Mohinder Singh, president of the Singapore Khalsa Association (SKA), said it is part of the association’s “effort to embrace diversity, integrate other communities in Singapore with ours and share our heritage with them so that they understand and appreciate it.” Born in Singapore, Mohinder’s parents settled in the Lion City in the 1930s from their native region near Amritsar. He first became involved with the SKA in 1996. An engineer by training, he worked with the government and shifted to working in transfer planning before taking up the helm at SKA.
“We organise activities for the old as well as the young at the SKA, like chair yoga to engage our communities,” he said. He also stated that the SKA has a busy year ahead, with the Baisakhi celebrations in April highlighting the way Sikh culture has blended with Singapore’s.
“Our Baisakhi mela, I should add, started as an event for the Sikhs and Punjabis, but over the years it has evolved into a more inclusive event which involves the non-Sikhs in Singapore, the people from India who are staying here and also the non-Indians such as the Malay and the Chinese communities,” he said.
He spoke with Connected to India (CtoI) about community outreach, the SKA calendar and upcoming events and interactions with the government.
CtoI: What efforts have you put in so far to attract the Indian expat community?
Mohinder Singh: For instance, the Khalsa kindergarten; a lot of the parents send their children to study there. We also invite them during the Baisakhi mela. We worked through the Indian High Commission; we used to invite drama and culture troupes through the high commission, although now we do it directly. We used to reach out to schools like the Global Indian Schools, NPS, DPS and other organisations. Because the government also has an agenda for integrating different communities, we approach them for certain events for their support.
CtoI: Are you satisfied with your outreach to the NRI and expat community?
Mohinder Singh: I don’t think we are totally satisfied with our efforts. This is still a work in progress. For the local community, we are reaching out through the people’s associations and other government grassroots organisations. One key community we want to reach out to in a vigorous manner is the Indian expatriate community. We have done a bit of that and have worked with people that we know, but this is something we would like to build on.
CtoI: What events are coming up for the SKA in the upcoming year?
Mohinder Singh: Apart from the Baisakhi mela celebrations in April, the SKA is set for a busy 2018 with a packed calendar, including events such as a Baisakhi dinner in March, Mother’s Day and International Women’s Day celebrations organised by the Ladies Wing and the long-running Gurdwara Cup in Kedah this year. The Cup is a multi-sports tournament, with hockey, football, badminton, netball and golf as the competitive sports, with the Singapore team led by the SKA. The SKA also has plans to coordinate with other Indian communities to broaden the scope of their activities. Such events include a Dandiya night and food bazaar showcasing the different cultures of India.
The SKA was the brainchild of a few schoolboys of Raffles Institution during the mid-1920s who established a Sikh organisation for sports and culture on May 8, 1931. Today, it is an institution for Sikhs in particular and the citizens of Singapore at large to partake and hone their sporting skills.