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Baisakhi special: Meet these Punjabis who never say die

This Baisakhi, meet these inspiring go-getters from Punjab, who put aside odds to live their dreams. Here’s to the invincible spirit of the vibrant state.

art and culture Updated: Apr 13, 2018 18:52 IST
Baisakhi special:,Teena Singh,Shehzad Deol
Actor Teena Singh and model Shahzad Deol have made a name for themselves in the glamour world with sheer perseverance (HT Photo/Sarang Gupta )

Rangle Punjab di sifat sunawa, ho ethe rab wargiya maawa, dharti panj dareya di raani, ho jisda sharbat varga pani — In praise of the colourful Punjab, I say — here mothers are like God, its land is the queen of five rivers, and its water is like sherbet — this popular song by Sarbjit Cheema beautifully summarises the charm of land of five rivers. The fairytale-esque villages, zesty food, lush green fields and enchanting folk music of Punjab can soothe any tired soul. The land of Waris Shah, Bulleh Shah and Baba Farid has always been known for its enduring spirit. On the occasion of Baisakhi, we feature inspiring achievers from the state who encapsulate the never-say-die spirit of the Punjabis.

Guru Nanak ka langar, no more hunger

What is it that drives some men to be a catalyst of change in our society? Even if the odds are stacked against them, their will power to do something worthwhile is irrepressible. About either months ago, businessman Manjeet Singh saw an old and hungry man eating from the garbage. “I was moved to tears, I was lost for words. Something inside me shook. I decided to do something about it. I believe that life only has meaning, if you have a purpose. And I had just found mine”, says Manjeet. Since then, Manjeet supported by his family, has been distributing langar outside various hospitals in the city and feeding the poor and the needy. It wasn’t easy to find time with his hectic travel plans, but he managed. He turned his car into a mobile eatery to serve the needy. “No one, no matter how poor, should suffer from pain of hunger. And if you can do something to alleviate this, then you should. For me, Baisakhi is all about celebration of the warrior spirit of the Sikhs, our ability to fight for what we believe in. And I believe in the concept of Seva. This is what drives me”, says Manjeet. The food that he serves is homemade and not a single morsel is wasted. After distributing Langar, hsi team also makes sure to clean up.

Painting Punjab pretty

His mentor Harinder Singh calls him Lovedeep due to his bholapan (innocence) and humility. Jagdeep Singh is the son of a granthi (One who reads Guru Granth Sahib, the religious scripture of Sikhs) from Faridkot, Punjab. “I had a flair for painting when I was a little boy. My father encouraged me to pursue art. He believes in creating beautiful things that bring joy to this world ,” says Singh. At the age of 17, Jagdeep was forced to quit studies and work as his father lost his eyesight. Jagdeep started painting walls in his village to eke out a living. He moved to Chandigarh to join an art school. He did odd jobs to pay his fees. “I didn’t have money to eat. It was a very tough time however I had to succeed and with god’s grace I did manage”, says Singh. He finished his course, and started getting freelance art assignments from 1469, Harinder Singh’s design studio in Delhi. Today, Jagdeep’s paintings depicting rural Punjab are sold worldwide, and his patrons include Punjabis living across the globe who get a slice of their home state through his canvas.

Weaving beautiful dreams

It’s not every day that you come across an MBA student who makes stunning phulkari duppattas. “Punjab has a very rich culture and phulkari is one of the most exquisite art forms from my state that interprets it impressively. It is important for young people to value the wonder weave to be able to preserve it,” says 22-year- old Amneet Bedi from Hoshiyarpur. The young girl learnt making phulkari online by watching video tutorials when she could not find a teacher for herself. Initially it wasn’t easy but she picked up. “I can make these borders and dupattas all day long. Using a mish mash of patterns and colours to create these pieces everyday gives me a lot of joy ,” says Amneet who teaches the craft to young people like her. “I want to take up this craft full-time. There are tremendous possibilities when it comes to seamlessly infusing the old and the new through phulkari,” says Amneet.

Punjabiyat teaches you to never surrender

Even if the odds are against them, Punjabis aren’t afraid to stand for what they believe. Actor-model Teena Singh, is the epitome of a rebellious warrior. “My auditions were rejected because I had short hair, and I was dusky. The roles I got were of the home-breaker, the bully or the crazy girl with tattoos”, says Teena. But she didn’t budge. Today, Teena is the face of a popular coffee brand, has already acted in two Bollywood movies and has also got a lead role in a Bollywood film. And she continues to refuse to wear wigs or use fairness lotions. “ To be successful, a girl doesn’t have to be fair with long hair. I won’t ever let anyone bulldoze me to be someone I am not. This is what Punjabiyat is all about,” says Teena.

Fashion is about being who you are

During his teenage, Shehzad Deol was made to believe that he could never be a model. “They look a certain way and to be like them, you will have to give up on your identity,” he was told. He has also not heard of any Sikh model or fashion icon creating ripples in the fashion scene. But the day he saw fashion designer and actor Waris Singh Ahluwalia, who is also the face of a popular fashion label, he resolved to never give up on his dreams. “Seeing Waris modelling in beard and turban instilled confidence in me and made me believe the fashion is all about being who you are,” says the 25-year-old . Shehzad recently won the runner up title of a reality TV show and was the only model representing the Sikh community. “It was overwhelming to see messages coming from my fellow community members saying that I had made them proud without having to meet the conventional beauty norms set by the modelling industry. I have a long way to go but with fashion becoming inclusive, there is scope. I want people to know that if you are determined to do something in life, it can be made possible with hard work,” says Shehzad.

Rejection became his best friend

Punjabi actor Preet Bal has a massive social media fan following and is also among the most sought-after Sikh models in the industry currently. Preet Bal’s career began with a spate of rejections. “Agencies would tell me that there is no scope for Sikh models in the commercial fashion sector. I kept on trying. When I became very popular on social media, I started getting offers to do meaningful roles. I have acted in three Punjabi films and have two Bollywood films in the pipeline along with a large number of modelling offers. The spirit of never giving up kept me going,” he says.

Warriors never say die

If you can overcome your own struggle and yet manage to help those in need and give them hope then you are a true Khalsa warrior. And the dashing turbaned Tejeshwar Singh is one Punjabi, who imbibes the spirit of Khalsa wholeheartedly. A few years ago, Tejeshwar was roaming the streets of Mumbai helplessly with his dreams of being a model hanging by thread. “Turban wearing guys were never selected. Every designer used to say no to me. However, we Punjabis are stubborn, we just persevere”, says Tejeshwar. Flash-forward to 2018, turban is the new cool on ramp, and Tejeshwar is on his way to becoming a successful actor, apart from being a model. “Those days taught me one thing: If you are in a position to make someone not feel helpless, then you should do your best,”says Tejehwar. For the past few years, he has been organising drives in Chandigarh distributing clothes and food for the destitute. And on his birthday, this sardar heads to orphanages to spend time with his little friends. “The feeling is of bliss when you realise that you have ability to put a smile on someone’s face”, says Tejeshwar .

Concept: Shara Ashraf

Text: Shara Ashraf, Abhinav Verma, Akshay Kaushal and Prerna Gauba

Photos: Sarang Gupta

Styling: Akshay Kaushal

Wardrobe: Reynu Taandon, Shantanu and Nikhil, 1469

Makeup: Kanchan Mehra

First Published: Apr 13, 2018 18:47 IST