deep imprint on his family and all around him, left this world for greener pastures. May Waheguru give us all the strength and will to emulate his pious and generous ways. May his family cherish his memories and follow in his footsteps. The members of IOSS and the ISC salute this outstanding human being.

 

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