A piece of History : Tracing his Roots

launch of the book

Grandfather Sardar Sohan Singh Bajwa with his newly wedded wife decides to leave his ancestral home in Village Viring, Punjab in 1914. After a long arduous journey by sea the young couple touch the shores of Singapore. A new beginning ….history rolls out as Mr Anoop Singh the grandson traces his roots and the genealogical spread of the Bajwa family in his book, The Bajwas: A Family History.

The book dedicated to the fond memory of his grandparents, highlights the protagonist and philanthropist nature of Sohan Singh and the moral strength of Sardarni Harnam Kaur who holds the family together during stress, strain and war.

Some snippets… Sohan Singh started out as watchman and in 1923 he was elected a member of the Sikh Advisory Board, where he served for sixteen years till 1939. Mr M L Wynne, the Chairman of the Sikh Advisory Board, Singapore mentioned in a letter of certification dated 22nd May 1935 that Bhai Sohan Singh Viring, ‘is influential amongst the Maja section of the local Sikhs in particular, and amongst Sikhs of other sections in general. He is loyal and trustworthy and his support can be counted upon by the Government in matters relating to Sikh Affairs’.

He was a well-known leader of the Sikh community, helpful, sincere and a man of integrity who would stand his ground, no matter what. He was also blessed with the ability to heal sprains and even fractured bones.

During the attack on Singapore by the Japanese on 8th February 1942, Sikhs from other areas of Singapore took refuge at Sohan Singh’s place. In one of the aerial bombings Sohan Singh’s brother-in-law Surjan Singh lost his life when he was hit by a stray shell fragment.

The book also tracks and reveals the accomplishments and accolades won by various members of the family in various fields; sports, army, legal, teaching profession, music, list goes on. The family has produced outstanding sportsmen bringing glory to Singapore and almost everybody in the family is musically inclined. Ram Singh Bajwa, father of the author, was the first Sikh to sing on Radio Malaya in the 1950s when he rendered his own compositions.

His son, and brother of the author, Amarjeet Bajwa, an education consultant, gave up his management job to pursue his interest in music. In 2003 he became the first Singaporean to compose and direct music for an Indian artiste in an album titled “Arsh’. It was released in Singapore at the Raffles Hotel Jubilee Hall and funds donated to the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund. In May 2010 he released his second ghazal album, ‘Shaayar’, on legendary poet Daag Dehlvi and sung by reputed singer Padmashri Pankaj Udhas. This was followed by release of three more albums. Presently he is composing music again with Pankaj Udhas, on the poems of legendary poet Mirza Ghalib. His elder son, Amaraysh Bajwa is now creating a name for himself in music.

Grandfather Sardar Sohan Singh Bajwa

Beside sports and music the Bajwas have also set a world record.  Jasbir Singh Bajwa the grandson of Sohan Singh Bajwa became a world record holder in the Singapore 2001 Thinkathon with the highest number of ideas in one hour, a whopping ninety-four. His father Sulakhan Singh still holds the Anglo Chinese School shot putt record.

And of the 112 great grand-children, the majority are graduates, several with double degrees.

Consumed with the innate desire to uncover the roots that lay behind the accomplishments of the present generations of Bajwas and armed with myriad questions and a burning passion, Anoop Singh Bajwa started his quest asking his relatives for old photographs and documents pertaining to his grandfather’s period to start with. The research and write up took a few years including visiting Punjab, India a couple of times sourcing for valid documents, getting them translated from Shamukhi script to Punjabi, meeting up with relatives, several long hours in Singapore libraries and so forth. The hard and persistent work paid off.  The book was officially launched on the 6th of April 2013, at the Raffles Town Club, by Mr Inderjit Singh, Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC and his uncle Harbhajan Singh Bajwa (82 yrs old) amidst an august gathering of relatives and friends followed by lots of singing by the talented Bajwas.

Mr Inderjit Singh in his address lauded Anoop Singh on the pioneering effort, effort worthy to be emulated by others.

Definitely this a first book by a Sikh in Singapore tracing his roots and perhaps the first by an Indian in Singapore giving rich glimpses into the Singapore of the past.