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Bridge between Hollywood, Faridkot

Dr Amarjit Singh Marwah, a man from Faridkot district of Punjab and classmate of the Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, was behind the smile of Hollywood film legend Elibabeth Taylor, who died on Wednesday at 79. Gurpreet Singh Mehak reports.

india Updated: Mar 24, 2011 21:17 IST
Gurpreet Singh Mehak

A man from Faridkot district of Punjab was behind the smile of Hollywood film legend Elibabeth Taylor, who died on Wednesday at 79.

Dr Amarjit Singh Marwah, is not just her dentist. The man with immense philanthropic work in the US and India is also classmate of the Punjab chief minister, Parkash Singh Badal, from Sikh National College, Lahore.

After finishing high school at Kotakpura in Faridkot district, he joined college in Lahore, went to the US on scholarship, and earned degrees from the University of Illinois and Howard University in New York, which accepted huge grants from him, later.

The first dentist of Indian origin in America has kept his turban and ethos. The winner of many awards, Dr Marwah was one of the first Sikhs to arrive in the US from independent India. In 1950, a ship brought him to New York; he had won the Guggenheim Foundation fellowship to work as dentist.

Over the next few years, work took him to Illinois, Washington DC, and Southern California. The Sikh-American community grew, and in 1957, when Dalip Singh Saund of the Indian origin was elected to the US congress, Dr Marwah was his campaign manager. His ties with the Hollywood glitterati didn't distance him from the community and homeland. His family remains religious and traditional.

In 1962, when he sent his three daughters to a private Catholic school in Los Angeles, he made sure they were free to wear Indian clothes. He gave away money for schools and roads in Faridkot district and remained goodwill ambassador of India in the US.

He hosts annual lunch for Indian Fulbright scholars and officials in California. He has held high-profile positions in Southern California, led arts commission in Los Angles, guided the proceedings at the World Affair Council in LA, and been elected on the boards of the Navy League of America and International Visitors Council.

The man with political clout in LA is also co-founder of the Bank of Punjab, and founder of the first LA gurdwara (1969). He built KK Marwah Girls College in Faridkot in the name of his wife, Kuljit Kaur. To Mahindra College, Patiala, he gave money for auditorium, and now his mission is to develop model village at Gur Ki Dhab in Faridkot district, where Guru Gobind Singh had spent a few days.

Born on February 4, 1926, the future dentist played basketball through school, college and university, and earned university colour when he completed his BDS course in Mumbai (then Bombay). He won the MS degree from the University of Illinois and completed DDS at Howard University in Washington DC.

In Kotkapura, he is called "pioneer of basketball in Malwa", and because of his patronage to the sport, champions such as Olympian Tarlok Singh could emerge from the region.