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a s p i r a t i o n s
Publication of Young Sikh Association (Singapore)
MICA (P) 148/01/2018
IN THIS ISSUE
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
Collaborating on Youth Initiatives
The Ultramarathon Runner
An Interview with Mr Paviter Singh
ASEAN-India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas
YSA part of the Milestone Event
Walk With Me on the Path with the Most Questions
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
Ms Sukhjeevanth Kaur
Ms Amarpreet Kaur
Ms Perinder Kaur
Ms Harsimar Kaur
Ms Rashvinpal Kaur Dhaliwal
Deputy Editor, Khwaish
Ms Alisha Gill
Thought Leadership and Interfaith Work
Ms Rasveen Kaur
Mr Amritpal Singh
Professional and Intellectual Development
Mr Jeevan Singh Sandhu
Professional and Intellectual Development
Mr Nirmal Singh
Mr Kuldip Singh
Mr R Logapreyan
Ms Sheena Gill
Ms Sukvinderpal Kaur
Ms Sithara Doriasamy
Conferences and Seminars
Ms Harjean Kaur
Conferences and Seminars, and Special Projects
Ms Vithya Subramaniam
Culture and Heritage
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
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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
SIKH VOICES CONFERENCE 2017
THE FUTURE OF THE SIKH COMMUNITY AND SINGAPORE
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
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
Khwaish | February 2018
YSA BOOK LAUNCH
TRAITS OF FUTURE SIKH LEADERS
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 email@example.com
to arrange for a copy of the book.
YSA FORTHCOMING ACTIVITY
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr Nirmal Singh: Tel: 94570926 | Email: email@example.com
Come and have some great footballing fun!
6 Khwaish | February 2018
PROJECT KHWAISH XVII
INDIA COMMUNITY SERVICE PROJECT A TEAM EFFORT!
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
IMPORTANCE OF ENGAGING YOUNG GRADUATES
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
YSA FORTHCOMING ACTIVITY
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!
COLLABORATING ON YOUTH INITIATIVES
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
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
AN INTERVIEW WITH
MR PAVITER SINGH
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
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
PRAVASI BHARATIYA DIVAS
YSA PART OF THE MILESTONE EVENT
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.
WALK WITH ME ON THE PATH WITH THE MOST QUESTIONS
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
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
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
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
COMMUNITY SERVICE -
THE YEAR THAT WAS!
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
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
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
ACTIVITIES BY OTHER YOUTH ORGANISATIONS
NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL
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!
SINGAPORE INDIAN DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION
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/.