Tejinder Singh a family man who has two young children Nakashpreet Kaur and Aalam Fateh Singh is from the village Mansa in Southern Punjab. He holds three master’s degrees and an undergraduate degree in teaching. With such excellent credentials he has been unable to find employment in any capacity in the entire state of Punjab for years.
Fortunately, Tejinder Singh is so passionate about Gurmukhi that he has been going from village to village for the last 17 years teaching young children the joy of learning Gurmukhi/Punjabi in order for them to stay connected with their heritage, without charging any money.
Tejinder Singh travels from village to village on his bicycle stopping at most of the 12,857 elementary schools run by the Punjab government. That is literally an elementary (primary) school in every village of Punjab. The biggest travesty is that most of the teachers who are employed rarely show up for work and if they do, they are least interested in keeping the education level to any high standard. This is one of the reasons the teaching and learning of Punjabi has fallen to the wayside and the sad undoing of the spoken and written word in Punjabi in Punjab currently.
Tejinder Singh is one of those rare individuals who is very passionate about saving the Punjabi language. He is as zealous about his Sikh religion and wants the language to connect with the children who are mostly of the Sikh Religion, especially in rural Punjab so that they do not forget their roots.
His personal slogan is, “Oora thay Joora Nu Samballheyi”! He has travelled extensively to other central states of India, such as Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, to specifically help revive Sikhi in the poor Sikiligar, Vanjara, Mahitra, and Johari Sikhs who do not even access to turban material in the areas they live. Tejinder Singh has held over 800 camps where he teaches turban tying while simultaneously and also donates free turbans to those Sikhs.
He has also started the “Turban Bank” where anyone can donate extra turbans for further use. He uses these turbans to teach young Sikh children the art of tying a turban while imparting the basics of Gurmukhi through the ‘Muharni’ to instill pride, self-esteem and confidence in their own religion.
Tejinder Singh does annual teaching trips (yatras) across Punjab and other places. One year he does 500 kilometers and other years it maybe 1,000 kilometers, all the while stopping at various locations and teaching and sharing the richness of Gurmukhi through the means of poetry and singing.
Most days he is bicycling between 100- 150 km daily starting early in the morning and stops to teach at 2-3 schools, while spending most of the day on this unbelievable altruistic effort so that by 4 pm he is back home to tutor children to sustain his livelihood.
Like mentioned earlier, Tejinder Singh has never found permanent employment so he privately tutors children at his home. His wife Jasbir Kaur also holds a master’s degree in English thereby supporting her husband in this venture as an equal. This year due to the Covid-19 pandemic even his private tutoring was curtailed as the Punjab government had ordinances in places limiting the number of children assembling at one location and requiring social distancing for health and safety which completely disrupted his working life, ruining him financially.
There are over 1,100 intuitions of higher learning across Punjab, producing over 200,000 graduates with a teaching degree, yet there are barely 17,000 teaching positions available making the rest unemployed. The better private schools employ teachers at starting salaries of 10 – 11, 000 Rupees ($180 approx.) a month while many private schools employ teachers at 3 – 4,000 Rupees ($ 70 approx.) a month. The price of milk is 80 cents a liter. If a family of four buy 2 liters of milk at $1.60 a day, the entire month’s salary goes towards milk and there is nothing left to eat and live. This shocking reality is one of other reasons for high unemployment and poverty, unless of course a person is able to afford to pay hefty bribes to government officials in order to get employed as a teacher in the public sector with better salaries.
The SGPC instead of employing such a highly qualified individual or supporting him has stooped so low that they used him for their own purpose to gain notoriety when they had no input in his personal crusade. The overall political system, including the SGPC is anti-Sikh in nature and discourages anything to positively affect the Punjabi language and anything to enhance the propagation of Sikh values in any shape or form. Any positive work is hinged on the sustained selfless sewa by individuals like Tejinder Singh and Jasbir Kaur.
Individual members of the American Sikh Council (ASC) have contributed in kind by giving him material to support the ongoing sewa of Tejinder Singh. The American Sikh Council (ASC) supports Tejinder Singh as he is one of those few sincere dedicated sewadars of the Guru who has genuinely contributed to the welfare and betterment of not just Sikhs but all Punjabis and their children in Punjab for over seventeen long years. We pray ‘Akal Purakh’ keep Tejinder Singh and his family in the ‘chardi kala’ so that his wife and he continue to serve the panth in such a positive manner.