‘Sikhs Unlimited’: London to LA via Punjab

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS

Chandigarh : At a time when the Sikh diaspora is set to complete a century of existence in the West, many of them settling to the riches of their adopted countries and thousands more aspiring to be part of those ‘greener pastures’, a book by a Punjab-based citrus farmer has attempted to chronicle the extraordinary lives of some of these enterprising Sikh men and women.

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First time author Khushwant Singh, 35, got the inspiration to write a book from his famous literary namesake in India during a meeting in 2004.

“Sikhs Unlimited” (Publisher: Rupa and Co) is a 200-page travelogue on 14 successful Sikh men and women based in Britain and the US who have through sheer enterprise and hard work earned a name for themselves and their progressive community.

From the ‘never-say-die’ spirit of 96-year-old illiterate marathon runner Fauja Singh – a global poster-boy of sportswear company Adidas’s ‘Nothing is impossible’ campaign and a resident of Ilford near London to the creative world of filmmaking of celebrated director Gurinder Chadha (“Bride and Prejudice” and “Bend It Like Beckham”) – the book takes you through a journey of the life and styles of global Sikhs.

It also traces US Army specialist Ranbir Kaur facing the harsh realities of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq to the ‘Rocket Sardar’ Chiranjeev Singh Kathuria who promises to make space tourism a reality for the affluent.

That some of these Sikh success stories in the West have impacted on the business and society of their adopted countries can be seen from the well-established $550 million Akal (Timeless) Security founded in 1980 by Gurutej Singh Khalsa – the inspiration for its creation being a racist remark from his New Mexico state police seniors that he would have to do away with his beard and long hair to work in the force.

Today, Akal Security provides security cover to one of the richest men in the world – with security orders worth $2.5 billion in the pipeline.

“I can now claim to till the land with a pen in hand,” author Khushwant, a farmer-cum-journalist-cum-writer, told IANS.

“I never wanted to pick up the obvious ones among successful Sikhs to feature in this book. A lot has been written about them. It wouldn’t have added value to the readers.

“Those featured here may not all be big names, but they have achieved a lot in whatever they are doing. The range (of those featured) is from first-generation Sikhs to those who are born American and British,” Khushwant, a mass communications post-graduate from Panjab University at Chandigarh, pointed out.

The farmer-author comes from a family of citrus fruit growers from Hoshiarpur district of Punjab. His family grows kinnows (a juicy orange-like fruit).

Khushwant was among the first ones to use the Internet to market kinnows produced at his hi-tech farms near Hoshiarpur.

“They might be the kinnow kings in Punjab but this book reflects another side of the author’s personality,” Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, a Bar-at-law from Britain and citrus fruit grower himself, remarked as he released the book Saturday.