I have wanted to do seva, the Sikh term for selfless service, at Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, India, since I was eight years old. I had arranged to spend a week there this year but my travel plans were sadly cancelled due to the virus pandemic.
Amritsar, a city with a population of over one million, is also the main residence of Pingalwara, a charitable organisation of rescue homes for India’s abandoned portion of society. Over the years I have joined my mum and many others in donating to this cause each time the UK fundraising volunteer put out a call for action. However I must confess that I never took the time to learn about the origins of the Pingalwara organisation or their work.
I recently watched Eh Janam Tumhare Lekhe, a real life account of Bhagat Puran Singh Ji who, fuelled by the injustice suffered by his widow mother, dedicated his entire life to save other vulnerable people. He fought adversity and prejudice from the moment he started on his journey as a lone teenager up until the day he passed away aged 88 in 1992. His legacy is the Pingalwara organisation which now, with its seven branches, can home 1700 people and offer them a fair chance at life through education, healthcare and ongoing support. In the film Bhagat Puran Singh Ji says: “One cannot come to Pingalwara just to see it. They must come to serve here”.
I was disappointed when my long awaited trip to Amritsar couldn’t go ahead this year. However I feel blessed to have now seen Eh Janam Tumhare Lekhe and observed how, a single person determined for equality, created a lifelong infrastructure to support the vulnerable. I will eventually go to Amritsar, and when I do, I will serve at the Pingalwara residence in respect of the life changing lessons I’ve learned from Bhagat Puran Singh Ji’s actions.