Badal's classmate in Lahore recalls their hostel days
Shamsher Singh, who was a classmate of the late Parkash Singh Badal in a Lahore college in the early 1940s, says he is saddened by the passing of his college friend
Washington-based Shamsher Singh, who was a classmate of the late Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) patriarch and five-time Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in a Lahore college in the early 1940s, says he is saddened by the passing of his college friend.
"Badal and I were classmates at Lahore's Sikh National College for two years -- from 1943 to 1945. He was one of the many students from Punjab's Malwa region who studied at that college," says the 95-year-old who in 1954 was one of the first Indians to land in Washington D.C.
"Badal was a tall handsome young man who came from a wealthy zamindar family. Though we were not fast friends, I knew him very well. Out of about 560 students in the college, nearly 500 used to stay in three college hostels. Badal and his friends from the Malwa region stayed together and we used to call them Firozepurias," he added.
Singh says Badal and Malwa students used to get non-stop supplies of desi ghee from their villages.
"Unha de gharan toh desi ghee de pipay bhar bhar ke aunde ate Badal aur uhde dost sare takde jawan se (Badal and his friends used to get endless supplies of cans of desi ghee from their villages and they were all very strong)," he says in Punjabi.
But Badal was very average in his studies and he passed his exams thanks to tuition, he says.
"Badal used to receive tuition from Prof Arjun Singh, who taught us chemistry in our college."
He says Badal left Sikh National College to join Lahore's Forman Christian College in 1945. "Once he left our college, I had little contact with him because Badal was not active in Lahore's Sikh student politics," says Singh, who moved to Delhi after 1947.
He adds that Badal was brought into politics in the early 1950s by Sikh stalwart Giani Kartar Singh who was the Akali Dal president at the time of the Partition and later Punjab's revenue minister.
"I knew Giani Kartar Singh very well and knew how he mentored Badal. When Sant Fateh Singh replaced Master Tara Singh as the Akali stalwart, he promoted Badal."
He says Badal's biggest quality was that he cultivated relations with all kinds of leaders and people.
"The last time I met him was in Chandigarh in 1999 when he released my book, 'Unblossomed Bud', about Lahore's National Sikh College," says Shamsher Singh, who was also friends with US Vice President Kamala Harris's mother Shyamala Gopalan.
"I knew Shyamala very well. She was just 18 when she came as a student to Berkeley in 1961."
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