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An endearing look at Sikhs everywhere

Sikhs Unlimited maps the lives of Sikhs living aboard, celebrating the achievements of the Sikh diaspora. Khushwant Singh spent time with his subjects, to draw personalised portraits of each of them.

books Updated: Jul 09, 2009 16:24 IST

Book: Sikhs Unlimited
Author: Khushwant Singh
Price: Rs 495;
Publisher: Rupa

Did Chandigarh lose out to Bangalore as the e-capital of India due to then prime minister PV Narasimha Rao's insistence that since Punjab had the benefit of the Green Revolution the next revolution should go to a southern state?

According to Gurujot Singh Khalsa, one of the pioneers of the off-shoring and back office processing business in India, he started his initial venture in northern India, but real time data transfer between India and the United States could begin only after the first satellite earth station was set up in Bangalore in December 1993.

Khalsa's HealthScribe company was the first commercial subscriber to use its facilities for data transfer. Later, his other company First Ring became the first to do voice transfers, which set off the trend for the call centre business.

This anecdote is related in a book titled Sikhs Unlimited, and Gurujot Khalsa is one of the Sikhs profiled in the book. Punjab lost out to Bangalore as even the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee did not take seriously Khalsa's proposal to jointly set up an earth station in Mohali in 1991, according to him.

The book maps the lives of Sikhs living aboard, celebrating the achievements of the Sikh diaspora that has excelled in diverse fields - from the arts to theatre to entrepreneurship.

The author of the book, Khushwant Singh chose to spend time with his subjects, living in their homes to be able to draw personalised portraits of each of them. The author's style is simple and readable. The book is written as a part travelogue, but it is the portraits of individuals that are interesting rather than the author's own journeys.

He has selected an interesting group of people to write on - they are not just the usual bunch of non-resident celebrities.

The portraits include entertainers like the standup comedian Sodhy Singh Kahlon of the Britain-based comedy troupe called Funjabis; Channi Singh, the King of Bhangra Pop and painters like the twin sisters, Amrit and Rabindra KD Singh, who have adapted the miniature style of paintings to depict contemporary themes.

Fauja Singh began running as a way to fight depression, and now the 92-year old marathon runner is a worldwide icon. He starred in Adidas' Impossible is Nothing campaign in 2004, and has beaten his own record at every new marathon.

Not so well known in India is Harvinder Singh Sahota who invented the Sahota Perfusion Balloon that is used in angioplasty surgeries all over the world. Chirinjeev Singh Kathuria has the knack of floating companies that become huge successes. His company Planetspace plans to send tourists into outer space.

The book brings out the irony of Sikhs wearing turbans being targeted after the 9/11 terrorist strikes, when one of America's largest private security firms Akal Security is owned by a Sikh. Guruteg Singh Khalsa's Akal Security provides security to American airports, court houses, harbours and major corporate offices.

The author has done his homework well to portray engaging personalities and little known facts.