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When Papa ji fell off the Balcony

Discussion in 'General' started by Tejwant Singh, Mar 28, 2010.

  1. Tejwant Singh

    Tejwant Singh United States
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    Mentor Writer SPNer Contributor

    Jun 30, 2004
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    Dharampal Singh Malik, my Dad, lovingly known as Dharam was eight years old when he fell off the balcony to the street, a fall of about 30 feet and hit his head on the ground. The year was 1923.

    I belong to a very devout Sikh family with many different facets and flavours. They took us to the Historical Gurdwara trips during our every summer vacations. We participated actively during the Gurpurab times for three days doing seva. Since I was 5, I was doing seva in the shoe storage with my brothers, sisters and cousins. We did lots of other things with our two parents like serving langar every Sunday at the leper colony that Pita ji, my Grandpa had arranged it built for them who were considered outcast of the society and many more things.

    I learnt how to shoot at about the same age and went on weekend hunting trips. We used to hunt partridges, wild hare, deer of different species including neel gayei, ducks in the winter and other game.

    You should have tasted my Mum’s deer achaar- pickle being cured in multiple 10 gallon ceramic jars with mustard oil and other spices. As all deer meat could not be eaten at once, the only way to keep it for longer time was to turn it into achaar, an interesting alchemy.

    We are a joint family and always been as such. My grandparents, my father’s family and my Chacha’s family all lived together. We still have our ancestral home which is almost empty being taken care by Massi ji, my Mum’s sister, but it gets vibrant when my sisters and other cousins who live in India and other relatives flock in for a 3 week yearly retreat and enjoy the swimming pool and the badminton court during the summer heat of Punjab.

    There has never been a difference between my real brothers and sisters and my cousins. My dad and mum used to be called by all, Papa ji and Ami ji; and my Chacha and Chachi were called Daddy ji and Mama ji. Ami ji and Mama ji used to manage the kitchen weekly on alternate basis as arranged by my feisty grandma, Mata ji.

    The dinner at our house was a daily feast when all got together around a table with 20 seatings. Friends and neighbours used to pop in at the same time and we all had fun together around the dinner table, joking, chatting, interacting and some throwing food at each other.

    We were also gently coerced in becoming voracious readers. We had our own library with 3000 catalogued books. A librarian from a local school used to come to catalogue them when the boxes of a new batch of books arrived. There were books of all different kinds. Books about Sikhi, from great Punjabi authours like Nanak Singh, Sohan Singh Seetal, Amrita Preetam etc. etc. and many English and American authours. We read them all.

    Papa ji, the older son of Mataji was taken to the Mission Hospital, unconscious. Ferozepore, my home town, at that time was an important garrison for the British Army and many British and American doctors were available there. He was allowed the best treatment. But there was one hitch. Part of his hair on his head was to be chopped off in order to operate on him. Doctors wanted to save his life. He was coming in and out of consciousness. He had a bleeding inside his skull.

    Mata ji adamantly said no to the hair cutting. She said she would rather see her son die than allow him to have his hair cut.

    A special medicine was rushed from London to make the bleeding stop. An English neurologist was brought in from New Delhi. As the medicine would take sometime to reach, luckily the good doctor had brought some with him from New Delhi. He told Pita ji that if the bleeding stopped and his son was saved, he would have sudden outbursts of anger because where the injury was.

    Finally the bleeding stopped and the blood got dissipated with some more medicine. Mata ji’s son’s life was saved. He went through a lot more medicines after that. He did have outbursts of anger all his life but he was the gentlest of the gentle soul. As Mata ji only had two sons, one baby girl died soon after birth, Papa ji had many sisters not related to us directly but of the family friends. One of them Pritam Kaur Panesar spent her early days in Nairobi, Kenya as a teacher and now lives in Sydney, Australia. My School Principal was his sister. I have a total of nine sisters which include my two cousins. He was the best father to all of us, especially to the girls. He was the best father in law to his daughters in law. He was a wonderful person despite his sudden angry outbursts not only in the family but to the outsiders too. As Ferozepore is a small town where everyone knows everyone else, they also knew his gentle and loving side.

    He died on Feb, 10th 1985 of a stroke. My oldest brother had an inoperable brain tumour and passed away in April 1989 in London.

    I do not know if his death or my brother’s were related to his brain injury and I am not going to second guess this either.

    One thing I have learnt from this is that Sikhi is the way of life that does not stop in time like a broken clock as other religions have. The learning is a life long endeavour and Sikhi makes us evolve our thought process.

    What Mata ji did was brave and courageous and based on the Sikhi values of the time. I would have done the same thing then, if I were in her shoes.

    Our Gurus who sacrificed their lives and many Sikhs who followed them were tortured to death because they refused to be converted to Islam. If I were to face the same situation as the brave Sikh did in the hands of the Taliban on the other day, I would die too.

    However, if I had to be shaved for some medical reasons, I would do that without giving it a second thought because I know I can serve my loved ones and the community better by being physically well.

    Hence, the journey continues……

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  3. Gyani Jarnail Singh

    Gyani Jarnail Singh Malaysia
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    Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
    Mentor Writer SPNer Contributor

    Jul 4, 2004
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    Teji ji thank you for this. Enjoyed travelling along backwards with you down your memory lane...You are absolutley Right..Sikhi/Gurmatt as a WAY of LIFE never stops..CANNOT STOP except when His call comes. A very Good read for my Gurbani classes and discussion periods
    Thanks again.
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