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Dr Kharak Singh – My Mentor

Dr Gurbakhsh Singh*

Our whole class (admitted in 1945, Punjab Agricultural College and Research Institute, Lyallpur, in Faislabad, Pakistan) was hypnotised to listen to a young research scientist at the Risala Wala Water Management Research Farm Lyallpur. This was our first lecture (December 1945) outside the classroom delivered without any teaching aid, not even a black-board and we heard it while standing in the field green with early winter crops. When returning to the college all students had something to tell of their great impressions regarding the research teacher. The scientist explained the concept of the projects and techniques and programs of the research station effectively, clearly and convincingly. We all wanted to know, “Who was he.” The teacher told us, “He is Sardar Kharak Singh who topped the University examination. The topper of the university is honoured by appointing him without interview in the research project immediately as soon as the results are announced by the university.

The college was famous in Asia; students from Iran, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal were admitted under special quota. The admission from the applicants of the British (United) Punjab was on communal basis (12 Sikhs, 18 Hindus and 28 Muslims) and very difficult, because very good jobs were assured after graduation.

After partition in 1947 our classes were temporarily arranged at Khalsa College Amritsar and then shifted to Ludhiana. I got closer to Prof Kharak Singh, he having been appointed incharge of the Students Farm of the college. In 1956, he got selected to a class II post and to my great pleasant surprise, I was appointed in his place. He was a visionary and hence chosen to be the member of the Management Committee of the Gurdwara Singh Sabha Model Town, Ludhiana. I visited the same Gurdwara and was nominated to help him as Asstt Secretary there. This gave me a great rare chance to benefit from my association with him, both in the gurdwara management and in the technical administration of the Students’ Farm.

Prof Kharak Singh, Assistant Development Officer, Ludhiana, proved a great leader for motivating the farmers to adopt modern techniques as recommended by the University. His association with the Farmers’ Club and Mera Pind Mere Khet (Kheti Bari) Programme of All India Radio Jullundur proved very effective for this. Out of the seven districts chosen in India for the pilot projects of the Intensive Agricultural Development Programme, Ludhiana was rated number one.

Prof Kharak Singh was selected in 1960 for his Ph D programme in Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio in view of the government decision to upgrade Agricultural College, Ludhiana to Agricultural University. In 1961, I was chosen to follow him and get my higher degree from the same university. We were together there again. He had founded Sikh Studies Circle for the students in the university. The members, about 20 Sikh youth, met every Saturday. Each week a student selected one topic to discuss the life and teachings of a Guru, martyrs of Sikh faith or gurmat philosophy. Prof Singh also organised the celebration of the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev at the University level, in which teachers of the member students, their non-Sikh friends and some local families were invited. For the function, the Bir of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Sahib was arranged from Chicago gurdwara. When I reached Columbus, the convenorship of the Club was assigned to me to carry on the job left by Dr Sahib.

On return to India, Dr Kharak Singh joined the Agricultural Department and served the farmers till 1967, when he was picked up by Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome, of the UNO for a great International responsibility of helping the Middle East and African Countries. He was to guide and manage their development as Agriculture and Economic Advisor under FAO. From 1975-1977, he was approached to become Managing Director, Seeds Farms Corporation, New Delhi, India. As its Director, he led farmers delegation to the USSR. Because of his service appreciated by all, he was again called to Rome for the same job, where he remained till 1984.

Dr Sahib got voluntary retirement to serve humanity by spreading the message of gurbani and exposing some jealous scholars who intended to distort the glorious Sikh heritage and the universal message of sacred gurbani. After retirement, he settled at SAS Nagar, Chandigarh. With cooperation of some devoted and committed retired Sikhs from important IAS and Defence services, etc., he organised Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh, for this purpose. Our paths crossed again before the end of the last century and we worked together till the final day. After my retirement, with the same objectivism, I moved to the USA for sharing the great modern philosophy of Sikh heritage with the western youth (USA, Canada and UK). Dr Kharak Singh took a team of a dozen scholars to conduct Sikh seminars in the universities and cities where some western scholars were mis-representing facts about gurbani and Sikh history. More than half a dozen seminars held under the guidance of Dr Sahib exposed such scholars who were mis-guiding the western youth and general readers of the Sikh faith. All through, I was with the team and participated in the functions held in USA and Canada.

Dr Kharak Singh was nominated as member of the Dharam Parchar Committee, SGPC, Amritsar where my services to the western youth were appreciated by the members who visited these countries. They wanted me to educate the Sikh youth in the schools and colleges in Punjab and guide the Sikh preachers of the Committee. Dr Kharak Singh assured the committee that he can ask me to return to Punjab and volunteer his services for the youth as Director, Dharam Parchar.
I came to Chandigarh and stayed with him and continued to work under his unique guidance. Whenever I was not on parchar tour, our morning tea together was a session for planning our services for educating the Sikh community, particularly the youth, regarding the glorious and universal message of gurbani. This continued till God wanted him to be with Him. I will miss him every day whenever I talk to the youth or write any article for the persons interested in knowing the human values preached by gurbani and practised by the Khalsa.

The overseas and local telephonic messages received by me on the very next day of his departure to his eternal abode and also later on, touched my heart. I was convinced that his loss is not only to the family and personally to me but also to the whole Sikh Panth.

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