You also want an ePaper? Increase the reach of your titles

YUMPU automatically turns print PDFs into web optimized ePapers that Google loves.

a s p i r a t i o n s

Publication of Young Sikh Association (Singapore)

MICA (P) 148/01/2018

February 2018



Editor’s Note

From the President’s Desk

Sikh Voices Conference 2017

The Future of the Sikh Community and Singapore

YSA Book Launch

Traits of Future Sikh Leaders

Project Khwaish XVII

India Community Service Project a Team Effort!

Sikh Graduate Tea Reception 2017

Importance of Engaging Young Graduates

YSA-PAYM Partnership

Collaborating on Youth Initiatives

The Ultramarathon Runner

An Interview with Mr Paviter Singh

ASEAN-India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas

YSA part of the Milestone Event

Thinking Aloud!

Walk With Me on the Path with the Most Questions

Speaking Softly!

Leadership Development and Community Service -

The Year that was!

YSA Forthcoming Activities

• 14 th ‘Racial Harmony’ Football Tournament

• Ninth Khwaish Lecture - Ambassador Bilahari Kausikan

Activities by Other Youth Organisations

• National Youth Council

• Singapore Indian Development Association

2 Khwaish | February 2018

Young Sikh Association (Singapore)

Panel of Advisors

Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman

Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs & Defence,

and Mayor of South East District

Mr Davinder Singh

Chief Executive Officer

Drew and Napier LLC

Mr Inderjit Singh

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Infiniti Solutions, and Executive Chairman, Tri-Star


HE Mr Karan Singh Thakral

Executive Director, Thakral Group of Companies, and

Singapore’s Non-Resident Ambassador to Denmark

Professor Tan Tai Yong

President, Yale-NUS College

Young Sikh Association (Singapore)

Executive Committee 2017-18

Mr Malminderjit Singh


Mr Sarabjeet Singh

Vice President (Community Relations)

Mr Kulwant Singh

Vice President (Corporate Relations)

Ms Balveen Kaur

Vice President (Administration)

Mr Rashminder Singh


Mr Ravinderpal Singh

Assistant Secretary

Ms Sukhjeevanth Kaur


Ms Amarpreet Kaur

Assistant Treasurer

Ms Perinder Kaur


Ms Harsimar Kaur

Editor, Khwaish

Ms Rashvinpal Kaur Dhaliwal

Deputy Editor, Khwaish

Ms Alisha Gill

Thought Leadership and Interfaith Work

Ms Rasveen Kaur

Thought Leadership

Mr Amritpal Singh

Professional and Intellectual Development

Mr Jeevan Singh Sandhu

Professional and Intellectual Development

Mr Nirmal Singh


Mr Kuldip Singh


Mr R Logapreyan

Community Service

Ms Sheena Gill

Community Service

Ms Sukvinderpal Kaur

Interfaith Work

Ms Sithara Doriasamy

Conferences and Seminars

Ms Harjean Kaur

Conferences and Seminars, and Special Projects

Ms Vithya Subramaniam

Culture and Heritage

editor’s note

The new year typically marks a chance for renewal,

and 2018 is no exception. With a new year come new


In his note in this issue of the newsletter, YSA’s President,

Mr Malminderjit Singh, outlines some key initiatives that YSA has planned for

the year, including our regular events as well as some exciting new projects.

May I just add, at this juncture, that it gives me great pride to be a part of

an organisation like YSA, which is forward-looking and innovative, and one

that comes up with relevant and exciting activities for our members and the

community at large!

Our cover story for this issue is on the Sikh Voices conference that took place

in November 2017, which focused on the future of the Sikh community and

Singapore. The one-day event was organised by our Second Young Leaders

Programme (YLP) participants and saw Senior Minister of State, Ministry of

Communications and Information, and Ministry of Health, Mr Chee Hong

Tat, gracing the occasion as our Guest-of-Honour. The event included three

engaging panel sessions, a mini-hackathon group exercise and the launch

of YSA’s Sikh Voices book, which features a collection of essays from three

generation of Sikhs in Singapore. Do pick up your complimentary copy of

the book from any gurdwara in Singapore, if you haven’t already done so!

In our usual fashion of highlighting motivational stories, in this issue, we took

to the track to interview Mr Paviter Singh, an inspiring ultramarathon runner

while also sharing about the most recent edition of the Sikh Graduates Tea

Reception 2017 – an annual affair that has seen participation from a steady

flow of Sikh graduates from tertiary institutions. In her opening address at the

event, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Ms Grace Fu, praised the

Sikh community for being the only community to honour its graduates in this

manner and called on the community to find meaningful ways to engage

the youth. Another annual event highlighted in this issue is the Project Khwaish

XVII expedition to Punjab. Learn more about the team effort from various

parties that were involved in putting together a community service project

of this nature! This issue of the newsletter also highlights the new partnership

inked between YSA and the People’s Association Youth Movement to

collaborate on youth initiatives.

Besides the event coverage, we are pleased to bring to you two personal

reflections in this issue from two young and dynamic YSA members. Ms Vithya

Subramaniam, YSA’s Executive Committee member, shares with us how she

embarked on a personal quest to delve deeper into the Sikh community,

its history and heritage, and has, since, built a career based on her initial

curiosity. Ms Sonya Kaur Gill, a recent graduate of our 2 nd YLP and participant

of the Khwaish expedition project in 2017, shares with us her journey with YSA

in the past year, and how the organisation played an unexpectedly large

role in shaping her year.

Every story in this issue speaks of inspiration and opportunity, and I am excited

to share them with you. If you have any feedback, I would love to hear from

you. Have a fabulous 2018!

Ms Harsimar Kaur

advertise with us

follow us

Get more mileage for your products and services! We reach out to thousands

through our newsletter (in hard copy and on YSA’s website). If bleeding (taking up

full area with background), add in 3mm bleed.

For advertisement and enquiries, please contact:

Ms Harsimar Kaur - Editor, Khwaish

Mobile: 9382 7448 | Email: simar28@hotmail.com

We offer highly competitive advertising rates. Per Issue:

Quarter page (W) 105mm x (H) 148mm: S$300

Half page (W) 210mm x (H) 148mm: S$550

Full page (W) 210mm x (H) 296mm: S$1,500

Back page (W) 210mm x (H) 296mm: S$3,000

Editorial Information

Khwaish is a newsletter of Young Sikh Association (Singapore).

Please feel free to forward your comments and feedback to:

Ms Harsimar Kaur - Khwaish Editor, Young Sikh Association (Singapore)

A: 8 Jalan Bukit Merah, Singapore 169543 | E: simarkwatra@gmail.com

No part of this newsletter should be published without the consent of the Editor, Khwaish.

Khwaish | February 2018




Happy New Year everyone! And, just like that, we are into 2018!

Before you think, here goes another cliché “the year just flew by” gripe, I will spare you such whining. If anything, 2017 was

a really busy year for us at YSA and we are glad to have had a breather at the end of it. However, this break is a short one,

as we have an equally, if not more, active year ahead of us.

For starters, the first quarter of the year will see our regular slate of events – Project Khwaish XVII Certificate Presentation

Ceremony and the Racial Harmony Football Tournament – taking place. Besides that, in the first half of the year, we will

hold our Annual General Meeting, with the Khwaish Lecture soon after. The latter typically features an eminent speaker

discussing a current topic.

Following on from last year’s trend though, we are also hoping to continue our innovative approach of introducing new

programmes and activities. Last year, we made a fledgling effort to celebrate the Global Sikh Women’s Day on 7 March

2017 by running a social media campaign termed #IAmKaur, where Sikh women from across Singapore posted on social

media what it meant for them to be a Kaur. This year, we intend to build on that by having a more elaborate campaign to

celebrate the Global Sikh Women’s Day. Do stay tuned to our social media platforms for more details on this campaign!

In 2017, YSA also participated in and supported the inaugural ASEAN Sikh Economic and Entrepreneurship Summit (ASEES)

organised by a group of young Malaysian Sikhs. This year, we are poised to intensify our role in this regional summit as it

makes its way to Singapore, with YSA being the lead organiser. This ties in nicely with our dual objectives of professional

development as well as thought leadership. On the professional development front, YSA has been getting its feet wet

and we took small, albeit progressive, steps towards deepening our contribution on this front in 2017 as we developed

a framework to engage and bring together Sikh professionals. Starting with a group of Sikh doctors and another of Sikh

lawyers, YSA is exploring ways to meaningfully engage industry professionals in different sectors so as to establish, among

other things, support systems for younger Sikhs existing in or entering these industries.

On the thought leadership front, YSA’s experience with the Sikh Voices franchise in 2017 was a reasonable attempt at

creating platforms to stimulate discussions and conversations on strategic concerns facing the community. The Sikh Voices

book, for instance – which you will read more about in this issue of the newsletter – helped create a conversation on what

the Sikh community needs to look for in leaders in the future. The Sikh Voices conference raised pertinent points on key

challenges facing the community and helped to catalyse some responses to these issues. The experience of deepening

our foothold in professional development and thought leadership will, thus, be useful preparation for YSA’s work with ASEES

this year, which will unmistakably be a mammoth exercise.

The spirit of collaboration, a key feature of YSA’s ethos, will continue to guide our way forward in 2018 as we look to

work and develop partnerships with groups and organisations in and outside the Sikh community. In this regard, I am

pleased to share an encouraging collaboration that has been brewing in the Sikh community, which YSA is also involved

in. Towards the end of 2017, YSA, Sikh Sewaks Singapore, Naam Ras Kirtan Darbar and the Khalsa Dharmak Sabha Youth

Wing came together to explore ways in which we could collaborate. The four youth-oriented groups also decided that

they would hold such informal meetings periodically over the course of the year for better coordination and alignment of

our activities, plans and leveraging on mutual resources and strengths. This is a tremendous and encouraging progression

in the community and bodes well for its future.

One of the areas that these youth groups will be coming together to collaborate on is to celebrate the 550 th birthday

celebrations of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji in 2019, which would be ideally be a pan-community effort. At the most recent

meeting of the Coordinating Council of Sikh Institutions, the organisations decided that the youth groups will develop and

lead these celebrations next year – a great effort in empowering our young in community leadership.

With such bold and encouraging signs, the year could not have gotten off to a better start!

Here’s wishing everyone a prosperous, healthy and blissful 2018!

Mr Malminderjit Singh

4 Khwaish | February 2018



Close to 180 people turned up for YSA’s

inaugural Sikh Voices conference on

11 November 2017. Themed ‘What

If’, the full-day event featured panel

discussions, dialogues and a minihackathon,

all of which were meant

to spur thinking about the future of the

local Sikh community and Singapore.

The aim of the Sikh Voices conference

was to bring Sikhs, of all ages and from

all walks of life, together to have a

candid and open discussion on possible

scenarios which the Sikh community

could face in the coming years and

what it could do to overcome these.

The one-day event featured three

dynamic panel discussions. The

first panel, entitled ‘Singapore’s

Economy and International Standing’,

discussed the impact of the economic

complexities and difficulties facing

Singapore on the Sikh community.

The panel included former Member

of Parliament, Mr Inderjit Singh, and

Mr Devadas Krishnadas, Founder and

Chief Executive Officer of Future-Moves

Group. It received much praise from

participants who felt that the thoughtprovoking

discussion helped to shed

light on fears that Singapore might

become irrelevant to the world in the


A mini-hackathon activity, the first of

its kind being conducted in an event

organised by YSA, was designed to

help participants break into small

groups to discuss various scenarios that

are either already affecting the Sikh

community currently or might do so in

the future. The hour-long hackathon

saw deep discussions and various

viewpoints being presented by the

participants, some echoing points that

had been raised during the earlier

panel discussions.

The ideas brainstormed during the

mini-hackathon were then presented

to Guest-of-Honour, Senior Minister of

State, Ministry of Communications and

Information, and Ministry of Health, Mr

Chee Hong Tat, in the form of a gallery

walk. Mr Chee had the opportunity to

hear the various groups’ presentations

on the scenarios they had discussed.

During the final panel discussion,

featuring Mr Chee, he praised the

participants for their creative and

relevant inputs. He also shared his

views on whether Singapore would be

able to thrive if it reduced its emphasis

on principles such as meritocracy,

multiculturalism and a social compact

that emphasises individual and family


The Sikh Voices conference was

organised by a group of young Sikhs

between 18 and 26 years old, who

were part of the second batch of

YSA’s Young Leaders Programme (YLP),

which was held from May to November

2017. The leadership programme

was launched by YSA in 2016 to

identify and develop young Sikhs for

leadership positions at the community

and national levels. The conference

was the final milestone in this year’s

YLP edition. It was the graduating

project for the participants. Mr Chee

presented graduating certificates to

the YLP participants at the conference.

Moving forward, YSA hopes the

conference will pave the way for

the Sikh community to collectively

develop a strategy to deal with its

future challenges. It also hopes that

more Sikhs, especially from the younger

generation, will come forward to take

on the responsibility of steering the

community through the challenges it

may face.

Khwaish | February 2018




The Sikh Voices conference on 11 November 2018

also witnessed the launch of YSA’s Sikh Voices

publication, Traits of Future Sikh Leaders. Comprising

a collection of essays by Sikhs from three different

age groups (Under 30, 30-55 and Above 55 years),

the book aims to help shape the future these writers

want for the Sikh community in Singapore.

The inaugural book hopes to provide thought

leadership for the minority Sikh community in

Singapore, which faces several challenges in

the coming years. It is hoped that, through this

publication, the community will develop a strong

body of ideas, thoughts and approaches on dealing

with its challenges.

During the launch of the book, the co-editors, Mr

Malminderjit Singh and Ms Alisha Gill, shared their

belief that the book would provide a useful resource

to view the Sikh community’s challenges from a

wider national lens, where possible. The discussion

on the issues of leadership would also foster deeper

integration within the Sikh community.

This book was presented to all the participants at

the conference, including the Guest-of-Honour, Mr

Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of

Communications and Information, and Ministry of


Complimentary copies of the book are available at

any gurdwara in Singapore. Alternatively, you can

drop an email to Ms Alisha at alishagssg@gmail.com

to arrange for a copy of the book.


14 th ‘Racial Harmony’ Football Tournament

24 March 2018 / Kovan Sports Centre

Promote racial harmony and understanding the fun and sporting way!

YSA will organise its 14 th ‘Racial Harmony’ 4-a-side football tournament

in 24 March 2018. Mr Louis Ng, Member of Parliament, Nee Soon Group

Representation Constituency, is the Guest-of-Honour for the event.

There will be five categories (Open, Veteran, Youth, Junior and Ladies) for the

tournament. There will also be souvenirs, games and a tea reception for all


For registration and enquiries, please contact:

Mr Kulwant Singh: Tel: 90265910 | Email: redkul@gmail.com

Mr Nirmal Singh: Tel: 94570926 | Email: nimz@khalsa.com

Come and have some great footballing fun!

6 Khwaish | February 2018



Three elements – YSA, the team members and their families – are crucial to the successful organisation of YSA’s community

service expeditions to Punjab each year. Mr Hernaikh Singh, founding President of YSA, made this point at the sending-off

ceremony for Project Khwaish XVII, YSA’s community service project to India, on 8 December 2017.

On 9 December 2017, 22 Singaporeans, including two leaders, from different social, racial and religious backgrounds left

Singapore to spend three weeks in Ratokke, a village in Punjab’s Sangrur district.

Mr Hernaikh stated that, just as YSA is the brainchild of several Sikh professionals who saw the need for young Sikhs to be

plugged into the national and international landscapes, Project Khwaish was also collectively conceptualised by YSA’s

Executive Committee, with the belief that it would provide young Singaporeans with a life-changing experience while

making meaningful and selfless contributions to the less fortunate in the global society.

YSA is the back-end of the project! Unknown to many people, including some of the participants, it carries out a significant

number of functions behind the scenes. These include managing the publicity and recruitment; working with the leader to

select the project site; and raising the S$60,000-odd funding, among others.” Mr Hernaikh said.

In addition to YSA, the team members are important to the success of the project. Mr Hernaikh stated that, “The project

will only be successful if the team members come together and pull in the same direction. Each and every member brings

value to the project.” Similarly, the encouragement and support from the families help to ensure that the participants are

able to confidently participate in the expedition.

In his opening address, YSA’s President, Mr Malminderjit Singh, emphasised the value of leadership, an important learning

aspect of the project. He said, “The project will offer opportunities to you to hone your leadership skills. You must remember

that community service is always about the cause; not the leader. Also, the leader must feel secured and confident

about his ability, and his focus must be on empowering others rather than showcasing himself. An equally important trait is

humility for only then can a leader learn from others.” He added that the project is just as much about discovering oneself

as contributing to the community.

Comprising young working professionals and undergraduates, the expedition team painted the school, set up a library

filled with about 2,500 books and assisted in the renovation of the school’s toilets. The team also presented gifts, toys,

stationery and clothes to all the students; as well special prizes to the top three students in each level and prizes to the

top male and female student. The team personally handed out clothes to the villagers and the needy. The team also

took time off their busy schedule to interact with the students and teachers, and participated in games with the students.

These activities certainly helped both groups to better understand each other’s

cultures and way of life.

According to the project leader, Mr Satwant Singh, “Perhaps, the most

important lesson for the team was the impact of witnessing poverty first hand.

There is no better way to understand challenges in life than being involved

with these challenges. Such experiences cannot be learned from books or in

school; they can only be learned by participating in community service. The

children in the school sat on the floor and study in trying conditions. Yet, there

were no complaints; only smiles on their faces.” He added that, “The Singapore

team members also learned the importance of supporting one another,

staying strong, overlooking their shortcomings and encouraging everyone to

put his/her best foot forward to ensure a successful expedition. The team had

a wonderful experience in India.”

Altogether, more than 300 Singaporeans have participated in YSA’s Project

Khwaish since it started in 2003.

Khwaish | February 2018


Project Khwaish XVII – Reflections…

One of the defining traits of Indian culture is its unrivalled hospitality – guests

are seen as a form of God. This was exemplified by the village Rattoke, where

the entire team was treated with so much kindness. Rattoke touched every

one of our hearts. We can only thank and honour them as we reflect on their

generosity. At one o’clock in the morning, most people would be sleeping

in their warm blankets, given the winter. However, Rattoke was waiting for us

in the cold. After a grand welcome with the dhol, they helped us, insistently,

to offload the boxes and our luggage into pre-prepared accommodation.

The house owner and his family had moved out, vacating their rooms for our

exclusive use. This was not just hospitality, it was a sacrifice!


In Punjab, it was a whole new ball game. Initially, we had difficulties in

even communicating with the locals. However, over time, we managed to

understand one another. The kids introduced us to many new games like koko

(similar to catching) and other traditional games. We also played conventional

games like volleyball and football. The interaction through games forged a

special bond between us.


As we laughed and played together with the kids, we reconnected with the

inner-child in us. This fun and light-hearted environment served as a great

platform to bond with one another. During these interactions, many of us

formed the first significant impressions of one another. These bonds helped us

to understand one another and to learn to work together.


The warm-heartedness and generosity of the villagers is definitely one that

made me reflect upon my own ideals and hospitality. Despite thinking of myself

as a rather hospitable person, I knew for a fact that I would not ever be able

to match up to their graciousness. To think that a family was willing to provide

us with accommodation for the entire duration even though it meant they

had to sleep outside their own homes during one of the coldest months of the

year is something that really touched me. This trip has definitely been a very

rewarding experience and one that I am glad to have been able to share with

my new Khwaish family.


Vesakhi and Indian New Year Greetings

YSA’s Executive Committee takes this opportunity to wish its Sikh members

a happiness-filled Vesakhi and its Indian members an equally splendid New Year in 2018.

May you always be blessed with peace, harmony, love, good health and prosperity!

8 Khwaish | February 2018

sikh graduate tea reception 2017


YSA has done well to regularly

engage young Sikh graduates.

This point was made by Minister for

Culture, Community and Youth,

Ms Grace Fu, as she addressed

the audience at the annual

Sikh Graduate Tea Reception,

organised by YSA, in collaboration

with the Central Sikh Gurdwara

Board (CSGB), on 18 November


Referring to the annual event,

Ms Fu said, “As far as I know, YSA

is the only (ethnic community

group) in Singapore that organises

this gathering for graduates from

local and foreign universities and

polytechnics.” Both YSA and

the CSGB have been organising

the annual function, where it

honours graduates from the

Sikh community with diploma,

undergraduates or postgraduate

qualifications, since 2008. Ms Fu

had previously attended the

second edition of the reception

in 2009. Ms Fu added that she was

happy to support an initiative that

demonstrated the community’s

commitment to recognise and

appreciate its youth.

In his opening remarks, YSA

President, Mr Malminderjit Singh,

shared that the graduates should

understand the importance of

mindfulness and self-awareness.

They should also strive to develop

themselves especially through

informal learning. While on the

quest of doing so, they should

never let go of the burning desire

to want to participate in the

community and be part of various


Reiterating this point about

community involvement, Ms Fu

stated that it was important for

these young graduates to be

involved in the community in any

way they can, as they can stay in

touch with the core values of their


Ninth Khwaish Lecture – Ambassador Bilahari Kausikan

community. “It is very important for us to have

our own set of values, for example, how we treat

our parents, the people around us, the elderly

– these are all important values that will guide

us, and we need to find that for ourselves. So,

cherish the opportunities that your community

has provided you, and always remember the

values that can support and guide you.”

The 42 graduates who received their

appreciation plaques from Ms Fu were earlier

also treated to a talk on ‘The Future Economy

and Skills’ by guest speaker, Mr Bobby Bhatia,

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of


More than 60 guests attended the reception.

These included community leaders and the

family members of the graduates.

YSA will organise the ninth edition of its Khwaish Lecture in the third quarter of

2018. We are pleased to have Ambassador Bilahari Kausikan as our distinguished

speaker for the event.

Ambassador Kausikan is currently Ambassador-at-Large in the Ministry of Foreign

Affairs (MFA), Singapore. He was formerly the Permanent Secretary of MFA. He

held a variety of appointments in MFA, such as Director for Southeast Asia, Director

for East Asia and the Pacific, Deputy Secretary for Southeast Asia and Second

Permanent Secretary. After 33 years in public service, he retired in June 2013.

Ambassador Kausikan was the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York from

1995 to 1998 and Ambassador to the Russian Federation from 1994 to 1995.

Do look out for more details on the event! It is a lecture not be missed!




Khwaish | February 2018


On 21 October 2017, the People’s Association (PA) organised its Youth Executive Committees (YEC) networking

session with Friends of PAYM (PA Youth Movement) at Tampines Hub.

During the event, YSA was provided with a booth to present its work, and to interact and network with the

various YEC partners. An interesting facet of the event was the presentation by the various youth partners. YSA

was represented by Vice Presidents Sarabjeet Singh and Balveen Kaur, who shared about YSA’s vision, projects

and activities. Through this opportunity, YSA and the other YEC partners were able to showcase their efforts

and initiatives.

YSA highlighted some key initiatives such as Project Khwaish, the Graduate Tea Reception and the Racial

Harmony Football Tournament. These activities garnered much interest. Many of the agencies’ representatives

were amazed at what YSA had achieved over the years with only a team of volunteers.

The Guest-of-Honour for the event was Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr Chan Chun Sing, who is also

PA’s Deputy Chairman. He spoke about the challenges faced by young Singaporeans and how they could

overcome these difficulties. Mr Chan polled the audience during his address on what the pressing issues were

on their minds and some topics he spoke at length about included technological disruption and job security,

the need for youth to be critical of information and news given the increasing prevalence and dissemination

of fake news, and how youth involvement in their communities is effective in enabling them to develop and

hone leadership skills.

The event culminated with YSA and 16 other organisations and youth groups signing a memorandum of

understanding with PA. In doing so, the partner organisations can look forward to collaborating and working

closely with the various YECs under PA’s purview. YSA is proud to be a partner agency of PA.

10 Khwaish | February 2018





All of us are familiar with the adage

“going the extra mile”. In the pursuit

of our dreams or goals, we would not

hesitate to go that extra distance.

The YSA team came across a young Sikh,

who goes more than just the extra mile to

fulfil his ambitions. To be precise, he goes

at least 100 kilometres on most occasions.

Meet Mr Paviter Singh, Singapore’s

ultramarathon runner whose aspiration

is fuelled by his constant curiosity and a

desire to explore.

We caught up with Paviter to find more

about his passion and motivation for

going the long distance.

What made you want to pursue this sport?

I started pursuing ultramarathon running

in 2011. Before that, I had done a

couple of full marathons and road races

but, somehow, I craved for a bigger

adventure – something that would push

me further and bring me closer to nature.

I found a 100-kilometre race in 2011 that

coincided with my birthday and used

that to celebrate my birthday that year.

What are some personal challenges you

faced and had to overcome? What are

some specific challenges of this sport?

The sport itself is extremely challenging.

The distances covered are 100 kilometres

or more (my most recent race was

171 kilometres in distance), with lots

of climbing of up to 10,000 metres of

combined elevation gain in technical

terrain. Such distances would mean that

runners are on the move for over 24 hours

without any sleep. We risk hypothermia

when exposed to sub-zero temperatures

in some races, while in warmer climates,

we risk heat stroke. Managing my own

expectations of what I can or cannot

achieve has been a challenge.

Can you share details of your training

regime and how much you have invested

in terms of time and resources?

I train about five to six days a week. On a

weekday before or after work, a typical

training session lasts between 60 and 90

minutes. On a weekend, my longer runs

are anything from three to four hours.

I have a coach who sends a training

regime to me every week. It changes

based on the race I am training for. That

said, my life does not just involve work

and running. I do spend time with my

family and friends doing ‘normal’ things


What has been your support network as

you embarked on this journey?

My family members have been my

biggest support throughout my journey.

While initially they were a little perplexed

and worried about my new-found sport,

they have begun to understand and

embrace it. My parents have come

along for three of my races so far. While I

am racing overseas, I can feel the huge

amount of support from my fiancée,

siblings and family.

What are some milestones you have

already reached and what are your

future aspirations as an athlete?

I have achieved a few personal

milestones in recent years. My biggest

milestone is completing a 100-mile race,

the UTMB Mont-Blanc. I still have a bucket

list of races I would love to complete, as

every race provides a unique challenge.

My aspiration is to be constantly curious

and explore.

What advice would you give to

youths keen on taking up sports

or in general when it comes to

pursuing their passions?

Pursuing a passion takes much

dedication, discipline and

fearlessness. Have fun, get your

running shoes on and head out.

Focus on your purpose and why

you are pursuing such a passion

and let that drive you forward.

Khwaish | February 2018





emerging leaders from diverse fields

in ASEAN are sent to India annually

with their counterparts from India

coming here to spend time. He

also suggested a young leaders’

programme that would help

emerging leaders from the Indian

diaspora to better know one another

and their respective countries. He

based this on the premise that the

younger members of the diaspora,

now and in the future, could not be

expected to know India as well as

their forefathers, who still had direct

links to their homeland.

Photo courtesy of Twitter @IndiaSingapore

The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD)

is an annual congregation of the

Indian diaspora organised in India

by the Indian Ministry of External

Affairs. As this year commemorated

50 years of ASEAN and 25 years of

India-ASEAN strategic relations,

Singapore played host to the

ASEAN-India PBD on 6 and 7

January 2018. The event aimed

to discuss ways of intensifying

links between ASEAN and India,

particularly within the diaspora.

Representing the Indian

government at the event was

India’s External Affairs Minister

Mrs Sushma Swaraj, with several

of Singapore’s political leaders

in attendance, including Deputy

Prime Minister Mr Teo Chee Hean,

Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian

Balakrishnan, and Trade and

Industry (Industry) Minister Mr S

Iswaran. The panel discussions at

PBD 2018 varied from deepening

economic and trade relations to

intensifying cultural and societal


YSA’s President, Mr Malminderjit

Singh, was invited to speak on the

panel on ‘Connecting the Youth

Diaspora’. As its name suggested,

the panel discussed ways in which

youth linkages within the Indian

diaspora could be deepened.

The panellists were asked to share

from their own experiences and

provide ideas on improving these


Drawing on his professional

and voluntary experiences,

Mr Malminderjit stated that,

although there are platforms and

mechanisms that exist to link

youth from this region with those

in India, these are superficial,

and the engagement must be

deeper and more meaningful. In

particular, he highlighted some

low-lying fruits that the relevant

governments could explore to

deepen linkages. These include

a fellowship programme where

The platform also allowed Mr

Malminderjit to share what YSA

has been doing in this regard,

particularly the Khwaish expedition

projects to India.

More than 1,000 participants,

primarily from India, Singapore

and the Southeast Asian region

attended the two-day conference.



12 Khwaish | February 2018

Ms Vithya Subramaniam

My journey of working

with Sikh memory and

space, and Sikh heritage

in Singapore, began with

a few rather serendipitous

steps. With openness to new,

less-trodden paths, these

last eight years have paved

an exciting career in academia and public

heritage projects.

The story starts with me standing bare feet on

the freezing marble parikrama in December

2009. I remember that moment well. It was a

winter’s morning and I stood looking across the

sarovar at a radiant Harmandir Sahib. I felt numb

in my fingers, too awake for four o’clock in the

morning, uncertain about what I was supposed

to do or how to keep the scarf on my head,

cautiously excited about the few things I knew

then about this space, and eager for some

hot cha. This was the originary moment of my

academic research and career, several public

projects, and numerous evolving questions.

That heady daze, thankfully, still lingers.

That was the morning of a day of rest from

refurbishing a village school library in Gurdaspur.

I was there with Khwaish IX, a project I had

initially joined for the chance to see another part

of India. Walking through the Golden Temple

complex and neighbouring Jallianwala Bagh

that afternoon, I was struck by the seemingly

serene coexistence between spiritual sanctity

and a difficult history. How does one feel whole

and hopeful standing next to visible bullet holes?

I experimented with this question the very next

semester at the National University Singapore,

and have since continued asking across two

degree dissertations and several research

papers. It is this same fascination with the role

and spaces of the Sikh community memory

that has shaped my projects in Singapore.

The first of these projects is the Sikh Heritage

Trail mobile app that Ishvinder Singh and I

conceptualised and produced. The spark

was lit by images we saw on social media of

‘Sikh Guards’ in the Bukit Brown Cemetery. This

venture into the spaces of local memory and

technology was supported by the National

Heritage Board, and has since been warmly

embraced by the Sikh community here and

abroad. It also led to other fruitful partnerships,

including a theatrical play and a film.

Co-written with Saleem Hadi, and produced

by Blacspice, ‘Sikhs of Serangoon’, was

staged in August 2016 to some 250 members

of the public. Set and staged in the Little India

neighbourhood, this piece of historical fiction

was also a means for me to explore interactions

Khwaish | February 2018


and bonds between early Sikh

migrants and other settlers in 1930s

Singapore. The film, ‘Singh in the

Lion City’, by Upneet Kaur of Uptake

Media also offered the opportunity

to Ishvinder and me to share the

journey behind the development of

our mobile app. At the launch of the

film, I also had the honour of sharing

the panel with author Balli Kaur

Jaswal as we discussed impressions

and representations of Sikhs in various

local mediums.

Crucially, these projects have also

been important avenues to introduce

a wider audience to the myriad of

histories and stories that animate the

Singapore Sikh community today.

The time is ripe in Singapore for such

ventures. Having marked 50 years

of national independence, many

segments of the local community

are looking back onto their own

pasts. As each group does so, we

find moments of interactions and

exchange across ethnic, religious,

class, and geographical lines. It is in

these crossings that, I suggest, the

heritage of Singapore is made and


It is also at such crossings that I come

closer to an answer for the question

most frequently asked of me. Many

are often curious why one of the Straits

Tamil descends would choose to

study an ‘unrelated’ community and

region. This is certainly a fair question,

and one that anthropologists ought to

ask themselves. This seeming paradox

was even the subject of an episode of

Channel NewsAsia’s ‘On the Red Dot’

that featured my work and story. I do

not know if I will ever have a satisfying

answer. (But no, it does not involve

a nice Sikh boy.) What I can say for

now is this – where there were many

available paths, I took the one with

the most questions.

For anyone else who might be

interested in taking up heritage work

in Singapore, or any other passion

project for that matter, I would say

this – you do not have to have the

answers yet, but be prepared for the

questions. The time is now, the funding

is there, with some comes more, there

is support and more will find you, there

are multiple ways to go about it and it

all starts with starting.

These starts that I have had with great

collaborators have also led me here.

In early 2017, I was invited to join the

YSA’s Executive Committee by the

current vice-president Sarabjeet

Singh. Since Sarab was also the

one who suggested I join Khwaish, I

knew he would not steer me wrong.

With YSA, I am currently working

on ways to commemorate Sikh

presence in Singapore as part of

the 2019 Singapore Bicentennial.

As with my other projects, I look

forward to celebrating and creating

more moments of interactions and

exchanges with other communities.

This too is where Singapore’s future

lies – at the crossings, not in the


These are new shoes to fill, and I am

honoured to walk in them. Since

that cold morning on the parikrama

of Harmandir Sahib, these feet

have worn through multiple pairs

of shoes that have been handed

over to many a gentle sevadar

at gurdwaras, whose soles have

weathered the stony alleys and

tarred highways of many Punjab

summers, and whose laces have

been embraced too fondly by love

grass in Bukit Brown. As I step forward

with YSA and continue working on

celebrating Singapore’s heritage of

exchange, I look forward to crossing

paths with more of you. Come walk

with me!

Ms Vithya Subramaniam is a historian

and anthropologist in training interested

in questions of memory and space. Her

primary research has focused on sites

and objects across Punjab. Vithya holds

degrees from Columbia University and

the National University of Singapore

(NUS). She currently seeks to inspire her

students to ask better questions as a

teaching assistant with the South Asian

Studies Programme at NUS. The views

presented in this article are personal and

do not necessarily reflect those of YSA.

14 Khwaish | February 2018






Ms Sonya Kaur Gill

YSA, as most people know,

is the acronym for Young

Sikh Association (Singapore).

After being a part of two of its

projects in 2017, I feel that YSA

can also be called ‘Young Sikh

Advancement’. The spread

of opportunities YSA provided

allowed me to develop into a more confident person

– one who is well-equipped for the real world.

I was a part of YSA’s Young Leaders Programme

(YLP) and Project Khwaish, YSA’s community service

expedition to India.

Second Young Leaders Programme

I was a participant in the Second YLP which was

conducted over six months from May to November

2017. This programme offered many opportunities to

me to grow as an individual. Together with the rest of

the participants, I attended several workshops that

enhanced my public speaking, decision making,

resume writing and networking skills. I watched

myself grow into a more confident person in the

course of the programme.

provide a facelift to the only school in the village – Government

Primary School Rattoke – by revamping its existing infrastructure and

developing a full-fledged library.

We embarked on the expedition on 9 December 2017 but the

preparations began in August 2017 with numerous packing sessions

and fundraising events, which brought all of us closer to one another.

Strangers became my friends. Still, the idea of living with strangers

and friends I had gotten to know merely months before was initially

slightly daunting, but as the date grew closer, so did my anticipation

and excitement.

After a 19-hour journey, we arrived in Rattoke. At one o’clock on a

winter morning, the people of Rattoke braved the late cold night

to welcome us grandly with the dhol playing as we got off the bus.

They immediately assisted us with the unloading – 232 boxes and

our suitcases. Our host, Singh Saab – as we addressed him – and his

family vacated their warm rooms for our team. They treated strangers

as their very own children and made sure we had everything we

needed for a good night’s sleep. This simple gesture of kindness was

the first of many from Singh Saab and his family.

We had the opportunity to interact with

professionals from different fields, allowing us to

widen our perspectives on the social and economic

landscapes of the world. It was a great platform for

us to learn about employability in Singapore which

was timely as most of us would be graduating soon.

The YLP taught me how to pitch myself appropriately

and confidently.

As a graduating project, all the participants and our

leaders organised the first Sikh Voices conference

in November 2017. It was themed ‘What If’ and it

aimed to discuss Singapore’s future. This project

strengthened my organisational and communication

skills. Having to work with teammates and mentors

who have different skill-sets and strengths made me

appreciate the teamwork that went into making the

conference a success. After months of planning,

there was a great turnout. We executed the

conference smoothly with minimal hiccups.

The YLP is an excellent platform for one to expand

his/her social circle and pick up a whole new skillset.

Besides learning from one another, there are

numerous opportunities for the participants to

develop personally and professionally.

Project Khwaish XVII

Rattoke, a small village in Sangrur, Punjab, was

home to 22 Singaporeans, including me, for most

of December 2017. We were part of YSA’s Project

Khwaish XVII. We lived together in the home of Sahib

Singh for three weeks, where our main aim was to

Khwaish | February 2018


As we made our way to the school, we were greeted by

the entire student body and staff. This was truly remarkable

as it was a Sunday. The dedication the students, teachers

and villagers had towards the school was seen that very

morning as wide smiles and hearts full of love swarmed us.

We began our work that morning. The students and villagers

picked up the tools and started to work with us. Over the

days, the school proved to be the heart of the village.

Students would be in school till late in the evening and on

weekends, with the teachers and villagers there to watch

over them like a family. A highlight was when the school’s

bhangra team returned with a triumphant 3 rd place at a

state-level competition. The entire village gave them a

champion’s welcome – playing the dhol, feeding everyone

ladoos and dancing in the school to celebrate the success.

The students were already doing very well, despite the fact

that their study conditions were not ideal. Refurbishing the

school with a library was a stepping stone for the passionate

students and teachers to further fulfil their ambitions. When

the library was completed, the entire team felt a strong

sense of accomplishment. As we were filling up the library

with the books, the students excitedly peeked into the

library and enquired about the books. It was heartening to

know our efforts would be appreciated.

This trip made me realise how true it is that giving makes

you richer. Someone once told me that you gain more

happiness doing things for others than doing them for

yourself and it could not be more accurate. This trip gave

the opportunity to me to meet the most incredibly altruistic

and kind people. For 18 days, Singh Saab, his wife and their

two young boys treated us like kin.

We set off on this trip with the belief that we were going to

give, but what we received was far beyond what any of us

could give. I came back richer with memories and lessons

that I will hold close to my heart. Singh Saab and his family

are undoubtedly exemplars of humanity, archetypes of

what selfless service truly means. Project Khwaish XVII gave

the opportunity to me to be a part of something so much

bigger than myself – it is something I am truly grateful for.


YSA played an instrumental role in making my 2017 a fruitful

year. The two opportunities could not have come at a better

time for me as I was transitioning between polytechnic and

university. The eight months I had free were productively

spent being involved in the YLP and Project Khwaish VXII –

the two events groomed me into more wholesome young


Ms Sonya Kaur Gill is a biomedical science undergraduate who

aspires to help people through her work. Apart from wanting to

improve the lives of people, she is also passionate about the wellbeing

of animals. In her free time, she can be found reading,

enjoying nature or planning her next holiday. The views presented

in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of




Young ChangeMakers

The Young ChangeMakers community creates a dynamic space for social innovators to convene, collaborate and

curate ideas to create a collective impact on society. We are building networks of diverse and passionate individuals

and community organisations who inspire and drive social change by providing platforms to gain insights into issues

and opportunities to innovate solutions. Building on the knowledge and experience of the Curator Community who

have been involved in the evaluation of over 100 projects annually, resources and feedback are shared and refined

among peers to scale up ground-up initiatives through:

• Open Mic Sessions; and

• Open Lab Sessions (social innovation hackathons).

Join us in being a part of the vibrant community of changemakers!


Self-Help Groups Centre

The Self-Help Groups Centre (SHGs Centre) is a collaboration of the four Self-Help Groups – the Chinese Development

Assistance Council, Eurasian Association, Singapore Indian Development Association and Yayasan Mendaki.

Besides providing a common space for the different races to bond and integrate, the SHGs Centre also organises

programmes to serve all ethnic groups, such as educational programmes for students and talks and workshops for

parents. Each SHG Centre also conducts programmes specifically to meet the needs of their communities.

In addition, the SHGs will provide an activity fee subsidy (of up to 90 per cent) to eligible students from low-income

families to attend educational programmes conducted by the Centre.

For more information, please visit https://www.cdac.org.sg/self-help-groups-centre/.

Hooray! Your file is uploaded and ready to be published.

Saved successfully!

Ooh no, something went wrong!