Dressed in a tee, track pants and well-used trainers, Balwinder Singh looks more like a sportsman or a coach than a religious man, much less a granthi (keeper of the Sikh scripture) in a gurdwara. But looks can be deceptive and the 54-year-old wears all three hats.
A champion shot putter of his day, Singh won bronze and silver at the 1982 and ’86 Asiads, respectively. These days, he divides his time between his two passions — reciting the scriptures at the Gurdwara Nanak Sagar here and coaching budding athletes on its premises.
The burly athlete — an Arjuna Award recipient — left his coaching job at the National Institute Of Sports (NIS), Patiala in 2005 to take up a life of abstinence.
“I was at NIS when one day my spiritual guru, Baba Virsa Singhji, called me and asked me to take care of the Gurdwara Nanak Sagar. Guruji was also fond of sports, so he gave me the option of training budding athletes there,” Singh says.
“People were taken aback on seeing a granthi in track pants. Some objected too, but when they came to know I was also promoting a sporting culture, they stopped.”
The seven years of hard work have borne fruit. Many of Singh’s trainees have won national accolades in discus, shot put and hammer. In an especially proud moment, his son Paramjit took gold in the U-20 school nationals in shot put this year.