Rangle Sajjan - The imbued ones (2nd Edition)

Translated by: Bh. Jaspinder Singh Jee
Bhai Sahib Bhai Randheer Singh Jee

Chapter 07: Bhai Lal Singh 'Sarblohi' (Dhandra)

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Sri Bhai Lal Singh Jee was a prominent Kirtaniya (singer) in Akhand Kirtani Jatha. He would sing in a shrill tune that moved the hearts of listeners. Though shrill, yet his voice was distinctly audible. His mood of singing had depth of devotional feelings that generated a similar response from the audience. He would go on and on, as if neither he nor the spellbound listeners were ever satiated with music divine. He was one of the rare ones, who could sing all through the night. He appeared a personification of devotion, staying fresh and alert all along. He was very proficient in playing a peacock-like musical instrument, Taus. He was popularly known as 'Bhai Lal Singh with The Peacock'. With the harmonium he would play new tunes of his own, as though the instrument was an integral part of him. Losing himself totally in Kirtan, he would bend and swing over the harmonium in frill ecstasy. The pitch of his naturally shrill voice would keep rising. He had frill grasp of the Gurbani being sung and thus his feelings of devotional love kept mounting. He always selected devotional shabads of yearning Godly-love. His accentuated feelings of deep devotion would create an environment of pining for love-divine that made his own teary eyes flow freely.

He came from village Dhandra in the district of Ludhiana. His ancestors were followers of strict Sikh-discipline of the faithful. He too abided by the discipline of 'all steel' (sarbloh) along with his wife as soon as he was initiated with Baptism. The Jatha had gone to his village for the baptising ceremony and thus he became an inseparable part of the Jatha. He broke away from his earlier associations and remained aloof from customary rituals. He was initiated with a band of highly devout, self-sacrificing individuals, who frilly accepted the Sikh code undermining the ensuing hardships. The whole village turned up on the occasion, yet none dared to join him in getting co-baptised nor did anybody match him in his seeking in spiritual hunger. Kirtan singing groups from adjoining villages also came to attend. The Jatha had already earned a name for a generous feasting and there was a special sense of abundance this time. There was unlimited supply of food, particularly Karah Prasad (sweet pudding of wheat flour, sugar and ghee in equal measure). All were equally served to their entire satisfaction in spite of the heavy gathering from surrounding villages.

One elderly person from the village Phalewal, Bhai Nand Singh was seated separately. This was done because this brave Singh had great appetite and would have to leave un-satiated if seated with others in a common row. While taking his special seat, he said, “You have guessed me rightly. However, today I am in a mood of taking only Karah Prasad. I wish to see whether you can meet my requirements.” He was being served liberally. While he kept swallowing, the serving Singh too kept supplying into the steel bowl in front of Bhai Nand Singh. This went on to the delight of Bhai Nand Singh, swallowing happily with dreamy eyes. God knows how much he ate. The serving Singh estimated that it could be around five kilograms. The serving was stopped when he gave the indication with folded hands. I remember that this marvellous person showered a lot of blessings to reflect his happiness. Facing me he said smilingly, "Bhai Randhir Singh, I am fully satiated with Karah Prasad today. None could meet my fill requirement till date. It is only this blessed Jatha that could do it. May Satguru ever bring victory to ‘Deg’ and ‘Teg’; unlimited food in common kitchen and the sword of universal welfare." Then he stood up, moving his left hand over his full belly and pointing his arrow with the right towards the assembled gathering he shouted repeatedly, “All and sundry shall join in (faith and Baptism) after facing disgrace without.” This was a time when the Baptism was not so common yet.

The Jatha left soon after, taking leave of the newly baptised Bhai Lal Singh Jee and his wife. The couple remained steadfast in their strong Sikh faith all through their lives. Bhai Lal Singh Jee was of thin build and light body, yet he was full of bravery. Whenever occasion arose to champion a good cause, he was always in the forefront like a lion to meet any challenge. The following illustration should suffice.

In accordance with Divine-Will, I was in jail custody at Ludhiana along with members of the Jatha. Bhai Lal Singh was engaged in some mission of his own and was unaware of this event of our arrest. As soon as he got the news, he became restless and either wanted to join us in the jail or carry out a raid on the jail like Sikhs of olden times to free his brethren. The police of the British Raj kept strong guard around us even in jail. They were gathering some basis and proofs to initiate the court case against us. They had to keep requesting extension of our custody in jail from the court to prolong it. Thus, the period was extended to many months in jail for the Sikhs. It was obligatory for the court to inform the accused about remand of their custody. In our case the British courts illegally ignored this and justice was thrown to the winds. The court orders for remand were read out to us in jail and date of next hearing informed. Once it so happened that either due to clerical error or ignorance of new judicial officer we were called to the Courts for our hearing. Our group of twenty Singhs with handcuffs came out of the jail under police guard and started marching toward the courts. There were two policemen armed with swords for every accused, marching along in close formation. Just as lion coming out of his den into the open air gets excited, similarly our brave Singhs put into the jail dungeons for months, on feeling fresh open air thought of their escape. They resolved by making signs that after subduing the guarding policemen they would make good their escape. However the farsighted Giani Nahar Singh among us controlled the situation and advised against this. It is a long distance from the jail to the courts. Escorting the Singhs lions-in-spirit, the well armed and more than double sized policemen were shivering in fear. In fact they were merely carrying weapons, unsure of their ability to use them. They would have surrendered their weapons on a single lion- like roar from the Singhs or had them snatched from their hands. Fear was clearly evident from their pale faces. They would panic at the slightest sound or gesture. About 100 yards from the courts, there was thick growth of trees that was lying uninhabited. We had to cross through this on our way to the courts. We had barely gone halfway through the trees when we noticed Bhai Lal Singh carrying an axe on his shoulder heading toward our party with the intent to challenge the escorting guards. He had been trying to find clues about us due to his pangs of brotherly love. On this day he suddenly found us as prisoners and was overcome by his martial spirit. Unmindful of the policemen he came close to us and started to walk with us. He started making signs for permission to attack the policemen and lead us to freedom. One weak-hearted among us commented that what could he do alone? The brave Singh roared back that, “A Singh is never alone, but equivalent to one and quarter lakh (sava lakh). Hearing this, the policemen were greatly frightened. They requested Bhai Lal Singh, “Kindly allow us to complete our duty.

Once we finish, there will be a new escort party of policemen to escort the prisoners back to the jail. Meanwhile you may gather more help for you.” Bhai Lal Singh would not listen to their pleas and was ready to attack. Some of our farsighted companions pleaded with him for restraint with folded hands. Meanwhile, we approached the court compound. The court was also in panic. Seeing our arrival, they were anxious to send us back to the jail, saying that remand orders were to be read out in jail. This time we were escorted back through a safer route though longer in distance.

Poor Lal Singh Jee could not fulfil his heart's desire. Neither did we return via the forest trees nor could Bhai Lal Singh rescue us, much against his wish. There was absolutely no doubt that if we had returned via same route or had we accepted his offer in the first place he would have jumped into action and got us our freedom. This was a time when people feared to show signs of acquaintance with the accused. We were avoided generally and none dared to exchange greetings of Fateh with us. It was during my jail period that Bhai Lal Singh Jee left this world and his mortal frame for abiding in ‘Gur-Puri’.

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