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Smile Gurnam Singh and Company - Chandigarh - Foot – Prints Of a Journey By Gurnam Singh De

Foot – Prints Of a Journey By Gurnam Singh Dera Bassi
Editor
Sham Singh
Translated from Punjabi by Gurdial Singh Aarif SHABADKAR
CHANDIGARH
Foot Prints of a Journey
Autobiograhy by
Gurnam Singh Dera Bassi
Kothi No. 550 Sector 33-B
Chandigarh (India)
Phones: (0172) - 652550, 653550, 655550 (Office)
(0172) – 607550, 606550 (Residence)
Mobile: 98140-14550
First Published: 1999
© Author
Cover Photograph by
Hardev Chauhan
Published by
Shabadkar
3437 Secor 46-C
Chandigarh – 160047
Printed at
Mona Enterprises
Naveen Shahdara, Delhi-32
Dedicated
To
The profound memory of
Dear son Amardeep Singh
Who left us on that fateful day
27th September, 1990.
Everything is not the same ever since.
CONTENTS
1. Genesis of an Autobiography/Sham Singh/
2. The Inspiration the Source/ Harbhajan Singh Halwarvi/
3. Translator’s Note/ Gurdial Singh Aarif /
4. The Millen /
5. Birth and childhood /
6. Getting Married /
7. A Sequence of Employments /
8. To be or Not To Be /
9. Maundering through Doiwale Jungle /
10. The Places and the Occupations /
11. The Struggle Thickens /
12. Assam Through Jaunpur /
13. Deep in the Sea /
14. Farewell to ETO /
15. At Khetri Kapar /
16. Good-bye to Khetri Kapar /
17. Arrival of the Machine at Dera Bassi /
18. Sinking the First Tube-well /
19. The Company Rides the Tide /
20. Daughter Jasbir Weds /
21. Hunting Scrap market for Machines /
22. Son Gurdarshan Weds /
23. Daughter Surinder Weds Gurmukh Singh Giran /
24. A Promise Cut Short /
25. Sauntering in Alien Lands /
26. A Journey of the Far East /
27. The Other End of the Globe /
28. An Excursion of Murry Fall /
29. Jiwan Singh and Other Friends /
30. Conference at Melbourne /
31. The Homecoming /
32. The Punjab’s Trauma /
33. Sain Bhawan at Chandigarh /
34. Entering Politics /
35. Further Grooming in Politics /
36. A Doordarshan Programme /
37. Awakening /
38. My Aim /

Genesis of an Autobiography
In 1987, during a meeting with S. Gurnam Singh at his bungalow in Dera Bassi, I happened to hear from him what seemed distinctive as well as diverting. Sensing the need of the time I dared to suggest :Why don’t you put these things in black and white?” He simply replied, “I am hardly a writer.” My suggestion seemed being swept away by the winds of time, because I could not say that I would pen it down. Had I said that, the suggestion would have perhaps taken a practical shape. Time passed on. The suggestion was forgotten.
One winter morning I, accompanied Shri M.C. Bhardwaj the former Chairman of the Panjab Khadi Board, went to Dera Bassi, when S. Gurnam Singh’ bungalow was surrounded by blooming flowers. Strolling on the grassy lawns I remarked, “This delectable natural environment provokes one to write poetry.” The two brothers Gurdarshan and Amardeep retorted, “You may write poetry, if you so desire, but don’t start reciting to us.” We would indulge in such light-hearted repartee and this developed a bond of affection between us. My nearness with the members of the family grew. Casual remarks reminded S. Gurnam Singh of my suggestion. He wouldn’t say any things direct, but the tone and tenor of his remarks showed that he considered my suggestion worth heeding.
All at once, one day he talked to me for a long time and I took some notes. Thereafter, during some more meetings I used two or three note books, and to end. I made up my mind and started writing the story of his life. Some 15 pages I got typed and gave him to read. He was yet going through those pages when I changed my mind. It so conspired that instated of writing his biography I recommended that he should write his autobiography. He found it hard but then in about half a year he had penned three of four large-size registers and continually kept dispatching for me to read and improve if need be. The autobiography began to show its features and an ordinary man appeared marching through the maze of his life, stumbling, facing hardships and undergoing pains and pleasures of existence. And soon an autobiography took shape.
While reading and vetting the manuscript, I could not but realize that the writer slumbering inside S. Gurnam Singh who had not let the old memories fade from the canvas of his mind had just been awaiting a hint and was conjured out at a touch.
S. Gurnam Singh is an adept in drilling water out of the earth and can sense the presence and gauge the quantity of water at a spot. Doing the job of drilling tubewells, he became such an expert that the sobriquet “tubewell engineer” got automatically attached to his name. S. Gurnam Singh who once during his youth had thought of committing suicide, had not the slightest idea that in the days to come he would not only get rid of penury himself but would also help in mitigating poverty by providing livelihood to others. He has acquired such drilling machines that not only in the province, but even in the entire country he is matchless.
S. Gurnam Singh’s triumphant journey of life from poverty to properity is the result of his high thinking, courage and industry, which can serve as a beacon light for those people who are scared of facing defeat. “Merain Paidan, Mera Safar” the autobiography written by him is also a true story of a family, variegated pictures on the dilapidated walls of the by-gone days and a full-flooded current of culture. A reading of this books affords an opportunity to see the glimpses of the various provinces of the native land as well as alien climes.
I earnestly hope that simplicity and fondness that have gone into the writing of this book will assist the readers to go through it with interest.


Chandigarh Sham Singh



The Inspiration, the source
The Panjabi Literature is very deficient in the genre of autobiography. The main reasons is that the majority of writers lack profundity of experience of life. If some person has an abundant wealth of experience, it doesn’t necessarily follow that he is also blessed with talent and training for writing. Most of the autobiographies that have been penned in Panjabi are not capable of leaving an indelible impact on the reader. The fats that impress, originate in some person’s redoubtable and amazing success in the teeth of hard and insurmountable circumstances. The autobiography cannot achieve its goal by recounting the day-to-day mundane activities. This goal is to provoke the reader for the pursuit of a task deemed impossible or the attainment of an end considered unattainable, by citing illustrations from the struggle for life. Such an autobiography serves as a beacon-light for the readers in the thick gloom of despair, and brings in bold relief the excellence of initiative and action. Only a man of practical experience is capable of writing such a life-story.
S. Gurnam Singh Dera Bassi is a man of action and exercise whose autobiography “Merian Paidan Mera Safar” published last year has stood this test. It is the story of man of initiative, who has attained such a success by means of unlimited dedication, honestly, sincerity, enduring lust for learning and untiring struggle as may prove to be a source of inspiration for countless men in the present day environment of dismay.
The incidents relating to the writer’s family background of penury and privation, inadequate education, burden of responsibilities fallen on his young shoulders, craving for suicide born of desperation due to back-breaking hardship and directionless journey, and subsequently resurgent love for life, awakened by the glow of pomp and cheer of common existence constitute the fabric of the initial part of the book. The earlier portion is the story of any indefatigable struggle and quest for a goal. It is also an account of his growth from an ordinary worker into a skilled technician. The second portion portray his efforts to reach prosperity by adopting the profession of boring deep tubewells with a spirit of perseverance and dedication and making great achievements in this sphere in a short span of time. The next portion provides a brief information about his family along with a description of his foreign travels and his philanthropic activities.
The autobiography is not confined to only a narration of good and bad occurrences in the private life of S. Gurnam Singh and his family. It also embraces so many other interesting details which are the foundation as well as the manifestation of this book’s being an excellent literary work. The writer as presented an interesting picture of the social and cultural milieu of his childhood and youth, in which much that was fading away, and nascent features of the newly woven social texture are noticeable. In addition to these details, his visits to different places in connection with his employment, pleasant and unpleasant experiences in respect thereof, brief but meaningful review of the conduct and virtues and vices of his colleagues, conditions of those regions, difficulties, hardships, grim struggle, high morale, deep faith in goodness, planning for future, gratitude towards the supporters, helping the needy and proclivity towards social service are the other aspects which have got spontaneously and effortlessly assimilated into variegated material of the book. The style of writing in untouched by any artificiality, because when one has much to communicate, the unrestricted flow of the writing elevates it to a level of excellence. Truth needs no ornamentation, its beauty lies in its simplicity.
The publication of “Mera Paidan Mera Safar” has demonstrated that the writer’s being an established man of letters is not a pre-requisite for the creation of a good autobiography. Rather the creation of such a book can bestow the status of a talented writer on its creation. With this faith I feel pleasure and pride in presenting this revised edition of book.


Chandigarh Harbhajan Singh Halwarvi
Translator’s Note


I am greatly pleased to present this English rendering of “Merian Paidan Mera Safar” the autobiography of S. Gurnman Singh Dera Bassi. S. Gurnam Singh is no established writer, but he has commanded reverential attention with the maiden outpouring of his facile pen.
As a critic has remarked, writing an autobiography is like performing a post-mortem operation on oneself. While in other genres of literature, imagination is allowed free and full play, in autobiography its prowess to be confined to the use of language, whereas the substance has and ought to be treated with complete truthfulness and objectivity. But it is very difficult to be objective about one’s own personality and past. In most of the autobiographies, there is a tendency on the part of the writher to indulge in self-pity, to invoke others’ sympathy and to magnify his or her attainments. S. Gurnma Singh story is free from these defects. In fact, Punjabi straightforwardness has come in handy to him, and no inferiority complex or sense of embarrassment on account of his humble beginning or scant formal education is noticeable. Nor is any self-glorification over his astounding successes perceptible in the book.
Every good autobiography makes an impact on the readers and leaves a message. And in believe this one is a good autobiography. Its message is loud and clear. God helps those who help themselves. The fiercer the strife, the greater the strength of character one needs to wage it. His life-story makes it patent that there is no hurdle that can not be crossed by a good runner. Every mountain is surmountable for a person who has the will to win the reward waiting for him, beyond. I am sure its reading will inspire and exhort may a dispirited person. A stanza from the American poet H.W. Longfellow is very relevant here :
Lives of great men all remind us,
We can make our lives sublime.
And departing leaves behind us
- footprints on the sands of time.
Such ‘rags to riches’ stories where common in the formative years of America, but in India they are comparatively rare. However, I feel that the last lie of Longfellow’s above verse can provide an appropriate title for the English version of G. Gurnam Singh’s autobiography. Implicit in the book is a wider perspective. S. Gurnam Singh was born and spent his early years in one of the villages that were evacuated to create Chandigarh. His village Saini Majra had been situated where the residents of the City Beautiful cremate their dead today. Thus serving as a backdrop for Gurnam Singh’s personal struggle are the birth pangs of this new city, uprooting of innocent villagers, annihilation of a cultural identity, destruction of ancient, and incarnation of the modern. As it were, Chandigarh, the City Beautiful was rising like the mythical bird phoenix out of the ashes of Gurnam Singh’s native area.
S. Gurnam Singh’s style is simple, spontaneous and chaste, free from any sophistication whatsoever, reminding one of the manner of Biblical English. It augments the readability of the book. In the original Punjabi version the author had used some words of the local dialect, Puadhi which are not a part of standard Punjabi literary diction, which seemed archaic. In fact, I had to ask the author why they meant. However, the reader of the English version will not have this difficulty.
I wish S. Gurnam Singh a long life and addenda to this book, recounting his new experiences.

3091, Sector 21-D, Gurdial Singh ‘Aarif’
Chandigarh 156.891
179. 159

The Milieu

The present day Sector 25 of Chandigarh was once the site of a flourishing village Saini Majra which was also called Bodi Majra. According to village elders, a senior residents of the village, Wadhawa Ram who was 6 feet 6 inches tall had a 7 foot long bodi (Tuft of hair) on his head. He had a stentorian voice that could be heared upto two miles away. If, at the time of night he stood at an altitude and gave a loud call, Punnu Mistri at the sugarcane press in the nearby village Balolpur would hear him and reach the sugarcane press in Saini Majra. The village was called Bodi Majra after him.
Of course, there are numerous other amusing things. The water level in the village being high and the water beings deficient in iodine, many person in the village developed large round pouches of flesh hanging from their throats below the chin. They were called gilladh (Thyroid). An elderly man of the village, Baba Bholia had a thyroid weighing about nine seers. On his account an epithet ‘Gilladh wala’ got attached to Saini Majra. Means of transport were scant in the area and people had to carry grain for milling from Saini Majra to Mani Majra (Panchkula) on head or by bullock cart. Sometimes it took two or three days.
Once Baba Bholia went to Panchkula with two maunds of corn of milling. The next day while he was trudging back on his way he noticed in the village Kailar (where not Sector 24 is perched) a drum being beaten and open challenge wrestling bouts being held. Several well-built and strong wrestlers were showing feats of wrestling. A pole with a flag for the championship was pitched at the centre of the arena and the prize money tied in a handkerchief was hung with the pole. They had announced two and a half balls a jaggery and one a quarter rupees as the prize. A young wrestler was openly throwing a challenge. “Let any one come forward and contest with me for this championship.” But nobody dared to wrestle with him. Hearing the challenge of the young wrestler Baba Bholia was beside himself. He removed the coarse cotton towel from his head, used it for the loin cloth and got ready to contend. In the twinkling of an eye he made the young wrestler fall flat, and went his way with the material – the jaggery and other provisions, and of course, carrying his sack of wheat flour. Before reching his village he finished the whole of jaggery enroute. It is not a child’ play to eat eight seers of jaggery, but the Baba swallowed it and also digested it.
Several trees and old wells still recall to me the memories of my childhood. My orchard of jamora trees is extant yet and is now in Government’s possession. There is a date tree – which a singular example – may be about 100 feet tall any may have braved 500 summers and winters.
The parental home of my grand mother Mehtab Kaur was in the village Manauli. It was the house of S. Inder Singh and S. Charan Singh. She left for her heavenly abode at a ripe age of eighty years. She had to bear the burden of the household duties on her young shoulders after the demise of Baba Moti Singh. My father Arjan Singh and uncle Puran Singh were, then aged ten and six respectively. My father Arjan Singh had been married to my mother Basant Kaur at a tender age and her younger sister was wedded to uncle Puran Singh. My mother Basant kaur looked after my grand mother Mehtab Kaur very dutifully as the latter had lost her eyesight in her last days. Mata Basant Kaur also expired in 1974, having attained an age of 80 years while my father Arjan Singh left for the other world on 6th August, 1971.
When I cam of age, my grand mother told me that we had nailed from the village Naglian near Khizarabad. On investigation we were told by S. Prem Singh, a ninety year old elder of ours (who had been a renowned writers of some area) and S. Pritam Singh wrestler of village Nihulka (who was an uncle to me) that before we shifted to village Naglian, we had been, around the year 1700, living in huts and shacks in the village Ranjitpura (to the north of Rampur Sainian). This is corroborated by the fact that in the military area near the village Barwala there is a small temple dedicated to a young woman of our family who had burnt herself on the pyre of her husband, and became sati. I obtained some information from S. Malook Singh, Sarpanch of village Rampur Sainian, also. This is what I learnt about the sati temple. As was customary in those old days, when a girl attained the marriageable age, the vaillge barber on pandit would arrange the betrothal of boys and girls as they deemed fit. The parents would be informed later. In this case is ill luck would have it, the girl was engaged at one place by the barber and at another place by the Pandit. All this happened through lack of communication. The date of marriage was confirmed, but on the particular day a bridal party for each of the two alliance arrived. Both the parties while staking their claims came to a scuffle and in the ensuing skirmish the bridegroom of bride’s choice was killed. The girl decided to become a sati and die with him. In those days the family of a sati was held in great esteem. Now our kins-folk of Kabarwala sub-caste are settled at different places including Nihulka, Maani, Nalagarh, Ghanauli, Saini Majra, Kikkranwala, Sirhind, Chandigarh, Dera Bassi, Roshanpur, Jhangian, Barrara (Haryana) and some places abroad. Even now several people come there every year on the Diwali day to pay homage and circumambulate the temple to express gratitude for their attainments during the year and to seek blessings for the new-wed couples and new born sons. At the time they bring khichdi ( a saltish preparation of rice and pulses), desi ghee and curds which are liberally served to the congregation.
Around the year 1700 A.D. the Muslims were in the ascendant. The Hindus were being forcibly converted to Islam. May be our ancestors, out of fear accompanied Shri Guru Gobind Singh ji upto Khizarabad while he was moving from Paonta Sahib to Anandpur Sahib and settled down at the village Naglian. In those days people made ditches along the banks of flowing streams or dug Kachcha wells to procure drinking water. One day the grandmother of my grandfather had a dispute with another woman over precedence to draw water at the well. The other woman taunted her, “If you are so self-respecting, why don’t you have your own well dug to get water? This well was dug by our own people.” The taunt so inured the feelings of our ancestor that she broke her pitcher then and there and pledged that no member of her family would drink water from that well. They gathered their cattle and chattels and shifted to the village Nihulka. The time moved on and conditions changed for the better. The family grew and our ancestors Gopal Singh, Moti Singh and Hari Singh moved from Nihulka to Saini Majra. Saini Majra was just a new settlement when our elders arrived to live here. Baba Hari Singh and Gopal Singh were serving in the army of the Maharaja of Patiala.
We were told by an elder that at that time the soldiers on the camels were held in great awe. They ravaged the crops of the farmers. One day in that village the crops were damaged by the camels. The farmers gathered together and thrashed the soldiers well. It was the reign of the English. The country was in bondage. Nobody could event get hearing. To wreak vengeance the soldiers on the camels ruined the whole village. The army also suffered some losses. There were injuries on both sides but then the two sides came to terms. Our ancestors played a significant role in the settlement of dispute.
On the other side Baba Deru Ram and his son Bahi Chanan Singh Lambardar had continued to reside in the village Nihulka. The Government had granted them one Marabba Land in Lyallpur Chak 35 and permission to maintain a mare. Our cousins S. Gurdev Singh and Sant Ajit Singh were his sns. Sant Ajit Singh had renounced domestic life to serve and look after Gurdawar Pariwar Vichhoda, while the big family of the other elders Mewa Singh, Hakim Singh, Gain Singh, Mahinder Singh and Ram Singh (who was to shotput national champion of Malaysia) are in Malaysia. There used to be in our village an old man Bhaju (Bhajan Singh) who cured ailments with a powder of his own prescription. He was no less than Vaid Dhanwantri for the people. He also performed minor operations with his knife.
In the year 1940 in this village, Saini Majra falling under Police Station Chandi Mandir in district Ambala there were only 25 Saini families which all were of Mehndwan and Girn Gotras. Only our family which had come to settle there was of Kabarwal Gotra and was known as Nihulke Wale. Our elders were serving in the army of Maharaja Patiala and two of them who were at home tilled land to feed the family. My father S. Arjan Singh and Uncle Puran Singh were the sons of S. Moti Singh, who in addition to agricultural work, accepted some old chores and carried on casual trading. They would purchase camels and horses from Bikaner and sell them here. Similarly they brought bullocks etc. of fine breed from Narnaul and Hissar and disposed them of. They also did the job of civil guards by which they received two rupees for every young man they got enlisted in the British army. They were also in the forefront in social service. My uncle Puran Singh who was an agricultural had only three sons. S. Didar Singh grew to be a good mechanical foreman, Mehma Singh occupied himself with farming; and the youngest of them, Mohinder Singh worked at the tubewells.
My elider borhter S. Waryam Singh was senior to me by 10 ears. In 1941 he got himself enlisted in the army and participated in the battles in foreign lands during the Second World War. He used to talk about the area of Chaman. After the conclusion of war, on being released from the army, he returned home in 1947. At home he purchased some buffaloes and started selling milk, but the venture did not succeed. Then he joined the Panjab Police and retired as Inspector. Now he is looking after his alnd and as a second string to his bow, his son Amarjit Singh and he work as tentage suppliers at Dera Bassi. Two sons of Amarjit Singh, Harpreet Singh and Prem Pal are studying in a college and looking forward to getting degree in engineering.
My elder sister Gurdial Kaur was married to S. Santokh Singh of Kheri Salabatpur. She has three sons and a daughter. Her eldest son Sarmukh Singh has retired as E.T.O. and the youngest, Manmohan Singh is working in Italy. Her third son Gurmej Singh is at home looking after the land, and is earning a respectable living. Earlier his farming was in chak No. 36 in Lyallpur District in Pakistan. His younger sister was married in the village Isapur and the family is prospering. Her Sons, Kirpal Singh and Pritam Singh are drilling tubewells and thus serving the country, and her other two sons are working at home. Initially I had taken Kripal Singh in my employment to train him at Khetri. For some time he was the Sarpanch of the village Isapur.
The third and the youngest sister Dalbir Kaur is in Malayis and is, along with her life partner Bachan Singh, running her business. All her children are the citizens of Malaysia. Their son Gurcharan Singh as a renowed building contractor.

Birth and Childhood

Saini Majra was inhabited by Saini families. I was born of Mata Basant Kaur on 05th December, 1932. A man of resignation, my father Arjan Singh earned living for his family by cultivating land and doing other odd jobs. In those day agriculture was largely dependent on nature because for the land of the entire village there were only two Persian wheels worked by bullocks. The rest of the land relied on rains. There was no scarcity of water in the wells at that time. The level of the water was just 10 to 15 feet below the surface but no good means of irrigation were prevalent. The water of the old well was so cool that drinking it was constantly refreshing. The well was at a distance of five or six kilometers. The women-folk and young damsels of the entire village went to groups to fetch water and returned home chatting while each balancing two water-filled pitchers on the head on holding another on the side. At that time it was considered very necessary for a newsly marked bride to go out of the house wearing a Ghaggra ( a large petticoat). My wife Labh Kaur also had been using Ghaggra for several years.
In the season of mangoes an additional charm was lent to the scene, while ripe mangoes would fall from the tree beside the old well. The village pond had its own splendour, on the banks of which peepal and bunyan trees had grown. It appeared that they must have lived for several decades, because their branches had spread on and on by striking aerial roots into the soil around. During the summer days the children would ride their buffaloes into the pond and enjoy swimming. I did not know how to swim. One day I lost hold of the buffalo’s tail that I was grasping for support. I was desperately struggling for survival in water when my cousin Mehma Singh noticed me. But for his help I would have been drowned in the pond.
During summer days, the villages folk, after finishing their jobs, would assemble under the shady trees and play cards and other games. Some of them brought their cots and enjoyed a siesta.
Kidar Nath, the barber from the nearby village Mullanpur Garibdas who assisted the people during engagements and marriages would keep squatting in a corner. He carried a message to every house about sad or happy happenings. Sitting there he pared the nails and cut the hair of the men-folk that came there. A hair cut given by him made the head look like a verdant crop browsed by stray cattle or left it fully clean, fit to be stroked by others. Strange were the ways of Raunki Ram, blacksmith’s smithy where the farmer’s ploughshares, hoes, sickles and other implements kept lying for whetting and grinding. Inder and Kabul Chand of village Kailar (now sector 24) did the carpentry jobs for the residents every day and lent the warmth of their humorous nature to the environment. The two brother were never tired of repairing the farmers’ ploughs and yokes. Making gilli dandas ( a short stick and small wooden piece pointed at both ends) for children, and preparing laundering cudgels and churning contrivances for the women was an every day work for them. Pleasing others was a pleasure for them.
It was in 1940. I may have been seven years old. At that time we lived in a house made of mud. Other houses of the villages also were made of mud. The streets and drains also were unbricked. In front of some of the houses there were wooden ladders for climbing on to the roofs. In front of some houses there were shacks covered with rushes to give shelter to the cattle. In April, 1939 I was admitted to the primary school at Kailar. The school was at a distance of two kilometers. I used to be accompanied by my other school mates from my villages. I always shirked going to school. The elder brother of my father watched my movements and observed that I looked for some pretext to miss the school. He thought that I would not be regular at school, unless trashed properly. I still remember the day when my elder brother and father chased me with sticks and shoes upto the door of the school. A boy and a hoe keep fit only if they are ground properly. I thought that it was better to be slapped by the teacher than being beaten with shoes.
I firmly resolved to go to school, but my mind was not at ease. When I plastered my wooden writing board, I felt like throwing my satchel, slate and the board into the temple’s pond. However, Master Jamna Das showed to leniency event to the son of the biggest man of the village. He flogged the chowdhry’ son Karma in the same manner as me. Then my interest in studies grew. One of my companions Swaran Singh was older than I and he stammered while speaking. He had been admitted to the school at the age of eleven. He was weak in studies. One day Master Jamna Das made him stand and started beating him with his stick. In response, he snatched the stick from the Master, broke it and hurled it away under his leg. Pouring abuse on the master, he ran out of the school and never returned. Similarly I was witness to another such happening. There was an old neem tree near the school the roots of which had been badly denuded due to erosion of soil with rains. A Rajput boy Amrao Singh of village Kailar was my school-mate. Their house was contiguous to our school as soon as he found an opportunity he would stand on the roots of the neem tree facing his house and would hurl obscene abuse on his uncles. One day, on being asked, Master Jai Kishan who, too, had been born and brought up in that very village said “Dear, his father etc. also used to abuse their parents in this manner. He is only repaying them.”
In 1940, I was eight year old and was studying in the second standard. The day it rained was a source of delight for us. “O God let in rain on; let our houses be filled with grains”. We would make an excuse that the brooklet enroute was flooded and this pretext was good enough for missing the school. We would stay at home and have fun. My younger sister Dalbir Kaur had not been put to school. At that time in villages the girls were not sent to school. The villagers believed that the girls got spoiled at school my mother was rather lenient about my staying at home, while my father spared no effort to send me to school. He had a great experience of live and did not want that his son should remain illiterate. But when it rained our wish would be fulfilled. We would be overjoyed. Were it the month of Sawan and the rain falling, our mother would prepare gulgulas (sweet fried flour balls) and poodas (sweet of saltish fried cakes). Making oil and sugar available she would send me to pluck some leaves of peepal or bunyan tree to serve as spatulas. I would envelop myself in a coarse cotton sheet and fetch the leaves under the spattering rain, while our mother served to us the hot sweet gulgulas and sweet or saltish poodas. Our mouth would water at the sight of soft gulgulas. She would go on cooking and we gulping down. Even now when we think of those gulgulas and poodas, our mother’s affection comes back alive. Sweet solution of wheat flour can even now be prepared, but how can we retrieve the sweetness of her love? We would eat our fill and the rain would continue.
We would plan playing some game inside the house and would start playing hide and seek. We would hide in the nooks and corners of the large hall (which stood supported by a wooden pillar) dark anter-rooms closets and behind the grain-bins. The one whose turn was to locate others kept groping in the dark while the others rolling themselves like a thread-ball and holding their breath would lie behind some trunk or box in a feline crouch. We would also pray to God that it should keep raining. The sound of the pouring gargoyles seemed pleasing. We begged of God that the roof of our house should not leak and should remain in sound condition. Occasionally the muddy wall of some house was heard crashing. We would be frightened and our hearts would start pounding. Falling of any house seemed a bad omen. Somebody’s straw-roofed shanty would start leaking. The cattle tethered therein would start shrinking. The streets also, being unbricked, would become muddy and we would slip and slide. We would quarrel over trifled but get reconciled in no time. Grievance would be forgotten and buddies would play together. After the rain, the colourful rainbow would appear and at its slight every one of us would shout, “I would be first to ride the old woman’swing.”
The Panjab is called the land of fairs. A large number of fairs were held around Chandigarh… Kailar fair, Gugga fair at Dhanas, Jayanti Devi fair at village Jayanti majri, Religious fair at village Lambain etc. But Mansa Devi fair at Mani majra would attract large crowds for three days. The people would bring their new-wed couples, new born infants and cattle from very distant places and pray for prosperity. A he-goat would be sacrificed (A tip of the goat’s ear would be clipped) at the altar of the goddess. All classes of people would bring their offering. At the fair, the sugarcanes (Ponda of red, pink colour) were delicious to eat. Every year we brought home some. We liked to eat bhallas (fried cakes of pulse flour), boondi (fried globules of gram flour). Sweet ‘n’ sour gol guppas (crisp round cookies), potato cakes, and to drink soda water from bottles with marbles. One thing which is wroth mentioning about this fair is that several villages in the area were inhabited by the Jat community. There were two Jat Gotras – Tiwanas and Baidwans – which had close and amicable relationship between them. I Kalibad, Kailar, Shahpur, Rudki, Saini, Majra etc., villages people of Tiawana sub-caste had a majority, while Baidwas were the dominant Gotra in villages Kumbda, Sohana and Mataur. In those days (i.e. prior to 1940) they would come to the fair and cause a violent uproar. They would never fight with weapons but hold bamboo sticks. The people of the two sub-caste would organize themselves in separate groups and attack each other trying to make the rival group flee the fair. The battle was never intended to kill any body, but many received serious injuries. The companions of the injured would take them home in the bullockcarts and dress their wounds. Then they would send to their rivals jaggery-ball as a challenge for them tocome prepared for the mock fight at the next year’s fair. When the sticks would be broken they would use thick ponda sugar – canes instead of sticks. Nobody would report the matter to a police station. The area was under the police stations of Chandi Mandir and Kharar.
My father commanded great respect and affection among the people. Even at the police station and the court he was shown full regard. Any officer coming to take a round of the village would make it a point to visit our house and give us his good wishes. At our house here was no discrimination on the basis of caste of colour. “No body is a foe or an alien, we are on good terms with every one.” Once in a year we performed worship at our place as per custom. There was no gurdwara in our village, but for the worship we would bring the holy incarnation of Guru Granth Sahib from Subedar Duni Singh’s house in Daddu Majra with full respect. The duties of the priest would be performed by Bhai Teja Singh of village Kailar who was a well known granthi of the area. At night when he relaxed after the recitation, he would be keen to listen to a song crammed by me, which I sang in a childlike lisp. The burden of the song was “May you die O Teja Singh; You made me carry the bushel. May you die O Teja Singh.” He would be pleased to hear it sung by me again and again. He would feel elated and would return to his village Kailar with the same feeling of elation. My father and another friend Nihang Phumman Singh of village Jhampur, who used to serve langar (the common food) at the marriages and other social assemblages himself and very ardently. When I was a child he would lift me in his lap and play with me.
The financial condition of our family not being sound, the house could not be built of baked bricks. With the addition of two sons and three daughters, it became very difficult to make both ends meet. Consequent upon the division of ancestral property, my father got only seven bighas (1/2 or 5/8 acre) of land. He earned a living by means of strenuous labour. We had, however, milch cattle, and milk and ghee where adequately available. There was a tradition in our family – older than our grandmother. Every Sunday and moonless night were observed as thaee ( a ceremonial day). On these days all milk and curds available in the house had to be consumed before the dawn of the next day. I had to take ten seers of milk as my share. No other food was cooked on such days. It was ordined by our grandmother that milk was to be taken in a tall looped glass or a bronze bowl, which could contain one seer of milk or curd. While in third or fourth standard. I had attained impressive height and on holidays it was my duty to take the fuffaloes and other cattle to graze in the fields or near the brook. Besides thaee, on five days milk had to be churned with the wooden churn-dash to extract butter and we were given half churned milk to be taken along with a ball of butter. We would mow fodder from the fields and crush it with a hand chopper to feed the cattle. My younger sister as well as the elder ones assisted me in my work. In my childhood I received full affection from my parents and soon I was able to share their burden of work.
Near the village a big stream flowed, on which account eh natural growth of gass and vegetation was luxuriant. We along with our age-mates would go out for grazing the cattle and enjoy the vast expanse of nature. A cross the stream at a distance of about two kilometers from Dhanas and our villages Saini Majra, another village named Kanji Majra was situated. The boys from that village also joined us. Leaving our cattle to the care of one of our companions we would divide ourselves in two teams and play various games. Kabaddi, wrestling, tug-of-war, phind-khoondi (a game like hockey) and gilli-danda were the popular games of those days and a source of great merriment. The stream abounded in rushes and reeds and therefore, hares were generally available for hunting. While hunting, we would transgress into the farm house of Badam Baba farmer and smash his earthen hubble-bubble. We would relish his abusive language, but would always escape his pursuit. In the months of May and June, all crops having been harvestd, the fields would be bare. The unrchins with wooden staves in hands and accompanied by mongrels and stray dogs would set out to hunt the hares and bring back a couple of crushed animals.
When I was in the third and, later, in fourth class. I went to the forest with a saw and an axe, and brought some wood and prepared to toy plough therefrom. I yearned to make more of such things. I had been inspired to inculcate this hobby from our carpenter Kabul Chand. For doing this work I had tools like axe, chopper, saw and carpenter’s chisel. I had prepared a chisel from an iron strip and a drill to bore holes and my place of work was fixed at the foot of the door frame which is still fixed in our office at Dera Bassi as an old memento. I can recall that I had taken fancy to this carpentry as early as in 1940 which ultimately developed into an obsession to do something.
All types of students used to come to study at our primary school at Kailar. The primary schools used to be at a distance of three to four miles, while lower middle and middle schools used to be eight or ten miles apart. The big and strong children used to impose their authority on the smaller ones. We had in our class a Muslims boy of this type. Basheer Mohammad who used to beat every one of us. One day we conspired to join together to face him. So, one day, he was walking alongwith us with an evil intention and stood in the way of one of us. This was what we had been waiting for. What followed was that we thrashed him well with shoes, fisticuffs and wooden slates. He forswore to misbehave in future. A similar treatment had to meted out to another boy, Jasmer Singh of Shahpur village. The adage that every malady needs its own different remedy proved to be true. We gave him a severe beating in the same manner. He never came in the way again.
In 1943 having passed out of the primary school Kailar, I joined the lower middle school at Kalibad (the site of sector eight of present Chandigarh) which was at a distance of 3 Kilometers from my village Saini Majra. The passage was very untowards, covered with shrubs and trees and uneven – a difficult journey through mango and plum trees. A serpentine brookelt flowed in the way. We had to trudge bare-foot on the sand mounds. But I happened to meet a dear friend named Niranjan Singh who was a water-carrier by caste and belonged to a poor family – very god fearing and gentlemanly. Whatever you told him to do, he would agree. While In conversed with him, the journey seemed comfortable. On the way there was a place called “Aasa Rori” set up by the wayfarers. The people believed that if one made an offering of a lump of earth here, all this wishes would be fulfilled. So we also while going to or coming from the school would seek. “Aasa Rani”s blessing for our success in the examination. These were the wishes of tender hearts. Adjacent to that spot there were three huge trees, the name of which nobody know. We used to call them Auloo Gauloo. We had never seen them putting forth fruit or flowers. One of those trees still stands in Sector 17 in a rotten condition.
The headmaster of the Kalibad Lower Middle School Mr. Matu Ram who taught us in the 5th and 6th classes was a very sensible person. He used to teach us Urdu and Persian. He used to walk a distance of 11 miles from his villages Sialba Majri to come to the school to teach us and at home also he attended to the cultivation of land. I remained in contact with him even after his retirement and he was always affectionate.
After passing the 6th class the problem was as to where to continue the education. There was no Middle or High School in the vicinity. So, my father decided that I should be admitted to Khalsa High School, Kharar at a distance of six kos. Coming and going, it came to 12 kos every day. I have never been able to forget the fatigue that was caused by walking every day from Saini Majra (presently Sector 25, Chandigarh) to Kharar and back. The path was not neat or smooth. We had to walk along the banks and barriers of the fields. I must have been about 13 years old. I had no companion from my village to walk with. Nor was there any means of transport. It was in the year 1946. I had to repeat the 5th and 6th middle school.
Then the division of the country into Pakistan and Hindustan took place on 15th August, 1947, which was a bolt from the blue for the Panjabees. For the Panjabees it was an emotional blow. Thereafter we stopped learning Urdu and were keen to study Panjabi. We came to think that Urdu was a Pakistani language and that in Panjab we must learn Panjabi. The school introduced teaching of Panjabi. August 1947 brought in the law of jungle. The schools and other institutions were closed for some days. Hue and cry and murders were a common sight. Man had taken the form of a wild beast. Men were lynching men. At night men kept watch by lots. People kept vigils. Lots of villages were plundered and burnt. The women and young girls were molested and dishonoured so viciously that wild beasts might be put to shame. I, too, went to see the condition of a village Milakh. It was a Muslim village. The residents were viciously waylaid and plundered. Some people ran towards the brook to save their lives, but there also the barbarians did not spare them. The army took charge of the survivors and gathered them in the camp where for want of proper care and due to ferocity of rains innocent persons passed away. A worse treatment was given to our brethren leaving Pakistan, by the Pakistanis. I have no words to describe the atrocities. The brethren were divided and two countries were created. If I recall what I saw then, even now I lose my sleep I felt a deep pain at heart which I still unforgettable. The people collected from the area had been put in a mango orchard in the village Chanalon near Kurali from where they were to be entrained to Pakistan. There, arrangements to feed them not being adequate they tried to live on mango leaves in a state of starvation. But some times some rate philanthrope brought to them the produce of his fields cooked or uncooked. Their chattels and cattle, houses and hearths had already been seized by the barbarians. Some of them had no apparel to cover their bodies, though they were alive so to say.
Khalsa High School at Kharar was for the boys only. At that time it was unusual for girls to study in a boy’s school. A girl of 7th class (from village Khooni Majra) used to come to the school in the guise of a boy, along with her elder brother. In villages, educating the girls was not considered appropriate. The rural people passed many types of judgments. But that devoted girl did pass the matriculation. Several other girls thereafter followed suit. I gradually got used to traversing long distance. I would go to and come back from the school bare – foot. Long distance had to be covered in the scorching afternoons, but it could not be helped. Enroute this long distance there was a sandy and thorny ditch. In winter it would curdle the nether flesh of the feet and in summer it would parch it but this made the skin under the feet thick and hard. It became insensitive to pebbles and brickbats as well as thorns and nails. When I joined the school at Kharar, I got pyjamas of coarse cloth and a coarse towel to cover my head. I carried to school from five or six books and note books in a home made bag with strings.
Realising my discomfort my people at home were unhappy but were helpless due to poverty. The poor peasants hardly had nay money. Wages for a day’s labour used to be six or eight annas.
The student’s hostel of Khalsa High School used to be in the Sabzi Mandi Bazar of Kharar. Master Mohinder Singh (of village Bhankharpur) who took a class of religious studies in the school was a very kind-hearted, innocent, regular – in – worship and God-fearing person. I was unable to join the hostel. Total charges for the hostel were six and a quarter rupes for month. I had no therefore, go from Saini Majra on foot.
There were several mango and Jaman orchards on the way. The season of the mango used to be enjoyable. On our way we would pluck and eat mango. Nobody was there to check. If the watchman or the keeper of the orchard ever prevented us, we would pick up the mangoes and run away, beyond any body’s reach. On account of liberal consumption of milk and ghee and long racing I had developed a strong muscular frame. In school games for District Ambala I won the first position in the one mile race, and won a trophy for the school. In 1947 an old cycle was purchased for me for rupees sixty only. Now my route to the school change. On way to Kharar I had to pass through Batela, Bahderi, Palsora, Mohali, Balongi, Daon, Desu majra and Mundi Kharar. It was daily routine to stop on the once or twice to mend the puncture of the cycle tuble personally. This taught me how to handle a wrench. In the meanwhile my friend Niranjan Singh also got a cycle which was of superior Ralleigh trade mark of those days.
When I was in the 9th class, in order to devote more time to studies I got room on a moderate rent of Rupees five per month at Kharar in Ghumar Mohalla near Gurdwara and Shiv temple. I would myself cook pulses or vegetable and my room-mate knew how to prepare chapattis. There we made acquaintance with a girl of the neighbourhood who would some times come and sit with us. We liked her very much. Some times she prepared our food also. This house belonged to the Gurdwara priest. He did not like this. One day when the girl sitting with us, the priest arrived there. Seeing him in great rage and holding a rod we tried to explain our conduct. The priest, partially convinced, went away. On account of this trivial incident we had to face embarrassment. For days together fun and frolic left us completely.
The next year i.e. the tenth class commended. On holiday I would return home so Saini Majra. Milk and ghee were in plenty. Stealing jaggery and ghee and eating them on the sly behind the earthen bin seemed enjoyable and palatable. Many a time, finding an opportunity, I would take a double palmful of hot cream from the earthen vessel and swallow it along with a half-seer jageery limp. Stolen kisses are sweeter. By running about, I would digest all that.
Right since my childhood I have had the habit of falling asleep as soon as I start reading. Once, in winter season (December 1947) I way lying at home wrapped in a cozy quilt and with my turban on and reading in the light of mustard oil lamp placed behind. As per habit I was overwhelmed by sleep and my head inclined towards the lighted lamp. In the pleasant warmth all the folds of my turban on one side were burnt. When the fire approached my hair, I felt the heat and woke up to quench it. Now even, if ever due to some reason I miss my sleep, no sooner do I cast a glance on some book or newspaper than the fairy of slumber flies home.
The study of the tenth class seemed hard. Master Kishan Lal (of village Manouli) persuaded me to get extra coaching in the evening for about two month. Teaching was a matter of service for him. Nobody in those days taught tutitions for money. The teachers had emotional attachment with the school children. They wished that the students of their classes and school should pass out with good marks. They considered children to be the trust of the nation.
The atmosphere of Khalsa High School, Kharar was healthy on account of good teachers. The headmaster S. Sunder Singh was a man of noble character, while Chitranjan Singh, a school of mathematics was the second master. At number three was S. Joginder Singh who nick named “Bhoot Master” (Demon Master). He often said to the children “O, Bhootni Dio” (O you, sons of a she-demon). Therefore, in his absence the students remembered him as Bhoot Master. The Panjabi teacher, Master Gurumukh Singh used to while away half of the period in idle gossip. Master Nikka Singh was 6 feet 3 inches tall. He ploughed an acre of land in his village Pacca Rurki and then reached the school to teach after traveling 7 kilometers on foot. Master Hardial Singh belonged to village Kalibad. Though he was lame, yet he was so agile that he could speed ahead of a normal man. Master Sarup Singh checked the school accounts and thereafter took classes of religious studies and mathematics. His own children Manmohan Singh and elder sons and daughters studied in this school and he treated every one with equal affection. His words were as sweet as honey. That is way he commanded his students’ love and respect upto his end.

Getting Married

All the teachers, being residents of the same villages, considered children to be the heritage of the rural society. It happened in January, 1951. I was sitting in the tenth class and reading when the school peon came to me and took me out. There I saw S. Bachan Singh Sub-Inspector (who was the posted at Chandi Mandi Police Station and was my father’s friend) standing with another person who seemed to be an army man. I want on walking with them and they kept talking to me. They were listening to me very attentively. I felt that there was something in particular that they had come to see me at the school. After about a fortnight I came across the same gentlemen on their bicycle near village Daon, coming towards Saini Majra. They stopped me enroute to school and enquired if my father was at home. I replied in the negative. Still they visited our house and gave a silver coin of one rupee and some blades of grass an auspicious offering to my mother as my father was not at home. Thus my engagement took place.
After being betrothed the thoughts of Badali, the village of my in-law also began to hanut me. S Karam Singh, a friend and class mate of mine took me to his village Badali. My in-laws came to know of my visit. The grandmother took it very ill, but my mother-in-law expressed a desire to see me. My fiancée also came to her uncle’s house (opposite Karam Singh’ house) where they tethered their cattle, to remove dung and rubbish. My desire was only to see her. She was saying in a loud voice, “I am neither blind nor lame or crippled. Let him come forward and see me openly.” So holding my breath I left my friend’s house. After I had departed. Karam Singh was severely taken to task. Karam Singh’s neighbour Nagina Singh was spoilt class-fellow, who daily received beating from me. His companion Iqbal Singh was a very simple and gentle boy.
In March 1951, I passed my matriculation with rather low marks, but due to unsound financial condition of the family I could not dare continue my education in a college.
Then, in 1948-49, plans to establish Chandigarh had been prepared. The chief planner was Corbousier and the Chief Engineer was Sh. P.L. Verma. The Tehsildar was Mr. Malik who had acquired seventeen village north of the Dakshin Marg. The residents of these villages did not like to be displaced from their villages. Therefore, they joined together and set up a resistance committee and organized rallies. The police dealt with people, the farmers, with an iron hand and many tear gas shells were exploded. This continued for a couple of years. At that time Gopi Chand Bhargava was the Chief Minister and Prithi Singh Azad was a minister. Once when he was on a visit to the area, the people surrounded him and hurled shoes above him. The people said angrily, “stay here to mend the shoes.” He was a very shrewd politician. He said, “I will so mend the shoes that your generations will never forget.” The roads began to be laid. Construction of houses started. Wells began to be used for water.
In June 1951 my marriage was solemnized. My mother and father ordered me to earn my livelihood. The entire village of Saini Majra was inhabited still. The water was fetched by the women folk in buckets or earthen pitchers. The chores of my wife also started with fetching water early in the morning. Placing two pitchers on the head and another under the arm, she would return home cheerfully and with rhythmical movement. It seemed as if “The mud begs the potter to shape in into a pitcher. It yearns to play with water.” She would herself provide grass and fodder to the buffalo. Fondly brought up by the parents and uncles, she has never looked back to her parents. She firmly resolved that it might be weal or woe, she would partake of it in her own house.
Our godfather S. Niranjan Singh, mother, her sister and uncle Jai Ram Singh lived together. Our mother Aasa Kaur had four sons, namely Sardul Singh, Harbans Singh, Randhir Singh and Sohan Singh. Mother’s sister had three sons Surinder Singh (Buda), Kuldip Singh (Chaoon), Master Pritam Singh and a daughter Pritam Kaur. The children had no mutual discord. All of them were being properly looked after. Whenever some one from Badali came, he or she would bring something. Nobody ever came empty-handed. S. Niranjan Singh had three brothers, Jamai Singh, Jai Ram Singh and Hair Singh. He had on daughter Labh kaur. The eldest son Sardul Singh plies a taxi at Delhi. Next to him is S. Harbans Singh who, having retired as Superintendent from the Public Health Department, is now running taxi business. He is married to a sensible young woman named Daljit Kaur of Delhi and they are leading a happy life. They have five daughters and one promising son who is studying in school. He bids fair to make all progress. Younger than he, is S. Randhir Singh who is skilled in his taxi business. His wife Mohinder Kaur is very hospitable and gives full cooperation in looking after the guests. The youngest of them Sohan Singh is working as an Inspector in Punsup. During his studies at the college he was a very good hockey player and a bhangra artist. He is married to a highly educated girl Ashwinder Kaur.
Surinder, the son of my mother’s sister and uncle Jai Ram, after having been trained by me, is now running his own business of tubewells in U.P. His wife is running her household very efficiently. Kuldip Singh (Chaoon) is serving in a bank. The youngest of them, Pritam Singh (Kaka) has never entered the gate of a school, but is a very smart and sensible persons. Having associated with educated people, he can fluently speak English and by virtue of his cleverness he has become a Canadian citizen and is living in the city of Kitchener in Ontario state. He is married to Gagan, a beautiful woman, born and brought up in Canada and they have two lovely sons, Jassi and Babbal. Uncle Jai Ram Singh’s daughter who ahd been brought up with great care and affection was, after doing her M.A. married to Ajit Singh residing in Canada (His native village in Chanalon). Having worked earlier as a school master, he is a very sensible and hospitable person. Right since her childhood. Pritam Kaur had seen high-flown dreams and cherished hopes to go to Canada and other foreign countries. So her dreams have been realized. They have three children Kamaljit, Gugloo and Tindi. The third borther Jamai Singh has three sons. Two of them Shamsher Singh and Nirmal Singh are in transport business at Delhi and the third Karnail Singh is boring tubewells. The fourth brother Hari Singh has three sons and two daughters. The eldest son, Harmel Singh is striving to become an engineer. Teji and Jit Singh have their business in Germany. Charan Kanwal, the son of his elder daughter is an engineer, while the younger daughter is living in Denmark.

A Sequence of Employment

After having been married, I became conscious of my responsibilities. Every morning I would leave home and beg for a job in some company working at Chandigarh. But every evening I would return exhausted and disappointed. I would wish that somebody should appoint me a concrete-mixer operator or a labour supervisor. But nobody accommodated the unfortunate me. Luckily, one of the relatives of my wife, S. Lachman Singh was working as a contractor at Chandigarh. He had easy access to the officers. He got me appointed as a tracer at rupees seventy per month in the Evaluation Department. The office was in the Estate Office at Nagla or Sector 19, Chandigarh.
Every day I would go by cycle and carry my lunch tied in a napkin. I would take my lunch at a proper time and when the office closed I would return home. This continued for three months, but it did not suit me as I was not used to working while sitting at a spot. Fixed on a seat, I could not digest my food also the work of the department was about to be finished. I started planning to get some other job involving laborious manual work.
In 1949 the Government had brought a percussion machine – a machine with a wooden mast – and started the work of tubewell boring on the roadside, at Rurki Manimajra under the charge of Agriculture Department. But for two years, the of tubewell could not be bored. In the meantime, the government brought new filling S-750 and SS-1500 machines and started boring tubewells. The work of boring with machines had been started in Panjab recently. The entire staff also was inexperienced. All the workers had come here from Diamond Drilling Works. There were to foremen, S. Bhag Singh and a Bengali Shri P.C.G. Majumdar who worked with me in 1958 as DIC in ETO. Along with them there were S. Ram Singh, S. Sampuran Singh (from Mehla Majra). Gurbakhash Singh and Mota (from village Khudda Ali Sher) on the drilling machines. All these were on the posts of drillers and got a good salary (Rs. 220/- per month). In those days the other departments were not paying such good salaries. A foreman was paid more than Rs. 400/- per month.
When the school was closed or on other days when I was free, I would go to watch the machine working near the village. For the entire day I would observe the people operating the machines and listen to the conversation of the workers attentively. I memorized the words like pipe wrench, chain tongs, size of the spanner, screw driver, screw wrench, diesel and petrol engines, welding set, air compressor etc. Nobody had a welding machine here. For welding jobs the Father of S. Ajit Singh (who was know as Tib engineer) used to come from Ambala Cantt. Seeing those workers I came to believe that if an illiterate person can be paid so much, I too being a matriculate could learn this trade and get a good salary.
In those days the machines were looked after by S.D.O. Resham Singh and the X.EN. was S. Kulbir Singh, R. Resham Singh did not like my constantly watching the work. At length he warned me never to come to the machines. I countered him saying that it was my right to visit our own fields and move about on the premises of our villages. I asserted that nobody could stop me. I had a great interest in this work but visited the site only when Resham Singh was not there. Seeing them functioning I gathered sufficient technical knowledge which became a part of my mental make-up. I firmly resolved that I would procure a job of boring tubewells. The waves of water belong the earth’s surface began to haunt me. Day and night I dreamt of getting some such work.
The work at Chandigarh having been finished I lost my job there and again started looking for work. One day somebody informed me that some firm had taken up work for boring tubewells at Yamuna Nagar and that S. Bhag Singh foreman was working as Drilling Superintendent. This company was called Associated Tubewell Company Yamuna Nagar. It was owned by Englishmen and M/s Escort Agents Delhi were their partners while Ranjit Sohbi was their Director. I reached Yamuna Nagar from Ambala by rail and then traveling 6 miles on foot. I arrived at the drilling camp. S. Bhag Singh met me there and asked me the purpose of my visit. On my telling it, I was given the job of a driller, the very next day. I was assigned the newly acquired machine 501- Prota Drill. Direct Circulation.
The company officials took me for a very experienced person. Along with me, S. Ram Singh was the machine incharge. Observing the machine, we started doing work. We would reach the site and start the machine at 6-00 a.m. It was the month of December and freezing cold. We would stop our work at 8-00 p.m. We spent 15 days on the same site and could hardly bore 300 feet deep. Due to lack of sound experience, our performance was not upto the mark. Whatever digging we did one day, the bore being unifirm, was refilled the next day. We did not know how to take care of the work done. In a few days S. Ram Singh called his younger brother Sampuran Singh also to work there. They belonged to Mehlay Majra Village. Now both the brothers ran the machine all the twenty four hours. They never allowed me to run the machine. My job was to put oil or water and to fit or remove the drill rods. I did all the chores and was on duty all the twenty four hours. Once drilling work was going on at another site. It was the month of January and extreme cold. I had been working for seventy five hours. The tubewell was being bored. The Area Manager of the company happened to visit the site. He observed our faces and enquired for how many hours we had been working. When he was told that we had ceaselessly worked for seventy five hours, he was furious and said, “Are you human beings or something else?” We were ordered to leave at once and take rest. He also instructed us not to resume work till we had fully relaxed. We would work day and night in the severest cold and would be besmeared with mud from top to toe, but dedication tow work made everything bearable. Dedication means that nothing can stand in one’s way and no difficulty remains insurmountable. One can easily reconcile with one’s lot.
The company had allowed us a 12’ x 12’ Kabalpal tent to live in the camp. We had tied a string inside the tent to hand and dry moist clothes. Our garments which were drenched in muddy water were hung on that line, and when dried, were used again. It continued for several days. One night a thief entered the tent and made away with the couple of suits (shirts and pajamas) that had been put to dry. Only the clothes that I had on my body survived. The limited possession of a poor man were robbed, which was very distressing. After a few days I cam on leave for three days (Sunday and two more days) and persuaded my wife Labh Kaur to accompany me to my place of posting. We took a room made of mud on rent in the village Lahal and started living there. The owners of the house were an old couple. They developed a great affection for Labh Kaur, deeper than the parental one. It became easy for me to go to my work.
I had been at work hardly for two months when I was thrown out of job. My work was very strenuous and I exchanged hot words with my masters. They would not pay me my due over-time allowance and it seemed difficult for me to maintain my hearth. The work also that our masters had in hand was about to be finished. I came home to Saini Majra bag and baggage. The Government had ordered the residents of the village to evacuate. Some people loaded their baggage on bullock carts and began to move to places where land had been allotted to them. We had been allotted land and three residential plots in village Chanalon near Kurali, but we did not want to go there. I was out of job now. I would give fodder to the buffalo and move about in search of employment. I was driven from pillar to post for the entire day. The people also taunted me. Nobody felt any reserve in passing unsavory remarks. Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches. None else can appreciate one’s distress. My father also could not help me in getting a job. He desired that the buffalo should be looked after and the milk should be sold. Labh Kaur would milch the buffalo and dispose of the milk to those who came to buy. But my father lost his temper and said, “You must add water to the milk. Other people also sell adulterated milk. You do not know how to play foul. The people will rob you and you will starve. Remember that it is the way of the world.” He had said this on the basis of his worldly experience. It was also advisable to dilute the milk with water lest the children of the urban people should fall ill by consuming pure milk. But Labh Kaur’s conscience did not allow it. She bore the rebukes of the senior members of the family. She thought that we were being punished for the misdeeds of the previous life and that we would have to repay for the sins of this life. My wife was a favorite of the fortune, and we would earn a good amount without adulterating the milk and all our needs would be supplied.

To Be or Not To Be

On failing to get any means of subsistence and my wife’s going to her parental village Badali my mind was upset. The journey of life looking hazy. I decide that committing suicide at some distant place is preferable to this life. Feeling distressed I left home for this purpose. Nothing was certain. Without informing my parents I set out towards Paonta Sahib. Passing through Jagadhri I reached Tajewala and from there I proceeded to Paonta Sahib. For three days I stayed with Polo Ram, Sohan Singh, Sarwan Singh, Ram Kumar, Surinder Singh Mohinder Singh and Chain Singh in village Devi Nagar at a distance of two miles. Their ancestors had come from Saini Majra a few years earlier to settle there. I told them that I wanted to go towards the Shivalak Hills. They informed me that there were tigers, leopards, elephants, bears and wolves in the forest enroute. I had no aim, nor destination, nor refuge, but how could the journey of life terminate?
I set out toward Raj Ban in the Shivalak Hills…On my way I came across a dak runner who carried letters o foot every third day towards the hills. He used to go to distribute dak upto a distance of 30 miles. I accompanied him but he stopped at village Khera which was his destination. The sun was about to set, but my voyage had no sunset. I traversed some more mountainous distance. The daylight also faded. At that time I reached Taparian. I thought that there must be some headman of the village. I enquired about him. A person escorted me to the house of S. Mehar Singh, the village headman. They were about to solemnize his son’s marriage. He was very pleased to see me, a stranger. They served me like a guest and said respectfully, “Kindly stay in our house and also accompany us in the bridal party. There were celebration in S. Mehar Singh’s house. The had engaged a confectioner to prepare jalebis, laddos and other dishes. I asked the confectioner where he hailed from. He replied that he was a resident of Mani Majra and these people called him on function like marriages, and that he worked for them. He was pleased to learn of my native village and said that I was like a member of his family. He gave me a glassful of soor (locally brewed ale) and served me dinner, and then we went to sleep.
The houses of those hilly people are usually two-storied wooden, bricked or muddy flats. On the ground floor they tether their cattle and themselves reside upstairs.
After staying with them for two days, I begged leave of them to set out for the next destination. With a heavy heart they bade me farewell, but invited me to visit again. From there I enquired the way leading to Chitte Paththar or Dak Paththar Ghat (quay or landing) and set out. The passage was too bad to be traversed. One could hear the roars of tigers and other beasts in the horrid forest, as if they were nearby. I saw the pigs and other small animals scamper by. I moved on at my speed through the thick forest. I may have trudged some then miles or so when the arrival of a sturdy bear in front unnerved me. Who does not love his life? Gathering courage I had to measure my strength with the beast. The bear ramped me with his fore-paws. I was prepared to receive him. As he attacked I gripped his forepaws and engaged him in a wrestling bout. I being physically quite strong, fought him for about half an hour. Some time he would push me and the next moment I would oblige him to retreat. We both were out of breath. The bear must be wondering what kind of a beast he had to deal with and how to get rid of him. On the other hand, I too, was feeling devitalized exhausted. I was finding myself face to face with death. I pondered for a moment and then forcefully pushed the bear back to fall flat on the ground. I thought of fleeing, but as soon as the bear fell down, he got up and ran away. I twoo resumed my journey.
I wondered whither to go in the pitch dark. Some times, in my depression, I felt that I was on a goal-less journey. Then it seemed that the life itself was aimless and meaningless. Marching thus I wished to be finished. I kept my pace, marched on. And then I stood on the bank of the fast flowing Jamuna. The water was too torrential to cross. The boatmen carried the passengers across in boats made of animal hide with a great difficulty. Being out of pocket I decided to wade across the Jamuna. But the boatman was able to see through my dilemma and to read the despondency and poverty writ large on my face. He charged four annas (25 Paisa) per passenger to take across. He felt pity on my condition and agreed to take me across free of charge. He told me, “Every year so many lives are lost here. Once a person in caught in the current, he cannot get out of it. You also might have embraced a similar fate.” From there I directed my bare feet towards Dehra Doon. There I reached the house of Dr. Bakshish Singh of village Shehzadpur (Sector 11 now), who was a friend of my father . he had been a revolutionary during the freedom struggle of India and the British Government had issued orders to shoot him at sight. He was contemporary of the great martyr S. Bhagat Singh and having gone underground had been living in the garden of Sham Singh Akali Nihang, which was like a thick forest near Saini Majra and Shahpur. Entry of anybody therein was forbidden. This garden even now exists in a corner of Sector 38-B.
Once the police arrested Dr. Bikhshish Singh. He was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment for the crime of manufacturing bombs. In those days there were not too many restrictions on meeting the prisoners. One could visit them very easily. His wife Mrs. Daya Kaur went to see him in the jail. She suggested to him that he should put on her garments and escape from the jail and that she would wear his dress. Doctor Sahib agreed and getting out of the jail, he again joined a band of revolutionaries and the freedom struggle.
“The brave fighters two sacrificed their lives for the national were immortalized;
They dressed the tresses of their darling death by making a comb of their bones.”
On the other hand Daya Kaur was sentenced to death for the serious crime of cheating and helping a criminal to escape. After the attainment of freedom Dr. Bakshish Singh set up his practice in Sabzi mandi at Kharar. A young man named Balbir Singh started working with him. During 1971, he also worked near Zirakpur Chowk for a few months. His younger son Jogi Singh works at Dehra Doon as an artist.

Maundering Through Doiwale Jungle

I stayed for two days with Dr. Bakshish Singh. On the third day I begged leave of him. I feared lest he should enquire of my elder uncle and send me back home. My resolve to commit suicide was unshaken. I was firmly determined to do this. I was going to finish myself and these people were unaware of it. I feared that they might make some enquiry or might ask where I was going and why. I had no answers to these questions. A directionless man is caught in a whirlpool and finds no wayout. He wends his way slowly groping in the gloom of live and stumbling. I, too, was in a similar state of existence. But now I was not even walking, though I was not static either.
Only my mind and feet were an urge to treated on. My mind gave out sparks which were immediately extinguished. There was not tranquility. When I was in the company of others, I forgot the flames bursting in my mind. Who had chained my feet was beyond comprehension. I had completed my trudging through the dangerous Doiwale Jungle. Now I was in the village Doiwala, standing before the house of Gian Singh. I was a stranger for the people. But in that house and in the entire village I saw the glimpses of virtual life, full of brilliance and vitality. The people were alive with cheer and laugher, warmth and amiability. Nobody would entertain any suspicion about a stranger, nor confront him with a language full of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. The innocent people seemed to be an incarnation of God, who received an alien as a divine guest, gave him shelter in their house with full confidence and served him heartily. After I had spent four days with Gian Singh’ son Dara Singh, Gurmeet Singh and Puran Singh and his daughters in his house, my mind became restless to come out of the vortex of thought of suicide. This was probably the will of God. In this process of roaming about I had spent a month and a half away from home. My people at home had no idea of my whereabouts. The miraculous treatment of the people and divine power of God had so changed my mind that suddenly I turned my back on the idea of suicide.
Thinking of my wife and daughter Jasbir, I felt pained at heart. I began to reflect as to who except me could own them in the world. I had committed a great sin. What was their fault that I was going to impose on them such a big punishment? I was going to commit sins for which there could be no forgiveness in the divine court. Saying good-bye to S. Gain Singh and his family, I set out on foot and reached Tajewala headworks via Paonta Sahib. In those days the sailors made a raft of about one hundred beams and sailed from Tajewala to Yamuna Nagar to deliver the timber at the latter place. I traveled on the raft upto Yamuna Nagar and then by rail came to Ambala and then reached my village Saini Majra.

The Places and the Occupations

Mrs. Labh Kaur along with her daughter was at Badali, her parental village. Now the village Saini Majra had been ordered by the Government to evacuate. All the people left for the place where land had been allotted to them. My fater S. Arjan Singh Akali was very far-sighted and knew the outer world very well. He said to us, “We should go to and reside at a place where other people are inferior to us, address us as ‘Sardar Ji’ any pay respects.” We were allotted land in village Chanalon, but no place was given for resident. No place was allotted any where in lieu of our 7800 square foot residential area, which is entered in the record of Chadigarh administration. Our father disposed of the land and purchased 60 bighas in village Bhabat (Dault Singh Wala). We could not arrange our residence for want of place in the village. We constructed a shack in the farmyard and got a four beamed house on rent, thanks to Data Ram, where we spent two or three years living thriftily. The house was a small one having only four beams. Two section were used for the buffalo and its fodder and the other two sections accommodated the household luggage and the kitchen. For the night we would spread one or two bedstead. The place was teeming with mosquitoes and flies and during the rainy season our life was hellish, but we had to adjust ourselves to the circumstances. In the beginning of 1954 the Government allotted us a house in the village Bhabat which had ten beam sections with a wooden roof and had an area of 1000 square feet. But the Chandigarh Administration still owes a plot of about 6600 square feet. We took shelter there. We had as our neighbours Bairagi saints Shri Sadhu Ram and Jagan nath. We developed very friendly relations with them and we mutually became companions in weal and woe. The elder and the younger brothers of my father parted company with us, and against my father’s advice went and settled in village Miani (7 Kilometers from Ropar) on the bank of the river Satluj. Then, in December 1953 I joined service at another place which also did not suit me.
As the year 1954 commenced, I meet Shri Sudarshan Lal at the Hotel Mount View in Chandigarh for a job. He had undertaken some work at Chandigarh, but most of his works were near Aligarh in U.P. He gave me a letter and directed me to go to Aligarh, where I went immediately. E.T.W. company was boring tubewells in rural areas. I joined the job and was put on night duty. The work was rather hard and I had no acquaintance as yet. I had kept awake for many nights and it was time to go to sleep. At 2-00 A.M. I was attending to reverse circulation machine when overwhelmed by sleep, I dozed off. The clutch to raise drill pipe remained in position. I was shaken out of sleep with the sound of breaking of the rope and nut-bolts. The machine had been badly damaged. The mechanic was at once called in to repair it. I gave up working there also. While I was there I got opportunity to visit the villages. The villagers treated us in a very nice manner and whenever we asked for water they would bring it in a jug and would give a piece of jaggery alongwith it without fail. On enquiring they told us that it was an old tradition of theirs.
When I left the job, a friend advised me to go to Mainpuri where a new tubewell company had started working. The office of the company which was named German Water Development Corporation, was near the railway station. They employed me on a salary of Rupees two hundred and twenty five per month. There were other Panjabi young men also with me. They made us do any sort of work. Driving tractor, unloading of pies from the railway wagons and reloading them were hard tasks. After a few days I was sent into the field to operate a machine. It was a very good machine of a new technique. The engine was fixed to the machine, and a generator and air compressors also were attached to it and were used as per need. The performance of these machines was very efficient. In that Company I came across Lachman Singh Jangu and S.K. Mishra drillers of our area who gave me full respect and helped me to work with them. The company took good care of its workers. Every day a motor van with soda water and eatable went to the work site and met the needs of the workers. The entire machinery worked satisfactorily. We had, however, to face the problem of language with those Germans. I worked for about two months in the Mainpuri ara.
In the meantime I received in June 1954 an appointment letter from International Tubewell Company Calcutta on a salary of Rs. 400/- per month. I reported to the company at Calcutta. The company had only one machine 501 winterwiss. The contract was to bore a tubewell at Rudrapur (District Nainital). We along with the equipment reached Rudrapur and started the work. They called along with me Udham Singh (who had earlier worked in ETW Company) and another old hand Karam Singh. Together we bored a number of tubewells at Rudrapur which poured out adequate water even without fixing pumps. They were called “Arties Tubewells”. Upto a long distance, this area has such tubewells. Kanshipur is a similar area even today. This area is covered with thick forest which is infested with snakes, scorpions and other bloody beasts. The Government of India made these forests C.T.O.’s and got them cleared under a scheme. The land became cultivable and was allotted to the Panjabi peasants. Now a beautiful and big town Rudrapur is inhabited there.
It was in 1954 that I got a job on a salary of Rs. 400/- per month. Ur son Gurdarshan Singh (Gogi) was born to us. He was born under auspicious starts and his arrival in the family marked the beginning of gradual improvement of our fortune. I got a regular job without any breaks. The company installed ten tubewells during a year while working at Rudrapur, and then procured a contract to bore tubewells in Gujrat province. The official of the company set out for Ahmadabad in Gujrat. I was sent to Ahmadabad in advance to make arrangements to start the work. I had to stay in the Lucky Lodge Hotel in front of Ahmadabad railway station for two months. The lodge was meant for nocturnal stay and all sorts of people came there. The lodge provided food etc. within its premises. There I had to consume non-vegetarian food and consequently I got fed up with eating meat. As a result I had to prepare my self to eat only pulse and vegetables for the rest of my life.
In August 1956 we left Ahmadabad for Degaum Tower which is situated at a distance of 35-40 miles on the Ahmadabad – Khand Burma railway line. The tubewells were being installed in the villages for the development of agriculture. The land was fertile and even, and agriculture was the main profession of the people. They were honest, innocent, peace-loving and God-fearing people. One never heard of any incident of theft etc.
We along with our staff were living in two tents at the machine site. My companion Pritam Singh and I were living in one tent and the other tent accommodated the rest of the entire staff. We prepared our food ourselves. One afternoon at about 2.00 P.M. after taking our lunch we were lying on our cots half-asleep. A seven foot long cobra climbed my cot from the right side. We (Pritam Singh and I) were discussing our work. When I saw the snake with a spread out hood on my chest, I was struck dumb. I thought that if I moved, it must attack me. I held my breath, any lay motionless. I gathered my courage so that if the snake made some mischief, I might be ready to grip his head. Pritam Singh on the other cot continued to speak but was getting no reply. In two or three minutes, the snake had completely dismounted from over me. My companion observed the entire incident and was astonished. The monstrous snake did me no harm. I thanked my stars heartily. I was unarmed and overwhelmed, but my life was spared. Now whenever I recall that incident I tremble in my shoes. Afterwards also I saw that snake in the jungle many a time. The people of that area told us that they never killed snakes. If they ever came across one they would catch it with a wooden pair of tongs, and leave it at some distant place.
I had been working in that company for more than two years. But they were not regular in paying the salary. I worked very hard for the company, but only money makes the mare go. I made repeated requests for my wages but the company paid no heed. But I did not lose heart, and God helped me. In 1956, I appeared for an interview for the post of driller with Exploratory Tubewell Organization, Government of India, and I was selected. I was ordered to go to Piparia in Madhya Pradesh and I, without wasting any time, reported for duty at the E.T.O. Camp Piparia. We had our headquarters at Man Singh Road. After recording my attendance they sent me to the drilling machine at Piparia, about 3 kilometers away. At the site I met my old comrades Kanti Kumar, Sarup Singh, Rajinder Singh and Lal Chand Mehta. When we had installed one tubewell, we were transferred to Dargandhara (Saurashtra). I was accompanied by Shri K.K. Arora and his children in a jeep. From Piparia we reached Dargandhara via Bhopal, Ratlam, Indore and Ahmadabad. We set up our camp at Rani Bagh at a distance of 3 kilometers from the city. It was a very clean and solitary place, and the house built inside a nine foot high boundary had a royal look. This came to be known as E.T.O. Division No. 2 Shri T.N. Mehta came here as the Executive Engineer, while my old friend Shri Sarup Singh Nagra, Shri Harbhajan Singh, Shri Raghunath Mulley, Shri Lal Chand Mehta, Shri Himmat Singh, Shri Harnam Singh Chopra and Shri Majumdar were the drillers incharge.
New machines of Frank Mark came from America and along with them American expert engineers also arrived. After their arrival, work of exploration for water started. 1500 foot deep bores were made and clean water was found. The people were astonished to see that so deep a bore could be made. Simultaneously search for sweet water in Rann of Kachh also was started.
At a distance of 100 miles from Dargandhara camp there is a princely state where a Muslims holds sway. We became close to him which led to friendship. He was a very sociable and genial person. In his village he had got a temple built. Alongside that the had placed in a room two old hand-written, volumes of Guru Granth Sahib with proper respect and care. On enquiring we were told that a venerable man had copied a volume in his own hand. On his demise, the Nawab engaged a Pandit to take care of the holy volumes. The Pandit looked after them at all times, but he did not know the Gurmukhi script or Panjabi language. During our stay, there, he tried to learn Panjabi from us and to some extent he succeeded too. The people of this place were noble, innocent and God-fearing. We had pitched our tents in a pasture outside the village. One day, a young man of the village left his buffaloes to graze there and went away. The buffaloes broke the ropes of our tents. We tried to make him understand, but he did not respond properly. We again tried to make him see reason but to no avail. In the village also he behaved like a ruffian. We thought that he would not be reformed by oral advice and so a couple of our boys thrashed him well. They villagers were greatly pleased. They said that in the village also he imposed his supremacy, and that now he would be set right. Really he was reformed.
On our visit to Rann of Kachh we noticed that when the tide of the sea ebbed, some sea water was left in small pits dug by contractors and villagers. They would shift this brackish water to small fields and prepared salt (miththu) by drying it. They would collect the salt and sell it in the market. This was their means of subsistence. Most of their salt went to factories, as this way it fetched them more money. The salt spreading over large areas here looked like sprawling stretches of water. But in reality there was no water there. It was only a mirage. The wild animals of the area, seeing this glare, go on running to obtain water and lose their life. In this are we saw large flocks of deer and gnus (neelgais) wandering around. The male animals have bodies like that of the horse and have big horn on the head, they are very dauntless, but their females are physically slender and are so timid that they are scared away at the sight of a human being. Hunting them is strictly forbidden because the people are opposed to animal killing. Anybody violating this belief is prosecuted under law.
Majority of our staff members were Punjabis who were aliens and strangers for the local people. They would as us man y sorts of questions: “Do you have your parents?” If yes, what type of people are they and where do they live”? Many a time they would straight way take us for dacoits. But many of them, seeing our behaviour and mode of life, loved us, too. Their food was simple and vegetarian. Non-vegetarian hotels were away from the town.
After working for a year and a half I obtained leave for a month. Returning home from Dargandhara along with my children, I dismounted at Ahmadabad. We purchased railway tickets for Delhi. The train was to depart late at night. We deposited our luggage at the station and went to see the Kankaria Tank of Ahmadabad which is a place worth seeing. During that bus journey some body picked my pocket which contained three rail tickets, receipts for the luggage deposited and hard saved Rs. 500/- for home. I noticed the picking of my pocket when at the Lucky Lodge Hotel after taking dinner. I put my hand in the pocket to make payment. My entire purse was missing. My wife or I had not a penny on our persons. I offered to leave my wrist watch with the hotel manager on account of the bill for the food. But that gentleman simply said, “If you don’t have the money, it is all right.” My wife was very nervous. But I had faith in God who takes care of everyone in adversity.
I was remained of Gurcharan Singh Guard with whom I had made friends during my travel in 1954. I met some of his colleagues who escorted us to his house at 10.00 p.m. He was pleased to see me along with my children. Showing all respect and regard he said, “Your visit is a great blessing for us.” We had gone to him, dogged by circumstances. Not to speak of food we felt no appetite for any thing. Hurriedly we recounted the whole experience. He consoled us “Don’t worry; everything will be all right.” The next day he made arrangement for the tickets and luggage etc. and in addition gave Rs. 150/- for contingent expenses, and cheerfully entrained us. Even now when I recall the whole episode it sends shivers down my spine.
In Saurashtra water had to be explored for the State. A 1500 foot deep tubewell was bored. Thereafter we bored another tubewell the water of which was warm enough for a bath in winter. For one year I worked there. In the middle of 1957 some of our staff reached Mathura along with their encampment. We got a lucky chance of pilgrimage to Mathura and Vrindaban. A visit to the historical places not only gives a peep into the past but also awakens on to the wonders of the present.
We worked in Mathura area for about six months. Ferozabad is famous for bangles and glass-ware. We saw many factories which manufacture and supply glass-ware to India. We installed tubewells there to explore water. From there the machine was sent to Ettah. Seeing a vast plain outside Ettah town we laid our camp. It was an area where thefts were common. A couple of our members stayed within the camp. Almost all of them kept their wives and one or two children with them. In the days of winter, the ladies after having finished household work, would assemble for idle chat and all children (Ajay, Gogi, jasbir, Usha, Alka, two children of Doji Ram Driver and others) would pilfer raw vegetable, peas, carrots, tomatoes and pinnis (a sweet meat) from the tents on the sly. Their mothers would alter make a hue and cry, but what was the use of crying over spilt milk.
The area was very notorious. According to the local convention, a camp of prostitutes was organized on that spot every year. Mistaking our camp for that, sometimes people stood outside our camp. They would ask us vulgar questions. One evening some other staff members and I were present in the camp. A Sarpanch and lambardar of some village came to our camp and whether she went to perform at the marriages. They kept asking such embarrassing questions. They called me. Three or four boys also came along with me. We gave them such a severe beating that they swore never to come there again. In the same way some other person would come there by mistake but was made to flee back after a sound trashing.
One day we went to Mathura Base Camp. On our return journey we were passing through a village. Shri Kanti Kumar, chief of the camp site was driving the jeep. When we passed beside the village school, a seven year old child of the school came running in front of the jeep. In an effort to save the child the jeep was turned aside and it ran into the school wall. The child was saved but my right eye was injured in such a way that the white of the eye overlapped by black pupil. Good medical aid could not be obtained and as a result the vision of my eye was undermined. We reported to the Base Camp, but got no help. The Executive Engineer T.N. Mehta said, “Bear your own lot.”

The Struggle Thickens

Rani Bagh was the base camp and I was transferred to Tankaur near the border of Nepal. In this are one had to pass through forests sprawling over several miles and infested with elephants, tigers, leopards and other bloody beasts. Many a time we would heat that an elephant overturned a jeep and the occupant of the jeep ran and climbed a tree to save his life. The tigers and leopards would chase the vehicle and if they caught hold of somebody, they would destroy him. But by the grace of God our staff was not harmed.
We installed a tubewell at Nagla Government Agricultural farm in Nainital District which was a model in itself. Without a pump, it ejected more than 60,000 gallons of water. A similar tubewell was bored on the Bilaspur Road in Kashipur area. At that time our site camp was in Lal Kuan guest house, lest some wild beast should harm anybody. The families of all of us lived in the camp. The area was infested with poisonous snakes. There was abundance also of big black scorpion, the sting of which caused instanteous death. They would come under the carpets of the tents and by a mischance, would enter the shoes also. A few of us were stung also by them. Per chance when we folded the carpet of the tent, we would find a snake or a scorpion trampled by us. Our entire staff had got used to hard life. After we had worked in the Rani Bagh area for about six months, our camp was shifted in 1958 to Jaunpur (U.P.). We worked in that area. On one side of Jaunpur near the forest a machine had been installed to explore water. Close by, we had our encampment in tents in a mango orchard. A rumour was rife in the village about the presence of hyena. The people lived in great terror. At night we would sleep joining our cots and fixing mosquito nets, lest some beast should attack the children. One day, that hyena entered the tent of Mr. Krishan Kumar in our camp. He began tyring to pull the leg of a two year old girl Alka from between the joined cots. During the scuffle, they were awakened. But while fleeing, the beast wounded the leg of the child. The life of the girl was saved by virtue of our precaution. Jaunpur is famous for its radishes. I saw there a radish of huge size which had a girth of 10 inches and a length of more than 2 feet. It seemed that the land at that place had some special property. In 1959, I saved an amount of two or three thousand rupees through labour and thrift. I look leave for two or three months and built a house in partnership with my elder brother. According to the standard of those day, it was considered to be a very good house. I myself moulded the steel that was used in the house, and Labh Kaur carried water etc. on her head.

Assam Through Jaunpur

The people had strange belief about Assam. In particular we had heard about district of Kamrup that black magic was prevalent there. The women there are very pretty and captivated the men who arrived there fresh and later changed them into he-sheep or he-goats by means of black magic and tethered them.
In 1960 I was transferred to Rangian city in Assam. I was wilting to go there, but my wife opposed my going there. “No body else has consented to go to Assam, why have you agreed? It is not proper to go there.” But it is my habit to take in hand what nobody else does. Profit or loss does not matter. My viewpoint is to give priority to work, development of the country, and culture of the people, and learn languages. I wanted to see in actuality what I had heard about Assam. I told my wife very frankly that if I was to serve, I had to go to Assam, and that otherwise she could pack her baggage for returning home. She had to accept my decision. And leaving her at home (Bhabat village) I reached Rangian Camp in Assam and reported on duty., I took charge of the boring machine there and started work at Dhakia Jouli, fifty miles away.
The entire area was a forest, full of a wild beasts. Our work was continuing all the 24 hours. We used to set up our camp near some city. I had to check the staff working on the machine at night almost every or alternate day. One night I set out all along by jeep. The driver was not there with me. The jeep could be started only by pushing. The work site was a distance of six miles. While returning through the jungle I had to pass over a bridge which involved an ascent and the jeep stopped there. I was worried and did not know what to do. But the next moment I thought that courage could surmount every hurdle. The scenaro was dreadful. It being a thick forest fearful sounds of different animals were audible. Some time some big beasts seemed to be growling near by. It was a pitch dark night, but I was dauntless. I dismounted from the jeep and pushed it to an elevated spot and with a slight push I was able to start it. On reaching home safe and sound I thanked God. I pledged never to do such a thing again. In Assam, I had with me Shri Lakhbir Singh who is these days running a firm named Patiala Electric Works at Karnal and Shri J.L. Sehgal who was a man of suspicious nature. He had no confidence even in his wife.
We saw a vast area of Assam. We saw the bare-bodied people of Tejpur area who used leaves of trees or animal hide to cover themselves. They had strange looks and astounding gaze and their eyes seemed frightening. What we saw in the Nagaland area of Assam in also amazing. The dog and the cat are their favourite food. They beat the animal to death with sticks and emptying its stomach, clean they stuff in with rice, salt and spices, and thn roast it on live coals and eat it as a delicious dish. Similarly the entire family would join to crush the bigger animals with sticks. It was common form them to eat uncooked fish, tortoise, frogs, snakes, yellow ants and be heating them like pop corn. Once we had set our encampment amidst Majbat Tea Estate. It must bat 12.00 in the night. A wild elephant came there and began to wreck our tents. The entire staff ran helter-skelter for their lives. The members of the staff scared away the wild beast, bruning torches, beating drums and so on.
On the other side, our base camp had been shifted from Jaunpur to Burdwan (West Bengal). I too was transferred from Assam to Burdwan. I was to take charge of the machine there from Shri Gurnam Singh Gill, who had been promoted. The machine had been installed at Shanti Niketan, where he had bored a tubewell. The next project after this was to be at village Midnapur near Damjur railway station in District Howrah. We were ready to set our early in the morning, but the journey being long it took us sufficient time. At night we found some open space to pitch our tents. There was a stream full of water flowering nearby. Getting up in the morning we discovered that the sport was a cremation ground where a dead body had been freshly cremated. The flowing water brought along all the filth of the town. But it was not noticeable, because the water was plenty and flowing fast. To obtain water for drinking, we made use of an old device. It was purified by putting three pitches one over the other and putting charcoal in one and clean sand in the other. The shortage of fuel wood was met out of the cremation ground.
One day a meeting of the staff of the division was held at 24 Pargana. The agenda was installation of 2500 foot deep tubewell in the I.D. Hospital at Belia Ghat, Calcutta. Upto now E.T.O. (Government of India) had never bored so deep a tubewell. It was a very difficult task and no driller incharge consented to execute the work, because anybody going the Government work at a risk is more likely to get a bad name than any appreciation. There is an adage “No work no mistake.” But while one is working the probability of errors is always there. The people always look for easy jobs, not the hard ones. But I have always tried not to give up my firm habit of accepting difficult and risky jobs. I had to pay also for this habit. First I was promoted, then demoted and down-graded, but I again got the promotion. The ultimate gain to me was that I went on developing confidence to work with my own hands. Now I do not feel shy or nervous while performing some hard job. If some thing goes awry, I do not feel sorry. My only aim was to be successful and that aim is there even now.
In 1961, I set about the work in I.D. Hospital. Very triumphantly we completed the 2500 foot deep bore, on which account my entire unit won high praises.
I worked in several areas of Bengal. We were doing work near a village beside Kharagpur (District Midnapur). We started boring with an 8 inch die. When our dirll reached a depth of 260 feet, four to six inches long pieces of splintered wood started coming out along with the mud and water and continued to be ejected upto 20 feet. Some 20 feet thick layer of wood must have been interred at some time. According to laws of nature in due course of time it was to be changed into charcoal.
The work of pilot boring in the areas of Bengal had been completed. Our complete division was shifted to Bhuvneshwar, for Orissa Province. At that time Bhuvneshwar, like Chandigarh had started being constructed as per new plan. We had camped in Bhuvneshwar. Work for exploring water throughout the province of Orissa was to be done. One of the sites was at Basta, where work was being done. Surinder had joined service under me at this site. Gurdial Singh gill was working with me and had been shifted to some other machine. He loaded his luggage on an oil field truck (which was already fully laden with 12” x 8” pipes) and set out. Enroute, they had to cross a river, “The Swaran Rekha” full of water. Gurdial Singh Gill got down on the bank to direct the driver, but as ill luck would have it, as the truck reached the bank its brakes failed. The truck being heavily loaded slid into 20 foot deep water and vanished along with the driver in no time. Not a trace of it was visible on the surface of the water. The river being in spate, the flow of the water was ferocious. Anwar Hussain who was driving the truck was working in the department, on the post of driller-cum-mechanic. As the truck sank into the water he started struggling to extricate himself from the cabin of the truck. Upto the last moment he fought and on reaching the bank he became unconscious. Standing on the bank we were watching the situation and were ready to face the danger. As soon as we saw the hair of his head, while he was being swept by the current of water, we jumped into the water and retrieved him out in an unconscious state, and provided medical aid. As a result, he recovered.

Deep in the Sea

On that site it was a two-day holiday. Surinder Singh & I went to see the beach area of Cuttock. We saw two big bolds for drying the sea fishes. After emptying their stomachs clean, they are stuffed with salt and left to dry. Bigger fishes are put in hug drums and placed on fire. Thus oil is extracted out of them. We passed through the fish folds and reached a place where the fisherman together sit in their boats and wait for the flowing tide. When the tide flowed we talked to the fishermen and accompanied them for several miles into the ocean. Then we started worrying about how to come back. The night-fall had started. We could return only with the flow of the tide. On the other hand those in the camp started feeling apprehensive that some mishap might have taken place. We spent time remembering God and, after some time, reached the coast. We arrived at the camp and found all of our people a worried lot. They had already started searching for us. Coming home we felt very embarrassed and realized that it was wrong to go into the deep sea without informing anybody at the camp.
While staying at Bhuvneswar I was fortune to visit Jagan Nath Puri. They have strange rites and customs. Jagan Nath Puri is an important Hindu place of pilgrimage. It is a temple of very big size. Idols of Jagan Nath are installed inside and the timing are fixed to make obeisance. The devotes from all over the world come there to pay tributes. Outside the temple, along with the idols of gods and goddesses such images of men and women are placed that anybody is put to shame to see them. The parents can not go in the company of their grown up children to see them. The statues are made to depict various postures of love making and sexual intercourse. Khichdi cooked in the temple in small earthen pots is available on price for eating. One custom prevalent there astonished us greatly. It is regarding the Devdasis (temple girls). The people bring their small daughters as an offering to the temple and they grow up to render service inside the temple and spend their entire life there. But the effect of this custom on society is not good, it is rather unhealthy, as it leads the society towards lust and licence.
On the day of Dasserha the idols are taken out in a chariot procession. The response of the people in massive. At a small distance from the temple there is a gurdwara and a baoll (water cistern) which is reached by descending a flight of 84 steps. This gurdwara commemorates the visit of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji whose wooden sandals are kept there as a relic. At this site Guru Sahib had composed a hymn when he saw the priests performing aarti (adulation) by placing earthen lamps in a plate. The hymn is as under:
Raga Dhanasri Mahala 1
(Gagan mai thal…………hoe jate ere naie waa)
Which means :
The sky is the huge salver.
In which the sun and the moon are the lamps.
And the constellations of stars are the jewels.
The scented wind blowing through sandal trees.
Is the burning incense.
And the blowing breeze in waving the chaur. (Flywhishk)
O Almighty! The entire plant world
Is offering its floral wealth.
O Thou liberator from life and death.
“What a wonderful
Evening service is being performed in the honour
Your mysterious divine music
Is serving as a musical insrument.
Pause
A thousand eyes are thine,
Or perhaps Thou has no eye,
Thou hast a thousand forms and yet Thou artformless,
A thousand undefiled feet are thine;
Yet perceivably Thou hast none;
Myriad fragrances are thine
And thou art without one.
How charming this whole show of thine is!
It is the same divine light that pervades
The whole universe and illumines every object.
It is only by the grace of the Guru
That the divine becomes perceptible
And any thing that pleases Him
Is the best evening service.
O Almighty! Day and night,
I am yearing to touch the noble feet;
I am so captivated by their fragrance.
Bestow the nectar of the grace on Nanak the Chatrik,
So that he may dedicate his existence to the name.

Farewell to ETO
(Govt. of India Service)

I was fed up with living in tents. I did not like being ever on the move. Our luggage would always be packed and ready. Only at night we could afford relaxation. This had been our mode of existence for twelve year. We roamed over a major part of the country by train, truck, jeep, motor cycle, bicycle or on foot. Our life resembled that of ascetics, and birds, but the mind was ever restless. My disgusted mind was thinking of something else, when we were transferred to Muzaffarpur Nagar (Bihar) and our entire division reached there. The work was taken up there. As per government rules I served one month’s notice for resigning my job. My dear friend Kanti Kumar had promoted Assistant Executive Engineer. Ever day he kept dissuading me from resigning my job. He emphasized that in the near future I would get promotion and my job would become comfortable. I had been twice demoted for causing damage during work, on which account I had lost interest in this job here. Some other friends of mine also were against my leaving the job. My friend Gurnam Singh Gill was senior to me. He used to say “Gurnam Singh, a government job should not be resigned. The longer you stay, the heavier will be the gain.” To some extent he was right. A permanent, pensionable job was to be the stuff of the old age. But I paid heed to nobody and persisted in my resolve. It is nature that direct a man towards his pre-destined goal.
I got a job in National Coal Development Corporation, Ranchi (District of Hazari Bagh). I was given a higher salary and also a chance to reside a permanent roofed accommodation. But my work was different from that of the tubewell and involved a different technique. There were small sized new type of diamond drilling machines to explore coal. For some days I felt myself out of place. I had to learn to handle the new work. During the first month my output in boring or drilling was less than that of the old workers there. In the second month I was able to emulate them in speed. Gradually my speed excelled theirs and my respect and prestige also enhanced. I worked in the cola-fields of Koulfeek, Jarandi, Jhanjara, Andal (near Aansol, West Bengal) and Giridi. The staff worked with such dedication and exertion, that they completed in two years what was excpected to be done in ten years. I worked for one year at Jhanjara. At that time war with China had broken out and as a result the supply of rice and wheat flour was disrupted. Wheat flour was not available even at Rs. 10/- per kg against its normal rate of Rs. 2/- per kg. If you procured it from some underhand source it would be infested with worms and insects. We would purchase it and clean it for making chapaties by sifting it thorugh a thick cloth. Even coarse rice was not easily available and though we did not like, we were obliged to eat it. There was not other substitute for satisfying our hunger. To make the best of it we would add leaves of grass and other things to it.
A little later Jawahar Lal Nehur breathed his last. Everybody questioned. “After Nehru who?” My son Amardeep who was three years old at that time innocently stated. “I will grow into a Jawahar Lal”.
Master driller G.C. Sharma and drilling engineer Shri A.S. Saini were taking care of the deepest work of the Drilling Division at Ranchi where I had the deepest bore that is 4500 feet in order to explore hard coke. In this area a large quantity of coke was discovered in a deeper layer of soil. At many places it was found through exploration that there is no deficiency of coal in India. More than 3500 foot thick layers of coal are hidden in our soil. But making use of new techniques we have been able to excavate only 40% of coal. At several places the coal is present near the surface of the earth and upto 80% of it can be easily extracted by means of mechanical of manual digging. I served in the National Coal Development Corporation, zealously for two years. The work also had been finished quite speedily. It struck me that I should find a job at some other good place. G.C. Sharma was sensible person. He used to say, “It is time for the tubewell industry to step up its activity. It will be in your interest, therefore, to turn to that industry. Wherever you find some good position, accept it and go.”
My stay of complete two years at Ranchi was carefree. I did not know that my exile was to start again. My mind was constantly restless. I cherished and abandoned so many fancies. The year 1966 commenced. In the every beginning of the year Shri T.N. Mehta who had been an Executive Engineer in an E.T.O. Division became the Manager of Bird and Company. He needed experienced personnel. He called me and Harnam Singh Chopra for appointement. He gave us a handsome salary. The company got work in Bengal. We started working with new machines. We installed tubewells at very drity sports of Calcutta and Howrah. When we went to bore a tubewell in the military area of Barrackpore, Labh Kaur, Harnam Singh Chopra and Surinder Singh had come to me. There, no space being available for pitching tents, we had to take a house on rent. We got a room in the house of retired professor A.B. Bhattacharya nearby. This professor had been a contemporary of Subhash Chander Bose. One day during casual conversation he examined Labh Kaur’s palm and told certain things which were true. He added that he would see her husband’s palm also. When I reached home, I was persuaded to show my hand but I evaded it. Then, one day, Prof. Bhattacharya called me in an started conversing. He told me that I would live upto about 85 years of age and that after serving for some time I would set up my own business. He added that gradually, in due course of time, my business would prosper as the sun rises and reaches its culmination, and that there was nothing to worry.
I was worried about my job as well as my children studying at Chandigarh. I felt anxious about their future. But worry solves no problem. Thinking this, I concentrated on my work.
Bhattacharya told me also that I would suffer from some incurable disease. This also turned out to be true, as I became diabetic. He had also predicted that a big calamity would befall me which would be unbearable, but that I would have to resign to God’s will. This calamity turned out to be Amardeep’s eternal departure from this world at the prime of his life.
Three years later, in 1969, I again went to Barrakpore to see Bhattacharya. I presented to him a packet of rasgullas as he was very fond of them. He said about Surinder Singh that he would have lots of money. But not respect and reputation. About Chopra he stated that he would not be happy on account of his offspring. This also proved to be correct. His elder son grew up a shirker. The younger one was married, but falling prey to evil habits be died at the prime of his life. His daughter also became a widow at a young age. Bhattacharya had told me that he was to live in this world for two more years only and that I should go to seen him before his death. But due to some preoccupations I got late and could not meet him again.

At Khetri Kapar

After completing our work in Bengal and Bihar we came to work in Punjab. We started work around Ambala, Karnal, Shahzadpur and Naraingarh which areas are in Haryana province now. On account of my varied experience I was sent to Khetri Kapar. I was accompanined by Bengal staff. I had to deploy some staff at Khetri Kapar. We laid our camp at a distance towards the east on the bank of a stream, which was a solitary place. We had arranged a watchman for the night. Articles of daily consumptica had to be procured from Khetri town or Singhana town which were at a distance of 6 kilometers.
Master Amardeep had attained the age of five years. Some arrangement for his education had to be made as all other children had, one by one, gone to their maternal grand parents. We could not help sending Amardeep also to Chandigarh. If at that time their maternal grand parents had not lent support, our children would have suffered a big set-back in education. The most important actor was that they continued to receive motherly love from their maternal grand-parents. S. Niranjan Singh and Mata Asa Dai while their maternal uncles and aunts bestowed on them brotherly and sisterly affection as the former were not much senior in age. Bapu Niranjan Singh was working as an assistant in the Estate Officer. Earlier he had retired from the military after completing his service there, but by virtue of his creditable earlier record he got re-employment. He was a very noble and honest person and considered it a sin to take even a penny that was somebody else’s due. He had got a government house consisting of a room and a kitchen to live in. they had five or six children living with them. They lived a hard and thrifty life and managed their household very sensibly. They had to incur expenditure on children’s school fees, pocket money, bus fare, school books and so on. We would keep sending them as much as we could afford. After a few years, they took a two room house on rent in Sector-22 as the schools were nearer there. In those day Gogi (Gurdarshan Singh) also had to be sent to them for studying.
In 1968, I was working as drilling engineer at Khetri Kapar. I had made arrangement for my stay there. Master Amardeep had been put into school at Khetri Camp, and it was the duty of my orderly (chowkidar) to escort him to school every morning. One day, early in the morning, he was taking him to school on a cycle. The road in front had a steep descent and the brakes of the cycle being defective, they ran into a stationary bus. Amardeep received a deep injury on the forehead and was rushed to hospital for medical aid. In the meantime we also reached the hospital and exhorted the child that the Panjabi Sardars were not unnerved by such hurts and injuries. Since that day he had developed such courage that he never felt nervous.
By virtue of our had labour, the work at the Khetri Kapar was about to be finished soon. As per my habit I was making the staff work according to their full capacity. The Bengali staff did not like it. Those people did not take proper interest in the work. They wanted more wages for lesser work. They started mis-reporting against me. Those who listened to them were also like-minded. I did not like it. Only he can appreciate work who can judge it. The reward that I got for putting in hard labour was that the company called me to
Calcutta. This distressed me deeply. The climate of Calcutta did not suit me. But it was a question of subsistence. I got ready to go. But before leaving I went to call on my friend. One day, sitting at my friend M.L. Mathur’s house we were talking about the service matters. As per her habit my wife Labh Kaur said anxiously, “What will become of us now?” I was not worried on this account. Mr. Mathur, thinking of Almighty said instinctively, “Sister, man’s eyes can see upto a limited distance, but he doest not know what is in store for him. So there is no need to worry. Whatever nature disposes, it is for our good. Go on doing your duty and God almighty will lend full support to you.”

Good-bye to Khetri Kapar

On 15th May, 1970, Labh Kaur was sent to Dera Bassi. We had domesticated a goat, which gave 5 kg of milk in the morning and evening together. While going we left it in somebody’s custody, but not being able to put up with separation, it died in a few days. I set out for Calcutta where not getting proper treatment I was very unhappy. I thought that whosoever did more work than necessary suffered in the world. But I was ever prepared to receive kicks and brave hardships. I was remained of an adage:
“Whosoever labours to earn his living
Never faces starvation,
“Whosoever can strive against time,
Life stays in his subjugation.”
They withheld my salary for three months. It became difficult to make both ends meet. I had no money in my pocket to send home. It was a time of scarcity and adversity. But fortunately my friend Harnam Singh Chopra was living at Bhawanipur (Calcutta) and working in a private company. He exhorted and supported my saying “There is nothing to worry; we can pull on, sharing our food half and half.” Thus the problem of boarding and lodging was solved.
Now I resolved not to serve any where and to set up my own business. One needs intial investment to start a business, but initiative can cross all hurdles. Thinking of this I was firmly resolved. I served one month’s notice on the company in order to leave my job. I saw a small machine in scrap market, Belia Ghata, Calcutta for Rs. 2600/-. I gave Rs. 200/- that I had in my pocket as advance and the balance was payable on 1st August, 1970. On final settlement of my account with the company I was to be paid Rs. 3100/- on 31st July, 1971. As per agreement I paid the complete amount to the scrap merchant (Gujrati Bhai) and said, “Lala Ji, It is a Cralius Machine of diamond drilling and its price in the market is sixty thousand rupees.” He replied, “I have made some profit in this deal, though it may be wroth a lakh rupees for you. We, the scrap dealers always stand by our word.” All the components of the machine were made of aluminum, brass, iron and hard steel and were in sound condition. My friend Harnam Singh lent some money for the equipment and I collected it and booked it for Chandigarh where it reached in about two weeks. Borrowing Rs. 200/- from Harnam Singh, I purchased a ticket for the Kalka Mail and entrained. Enroute just as the train corssed Dhanbad, I was attacked by fever. My bed was on the upper berth and the steel trunk under the lower berth. I traveled in an unconscious state for six to seven hours. When the train reached Kanpur I recovered my consciousness to some extent. At Mirzapur station the train halted and I took a cup of tea. I was a litter better. When I detrained at Delhi Station, I was still very weak. I had no money to pay to the coolie. A young armyman also got out of the train. I requested him for help. I was took weak even to step forward. He supported me, put me in a bus for Chandigarh and went away. At that time I had only seven ruppes in my pocket. I paid on Rupee and eight Annas to an auto-rickshaw driver and five rupees I spent as but fare fare from Delhi to Dera Bassi. So when I reached home, I had only eight Annas on me.
There used to be no porters at the Dera Bassi bus stop. I had to unload my hold-all and turn from the bus but I was helpless. On the other hand the conduct was souting, “Remove your luggage from the bus roof-top.” Fortunately Shri Para Kumar with him ambassador car was waiting for passengers. He recognized me at first sight, unloaded my luggage and escorted me home. When I asked the hire, he just said, “thanks” and went away. Now anywhere I recall that heart-rending time, everything gets refreshed, I visualize Paras Kumar and my condition of that time come back to my mind.
At home my family and the parents were happy. They assumed that I had come on leave and would return to my job thereafter. They would daily ask me for how many days I was on leave and when I was to resume duty. I was unable to answer this query. My wife even questioned, “You have not give up your job? If not, why don’t you go back?” She had a sort of apprehension, “If there is no job, how shall we provide for the children and how will their education continue?” There was no other source of income. Our only possession was the house which we had built at a moderate expenses during my service with E.T.O. We did have a small piece of land which Bapuji was himself looking after. Whatever food grains that barren soil yielded, Bapuji shared with us.

Arrival of the Machine at Dera Bassi

After a few days the machine, loaded on a horse-cart arrived at Dera Bassi from Chandigarh. The people at home were amazed to see just a few components. They said, “Is it a machine? These are only a few components. It is nothing.” I considered the matter thoroughly and looked for some skilled mechanic. At that time Harchand Singh Mistry worked in the Bazaar, near Sardar gate, as a balck smith and welder. He was a very sensible person. I made an understanding with him about my venture. I explained to him my plan, and after making the necessary ancillary parts we started fitting them. After working hard for two months, we prepared the complete frame of the machine. To accomplish this task, the elder son of my friend Harnam Singh Chopra’s elder son Gurmail Singh joined me. The body of the machine was completely fitted on to an exle and two tyres. To pull it with a tractor we fixed a hook on its brow.
In those days very few people in the village owned tractors. We had also improvised to pull the machine with bullocks. It was necessary at that time.

Sinking the First Tube-well

At Dera Bassi Bapuji had increased his ancestral land measuring 7 bighas to 70 bighas. But due to scarcity of water no crop could be grown. If it happened to be a year of drought, we got nothing. The land was adjacent to the forest. The wild cow, gnus and other animals ravaged the crops. It stuck my mind that we should bore a tubewell in our own land. It will test the efficiency of the machines as also realize my parents’ dreams of water. I had myself prepared drag-bits of size 6”, 8”, 10”, 12” and 14” from a steel strip. Even now that first bit of 6” is preserved in our store. In the field where the workshop was located we started the work and making a bore of 12” and 14” we installed 6” round and 250 foot deep tubewell. I saw a glimpse of success. I found my dreams being realized. In the beginnings the people would laugh at us. “Here are the people who would do the job without the casing pipe. We have exhausted our life trying to bore with pipes. We have not been able to accomplish it; nor have we seen anybody doing it. They, too, won’t be able to do it. What do these educated persons know about tubewell boring and installing a tubewell” They will certainly fail.”
While I was preparing the machine, I had received advance money for two tubewells. The second tubewell I installed for S. Rajendra Singh (Dra Bassi) which provded to be a good success. The third tubewell I bored for S. Tehal Singh, Sukhdev Singh in village Mehmadpur, which was a fabulous success. Ancillary equipment of the machine was not yet complete. There were no means of going to and coming from the site except on foot. Some times I had to carry heavy equipment on the shoulder. It was a very hard time, but I did not lose heart. I was used to facing misfortunes. I had a cycle of my school times which I had given to Gurdarshan Singh who was studying in 8th Class. I got it for going to far-away villages.
In December, 1970 one day Gurdarshan Singh came to me and demanded thrity rupes to send his admission fee for X class, but I was incapable of paying the money. I was completely out of pocket. I sent him back tilling him to arrange the money from somewhere else. He borrowed the money from one of his teachers and sent his fee.
While boring the third tubewell, one of the engines of the machine, being old, broke down it. I approached several of my relatives for financial help, but those whom fortune forsakes can get respite nowhere. I received a flat refusal saying, “You might or might not succeed; why should we risk our money? Our dear friends and relatives started shunning us, lest we should ask for something. Due to the break-down of the engine of the machine, the work came to a stand still. I went to Kharar and made a request of M/s Ashoka Pumps. They gave me a new Kirloskar Engine worth Rs. 1800/- without a question. I paid the price in installments. Both Amar Nath and his brother are very kind-natured. Our position at home was that both Labh Kaur and I fed on dry bread inside the house, but would not let anybody outside know it. We kept our depression concealed remembering the saying “preserve in a bad time and it will yield place to good time.” Time passed on, circumstances began to improve and our business flourished.
The fourth tubewell we installed for S. Jai Ram Singh and Jai Kishan Singh in Village Ram Nagar which was a great success. Those people helped me a lot. In addition to my wages for the work done, they gave me advance money for more work. With that money we brought a compressor machine from Delhi and with a part of this money that was saved we purchased two new cycle for Surinder Singh and myself from Ambala city. Now I started having a feeling of being well off. That purchase of new cycles gave me greater pleasure than the purchase of Mercedes Car worth Rs. 25 Lakh gave me later. With the cycle we found going to our sites much easier, the site may be 40 miles of 50 miles distant. Surinder Singh had joined me in the work; therefore, its speed had increased. In a month we installed three or four 300 to 400 foot deep tubewells. We started making good money which we would invest for replenishing the equipment. The filters etc. of the tubewells we got prepared by Shingari Industry, Baldev Nagar, Ambala. The Shingaris were an amiable and sensible family. The three brothers Sardar Singh, Gurbachan Singh and Gurmukh Singh had unusual mutual affection. They gave me also brotherly love and respect. Even now I bow my ehad in respect for them.
In may 1971, S. Sarar Singh persuaded me to purchase a Rajdoot Motor Cycle. “We will get you loan from the Panjab and Sind Bank and you will find it easier to visit your work sites.” He said. This was a very kind gesture from the Shingari brothers. When I brought the motor cycle home for the first time both my mother and father thanked God time and again, in great joy. The same motor cycle in a working condition is still in the custody of the company.
The first Crelius machine (12B) with which the company started is even today in a sound condition and is lying a relic, and is like the decked and harnessed mare of Mirza jat. It is a very small machine, hardly three quintals in weight. It is simple to operate and can long as you like. It works more efficiently than Government machines weighing 15 tons each. In may be in Panjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh or Rajasthan, it has come out with flying colours in tube-well and diamond drilling work.

The Company Rides the Tide

With the beginning of the year 1972, our firm began to grow. We purchased two more bigger machines from Mahajan Scrap Merchants of Delhi. We also bought an old big motor cycle, but I had driven I hardly for a few days when it ran into a truck towards Ambala – Dhulkot side which resulted in a crack in my left knee. My leg was plastered and I was confined to bed for a month. During that period I was made to consume excessive quantity of milk, ghee, butter and sugar which made me diabetic and I become a life-long victim of this evil disease. In such a condition, the doctors would advise eating meat and fish, but I did not agree.
In 1973, S. Harnam Singh accompanied by his family came to Dera Bassi and talked to me about the accounts. Whatever I remembered in this regard I told him. The company badly needed money as yet to acquire equipment. But Mrs. Naseeb Kaur (Chopra’s wife) said, “Hand over one machine to Gurmel Singh who would like to work independently. We have pulled together very well. We cannot vouch for the conduct of our children.”
With dejected mind I agreed. But I knew what was in store. I gave them material worth a lakh and a quarter rupees, including the machine of their share, with complete ancillary equipment and the new Rajdoot motor cycle, and sent them off with good wishes.
In 1974, Gurdarshan Singh was studying for his B.A. But he had inculcated interest in business. He wanted to lighten my burden of work. Whenever he found some leisure from his college, he would surreptitiously go the work-site. Noticing his abundant inclination towards business I also did not forbid him. I was in need of help. There is an only saying, “Young man, you are destined to take your place in the family business at length.” By virtue of his sensible ambition and hard work, he became a successful tubewell engineer. One day, Gurdarshan Singh had gone to village Jauley to ply the compressor machine. It was a cold winter season. A gallon of diesel was placed nearby. They were pouring diesel on wood and burning it to bask the fire. Suddenly the tin containing diesel caught fire. Gurdarsan Singh who was standing beside kicked the tin away, but in the process his leg was burnt. Thank God he escaped any more serious harm and continued to perform all his duties with complete dedication which became the harbinger of success.
During 1973-74 we did a lot of work for the farmers in the village of U.P. the road were very bad and unwelcome. The means of transport were nominal. We had to move by motor cycle sometime, but at other times we had to trudge on foot. The desire to get a tubewell installed had caught up. Every house was anxious to have a tubewell. Bapu Arjan Singh had breathed his last on 06th August, 1971. He was a very sensible and self respecting person. Nothing could cow him down. He was a man of faith and perseverance. If he had a friendship it was enduring. On the other hand if he had a hostility, he would abide by it honourably. Changing house four or five times had been his lot. From Nihulka to Saini Majra, Chanalon, Bhabat and then at last to Dera Bassi he had to shift. His next plan was to move to Barvala but it did not mature. It was difficult to cultivate land, because the land was inadequate and there was no means of irrigation. He would deal in cattle and pursued a bit of shop keeping. He had influence with the government, but this benefited the poor people. He served the people and joined them in weal and woe.
Settling at Dera Bassi was the result of his thinking. He used to say, “One must live in a town, even though in a shack, and one must eat wheat even though it is infected.” He stayed at Dera Bassi from 1958 to 06th August, 1971. after his death, we continued to enjoy the blessing of our mother Basant Kaur. She lived upto a very ripe age of about eighty year. Labh Kaur was deeply attached to her and heartily served her. Mother was ever bestowing her blessing. She used to say, “I am not perhaps live to see it, but the world will see that you live in plenty. My daughter, there will be abundance of every thing in your house.” By virtue of social service, Labh Kaur won the love and esteem of the people. On account of Labh Kaur’s patience, hard work and love, the condition of the house changed for the better. The elder daughter-in-law (wife of my elder brother) Charan Kaur also contributed much to this amelioration. Labh Kaur continue to lend her hand in the social service activities.
In 1972, we expanded our work with new rotary machines. In our workshop we prepared a skidwinch percussion machine which worked with a 10 Horse power Peter engine. First we had started the work of head-boring in the village Kalma near Ropar. The then chief minister Giani Zail Singh inaugurated it. The soil of the area was hard, but we achieved success. We did some work at Barotiwala in Himachal Pradesh also. In 1973 we purchased a 22-W percussion machine from Pathankot. To work with this machine consting Rs. 22,000/-, one needs casing pipe which we provided with a great effort. By 1973-74 we had started doing Government job along with working for the farmers. Gurdarshan Singh also had started lending a hand. We also executed the work of Kotla Power House and the New Canal (Drilling and cement grouting, Kotla and Nakia Dam foundation). Surinder Singh also had acquired skill in the work. He showed courage and taking his own machine started working in the area of Badahapur Nagina (U.P.) where he made good contracts. He is still running his business successfully.

Daugther Jasbir Weds

My children who have contributed their mite to my struggle for success include my two daughter who deserve a mention along with my sons. My elder daughter Jasbir Kaur was born to us in 1952 which was a period of want and inadequacy in our life. Resdiing at Saini Majra she suffered the curse of penury with us. We fed her on water instead of milk. Time went on changing. During the first 18-19 years of her life she shared our poverty and prosperity and stood by us through thick and thin. Then on 9th June, 1974 she was married to Malkit Singh (Son of Dr. Hazara Singh) whom also we inducted into the tubewell boring industry. He took a great interest in this work and constructed a bunglow for their residence in Sector 13 of Kurukshetra. Later he abandoned the tubewell business and set up a card board factory which he is running very successfully while Jasbir Kaur is sharing his responsibility. They have been blessed with two obedient sons Satinder Pal Singh and Jaswinder Singh. Jasbir Kaur is very sensible, skilful and far-sighted on account of which virtues she has made a respectable place for herself in the house of her in-laws.
Malkit Singh is of a very gentle and sociable nature. Living in humility he has made a good progress as per his means and is on that account leading a very comfortable life. By dint of their continuous hard work they are in the ascendant. I have every hope that in his life’s strife he will bring credit to his ancestors. This is the wish I have for him.

Hunting Scrap Market for Machines
(Cabal- Tool Machine)

We had signed contracts with several government departments. We had now means to purchase a car and a tractor. It happened in 1975. I had gone to Delhi to attend the marriage of Mr. Chopra’s daughter. Finding some leisure, as per my habit I went to take a round of scrap market. The bazaar was open. At a place I noticed three huge machines. I fiddled with several ideas. I wondered who would ply such big percussion machines and where we would procure work for them. The machines were in sound condition, two of them in a very good condition. I talked about them to Mahajan Scrap Merchant (who was called a machinery magnate). He was pleased to hear me because nobody had shown any interest in the machines for the previous six months. Seeing me earnest, he was ready to strike the deal immediately. Three machines were settled for two and a half lakh rupees and the payment was to be made in three months. I struck the bargain, but I was afraid least the dealer should go back on his promise. Mahajan also wished that the customer should not slip out of hand and therefore he demanded some advance money which I arranged to pay. My next worry was to pay the balance of the price for which I had not the enough money.
I had about forty thousand rupees with me at home, but nothing more. Retired Tehsildar S. Mohinder Singh who had deep attachment with me lived at Dera Bassi. I talked to him and he told me to reach the State Bank of Patiala, Dera Bassi at 10.00 a.m. There he withdraw Rupees one lakh from the bank and handed over to me. I deposited that money in the Panjab & Sindh Bank, Bhankharpur. Within a week I brought one machine from Delhi. The next month the other two also were fetched. Immediately I got them repaired and serviced and in a short time they were in a working condition. We got an assignment also at Panchkula. All the three machines were put to work. This not only increased the speed of work but also strengthened the organization of the company.
It was hardly three months since I had borrowed money from S. Mohinder Singh when he suddenly expired. I was anxious to know as to whom to return the loan. His heirs were unknown to me. After the last rites, all their relatives and acquaintance departed but I kept sitting there, not knowing whom to talk to. Getting an opportunity I talked to his sons and brothers and told them that I owed rupees one lakh to S. Mohinder Singh. Initially they did not believe me, but when I reiterated they were convinced and said, “His lenders have made their appearance, but you are his only debtor about whom we had to knowledge. They would not accept the whole amount lumpsum and desired that it might be repaid in five installments. As per our understanding I repaid the full amount and paid an additional ten thousand rupees ex-gratia which they accepted very reluctantly. But for that noble person’s help, the company would have been in a different situation.
In addition the company had acquired a rotary drilling machine with a large capacity. Thereupon we began to accept big project in Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Himachal Prades, U.P. and Bengal, which were being aided by the World Bank. In Bengal, particularly, we did a lot of work which elicited a citation from the Bengal Government that these Panjabi Sardars’ performance was laudable. This is a matter of pride for all the Punjabis.
We had assignment in Chandigarh also. We had a contract to bore upto 120 meters deep. But installing tubewell upto that depth served no purpose. Every body said that there was no water beyond that depth in Chandigarh. The fact of the matter was that nobody had a machine to penetrate deeper into the stones. But we got a machine prepared that could drill 1000 feet deep. Having been born and brought up in Chandigarh I felt sorrowfully that it was no use living if we could not provide good potable water to the city Beautiful. I went to the office of the S.E. Shri G.S. Sodhi and expressed my view that it was advisable to bore upto 1000 foot deep. Initially he tried to put me off, but then on my submission he consented. The condition was that if water was not discovered at the depth of 1000 foot, no payment would be made. We installed 1000 foot deep tubewells as Daddu Majra and in Sector 17 of Chandigarh which poured out abundant water. Thereafter the Chandigarh Administration made programme of boring 1000 foot deep tubewells, which took off very well.
At Dera Bassi, in 1978, we had a tiff with a bad character. We did not want to spoil our relations with any body, but he tried to harm my interest in every way. In reality his motive was to corner us and oblige us to have him as a partner in our firm. I was cautious in that respect. That is why his plans to circumvent me did not succeed and our business continued to flourish.

Son Gurdarshan Weds

It was the year 1975. The foundation of the company had been laid now, and means of subsistence had been provided. Jasbir Kaur had been married and now we were thinking of Gurdarshan Singh’s marriage. Several alliances were suggested, but were not approved. In the meantime S. Hari Singh of Bhankhapur (Who was called double maternal uncle) acted as a go-between and arranged Gurdarshan’s engagement with the intelligent and sensible daughter of S. Gurdial Singh fish contractor of village Magar, who was one of his relative. S. Gurdial Singh invited Mrs. Labh Kaur and me to his village Magar so that subsequent proggrame might be planned. We reached village Magar as per schedule. We talked to them and Mrs. Labh Kaur took a fancy to Inderjit Kaur. Not feeling any more discussion necessary, she removed her gold ring from her finger and put it on Inderjit’s finger and we decide upon an early marriage. S. Gurdial Singh arranged the marriage ceremony on 28th November, 1976 as best as he could. We needed a sensible daughter-in-law and the one arrived, brining along good fortune. Now she has two sons who are making a good progress in life.
In 1978, the work of the Gurdwara Dihati Sabha was initiated. The Entire work was assigned to and got done by S. Gurbakhsh Singh who in an honest and sensible person. Now our work is being done very successfully in several provinces.

Daughter Sureinder Weds Gurmukh Singh Giran

Surinder Kaur is my second daughter who was born after Gurdarshan Singh. She could study upto Matriculation only, but is very intelligent. She was married to Gurumukh Singh Giran who is very sensible and matchlessly efficient in his work. They have their bungalow in a neat and clean environment in Sector-34, Chandigarh. She is following in the foot steps of her mother Labh Kaur who has great trust in God. But having lived a life of ease and comfort in her parental home she is a spend-thrift by inclination. This was bound to influence her husband and that is what is happening. We have got two weighing machines installed at Lalru and Dera Bassi in her name to counterbalance her extravagant proclivities. Jagpreet Singh Jimmy is their promising son who is a student yet and bids fair to make great achievements. The family has taken another initiative and set up a factory. Surinder Diamond paper at Dera Bassi, which is showing good results and is expected to make great strides.
Gurumukh Singh Giran has traveled abroad also which has given him breadth of vision and freshness of fancies. This also enables him to find new avenues for his intelligence.

A Promise Cut Short

Alongside, Amardeep Singh also got his degree in engineering and joined us in business. He and his own way of working. I noticed that he was working from eighteen to twenty hours daily, whether he studied new technology or was doing something else. He had his friends in every walk of life. In particular he was well acquainted and had sociable relations with newspapers representatives and journalists. Harbhajan Singh Halwarvi, Chanchal Manohar Singh, Shingara Singh Bhullar Sham Singh, Baljit Balli, Prabhjot Singh and many other were among his daily visistors.
Many a time we would send him to submit tenders and there with his sharp insight he would prevail upon other parties. Once he went to Paonta Sahib to submit a tender at the nearby Giri Project. A large number of contractors had gathered there, to present their case. The assignment was very hard. The contractors did not know Amardeep Singh except that he was a well dressed youth from Chandigarh. Amardeep Singh said to them, “This job of boring is very hard, how will you execute it?” One of them replied, “We shall get it done by somebody. If nobody else does it, we will get it done by Gurnam Singh’s Company at Dera Bassi.” Amardeep Singh at once retorted, “He is my father, not yours. He will give priority to my work.” So all the contractors went away, giving up their claims. He always talked with such far-sightedness that nobody could match him.
It was in 1988. Kishtwar in Jammu area samples were to be collected through test boring for a link canal in the high mountains. Amardeep Singh took a percussion machine there and working according to the government plan, won laurels. This area, deemed to be a heaven on earth, needed water. The crop of the costliest and the best saffron is grown here. About an ounce of saffron in extracted from fifty to seventy five thousand flowers. Amardeep Singh gathered all details about saffron. Coming back to Dera Bassi he told the members of our family how very fond of saffron the Mughal Emperiros had been.
Amardeep was very intelligent. When he along with other children was withdrawn from N.D. Model School, Chandigarh and admitted to a school at Dera Bassi, he was taken straight in 04th class after 2nd class because he had shown in the test that he was fit to study in the 4th class. After passing matriculation from Government High School, Dera Bassi he took admission into Shri Guru Gobind Singh College, Sector 26, Chandigarh for Pre University. But he could not prepare well for the examination of the 12th class and in consultation with me, he decided not to take it. The next year he appeared with better preparation and got through with high marks. Thereafter he got admission into Guru Nanak Engineering College, Ludhiana from where he passed Bachelor of Engineering and later attained the degree of Master of Engineering (Production). He played hockey and badminton, evinced interest in N.C.C. and acted in plays. When he was eighteen years old, Amardeep Tubewell Company was set up after his name, which is functioning very well. My elder daughter-in-law Inderjit Kaur fixed Amardeep’s marriage with her younger sister Jaswinder Kaur. Amardeep Singh consented to this alliance cheerfully. He showed respect and regard to every one.
When he were in the office and came home for lunch he would be accompanied by friends. If his mother said that he should inform in advance, his reply would be, “Please serve whatever is cooked; we shall share it.”
He liked to mix up with people of all sorts. Once we were amazed when he brought General Jagjit Singh Aurora home at Dera Bassi. He garded Chacha Chandigarhia (Dr. Gurnam Singh Tir) as if he were his father.
He had joined the business whole-heartedly and wanted to expand it. He prepared a project to set up a factory to manufacture tubewell filters of stainless stell. It would have been the first such factory in the country. To procure technology for his factory he visited Russia, Canada, America, Germany, France, England, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Malaysia, twice each. Returning from Singapore, he also went to Australia where he completed his repot on the machine for making filters. He returned to India on 09-09-1990.
He had prepared a complete blueprint of the factory. By 19-19-1950 at 5.00 p.m. he had provided some requirements. On 20-09-1990 accompanied by journalist Baljit Balli and project adviser Sharma he left Dera Bassi for Delhi by car to procure more equipment. While leaving he told his mother and me that he would come back in two days. But it was irony of fate that in 15-20 minutes he was brought home unconscious in the same car. The car had run into a stationary trolley and a part of the car broke away and pierced his forehead. We made all efforts and made entreaties and supplications to doctors, but nobody heeded us. He was not attended to properly. The behaviour of the staff was not upto the mark. The patients are not treated there as per their need. They are used as guinea pigs in the laboratory. A lot of experimentation is done to train the newly commissioned doctors, but no value is attached to the human life. Sitting in the open lawn we prayed for Amardeep’s recovery. I supplicated almighty for granting a new lease of life to my son, just as it had been bestowed on Emperor Akbar on his father Hamayun’s entreaty. But my prayer was not accepted. The staff of the P.G.I. at Chandigarh left nothing undone in their misbehavior towards us as they do to other people also. We thought it proper to keep quiet lest they should be displeased and should do some harm to the patient.
At length, God’s will prevailed and on 27th September, 1990 Amardeep departed from this mortal world. We were left weeping and wailing. We exhausted our tears. Five thousand persons joined the funeral procession upto the cremation ground. Then thousand relatives and friends from far and near attended the last rites. But the family even now hopes in vain that Amardeep will return home in two days.
The departure of Amardeep shook the family completely. For some time the business also suffered a big setback. The life of his wife Jaswinder Kaur was completely ruined. The mainstay of the children was gone. All the members of the family were engulfed in deep gloom. Amardeep, the father, could not realize the dreams of his innocent children who could be the pride of the nation and the country.
In West Bengal Harpal Sodhi was installing tubewell on behalf of the company under the complete supervision of Amardeep and much to be liking of that Government. That work was interrupted.
In 1990 our farming was in a very good form. The wheat ears in our fields were as long as 11 inches. Giani Zail Singh was greatly pleased to see them. He heartily honoured and exhorted me.
Time moved on. The people sympathized with us. The aggrieved family rallid to start the struggle afresh. Attaining success gradually, we advanced towards the goal of perfection. Appreciating my service, the Punjab Government honoured me with a State Award on 15th August, 1991 at Patiala. Being interested in social services, I became a member of the Lions Club and performed many acts of public welfare. To honour the momory of Amardeep Singh I set up Amardeep Memorial Charitable Trust which collected money from its own resources and donated more than eleven lakh rupees to the hospital at Dera Bassi. We organized eye camps and got a six bed room constructed in Civil Hospital.

Sauntering in Alien Lands

In 1986, I went on a tour of England, France, Amercia and Canada for one month as per programme chalked out by the Lions Club. From India, we reached England by an Air India flight and soon after we left for France. We had planned to stay in a five-star hotel for the night. I had never stayed in a big hotel earlier. Early in the morning, as per my habit I thought of taking bath. In the bath room I filled a tub with water and jumped into it. As a result the tub overflowed and both the bath room and the living room were inundated. Our luggage was drenched and the carpets were soaked with water. The fact was that there the bath rooms were not fitted with drain-pipe, which I did not known. I called the French hotelier for help, but the problem was that he did not know English.
We managed to communicate through gestures. We felt that he might be abusing us in his language. In the morning at 10 O’ clock we boarded a bus for sight-seeing in the city. We passed through the magnificent bazaars and reached a hug memorial gate known as the Gateway of Memories of unknown soldiers. Nearby we saw beautiful statues of men and women, made of stone. Next we saw the Eifel Tower which is counted as the seventh wonder of the world. That very evening we reached England. In England we had no acquaintances. Those who had friends or relative there, went to them. We found it difficult to procure food. We fed on whatever little was available. The next day we were to fly to New York in America. We made preparation and boarded the plane.
In New York we stayed in a hotel. This three-star hotel had no boarding arraignments. There was no Punjabi hotel nearby. We found a Pakistani hotel which catered for European food only. Labh Kaur liked taking vegetarian food alone. We ordered vegetarian food and they served something like boiled green grass with some rice. We paid for it and returned to our hotel without earting any thing. We passed time starving in the hope that the next station might have a better fare in store.
On next halt was in Washington. We were lodged in a three-star hotel, which also provided no food etc. we had been farmished for four days. At a small distance, in a hutment, pizza was baked. We wanted to have a taste of pizza and also to satisfy our hunger. I ordered the keeper to bake pizza where upon he enquired what he should put into it. I told him to put all adjuncts except meat. He baked pizza but we did not relish them and reurned to our hotel hungry. Our companions went to their friends and returned after taking their food there. One of them made a mention of us also to his relatives. The latter very kindly and affectionately borught packed food for us at 11.00 P.M. At that time we were soundly asleep. Next morning when we got up we were made with appetite. When Labh Kaur noticed the food, she forgot even to take a both. Both of us pounced upon the food like famished tigers. For the previous five days we had not satisfied our hunger. Now we felt somewhat at ease.
We stayed in Washington for two days. There we saw the gardens and White House. From there we went to New Orleans. There we saw the Magic kingdom sprawling over several thousand acres, which we liked very much. One cans see the curiosities of the world here. We stayed there for three days and on the fourth day we reached Miami Beach and stayed at Ramada Hotel. There the weather during the month of June is very pleasant. The people from northern America come here for fund and frolic. This area is a centre of attraction for the tourists from other counties also. The affluent people of the world have set up many enterprises here.
There are vast sea beaches organized for diversion. Some beaches are so organized that after entering the main gate it is obligatory to take off one’s dress. In that area you will see men and women moving about naked and indulging in frivolities. Nobody feels shy or ashamed. At Miami there was a four day annual programme of the Lions Club International, at which Lion members from all over the world had gathered. All the members sent good wishes all greetings to one another’s country. They took out a big procession also.
One day when we arrived back at the hotel tired and worn out, Labh Kaur said that she could not get sleep without taking tea. I affected indolence and said, “If you need tea, go and fetch it.” She felt offended and boarded the lift by herself. She stood in front of the tea shop on the third floor and after pondering for a moment she said to the lady, “One tea, one sugar and milk.” The latter put hot water in a plastic glass and added other material required. Labh Kaur thought that when she went up, she might spill hot water on herself. She made a gesture to the counter attendant that she had to go up. The lady understood her floor by means of the lift. Coming back into the room she recounted the whole episode. Those present there exclaimed, “Very well done, Aunty.” For many days thereafter they kept laughing at English spoken by her. At the Miami Hotel itself I received by dak the Panjabi Tribune and read the passage in which Sham Singh had briefly described my life under the heading “From bare feet to the canopy of affluence.” I was reminded of the past ups and downs of my life and remained sentimental for two days - - some time breaking out into wails. Tears born out of mixed feelings of joy and sorrow flowed unchecked.
After Miami, our next stop was at Los Angles, but we had to change planes at Atlanta. I had rung up to Ajit Singh, the brother-in-law of my relative Sohan Singh, to see me at the aerodrome of Atlanta. He can and kept talking about home and aborad. Bidding goodbye to that place, we reached Los Angles and arrived at the hotel where we had to stay. In the evening S. Chet Singh invited all members to dinner at his hotel. “Sher-e- Panjb”. The next day we went to see the film studio of Hollywood. There was much of glamour to see. It presented wonderful spectacle.
Our next stop was at San Francisco, which was a lovely neat and clean city. We had been there just a few hours when Baljit Singh, the elder brother of Jagjit Singh Dolly came to receive us as per predecided programme. He escorted us in his car to his house at San Houze, 60 miles away. His wife and children were greatly pleased to see us there. We stayed with them for fur days and they gave us full regard and affection. Every day they would chalkn out programme for some sight-seeing.
One day they took us to see Red Wood forest. The height of the trees was upto 350 feet. There was no dangerous beast in such a big, thick forest. In this jungle we saw the stump of an old tree which was 2200 years old. Another tree was 1800 years old. Their girth was 66 feet and 40 feet respectively. We saw fire having broken out inside a tree which according to the local people had been smoldering for the previous twelve years. Another day, they planned to see Disneyland which is a wonderful place. After four days we returned to Los Angeles. We deliberately did not go to Los Vegas because we hade heard that it was the biggest casino or gambling den of the world. In Los Angeles we stayed at the house of Sukhdev Singh Grewal for four days. His aged mother was at home and his children were in England. They had a flourishing grocery shop there. They took us on a excursion to California and there we saw dairy farms which each had six thousand to sixty thousand cows. Very small number of men are engaged to look after them. The cows willingly move about in the open. Before milking they are properly bathed. Turn by turn they come forward to be milked mechanically and then move on. The milk is transferred into huge tanks by means of big pipes and then it is sent to bazaar or to the factories in milk tankers.
California has orchards of grape, litchi, orange and several other fruits. In the fields we saw combines plucking tomatoes. In this area we saw running oil wells on the top of which a huge hand pump is fixed. At Grewals’s home his mother treated us very affectionately and talked of pains and pleasures. One day Labh Kaur said to their mother, “I have not seen any American woman wearing gold ornaments except a ring on the finger.” She replied, “My dear daughter, who should bestow a heavy ornament on them, because they scarcely come out of the church after wedding when they go in for a divorce.” To us it seemed very strange because in our country once a woman marries a man, she stands by him through thick and thin upto her demise.
After four days we took leave of Grewal and his mother and reached Toronto in Canada. We were accompanied by our co-tourists who had to go their friends or relatives. I had informed S. Ajit Singh the husband of my sister-in law Pritam Kaur and S. Pritam Singh, the cousin of Labh Kaur, or our arrival. They were overjoyed to know about our reaching there. In a short time they reached our hotel. Lake View. In no time they repacked our luggage and took it to their house at Kitchener. We stayed there for about a fortnight during which they took us around for a lot of sight seeing. In Toronto we saw C.N. Tower and Niagara Falls. We were treated to a charming spactacle. S. Ajit Singh and S. Pritam Singh helped us to see many other beautiful and delectable places. There families gave us a lot of love and respect which left an indelible impression on our minds. There were several other Panjabi families to which we were introduced.
It was about a month since we had left home. Now we felt keen on returning home. We were getting nostalgic on account of little grand children and daughters and daughters-in-law. We wished to lend wings to overselves to reach home at the earliest. From Toronto we boarded a British Airways plane and came to England. We had planned to halt there for four days. Before reaching there I had intimated the time of our arrival to S. Balbir Singh Gill. He had reached the aerodrome punctually. He escorted us to his house and looked after us very well. He introduced us to his other friends. Sarvjit Singh son of S. Lachman Singh also invited us to his house to honour us. During our four days’ halt there we made several friends who made us promise to revisit at the earliest. Here, it is very difficult to go abroad. After spending four days there, we set our for our native land India. That plane was to fly to India via Dubai. The journey upto Dubai was very pleasant.
After halting at Dubai, when the plane resumed flight, many Indians were seen perched on their seats with big hold-alls, V.C.R.’s and other articles of luggage. They took no notice of any other passengers. As soon as the plane took to air, they raise an uproar. They had brought with them bottles of European liquor which they started drinking. Some gentlemen consumed so much alcohol that they started vomiting and soiled not only the latrines, but also the seats of the aeroplane. I felt pained and ashamed to see the disgraceful conduct of our younger generation, that was being put up before the foreigners. We felt a sense of relief when we landed at the Delhi Aerodrome.
The conduct of the staff at the Delhi aerodrome was condemnable. They scattered about all our luggage as if we were returning with a treasure plundered abroad. We had our garments if daily use and a couple of suits. Having got rid of them we came out where our elder son Gurdarshan and younger son Amardeep had reached the aerodrome from Dera Bassi to receive us. When we reached home, we felt very happy. We were relieved of home-sickness. I felt greatly gratified to know how well both my sons had looked after the work of the company. My absence for a full month had not affected the functioning of the company. After I had shared the burden of work of the company for a short while, destiny planned an other foreign travel for me.

A Journey to the Far East

In 1989, the International Lions Club planned a trip to Taipei (Taiwan). For a long time I had cherished a desire to visit a country like Japan, which seemed likely to be fulfilled. I obtained a visa and reached Bangkok. Amardeep had arranged foreign exchange through some person who handed it over to me as I came out of the aerodrome since in those days one could carry only 500 dollars which was not an enough amount to meet the expenses.
As soon as we came out of the airport we were seated in a tourist bus bund for Patia Beach. The route was very beautiful. Two or three of our members were very light-heated. We proceeded indulging in fun and frolic. Enroute we went on purchasing new types of fruits and sharing them with our comrades. Thus drowning our moments of weariness in cheer and gaiety, we arrived at the Patia Hotel. We were just taking refreshment in our respective room, when our companion Mr. Gupta who had been entertaining every body, expired over a cup of tea. He suffered such a severe heart attack, that he could not utter even a syllable before he died. The mirth and joy of all the members gave way to mourning. They were all drowned in grief. It being a foreign land, we were faced with problems. First, it was a police case and secondly there was the difficulty of transporting the dead body from there. We were very upset, but our travel agent did not lose his nerve. Very sensibly he made all arrangements and sent two of his workers along with the dead boy to Mr. Gupta’s house at Ludhiana.
The two days during which we were to stay at the breach, were sent in great depression. The next visit was to Hong Kong. The next day we reached the Hong Kong airport, and then took room in a three-star hotel. We spent two days in sight seeing at Hong Kong. Here the Chinese are very much under the influence of English Language. The people are followers of the Buddhism. Their food habits are different from ours. They can eat meat of any sort. We had to search for food, but we managed to procure it at one place to other.
After two day halt there, we were to visit Taipei (Taiwan) next, where we had to stay for four days and participate in the proceedings of the Lion Club. We were stationed in a beautiful hotel which was at a distance of about ten miles from the city, in a rural environment. Every morning the bus would pick us up and drop us back at the hotel in the evening. The arrangements at the Lions Club Fair members from all over the world had gathered there. It was an atmosphere full of brotherly love.
We had very few turbaned Sikhs among us, may be five. The Taiwanese men and women shunned turbaned Sardars out of fear. But they looked towards us with interest. A few of them took courage and came forward to see us. In a short time, they realized that these were Sikhs from Punjab are in India, who showed respect and regard to every one. Thereafter they showed so much love and affection to us that every one wanted to be photographed with us. They took it to be a matter of pride. They would invite us saying, “Came and dine with us. That will give us immense pleasure.” Their conduct was very simple and instinctive. It seemed that they had owned us. One day we visited the Science Fair in the town. They had put up new articles in their shops. They showed us a chair which was multi-purpose. It could be converted into a table or a ladder.
Our programme at Taipei concluded and it was time for us to say good-bye. Baskets of fruits were sent to all members on behalf of the Governor of Taiwan. They had been sent as parting gifts which we appreciated later. The hoteliers bade us a warm send-off. We departed from Taiwan to Japan. It was a four hour journey. As w e landed at the aerodrome of Tokyo (Japan), first of all we obtained the Japanese currency. It took us some time to understand the denomination of that currency. We had to count a large number of currency notes which had a small value. We were made to stay in Tokyo Hotel which was a big hotel near Tokyo Tower. There was no difficulty concerning food. At a small distance there was Panjabi hotel being run by a Pakistani Panjabi. There, food of every type was available. For three days we visited distant place for sight-seeing. We traveled for a bullet train also which ran at the speed of 250 kilometers per hour. We also saw volcanic mountains (which smelled of sulphur) as also Disneyland.
One purpose of my visit to Japan was to acquaint myself with such techniques as may be helpful in my business. While moving about, I noticed a machine that loaded or unloaded heavy luggage into or from trucks. Only two persons worked on it. I made a conceptual outline of the machine and coming back to Dera Bassi I prepared one like it. Now loading and unloading of pipes became so easy that several hours’ work was accomplished in no time. Earlier whenever some heavy equipment arrived, we had to engage ten or twelve labourers from the market and a whole day was spent in unloading or loading it.
After this we reached Singapore by a Singapore Airlines flight, where again we had some sight-seeing. I went to Kuala Lumpur for a couple of day to see my younger sister Mrs. Dalbir Kaur and then returned home. Earlier also Labh Kaur and I had visited Singapore and Malaysia thrice.
In 1989, the company was on a sound footing. We decided to shift the business to Chandigarh. For residence. I purchased a two kanal Plot (No. 532, Sector 33) on lease hold to construct a bungalow on. Earlier, in order to expand busies another company named Gurnam Singh and Sons had been started to manufacture filter of stainless steel. All its prerequisites had been completed when Amardeep Singh died in a road accident, as detailed before. That project of which he had worked out all details came to an end. Leasehold plot which I had purchased, I disposed off, because I did not want to involve my children in any Government liability. On 29-05-1991, I purchased free hold Plot No. 550, Sector 33-B, got the foundation stone laid by my friend Shri C.D. Cheema I.A.S. and built the bungalow. During 1993-94 I bought two 4 Kanal Plots in the Industrial area and shifted the worshop to Chandigarh. Only agricultural activity was left at Dera Bassi.

The Other end of the Globe

I chalked out a programme to visit Australia on 18th August, 1995. There was a conference of the Australia Drillers’ Association from 23rd to 27th August, 1995 in a 5-star hotel in Melbourne City. Labh Kaur and I set out from Chandigarh on 19-08-1995 for Australia and on that very day we were to fly from Delhi for Singapore. From there we had to take a Qantas Airlines flight on 20-08-1995. In Australia every aeroplane first lands at Darwin Airport. After the passenger’s deplaning, the plane is disinfected. Then at 8.00 A.M. we were flown to Cairns airport in Australia. At he aerodrome, the passengers are subjected to strict check-up, but they are treated very respectfully. When I told them of my relationship with S. Satnam Singh Saini, they showed even greater regard. When we came out of the aerodrome after the immigration check, S.Satnam Singh and his family were already waiting for us outside. They received us very warmly and departed with us towards their farm, which must be about 160 kilometers away. This area abounds in sugar-cane and banana. Throughout we saw vast farms of sugarcane and banana, many of which are owned by the Punjabis. For some time we halted at Tahlee Town where Amarjit Singh, the younger son of S. Satnam Singh resides. He is running a hotel and a restaurant there. From there, Satnam Singh’s farm house is about 20 minutes drive. We stayed with them for four days and saw their farms.
In August-September, the crops of sugarcane and banana hard ripened. After harvesting, the bananas are graduated and packed for export which involves a lot of labour. Therefore, all the members of the family and workers join to do this work. Some workers are engaged in harvesting and sending bananas to the workshop and some workers with the members of family go on packing them. Nobody has any leisure from the work in which he is engaged. They get an hour’s respite after four hour’s continuous work, after which they again resume work. The same procedure is followed in harvesting of sugarcane. Queensland produce rich harvest of sugarcane. In this region there are 32 sugar mills. The sugarcane is harvested with a combine which cuts upto 200 tonnes of sugarcane into piece in 8 hours. The sugarcane is loaded in tractors, trolleys and dumpers and shifted to open wagon of the railway train of the nearby sugar mill. A combine cuts 200 to 300 tonnes of sugarcane as per specifications of the mill and prepares it to be dispatched to the mill. The sugarcane harvested from the field is, within 24 hours, transformed into sugar and sent to be sold in the market. The farmer gets its price according to the sweetness elements in it. As soon as the calculations are made, the amount due is credited into his account.
When we went to see a sugar mill, being foreigners, we were treated with respect and shown the mill and given all information in a proper manner. The guide accompanying us was explaining every thing in detail. When we took leave of them, they on behalf of the mill, presented to us two plastic bags containing packets of sugar. In these sample packets 5 to 10 percent molasses is retained in sugar, as the molasses is good for health.
In the sugar prepared in a mill, only 33% elements of food value are retained and 67% go to the molasses. That is why the sugar that we consume is called white poison. There is not match to the home made jaggary for eating. It is very conducive to health.
The farmers have vast lands and there is shortage of workers. As such, all work has to b done mechanically. Whether it is a field or sugarcane or of banana, machines are available for putting insecticides, manure etc. A single man can spray hundreds of acres of land in a day.

An Excursion to Murray Fall

On 24-08-1995, S. Gurnam Singh took us to see Murray Fall about 40 miles away from his farm. The passage lay through a forest, but was neat and clean. There were no wild beasts and the people move about care-fee. Murray Fall is at pleasurable spot amidst a thick forest. About eleven lakh gallons of water falls per hour from a lake at a height of 150 feet, and making a charming cascade, joins a river. It being a forest area, we came across some Australia aborigines. Now they can speak English. Physically they are very strong and stout. The Australian government has built permanent bricked houses for them and settled them in colonies. They have been assigned 50 acre farms for cultivation and every person is given pocket money. Still there are some vast forests where aborigines live bare-bodies. They hunt and eat the wild beasts for their sustenance. Kangaroo, a wild animal is available every where and its flesh is like that of goat. It is said that when Queen Elizabeth of England banished some inconvenient people, new land of Australia was inhabited for them, which was, otherwise, predominantly populated by the local aborigines. When the whites had newly arrived, the aborigines started killing and eating them. The whites, for their security, began to kill the natives, who then remained confirmed to forests. The white taught some of them and made them join them. This is how Christianity is dominant there.

Jiwan Singh and Other Friends

We Stayed with S. Satnam Singh for five days (20th to 24th August, 1995). We set out for Townsville, from where we had to take a flight for Melbourne. The road leading to Townsville was quite broad without any bottlenecks. We would drive at a speed of 100 to 150 kilometers per hour without any risk. On the way petrol pumps and all other necessary facilities were available. At Townsville we went to see Prof. Shahid Khan of the University there who belonged to Pakistani Punjab. We also being Punjabis, he treated us very respectfully. In an atmosphere of good will we discussed home and aboard. He said, “If any of your children wants to study at this university, I shall take care of him or her, and make all arraignments.” He introduced us to several other professors.
On 26-08-1995, taking a plane from Townsville we reached Melbourne via Brisbane. When we came out of the airport S. Jiwan Singh of Sarsini and his family had been waiting for us. They felt elated to see us and were beside themselves with joy. They picked up our luggage and affectionately escorted us home. We told them in so many words that we had got our rooms booked in the hotel, but the loving gentleman and his family did not consent to our staying at the hotel. On reaching their place we found that they have already readied a room for us. The environment of their home was very congenital. Their daughter-in-law excelled every body else in respect and affection. Even now many a times we recall her noble personality. Mrs. Jiwan Singh’s attitude also was very amiable and regardful. The day after our arrival, Mrs. Jiwan Singh fell ill and had to be hospitalized. Lying on the hospital bed she rued that she was unable to personally attend to relatives from her native village. She is a very sociable woman. The whole family has been nursed on love. All its members (sons, daughter, sons-in-law etc.) live in amicable camaraderie.

Conference at Melbourne

On 26-08-1995 at 7.00 P.M. there was the first get-together of the foreign delegates, at which there was a good arrangement of food and drink. I met the drilling workers hailing from different lands, who where cultivated persons. The conference on drilling continued for four days. Lots of discussions were held and the speakers spoke of their experience and threw light on their advancement. In this meeting I made friends with many persons. I also came across a Panjabi young and belonging to Panchkula here, who was the Chief Engineer of a company named “Drilling Mud.” He was a very sensible person. The programme concluded on 30-08-1995 and the next day S. Jiwan Singh’ s son Ravinder Singh and son-in-law S. Jarnail Singh who are very sensible person came saying, “We shall escort you upto Griffith.” It was a distance of 450 kilometres which we covered in five hours. It was pleasantly cool and it kept drizzling through the journey. Enroute we saw many vast diary farms with thousands of cows let loose. In the evening horse riders, dogs and moter cyclists helped to gather them to be milked. Similarly we happened to see a sheep farm with thousands of sheep grazing in the open fields sprawling over several miles. A small aeroplane was being used to gather the sheep. There are very vast pastures for the cattle to graze.
The area of Australia is larger than that of India but its population is less than that of even Punjabi i.e. less than two crores. We reached Griffith at 2-30 pm. There, the wife of S. Purshottam Singh reached the appointed place to receive us. She was overjoyed to see us and took us to their farm 15 miles away. We met S. Purshottam Singh also who is in a compelte Sikh form. Jarnail Singh and Ravinder Singh left us at Griffith and returned.
We spent three days at S. Purshottam Singh’s farm having orchards of grape and kinnow in Griffith. This farm was maintained very scientifically. He told us, “We market grapes of superior quality worth lakhs of dollars. Grapes of inferior quality are purchased wine factories.” I saw other grape orchards also which were maintained scientifically. In the same way kinnow orchards also are looked after properly. We talked to S. Purshottam Singh and he told us that the plants of his orchard yielded fruit upto the age of 25 years. “His plants were really in a very healthy condition. They were so heavily laden with fruit that one noticed the scantiness of leaves they were 15 to 18 feet tall. The fruit was plucked by labourers gone there from Punjab and other countries to earn their livelihood. They usually work on contractual basis. The fruit is transported upto the workshop in their own tractor. A full trolley of fruit is automatically emptied in the factory of the workshop. There the kinnows are washed and graded and then sent to the market. The price of the fruit is punctually sent to the farmers.
On 2-09-1995 at Griffith airport S. Purshottam Singh and his noble wife emplaned us in a local private aeroplane and after three hours’ journey we reached Sydney. The sun had set. As perprogramme S. Devinder Singh and Principal Gupta had reached the airport. They seated us in their car and drove home. Sidney is a very big city, but being acquainted with it they took several turns and at length reached home. Reaching home I informed S. Kanail Singh (who had been living in Sidney for many years) of our arrival, and he came to us within a few hours. He chalked out a programme to visit the Gurdwara the next morning. It was a Sunday and the Punjabis and assemble there. We came across many an acquaintance. Captain Rattan Singh’s brother (who is working as teacher there) and Dr. Gurcharan Singh Sidhu, an agricultural scientist met us. Dr. Sindhu who is living a retired life told us that he was the nephew of S. Joginder Singh, the former headmaster of Khala High School, Kharar. I, too, had passed my matriculation from Kharar. He shoed deep affection and invited us to dinner at this place. We, too, claiming kinship, accepted time the invitation.
The next day, as per appointed time, we reached his place where we were received by him and his Russian wife. The Russian lady could use some Panjabi words here and there. They prepared very delicious Panjabi food. When we enquired who had cooked such nice food, both of them replied that they had jointly cooked. We asked how they had met and come together to share a martial life. They gave a detailed account saying. “We used to study together at the Agricultural University and became intimate friends. After completing my education I returned to Punjab and was married to the sister of S. Harpal Singh of Badala. I returned along with her to Australia, where a son ( who is now a scientist in a company) and tow daughter were born to us. One of my daughters has since married while the other has not yet. It was many years since my wife. Unfortunately had expired and I had been living alone since then. This Russian lady also had married, but as luck would have it her husband also passed away. We happened to meet her again, and my daughter intervened to get us married. Now we, two are leading a happy life. “With a heavy heart we took leave of them and meet several other loving acquaintances which included S. Lakhvir Singh, Jathedar Manji, S. Ram Singh and S. Mota Singh. We also came across a youngman from Dera Bassi who had come there to study, but also plied a taxi to meet his expenses.
The opera house of Sidney which is situated on the seashore has building worth seeing. We went to see a museum which gives a lot of information about the aborigines. Beside it is the Sidney Tower which in 750 feet high. A top this tower, it was a treat, indeed, to watch the entire spectacle of Sidney city. In presented a beautiful and captivating sight. We stayed there for three days and returned to Cairns. Now we started feeling home sick. We stayed with S. Satnam Singh for about a week, and then booked our return flight with a two day’s halt at Singapore. On all the days that we stayed with S. Satnam Singh, S. Sona Singh would plan some excursion. Some times we would go to the sea-beach and at other times to the thick forest for a stroll.
We got out tickets in a few days and reached Singapore by a Quantas Airlines flight. My uncle S. Mohan Singh had come to the a airport to see us. Taking leave of him we went to stay at Park View Hotel at Sarangoon Road, nearby, there is a business centre, Mohammed Mustafa International Departmental Store where every things is available. All big shops and well known hotels of Singapore are in this area. We stayed at Singapore for three days, and held discussion with several business concerns, because dialogue for the project for manufacture of stainless steel filters of the tubewells is till going on. The general manger of an organization there has assured us technical assistance for the project. After finishing the work there we reached back Chandigarh on 14-09-1995.

The Homecoming

The absence of a few days had no effect on the business, because my intelligent son Gurdarshan Singh fully understands its working and has a firm grasp on it. He has now become sensible and experience tubewell engineer. Every day he makes use of new schemes and techniques to keep the business flourishing. By virtue of his hard work the company is ever in the ascendant. He is the Managing Director and Administrator of the company. He deals with every person in an excellent manner. He respect the wishes of all workers and helps them, if need be. He initiate no enterprise without the approval of his parents. For the last five years he has been all in all in the company, and has been adding new machinery to its equipment. During 1997, he has commissioned a new drilling machine (which is very efficient in performance and the like of which has not yet been built in India. The arrival of this machine has revolutionized our work. We hope to take up still bigger assignments. The company has several superb machines on account of which Gurnam Singh and Company has attained a very high stature in India.
A man can succeed in life only if all the members of his family support him. In this respect, Gurdarhsan’s wife Inderjit Kaur is always at the back to enthuse and addplaud us. Her younger sister Jaswinder Kaur also lends her might to the work. We are fortunate and proud to have these two daughters of S. Guridal Singh Sarpanch (Village Manager) and Mrs. Mukhtiar Kaur, who blessed our home with plenty and prosperity. Jaswinder Kaur’s son Harkamaldeep, though tender yet, is very intelligent and I earnestly hope that in the days to come he will fill the gape caused by his father’s untimely demise. His two twin sisters Inderjot and Inder Preet Kaur senior to him by two years are studying and doing extremely well.
Gurdarshan Singh’s younger son Amandeep Singh is triving to become an engineer, while the elder one, Hardeep Singh also is aspiring for a degree in Mechanical Engineering at James Cook University, Australia for a three year course. The latter spends his free time with his father in the company so that he may learn the work as ell as assist his father. At present he is away to Australia to qualify in engineering. As they have resolved to achieve high goals, nobody can stop them. They will not lose heart in face of the ups and down of life. The pattern of life one adopts in the beginning, stands by him throughout. Whosoever take imitative is blessed by the almighty, as it is said that God bestows his gifts early in the morning.

The Punjab’s Trauma

Due to wrong policies of Indira Gandhi and her advisers. Operation Blue Star was initiated in 1984 ton teach a lesson to the entire Sikh community. During that action thousands of innocent people fell to the bullet. A large number of homes were ruined. The young men were humiliated and the women were dishonored. The roguish and usurping elements came to the fore and engulfed the entire society. Penalties and impositions were publicly demanded. Some incidents took place in Dera Bassi area also which were perpetrated by plunderers from outside. A bus was stopped near the village Lehli and 13 passengers were murdered, which is an unforgettable tragedy and canot be adequately condemned. Other incidents also occurred in this area doing away with innocent lives including those of Dr. Bhardwaj, Akali Balwant Singh, Sohan Lal Choorian wala and comrade Bachan Singh. More havoc could be wrought, but the people did not give an encouraging response to terrorism.
The Panjab has undergone a tormenting suffering for twelve years. In 1992 elections to the Legislative Assembly were announced. The Akali Dal and the terrorist organizations boycotted the elections. The other parties contested the elections and the Congress won the majority of seats and formed the Government. S. Beant Singh beame the Chief Minister, while my close friend S. Dilbagh Singh was made the minister for agriculture. During his term he gave a hearty stimulus to agriculture. In view of the prosperity of agriculture S. Dilbagh Singh, through his efforts made a significant contribution to the entire region of Nawanshehad. But unfortunately he suddenly expired. His dead body was cremated on the precints of village Barnala Kalan on the Chandigarh – Nawanshehar road. Even now when I pass that way. I make it a point to pay homage to the memory of the great soul.
S. Dilbagh Singh know that I was a hard-core Akali and yet he loved me and consulted me. To bring prosperity to the region contiguous to the Shivalak range he prepared a project of small dams which proved to be very useful on completion. He got tubewells bored in Kandi region to provide portable water and means of irrigation. It was a great philanthropic task. The people there did not get even portable water and used the same water for dinking and the cattle as accumulated in ponds during the rainy season.
One day while sitting at home he said to me, “We shall recognize your skill if you bore tubewells in the 22 villages of Bet area.” On his urging we along with geologists went to explore the entire area and prepared a report. The land was stony and the water was at a depth of 300 to 600 feet. It was a challenging task, but seeing the pitiable condition of the area I pledged to install tubewells there. The government contracted our company to bore tubewells. We installed all the ten tubewells and each of them poured out 30 to 40 lakh gallons of water per hour. The Chief Minister Shri Beant Singh who had deep faith in S. Dilbagh Singh, inaugurated the project of installing tubewells. Similary according to the programme chalked out by them we bored very deep tubewells in Dera Bassi – Lalru region.
In 1993, we set up the Civil Hospital welfare society, Dera Bassi of which S. Gurbaksh Singh was appointed the leader. Under his leadership a 45 bed ward of the civil hospital was planned, the foundation stone of which was laid by Mrs. Labh Kaur, Bikaram Singh son of Sardarni Dial Kaur sent financial assistance of three lakh and 50 thousand rupees from America. Tara Chand Jain, Satnam Singh (Australia) and many others also rendered help. We bored a tubewell also there for the hospital. The whole project was executed at a cost of several lakh rupees. This project was inaugurated by the then Chief Minister S. Beant Singh in the present of the then Agriculture Minister, S. Dilbagh Singh. S. Beant Singh admired the project and donated two lakh rupees on behalf of the Government. The Chief Minister and S. Dilbagh Singh came to our house at Dera Bassi and spent sufficient time with us.

Saini Bhawan at Chandigarh

When S. Dilbarh Singh came to Chandigarh after his election as M.L.A. – from Nawanshehar, he discussed the prospect of building Saini Bhawan at Chandigarh. After taking Saini fraternity into confidence we laid the foundation stone of Saini Bhawan in Sector 24, Chandigarh on 25th June 1995, and we did not rest till the building was completed. We established Northern Indian Saini Culutral Society which started a monthly magzine “Saini Duniya” with Ajit Saini as its editor. I too was given the responsibility of seeing that the magzine was a success. A Committee was set up to supervise to working of the Saini Bhawan and I was made its senior vice president. S. Barjinder Singh Hamadard started, in the Bhawan, Sadhu Singh Hamdard library which has about two thousand books. Daily newspapers are available for reading, and S. Dilbagh Singh Homeopathy Dispensary also is functioning. In short, the Saini Bhawan is open for the people of all classes. The visitors from outstations can stay there, and marriages and other functions can be performed.
Those who wanted to have marriage solemnized at Saini Bhawan had to face the problem of arranging the holy presence of Shru Guru Sahib from outside. So we have solved that problem by providing a beautiful room for the holy presence in the Bhawan. All amenities for lodging have been made available. For providing running water round the clock, a small tubewell has been installed which we look after through voluntary service.

Entering Politics

In 1977, I thought of contesting election of the Legislative Assembly from Banur constituency, but there were three aspirant for the Akali ticket. It was decided at the Gurdwara Babe Ke, Bhankharpur that whosoever got the Akali Dal ticket would contest the elction. Captain Kanwaljit Singh got the ticket and fought the election. Mrs. Labh Kaur and I contributed to his election campaign with full dedication and supported him whole – heartedly. Balvir Singh Bantana fought as a rival candidate, but achieve nothing. Even after being defeated he was able to develop close relations with Captain and benefited by the opportunity. I gained nothing but disappointment.
In 1978, municipal election were held. Mrs. Labh Kaur contested but lost by a few votes on account of cheating by hear rivals. Enraged by our participation in the election our rival filed a law suit against us. Gurdarshan Singh and I had to present ourselves in the courts at Rajpura on given dates and waste time for five long years. The rival wanted to harm us and cause a loss by putting a spoke in the wheel of our flourishing business. He played such tricks that he succeeded in alienating my elder brother S. Waryam Singh from me. He wielded such a magic wand that my brother and sister-in-law Charan Kaur were just stupefied. As a result our house was partitioned with a wall and we were mutually alienated. The days that were being passed in ease and equanimity gave way to depression. They disapproved of even our goodness.
Our entire family was of the view that residence should be shifted from there. In 1990, we started the construction of a house outside Dera Bassi crossing. By 1982, it grew up into a decent bungalow. We started living there, which mitigated the bitterness a little. Whenever I cam across my brother, I would greet him but he would not respond. I never took it ill. But Labh kaur said that when he was not acknowledging I should not greet him. I told her that he was my elder brother who had fondled me and trifled with me and that I was greatly under his obligation and would continue to greet him.
In the mean while the marriage of my brother’s daughter Neetoo came off, t which we were not invited. All other kith and kin arrived and got an inkling about the role of our foe, who had forbidden my brother to invite us. They made the said foe flee and hastened my brother and sister-in-law towards us. Obeying the whishes of all, they came to our bungalow and asked us to accompany them. They came on to the right path and we forgot all our grievances. All of us shed tears of joy. We participated in the marriage and both sides were mutually delighted.
On the other side the last date of the suit against us arrived. No witness was ready to give a false evidence against us. A call was given to us in the court of the Senior Sub Judge S. Balbir Singh and our counsel Satpal Singh appeared. The Judge knew the factual position of the case that it was a “mere bundle of lies”. The judge addressed both the parties saying, “I allow you half an hou’s time to settle your difference; otherwise, I will throw both of you behind the bars for six months.” I at once gave my consent that both of us might be sentenced to imprisonment. But the other party i.e. our rival was unnerved and said that he was prepared to come to term. The D.S.P. Upkar Singh and other peace-loving persons intervened and a compromise was put in black and white and presented to the judge. The latter accepted it and congratulated both the parties and sent us with good wishes. Those witnesses who were saved from giving false evidence under pressure, healtily thanked God.

Further Grooming in Politics

In the year 1992, the Akali party had taken no interest in the election to the Punjab Legislative Assembly. The congress won and S. Beant Singh became the Chief Minister. But he was killed in a bomb attack. Thereafter first S. Harcharan Singh and later Mrs. Rajinder Kaur Bhatthal became the Chief Minister and thus the congress government completed its five years.
In 1997 the election to Gurdwara Management Committee were announced. Votes had not been cast for the previous fifteen years. We put up S. Gurbaksh Singh, the former deputy director of sports as a candidate but he could not make it.
In 1997, general election to the legislative assembly and the parliament came off. There was a straight fight between the Akali Dal (B) and the Congress. I decided to contest as an independent candidate from my area. Captain Kanwaljit Singh as the Akali nominee and the former Minister Mohinder Singh Gill as the congress candidate were in the fray. The residents of the area had assured me that this time the candidate born and brought up in the constituency would be given a chance, as, so far only candidate from outside had succeeded. I was fully prepared for the contest but Captain Kanwaljit Sing came to know of it. It was going to be an equal triangular contest. Captain Kanwaljit Singh is a very sensible person. Accompanied by all his sensible friends he came to our house extend a hand of friendship. I had not yet had any diliberation on consideration on this issue. The date of the election was fast approaching. The Captain discussed this matter with the president of the Akali Dal S. Prakash Singh Badal also. Shri Badal and the Captain accompanied by common friends came to our house (Kothi No. 550, Sector 33) at 10.00 AM on 04th January, 1997. We welcomed them all and held talks. Shri Badal assured us that any deficiencies in our area would be removed and my welfare also would be taken care of Captain Kanwalji Singh expressed that whatever he got, he would pass on to his people. All this was said in the presence of S. Prakash Singh Badal, Captain kanwaljit Singh, Mrs. Labh Kaur, Bhai Gurbaksh Singh, Jathedar Shamsher Singh, Shri Shiv lal, Jathedar Dhian Singh Jharmari, S. Waryam Singh, Onkar Singh Matter Nangal, Shri Harbhajan Singh Halwarvi, S. Jaswanti Singh Contractor and other illustrious gentlemen.
The day of the ballot for election also arrived. We went to file the nomination papers of Capt. Kanwaljit Singh is form of a big procession. Then we laboured round the clock to organize the people in support of the Captain. We visited every house to convass for votes. Consequently S. Mohinder Singh Gill was defeated with a big margin. Capt. Kanwaljit Singh came out with flying colours and was made the Finance Minister of Punjab. Today he has a predominant place in Akali Policy

A Doordarshan Programme

In 1998, a Doordarshan team came to prepare a telefilm entitled “Nahun mas Da Rishta” (An Inviolable Relationship). The artists and other people stayed in our house and office at Dra Bassi. Their was a 15 days schedule. We rendered them full assistance in every way. We took them to villages for recording the rural scenes. We arranged to send them to village wells and ruins to film those sites. We served all of them well and developed warn relations with them. They felt deeply impressed by our conduct, home and business. Back at Jalandhaar they told the officials of All India Radio and Doordarshan about us and the Doordarshan people invited me to telecast a programme on tubewells. All India Radio people recorded and broadcast my conversation on my life.
After the telefilm “Nahun Mas Da Rishta” the Doordarshan people felt confident that if an other film was made it would be a success. The second film was “Bhai Manna Singh”. This also was picturised at our bungalow at Dera Bassi. In it I was given the role of the Sarpanch. The role of Bhai Manna Singh was performed by Gursharan Singh, the playwright. The film also was a great success.

Awakening

Mrs. Labh Kaur and I had not taken Amrit (Sikh baptism). We had desired for a long time to take it but due to one or the other reasons had not been able to do it. On 16th May, 1994 Sant Baba Sadhu Singh of Nank Sar graced our bungalow at Dera Bassi. We heard his view which were source of not only knowledge and information but also inspiration. So inspired by him we resolved to take Amrit.
I have always tried to lead to blemishless life. It has been my effort to maintain my existence at an idealistic plane, so that it might be blessed with peace and bliss.
By the grace of Sant Baba Sadhu Singh, the boon of Amrit was granted to us and the restless soul attained equanimity. It so happened that the people of the area came to know of my desire to take Amrit, and more than 200 persons were prepared to take Amrit along with me. The people were overtaken by a current of Zeal. It was for the firt time in Dera Bassi that such a large number of devotes had taken Amrit en masse.
After taking Armit I have been regular in daily recitation of Gurbani and living in complete discipline. No evil though against and body comes to my mind. If ever I am able to do a good turn to somebody, I try to forget it, lest it should make me conceited.

My Aim

My motive in writing the book “Merian Paidan, Mera Safar” (Foot Prints of a journey) is to exhort the human kind, so that they are not shaken by adversities and march on in high moral by maintaining courage. This book is based on the experience of my own life. It is very difficult to write truly about one’s own past. So when I compare my ‘to-day’ with my ‘yesterday’ my mind grows uneasy. I feel like crying in wails out of joy and stream of tears run down my cheeks. This had been my state of mind while writing this books end to end. Here are some verses :
It is my head that gave thy door its stature
Though it is true that I owe my head too to thy door
At thy door-step one gets more than one’s lot
Though without thy grace our lot is naught.
At thy bidding ashes produce sparks of fire.
If thou wilt, autumm will don spring’s attire.
The sky will change into the earth if thou desire;
At the command the heaven will come down hither
On reading the book S. Harbans Singh Sodhi of Doordarshan felt so impressed that he resolved to use it for a telefilm which has since been completed. I hope that it will be released in due course of time.
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