Oh wow! I have never thought about that before (laughing) I would describe myself as odd. I’m not the type of person who does normal things. Anything anyone does that is quite normal I will do the opposite of that. Like most people drive a car but I ride a motorbike! I’m nuts! I like doing different things. I am very active also. My family think I’m crazy and I’m the laughter in the house and I get that from my parents.
Before your fitness journey what was you doing?
I was at University studying Criminology. Obviously before that I was at sixth form. Whilst I was there people were saying you can’t do certain things. I was like you can’t tell me what to do. For example I wanted to join the police. But that will be at later date. People would say as I’m small the robbers will throw me here and there. (laughing) One day at sixth form there was a massive pool table and they were all sitting on there, and I decided to pick it and no one thought I could. But guess what? I did. The same people couldn’t lift it up. I couldn’t believe that I could do it either but I did.
You ride a motorbike as you want to be different is that correct?
Yes! I really wanted to ride a motorbike and it was a passion. I remember going to the motorbike show at the NEC and that’s where my love began. I ended up buying it out of the blue. It’s unique. My mum at first was a bit sceptical but she was fine after and so was my dad.
Who is your role model and inspiration?
I have to say my family because without my family I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. They are so supportive and push me to be better. My dad has always said no matter what you do I will support you. There are a few people I look up too also such as Kaur Strength and Azaad. I used to watch what they do as they are very inspiring. I really look up to them. I even asked for tips from them.
Why the name Fitness Kaur?
I wanted something catchy and stick to our background. I really liked the name Fitness Kaur. It was relatable to what I was doing.
How did your Fitness Journey begin?
From watching video’s in regards to fitness. Then I started weight training I did that for 1 year. I have now progressed to calisthenics and have been doing this for 4 years now. Its something unique and in our community no one really does this. It helps with everything with your strength, your mobility and even your mind. I really want more people to do this as a lot of people do weight training and not this.
When you are putting your fitness video’s on Social Media, one thing stands out you always play Kirtan in the background. Does this motivate you more?
Yes it does definitely! When I started the fitness it was Bani that made me connect to my inner strength and I was learning Bani whilst I was doing this. When you start listening to it you start researching it. I automatically put it on. It’s a huge motivation.
Which Kirtan motivates you more would you say or listen to more?
I would say Arti now. It has stuck with me. I listen to this 24/7 ever since I came back from India. But whilst I was in India there was one Kirtan that stuck in my mind and heart. It was at Baba Bakala Sahib. Its called Sun Jeeva Teri Bani. I took a short clip whilst I was there.
You took Amrit about 2 years ago now, what was your reason to take Amrit?
I have always deep down wanted too. But my parents thought I was a bit young and told me to wait. But we went to Amritsar to as my cousin had an Akhand Path at Harmandir Sahib. This was April 2015. One day we was outside Darbar Sahib. I asked my Bibi (gran) why is there people sitting there and waiting. My Bibi stated people were taking Amrit today. I felt something inside and I thought I am taking Amrit today. That was it. I was in the queue for over 2 hours. Then when I got inside it was another 6 hours. There was over 1000 people there. When I came out, you can feel it I cannot describe it but I felt it.
How old was you when you took Amrit?
I was 20 at the time. But my brother who was 15 at the time he took it with me. He is 17 now.
Your parents also took Amrit but further on didn’t they?
Yes. They took it 2 month’s down the line. When we got home, my mum was upset that we took without them and not together. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be blessed with Amrit especially at Harmandir Sahib. Then in July 2015 my parents took it. My dad was like one day we are going to do this. This was my second proudest moment when my parents took Amrit. I mean it’s such a blessing. That was done at Soho Road Gurdwara.
What was your main struggle after taking Amrit?
I think because we were raised with Sikhi and my dad was a huge influence on that. I didn’t really have many struggles. Wearing a Patka for the first time and then learning how to tie a Dastaar. As you can get stressed in trying to get it right. But other than that no other struggles. Even with food we was vegetarian already. So I was okay.
Has Sikhi helped you in your fitness?
Yes most definitely. Without my Sikhi there would be no fitness. My strength comes from Gurbani. I just believe I’d have no fitness. Its made me more closer to Gurbani.
Did your friends and family support going through your fitness journey?
Yes. At the beginning my dad was like don’t lift too much you are already small (laughing) But they are a massive support. My Babaji when I came in the newspaper Times Of India he cut the article out of the paper. He would tell and show his friends. They are my strength. My family is always there to support me.
In terms of friends the friends I did have were into the clubbing and I wasn’t. I just dropped those friends and if we see each other we will say hi. I have nothing against it. But my lifestyle is different including my fitness.
Is your diet really important whilst training?
Yes it is. But I eat normally. All you need to do is portion control. Don’t put oil use the sunflower spray as its more healthy. We get a lot of protein in our greens.
When you need to eat some junk food what do you like to have?
Everything (laughing) You can’t beat a Mr Singh’s. Its hard not to eat their waffles. They are just amazing. I love their curly fries.
How do you make exercise look so easy it’s like you are made out of elastic?
Some people give up straight away when your body hurts. But you have to push your body to its limits. When I was doing my hand stands it took me a long time to get it right. Things hurt but you push through it. It’s just the pain and people don’t like pain.
What exercise that you have done is the hardest?
The human flag on the lamp-post one. I still find it hard today. You have to train those muscles. It’s all in the mind. It took me 2 years to get it all right. But 6 months to get the basics. People think that as I’m small its easy. But it’s not you have to lift your whole body. People don’t understand that.
You met Jagraj Singh from Basic Of Sikhi who sadly passed away and you taught him some exercise moves how was that?
I went to the Vaisakhi event and Jagraj Singh he approached me and asked would you like to make a video. I was like yeah its Jagraj Singh. I mean he taught me so much and that will stay with me forever. I showed him what I do to train and he showed me what he did in the Army. He was showing me 10 minute planks. He was a great role model and he is still around in his charity Basic Of Sikhi.
You also help with the Sikhi Camps how was that?
Yes it was a great experience. I’m not someone who is that great in speaking in front of people. But it helped me with the confidence side of myself. It was good teaching the kids about fitness and putting that with Sikhi. The camp ages were 5-10 years old. I have been asked by schools and Gurdwara’s. I will definitely do it again. One time it was raining and there was 300 children with me and it was fun as it was raining outside. But they loved it.
You also did the wolf run with your Seva Sisters for memory of Jagraj Singh what made you decide to do this?
When I found Jagraj Singh had passed away i was taken back how that could happen to someone so healthy. I then thought he did so much for the Panth. Lets do something for him. Then we decided to do the wolf run to stay healthy and raise money. We raised over £2000.
You have a massive following on Social Media, are you aware of this?
Yes it has grown over the years. When I started to do interviews with newspapers my following grew. Also it’s word of mouth and people talk so that helped me as well. I’m happy that I’m making an impact and people are watching my video’s.
I love your instagram stories of your little brother does your siblings realise what a great inspiration and role model they have in their older sister?
They love joining in on my exercises. He loves getting involved. But they all do. I don’t think I am an inspiration I can only guide them in the right way. I have 3 brothers and 1 sister. My sister’s friends all know who I am as when I pick her from school they all say hi (laughing) Apparently they watch my video’s also. My brother who is 17 he is training. My parents are also trying so that’s really good as well.
Have you ever received any negativity via social media regarding your fitness?
Yes all the time. Especially when I’m listening to Gurbani whilst training. I don’t understand it. It’s like I should be listening to bhangra music and then it’s okay. People used to say that I was a man as I had muscles. Now it’s slowly getting better.
Some people think as you are female and lifting weights you shouldn’t be as it’s a mans sport. Do you agree?
Yes. They think as I’m an Asian female I shouldn’t be doing this. Especially with my followers from India they think I should be cooking and not doing fitness. I just ignore it now.
You also was voted Top 10 of the most inspirational Sikh Women how did that make you feel?
I was really surprised. I wasn’t expecting that. But when it did sink in I felt really blessed and proud to share this platform with my extraordinary and inspirational sisters.
What does your Dastaar mean to you?
It means we are one of a kind. When I walk out of the house I feel proud. It makes me happy that I stand out. My Dastaar is my pride anywhere I go I walk out with my head held high and makes me feel like a queen. Why fit in when we’re born to stand out. Our Dastaar is a gift from our Guru Ji and makes me really proud to wear it
Also you took part in Ninja Warrior UK how did that happen?
I saw this advert for ninja warrior and thought I’d give it a go and sign up, so signed up through ITV and then few months later I got a call saying I got an audition, then at the audition you have to do little course’s that would test your ability balance, endurance, strength etc.
If you’re successful you’ll get another call for filming. Then I got that call. Out of a couple of thousand only 200 get picked to appear on the show. The show involves obstacles that test all your abilities and once you’ve done that you got to the next level. It was fun.
What’s your biggest achievement?
Being blessed with Amrit. Also my whole family have taken Amrit also. If you take Amrit you have to commit to it and with a full heart.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to get into fitness?
Start slow and build it up. I have 3 things I used to do as a basic. Push ups, Dips and Sit ups and they helped with strength. If you can’t do a push up start on your knee’s. Just don’t give up just because of the pain keep going.
Whats next for Fitness Kaur?
Well you have to keep watching. I’m doing a Personal Training Course at the moment. I want to travel. India would be my first stop as it’s where my heart is. I want more females to take part and not be scared. That’s my aim.
Please show some love and support to Gurpreet kaur she is such a lovely person inside and out. Bless her when we met she was getting over a cold. She is a brilliant role model to a lot of people But she is humble with it. Please show some support!
Firstly I’m not good at selling myself (laughing) But I’m a very caring person. I’m very loyal. I’m the type of person that if someone needs me, or needs someone to talk too I’m there. It does not matter who it is. I’m not after fame or popularity. I’m just who I am. What you see is what you get with me. Coming into Sikhi, has changed me and in a positive way. I love helping people. I love doing seva for the community. I’m compassionate and I don’t judge anyone. I am also very open-minded.
What’s your day job?
I currently work in a government office role. It’s a great job. But before that I was working as a Personal Secretary for Rolls-Royce.
You recently did a 10K run for cancer research. Why that chosen charity?
Yes. My father had cancer he had leukaemia. So it was for my dad’s remembrance and it was something I’ve never done before. It was quite touching the number of people who were there supporting each other. It was a great experience. I did the run with a few friends. I will do it again next year.
Who is your role model and inspiration?
That is a difficult question. But Kirtan is a massive inspiration. But I’ve never really followed anybody and I’m a very private person. I do my own research. The meaning of shabad is what I learnt and helped me the most. I also post daily Hukamnama this also inspires me and the sangat.
Basic Of Sikhi is another that go out and try and inspire people in regards to Sikhi. Bhai Jagraj Singh he spoke to everyone and inspired so many people.
You used to be a model back in the day right?
Yes. It wasn’t a career it was something I enjoyed doing at the time. I did modelling for brands like Topshop and H&M. I have always be known as a fashionable person withing friends and family. I always was told that I used to dress really well. I wanted to become a fashion designer when I was in my teen’s but that changed.
I was very creative with my hands. I did Art in school and I got an A. I’m more creative than theory. I did a course in Hair and Beauty and worked part time in that like dressing up the brides. Also holding down a full time job.
Have you always been into Sikhi?
Not sure. Maybe yes and no. Just like every child back in the day our parents would tell us to go to the Gurdwara every Sunday, we weren’t allowed to cut our hair or eat meat on certain days but I never knew why or got educated. I guess it’s not really their fault as most parent’s came from India to live in UK to earn and build a future for their children.
Even though as a child with lack of knowledge about Sikhi and our history I still had a strong believe there was Vaheguru (God). I would look up in to the sky and talk to Vaheguru (God).
It’s a true saying “your child will follow your parents example” I’m truly blessed to have such a loving parents.
As a kid I was very observant, I still remember Dad would get up to do his Jhot and put dhoof on and read Sukhmani Sahib Path then go to Gurdwara at 5am. I never questioned him but I started getting up with him and went to Gurdwara. I watched sevadaars doing Seva and I practically started washing dirty taals, cleaning the tables and cleaning sangats Jhora (shoes) I was only 13 or 14 years old I think.
There was one Bibi (aunty) who inspired me so much towards doing Seva, she would tell me you’re doing great seva and one day you will receive your Karma da Phall. I never knew what she meant as i was still young and very naïve. I would believe everything what people would tell me. I still do. (laughing)
Being at school Religious Education was one subject I chose to study. I read about Guru Nanak Dev Ji and his teachings. Even at that young age I took on board what Guru Nanak Dev Ji was teaching me. I stopped eating meat and never touched Alcohol, I don’t even know what it tastes like and throughout me growing up I always felt that Guru Nanak Dev Ji was my “Best Friend” I would gaze up in to the sky and talk to him.
I had a passion in Art and started drawing Guru Ji pictures from age 14 to 16, I had grade A in my GCSE’s.
I left school and started college and that’s when Kaljug came over me. I still had good values and remembered God in my heart. I did FEAR God. I was a good person just had bad habits.
At the age of 18, one of my work colleagues (Singh) who was like a big brother to me gave me a gift – it was a Nitnem pothi sahib with English translation. I started reading Japji Sahib Paat in roman, I would read it every morning and evening, did this for 12 years. I have to admit I was reading it like a book rather understanding the true meaning to it. In my early 30’s I then started to educate myself more about Sikhi by doing Sangat.
You suffered from depression didn’t you?
In my late teens, I would always question myself “Is there more to life?” I would observe and simply see so much drama around me. I had everything in life, a loving family, a roof over my head, money, car, I had a very busy social life, lots of friends and enjoyed going out but at the same time, I would feel so lost, empty and unhappy inside. I came to realise that it was depression I was going through. I was feeling really down and depressed for no reason. I was having suicidal thoughts and I would wake up in the morning planning in my head how I could take my own life. Everywhere I looked I felt my life had no sense of purpose here. I lost interest in most things, including my appearance. The deep thoughts about how I could kill myself physically took all my energy away because I was too afraid to take my own life and the painful thought’s about how my Mum and Dad will have to deal with it when they find out there daughter is dead. I felt so helpless and selfish because I was only thinking about myself and not the people around me who Loved me. One evening I sat down and I wrote my last letter of goodbye to my family and left it by my pillow. I still remember I went into my mum and dad‘s room (they both were still asleep) and touched their feet and cried my eyes out for forgiveness. I plucked up the courage to leave their bedroom and went to college to meet all my friend‘s for the last time. I then started walking into town and took an overdose. Someone saw me lying on the floor and they called the Ambulance. I was angry with God to why he had saved me but I was very lucky, lucky to be alive.
(This part was very hard for Inderpal Kaur to tell me as it is a very emotional part of her journey so please all be supportive towards her. This shows true courage in Inderpal opening up and telling this part of her story, this is very emotional for Inderpal. I’m so proud of her to finally be open and talk about it to me. Hopefully, this will help others. We are all human at the end of the day.)
Where did it all change for you?
I started going out again. I completed my Hair and Beauty course and had a career in the Beauty Industry (Bridal: Henna/ Hair/Makeup Artist) just over 10 years as well and working full-time for the Council (Office role) so I was working 7 days a week.
I achieved a lot in life. I entered a competition for “fun” called Face of Divinity” which they had to select 150 female models to the Grand Finale and I had no idea I would be selected
(I was really surprised). The Grand Finale modeling event was based at the London Mayfair Hotel and from 150 models only 5 were selected and I was one of them that was selected through to the next stage which I was totally shocked. This was an opportunity to work in the modelling industry along with some famous Costume / Fashion Designers.
As well as working full time and then in my spare time I enjoyed doing modelling. I was also a part of a Bhangra/Bollywood dance group and performed at weddings and charity events.
Even though my life was a bliss I still felt there was something missing. At this point there was no thoughts and no expectations in life even though I achieved so much in life, I loved my career but still I had that emptiness feeling within me. (my early 30’s)
A friend of mine told me about a Sikh Youth Project that happens every Friday at our local Gurdwara where they talk about Our Sikh Identity, history and our 10 Guru’s. I started attending these projects and it came to a point where I never missed it. I started to communicate with my Guru (Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji).
For 12 years I was reading Japji Sahib Paat and had no proper understanding but by going to these Youth Talks at the Gurdwara it was like a “wake up call” from Vaheguru and that’s when I started to read it in English to understand what message is Guru Nanak Dev Ji is reaching to us.
This was the point where things changed for me, I was feeling more hunger towards the spiritual path and started going to Simran and Katha programmes which helped me a lot. I started seeing changes within me. I had no interest in going out with friends, my modelling/dancing hobbies reduced and I had the urge to attend a simran programme instead where I felt a strong spiritual connection and peace within me. It came to a point I became so desperate I needed more and more of it as this was healing that emptiness that I had for so long.
The desires to wear makeup, jewellery, and designer’s clothes just vanished I had no interest and loved my simple life.
I felt more and more compassion and empathy for others and for animals on my spiritual journey. Making that spiritual connection with my Guru I finally realised my place within the universe.
Where I used to focus on my pain, suffering, loss and personal struggle, now I focus on what I’ve gained. Through the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib Ji I understood that suffering became my medicine and from my own suffering I have finally realised God.
Why did you take Amrit?
I actually never planned to take Amrit, it just happened. I attended a Simran and Katha programme at my local Gurdwara. The Katha was on “Khalsa Women and Mir Mannu’s Jail” Mir Mannu who ordered that all of the infant Sikhs who were with their mothers at the jail were to be executed immediately. Only those to be spared were those who converted to Islam. More than 300 infant Sikhs were killed by Mughals and their dead bodies given back to their Khalsa mothers, not a single mother embraced Islam. The women’s children were fixed on javelins before their very eyes. Their children were cut into pieces and garlands of those pieces were put around their mother’s necks. But the faith of Sikh women was unshakeable. This Katha completely disturbed my soul. At the end of the programme they announced there will be an Amrit Sanchaar the next morning.
I questioned myself and my Sikhi. I woke up the next morning the urge to take Amrit, it was 8:30am when I messaged a Singhni friend and asked her what I need to do. She asked me why? And I told her I want to take Amrit (she was so excited). I quickly had a full shower. I was running around the house getting myself ready as the Amrit Sanchaar was at 10am. My Mum asked” where are you going” when I told her she was surprised too.
Everyone was little surprised because I was the most outgoing and fashionable in my family.
I appreciate and love my life and I thank Vaheguru every day for giving me a second chance. Guru ji has certainly saved me.
What’s been your biggest struggle in taking Amrit?
My Kesh (facial hair).
I ONLY had fine facial hair on my face due to working in the Beauty Industry for over 10 years I was persuaded by my work colleagues to have Laser Hair Removal Treatment, so I started my first treatment in year 2009 till 2011. With Guru Ji’s Kirpa I was blessed with Amrit In year 2012 (never planned) slowly month by month I had MORE facial hair on my face as I did before
We tend to tamper with our natural beauty for the sake of SOCIAL MEDIA and nothing is Permanent it’s a Gift from God that will keep on growing until you die.
I have had many messages especially from Bibiya wanting to walk on the Sikhi path after watching “My Journey into Sikhi” video which has made a huge impact to their lives. Four bibiya took Amrit last year in December as my post/video on Facebook had inspired them. I want to make my sangat aware too please don’t take Amrit by reading or watching video post on my Facebook. I’m overwhelmed with messages I receive on a daily basis that my posts have inspired sangat. My main mission is to get the Sangat more involved with Gurdwara Seva and able to start communicating with Guru Granth Sahib Ji slowly build your relationship with your Mother and Father. Taking AMRIT isn’t a game and I personally feel that a journey is between you and God once you’ve understood what our Guru Ji’s are teaching us.
Some of you are armed with Sikhi knowledge but certain things are stopping them from taking Amrit e.g. most popular FACIAL HAIR!!
Kesh is a gift from God and we shouldn’t feel embarrassed. We ALL have it no one is born without facial hair. God has gifted us with eyes, mouth, nose and ears and still we are unhappy or want to make changes to our natural beauty.
Its ONLY HAIR!!
I’ve learnt the hard way and I’m hoping that my experience will help youngsters to not to tamper or change their natural beauty.
Did people change towards you when you took Amrit?
Throughout my life I’ve had far too many friends but unfortunately I knew who the real ones were after I took Amrit. I have been used by people and realised they were only my friends because of money and my outside image.
I don’t have many friends now. I chose not to make many friends if I do I now go for quality over quantity!
My Only True friend is my Guru Ji – Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji
Were your family supportive?
My family has never stopped me or any members of the family from doing anything. I am blessed and they all have a Spiritual side which we all respect each other.
Did you have any issues from your workplace when you went into sikhi? Such as in your look changed?
Well work colleagues would put a bet on whether I would take that big step towards Amrit. I would go into work with my head covered then another day with my hair down and makeup etc. I remember when my Director made a comment about my look when I was practising and he said “I looked attractive with my hair down and why waste your life away by hiding your beauty” At that point I felt so disgusted with myself he made a flirty comment!! I went into work the next day with my head covered and never removed my Keski since.
My Director approached me with more respect, and work colleagues would praise me for my bravery on this path. I was known as a Fashion Icon at work (well smartly dressed) but my spiritual path again and again pointed me back towards simplicity. I don’t work for that company anymore.
What was your biggest struggle within yourself?
My confidence. Always the need to please everyone. I know now you can’t do that. Even mixing with society I wasn’t being me. I wasn’t being true to myself. I was thinking more about others views and thoughts rather than mine. I think I have come a really long way now in overcoming that. I have confidence now and I’m building it all up again. I’m teaching others about confidence and being yourself.
You never give interviews so why did you agree to this one? As you stated it’s the first and last
I have been approached by a few media channel’s to talk about my journey into Sikhi but I refused.
I am no one I am just a normal person just like everyone else. We all have a story to tell! There are so many ways we can inspire Sangat (not just on TV) and one of them were when I created an Album called “Back to a Sikhi” which inspired many Sangat on my Facebook. Even though I had taken Amrit their journey also inspired me. The thought of these people inspiring me, it will also inspire others too.
My journey inspired many people, I always got asked “what made you change from glamour to a simple person?” “What made you take Amrit?” So I made a short video called “My Roller-coaster Journey into Sikhi” to help sangat. (video is below)
But I guess that wasn’t enough they needed more details. Automatically people judge you by thinking “Divorce, relationship break up or if someone close passed away. It’s not really true. Depression can come in many forms not necessary through bad experience. This is why I agreed to do this interview to share my experience and maybe someone is out there that is feeling exactly how I was feeling and to let them know “they are not alone” maybe my story will help them.
It’s strange, I recently sent a friend request to someone who I didn’t know but this is when you TRUST Vaheguru Ji (people come into people’s lives for a reason) I truly believe we are God’s messengers.
Not long ago this person who I sent a request too who I don’t know and never met before had just lost her partner and had no hope to live. This person trusted me and opened up to me, this person started drinking, smoking a lot and doing all the wrong things. I am actually helping this person with the guidance of Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
In just three weeks this same person is speaking to me with so much positivity, they started going to Gurdwara doing Seva, listening to paat (understanding what she is reading), this person hasn’t touched Alcohol for 3 days and stopped smoking and she’s finding more peace. I send Guru ji’s daily Hukamnama to this person and daily message to help them overcome this depression.
We agreed, once she’s 100% herself again we will meet up for a cuppa. I’m hoping to interview her one day with her journey and experience so it will help others.
This time last year I was humiliated by someone who I thought I knew very well. This person called me a “Facebook friends list Stalker” their friends laughed and joked at my expense which really upset me.
My attention was for something else and this is a fine example why I randomly send friends request because you just don’t know who you may able to help.
There are so many people I speak to that are going through so much depression, pain and anxiety. I want to help them, find their inner peace by doing this seva.
Pain is a part of life, suffering is an option.
You are very positive in what you say and post on your Facebook and Instagram aren’t you?
Yes I am. You need to be comfortable with who you are. This is all I want to say about being positive.
ਆਪਣਾਆਪੁਨਪਛਾਣੈਮੂੜਾਅਵਰਾਆਖਿਦੁਖਾਏ॥ਮੁੰਢੈਦੀਖਸਲਤਿਨਗਈਆਅੰਧੇਵਿਛੁੜਿਚੋਟਾਖਾਏ॥: Apnaa aap na pashaanai mooraa avraa aakh dukhaaye ..: The fool does not understand his own (True) Self; he pains others with his speech. His underlying nature (of causing pain to others) does not leave him; separated from the Lord, he suffers (sggs 549).“Pain is apart of life, suffering is an option” but through that suffering theres also a Cure which we don’t realise till later in life. (talking from my own experience)
What does your Dastaar mean to you?
It is your identity. You know from a far that yes they are Sikh. You stand out from the crowd. Its mine. Its my crown.
Wearing my crown (Dastaar) is my identity as a true Sikh Warrior (Khalsa Akaal Purakh Ki Fauj). I am but a slave and a servant of Akal-Purakh, Timeless Being. I feel unique, proud and I receive a lot of respect from people when they see me. Dastaar is an article of faith that symbolise honour, self-respect, courage and spirituality. It’s my Guru’s unique gift to me. It expresses royalty, elegance and uniqueness.
Dastaar for a Kaur is an indication to others that we are princesses of Guru Gobind Singh Ji (our father) and we are equivalent to the men. When a Kaur chose to stand out by tying a dastaar, she stands fearlessly as one single person standing out from billion people. It is a most outstanding act. When I look into the mirror, I want to see the reflection of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. My dastaar also helps me connect to my Sikh roots.
I stand out in the crowd (Born to Stand Out). “Khalsa mero roop hai khas,”
You also were part of the “Don The Dastaar Campaign” in which I was part of where you tied the Dastaar on me for the first time. How did it all happen? (video of me below as I was part of the campaign also wore a Dastaar for the first time)
The Dastaar tutorial was again not a planned journey. I wanted to teach youngsters how to tie it. I also attended Coventry University few months ago with The Sikh Channel supporting the campaign and tying it on students. It’s also to raise awareness about Sikhi. I’ve had many people ask me for tutorial’s in regards to the Dastaar and that’s what I do now. I don’t want money its all seva. I like to help people. I’ve had people contact me from Dubai and Canada to come and help with Dastaar’s and where there are Sikhi camps coming up. I will always be here to support and help anybody where I can. The problem with our community is we don’t teach. That’s what we need to do. When you have faith in your Guru that’s where you get your strength. I hold Dastaar tutorials at my local Gurdwara also. Anybody is welcome.
My Father Guru Gobind Singh Ji said, “I will give my Sikhs a distinct and unique appearance, which will be recognised while standing in millions.”When I receive any negative feedback I see that as a challenge for myself as I have no right to judge anyone. I do have a choice whether to block these people from my account but then when I read Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s message saying “If you don’t see God in All, You don’t see God at All.” Guru ji’s message makes me realise that we are here to Love and to see Vaheguru in All. It is a battle we have to fight within ourselves and see every situation as Waheguru the Creator itself is testing us. I always keep the following quote close to my heart.“Love is my Gift to the world. I fill myself with Love. And I send that Love out into the World. How others treat me is their Path; How I React is Mine”
You also did the “Back To Sikhi” photo’s why did you do that?
That was another journey that wasn’t planned. My profile isn’t about me. Its about sharing everybody’s journey. Its always been my passion. That album has become very well received. I have had many many messages about it. I have people sending me photo’s even the sangat. I don’t tag anybody. It’s all about inspiring people. The photo’s are fascinating to see everyone’s journey. People judge thinking that you are probably divorced that’s why you are into Sikhi. But no, that is not the case. In your journey there will be all sorts of things that will change you. Motivate you. Inspire you.
You stated that Kirtan inspires you also, which ones?
I do listen to a lot of Katha by Bhai Niranjan Singh Ji who explains “full depth” of Guru Granth Sahib Ji. My few favourite kirtan I love listening to again and again are below. It surely lifts my spirit when I’m having a bad or stressful day.
You do a lot of Seva, what does this mean to you?
It means everything. I find peace in myself. I love helping others and it has always been in my blood. It is something my father had instilled in me. I help with the lungar for Coventry with Midland Lungar Seva Society. I don’t focus on one Gurdwara I go everywhere and do my seva where ever I can. This isn’t a job this is my duty.
For anyone who wishes to go down the Sikhi Path what advise would you give?
Take your time. Practise it first. Don’t rush it. Life is a test. Do it for yourself and only do it once you are ready don’t feel forced. You will know when you are ready.
Firstly what a insightful journey into Sikhi, I asked Inderpal Kaur a few months ago if she would be part of my blog and I had to convince her she wasn’t overly keen on doing this. I really I had to push her to open up. Inderpal Kaur is a such a lovely soul and will help you with anything. Inderpal was worried about talking through her depression that she had suffered in the past, as she is a very private person and doesn’t like talking about herself. But if this blog helps someone then Inderpal is very happy with this. Please show some love and support in regards to her journey, it wasn’t easy. But she is going from strength to strength. Please read through it and hopefully you will all connect with her journey.
That’s a hard one! Hes a loser! (laughing) I would describe myself as someone who is driven beyond control. I feel that I don’t make my decisions, they are made from within me. I’m really never in 2 minds I get this guidance from Gurbani about not being in dubida (2 minds). This isn’t me making up what I want to be or me portraying myself as some great person. If you had asked me this question 7 years ago it would be very different, would be saying I like going out and having fun. That’s not me anymore. That person died on the 21st August 2009. Now everything is the opposite. If I ever get in 2 minds my inner feelings inside me chops that. I’m very decisive as I feel it’s not me making the decisions, whether it’s right or wrong its all in Guru’s hands. That’s what I follow. The thing is my ego will say to me I’m this and I’m that but truthfully I’m just a person learning day by day about so much.
Other than that I’m a normal guy, I go to work every day and I’m married and I have 2 sons; Angad and Amar who are named after the 2nd and 3rd Guru Sahib ji’s respectively.
Where did the name Kaka Mohanwalia come from?
My name is Sundip Singh Khakh. I was the youngest in my family and so I was called Kaka by my family at home and it just stuck with my family and friends all the way from childhood to now. Kids often laugh at my nickname and it can be a good icebreaker when I turn up for serious meetings with serious people! As for Mohanwalia, Mohanwal is my pind in India.
What’s your day job?
I will give you a bit of background. When I had finished college, I went to New York for a year to study Microsoft Certified Systems. I qualified as a certified Microsoft engineer. I studied the system and got in to IT which I love. My job gives me routine and I don’t think I would stop doing this no matter how successful other ventures run. I am very grateful to have a technical skills attribute and I strongly encourage youngsters to learn and develop.
So back in the day you was very musical, do you still play any instruments?
I don’t perform on stage as such any more, I’m now more involved in conceiving ideas for Dharam Seva Records projects and working on commercial shows and films.
I used to play Dhol and Dholki for many many years and I’ve travelled the world like a stray dog thanks to these beautiful instruments. It began from a Mandir leading on to a great friendship with Aman Hayer and practicing in a railway bunker for an artist name Saabz and playing with Aman for KS Makhan live until I got the opportunity to play for the legend Jazzy B. I always only performed with 1 artist (Rather than play anywhere and everywhere) as I felt the need for loyalty. With Jazzy I was his backup to the great Billy Machine Gun. Then Sukshinder Shinda Bhaji launched his career as a singer and I spent 15 years performing with him around the globe.
(Below Kaka playing the dhol with Sukhshinder Shinda and Jazzy B)
Then I decided to stop performing altogether but was called back into the scene by Tru-skool to be part of Diljit Dosanjh’s live band.
The Diljit Dosanjh Ft. Truskool band turned out to be the biggest concert stages i’d ever performed at as Diljit’s shows just sold out on another level.
My other passion was singing and I also stopped that. Many people ask me why did I stop? Its very easy for me to be a singer and to release my own music videos and tracks but the reason I stopped was because I wasn’t fully comfortable being part of a system where I couldn’t give my all. Singing takes a lot of practice and for me if I wasn’t going to learn a lot deeper to the very best of my ability its better I stopped. I was very encouraged by mentors like Aman Hayer, Sukshinder Shinda, Jazzy B when I did sing but for me when I came into Sikhi it all changed. I’d performed singing live infront of crowds of thousands in UK and internationally. I have experienced when your voice fails infront of 1000 people through to dancing like a donkey on stage (he laughs). From having aspirations of being a singer and being well on course to achieve that my inner self awakened for things which were a lot more important. I moved on to sing Dharmik tracks and recorded for Revolution Records with Gupsy Aujla and for Popsy on Moviebox Records but I soon realised that being in the limelight isn’t what drove me. Everything was changing within. Your one of the first people I’m actually telling all this too (laughs)
Today I try to guide younger artists on conceptions which are created and delivered and then released under Dharam Seva Records by the team. I don’t want to be on a stage or publicised I’d rather publicise Our Gurus Teachings in the same methods a music track is done. This is my new found home in music and it’s beautiful having to study Gurbani with an end presentation. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
You used to drink back in the day, what was the reason’s you stopped?
There isn’t just one reason for this question. The answer to this question for me is when you get that epiphany or self-discovery in who you are you finally realise why you are here and who you want to be. As soon as anyone gets to that point they will stop what they are doing no matter what, and they will follow what their inner self says. For me, I used to follow the crowd and I was happy doing that. Don’t get me wrong at that time I felt I enjoyed it but the minute you discover that part of yourself, your true self changes. Now I haven’t discovered myself even 20% yet but 20% is enough for me to give my life to find the remaining part. All I know now is that I have no desire to drink. It was a continuous loop for me. All I knew was Friday night time for beer and a good time. But it was all just a very temporary fix for trying to find peace. It was an escape from reality. I wasn’t an alcoholic by any means but yes I used to binge drink and life was anchored by alcohol as a significant part of my life. So the reason for stopping was because I did not want to waste my life just drinking away and inside I wanted to be a Sikh of Guru Nanak.
Have you always been into your Sikhi?
I have always had a spiritual experience.
My spirituality entrance was all via the beat of the Dholki. This is is my big connection. Music takes you into spiritual realms. Hence the importance I’ve come to learn about Kirtan and this explains why Gurbani is in Raag Form. There’s a deep connection.
Anyway, so some of my family began to go to a Mandir in UK where it was very superstitious led. When going there as a 7/8 year old I connected to something. It wasn’t the Godman, it wasn’t the fear installed in these places and it wasn’t the brainwash techniques. It was the rhythm of the Dholki to the Peta (sermons) of Baba Balak Nath. I connected to the sound and techniques of a Dholki player called Joginder Hayer and by watching him and mirroring his actions I taught myself over 3 years to become a fluid dholki player. Soon they saw my enthusiasm and they put me in as Joginder Hayers Junior. Soon I was playing Dholki for 6 hours at Jagrata all night at the age of 11. Naturally, I also captured and caught some of the concepts that were taught here. So I saw a lot of idol worship of statues but something within didn’t make sense. Maybe because my mum never used to go there as she was into just Sikhi one half of me always questioned the antics that were happening.
As for Sikhi I clearly saw a lot of Anti-Sikh practices when I was growing up around this Mandir and they used to freak me out. I remember the faster I was playing the beat the faster they were trying to get a so-called ghost out of the women. It was a freaky experience for a child to see this. But as I grew older and as I got exposed to Sikhi it was clear that all these things are pakhand and people just don’t know any better. It’s a process of brainwash behind a big financial religious system. All this was part of my journey and I would do it all again if I could as it makes you into who you are.
On the contrary when I used to go to the Gurdwara, as my mum and grandmother were Amritdhari (baptised Sikhs) I used to feel something totally different. Most kids I think can relate to this, but when you see the pictures of the Shaheed’s, those images used to trigger thoughts inside me. So that was on going for me. That was the real deal for me. I remember thinking whatever I was feeling was real and I will be coming back here but I had to go through my journey to get there. It’s not about religion. It’s about understanding also. There were many good people in the mandir many clean hearted people just as there are in a gurdwara good and bad. The problem was the foundation. They had no reference point. No bani to guide them.
This is why Sikhi is so special. It’s verified by Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji all these other places are not. They are just some human beings master financial plan. Gurbani clearly isn’t. Gurdwaras today are but Gurbani never was and never will be just a financial plan.
But Sikhi I have 100% always felt something so different around it. Something so pure and so warm. Just that photo of our Gurus is enough for the first feeling of warmth. Yet that photo may not even look anything like them but it’s the devotion of generations which is so warm. Then this leads you to the ultimate. The very words of Our Gurus. Once the connection completes here into the words (Shabad) BANG it’s in your bloodstream day and night.
I truly love Sikhi is my answer.
You used to be quite self centered and you have been quite vocal about that, what did you mean?
Yes. I was only thinking about me. Me only. I was only thinking about fun. Fun for me was replacing and doing things that you think will make you happy in a short time frame. So for example, I am going out tonight and drink with my friends and have fun. But you aren’t having fun you are preparing yourself for the depressing time after your fun. My understanding was just have fun and not care about anything else. I used to get into more fights than most. It may have been too many Sanjay Dutt films as I grew up I don’t know (laughing) I used to have a massive ego and ego is still there but a bit more tamed. Gurbani tames it if you apply the shabad. But I’m still not a great person I’m a bad person. I used to go out and be ready for a fight. I felt I acquired a bit of a reputation about fighting and people may have said Oh yeah he’s hard or tough etc. I was always into weight training as well. I always had a thing where I never backed down and confrontation never phased me. All of this was happening because my ego was enjoying the depiction of being a hard guy. If anyone was getting bullied I used to step in though. One thing I really still cannot watch is anybody ganging up on one person. I was known for all this and arrested many a time related to these incidents. As you can see I have scars on my face and I have stab wounds on my chest. I was involved in endless kinds of brawls. But that was all down to my ego. Nothing to be proud of. But at the time I think I was dumb and just a bit of an animal. Many people remind me of that animal. I will give you an example when I was in New Zealand with Sukhshinder Shinda for a big live show. In the middle of the show, some Kabaddi players started to shout and scream abuse to some elder ladies through the show. I ended up stepping in and dropping some big guys which led to the venue calling the show off at half time with 2000 people in the crowd. I was a bit of a nut job, to be honest, and sometimes that nut job comes back inside me. There was nothing good about that. My ego was to blame. Its nothing for me to be proud of but seeing that you asked that’s the truth.
Below is Kaka performing in Canada (a dark horse)
Your Nani passed away when you was quite young and in front of you and that she was a massive part in your life, can you tell me about that?
Yes, this was on my 21st birthday. My Nani she brought me up. I always used to think how will I ever cope when she passes away. But you have to accept that its life and it made me who I am today. I was always very scared and hated the word, ‘death’. Whenever a death occurred, I would be alien towards it and could not get my head around it. The philosophy of “Khao Piyo Aish Karo Mitro Dil Par Kisseh Da Dukhayo Na” just didn’t add up for some reason. Death is something all of us cannot get away from and this I think plays a part in people changing their lives. This triggered a lot in me and in Gurbani. I started to think about life and what is life. I used to think the person who cared for me and looked after me most of my life along with my parents, she also took me to school and held my hand was no more. So it happened and I dealt with it. My Nani was a big pillar in our family. This is where my connection to Gurbani had started a little bit more. My Granddad was in the army, he was one of the first people in Leamington who came here to the UK very early and he was very well known. I learnt Punjabi fluently from my Nani and also as I used to go to India a lot when I was a child with her. I learnt a lot from her.
Who is your role model/ inspiration?
Well, that’s a hard one. Over the years it has changed. When you are younger everyone has popstar’s they look up too I can’t think of anyone (laughing) But today there is no doubt in my mind, the one I look at for inspiration deeply in which I apply in my life that’s through Shabad (Words Of Guru Nanak). It’s only the Shabad. I’m not just saying this as an answer to this question. I really mean it, it’s my inspiration. When you see what the Guru’s are talking about but you have to have that mind set also. The fact you are asking me these questions you are making me think about God/Gurus. It makes me think about my soul. Its all about trying to get closer to Waheguru. The words in Gurbani are my guide today and I can reference every move in my life with some form of guidance from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
You grew up listening to Sukhshinder Shinda, you stated he was your idol?
Yes I mean musically he was brilliant. I used to listen to him all the time. I mean then I ended up playing with him. Sukshinder Shinda was my greatest idol. I grew up waiting for his albums to be released. I read every cassette and album inlay and was inspired more than I can explain by him. I am so into my bhangra music. I performed in his band for 15 years and I never at that time played with anyone else apart from Jazzy B. I was very loyal. People today just see the singer Sukshinder Shinda and don’t fully understand the depth of this person as a musical talent. I used to listen to his music all the time then I ended up playing with him.
I always had great mutual respect for Aman Hayer who I learned so much with. He remains a key figure and credit to my musical influences. Somehow whoever my inspirations have been musically I have played with them or ended doing something musically with them and they have ended up in my life.
My basic understanding of rhythm instilled the passion to respect and admire Aman Hayer and Sukshinder Shinda’s talents. I mean somehow whoever my inspirations have been musically I have played with them or ended doing something musically with them and they have ended up in my life.
In your own words why did you go into the Sikhi Path and why did you take Amrit?
Amrit was a commitment. I wanted to take it to change my life. I wanted to fight my inner self and try and remember my Guru as much as I can. To go into the Sikhi path was a no brainer for me. I was thinking what is life? People go out and drink and fair play to the people who do that. It’s their choice. I am open-minded and not judgemental as I have been there. If you go deeper to what the Guru’s have written in Gurbani it’s all there. If I hadn’t done this I would have never got the deep connection to Gurbani if I was still in that lifestyle. If you really want to make a commitment to your Guru, you really want to make that step then you really have to be sure.
What were your worries about taking Amrit?
How will I tie a dastaar (Guru took care of this) How can I stop drinking (Guru took care of this) I need to eat so much meat for weight training etc how will I stop that (Guru took care of this) It felt emotional as it was like my old me was going to die. (Guru took care of this) So much responsibility, so many rules (Guru took care of this)
In your word press article, there was one part that really stood out for me. When you did maatha teekh (bowed down) at Harmandir Sahib (Golden temple) you cried. Can you tell me what happened and your emotions in this process?
It wasn’t even a cry, I was sobbing out of control. I have been Harmandir Sahib many times as a child where we went and did mattha teekh and that was it. It was a formality. Visually you are taken aback by the water. The audio you can hear the kirtan. You are instantly going to feel better. Your senses are instantly changing when you go to Harmandir Sahib. As soon as I went there I could not control the sobbing coming from within. It was my soul thanking Guru Ji for pulling me out the kaljug ridden world and giving me this chance. It feels like I did something in my previous lives and this is the reward for that. Now I went alone, I always say you are born alone and you die alone. When I go now I like to go by myself I like to be alone. I have been with my wife and children. But even when I go with them I need time where I get that alone time where it’s just me. The truth of it is we are alone no matter how many people we have around us. I went on my own and it wasn’t planned. Where ever my feet were taking me I was going. I remember walking in and it’s like someone who has been away for 28 years and he has returned home. That was what the feeling was. It was one of the strongest emotions I have ever had and I can’t explain how deep that connection was. I get them that my previous self had died.
When did you take Amrit and why?
With the grace of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, along with my brothers, Waheguru Blessed us to begin our journey in Sikhi with Amrit at Kesgarh Sahib on Wednesday 22nd February 2010. It has been 7 years since I took Amrit. The thing is. It’s an ongoing thing its not the end. It’s the starting point. Life changes and so does your experiences. What I don’t like is how Amrit is pushed on people sometimes. That is not the right thing to do. What Amrit is about for me is about being decisive. If you are reading Gurbani and read deeply what the Guru’s have written there is commitment there. If you feel it within you then you are ready.
What is your favourite Kirtan?
Any Kirtan is my favourite, as it is the truth. When kirtan is sung in rhythm its sounds so good but more than the sound it is the words and their meanings which matter to me, the authors of those words. So, Sab hi badiya is my answer for this.
When did you start reading Paat?
I committed to reading paat the day I decided to become a Singh. On the 21st of August 2009 to be precise. It began a commitment but slowly it evolves to become part of survival in this temporary world.
It didn’t matter what anybody else in the world said, the message that Guru Nanak Dev Ji had sent me was the only truth I would ever accept again from there onwards. As the weeks went on I never missed Japji Sahib Paat no matter what I would at least listen to the Japji Sahib Paat daily.
What does your Dastaar mean to you?
My Dastaar for me is my vow to not let the sacrifices of My Gurus, Peers, Fakirs, Gurmukhs, Gurbhais and ancestors ever to be forgotten or discarded in my remaining time here on Earth. It is a constant reminder to me for my purpose in life. That purpose being obtaining some form of “Naam Praapati” – That’s the only thing we take with us and is engrained into our hearts. – Jini Naam Dyahya Gai Musaghat Gaal Nanak Teh Mukh Oujleh Keti Shuti Naal
Once you had taken Amrit, and you have your Dastaar and kept your Dhari (beard) did you notice people change around you?
Yes. My circle of friends at that time would naturally would find it very hard to understand what was going on. God Bless Them. What I found is that a lot of people would drag you back. Saying things like this guy used to drink, this guy used to go out. I mean I was a party animal but I felt people were kind of saying I wasn’t allowed to better myself. The problem was when you change you may inspire others. So I went ahead and did it and it had an effect on a few other guys also. It followed through over a few months. The ones who supported me and stood by me I still remember them. Especially the ones who encouraged me it showed me they understood. But I also understand the people who didn’t want me to change, as they liked me as a friend. It’s a selfish game everyone is out for themselves. So people who liked my drinking didn’t want me to stop drinking as they liked that person as I know I was a laugh to be around. I had to do what I had to do within. People say oh he is the same person. But I always say you are always going to be the same person. You never change but your actions are different. Anybody who changes and becomes a Kesdhari will relate to what I’m saying here. But I don’t blame those people as they just were acting as per what they knew. Knowledge is the end all of everything and you cant educate the masses. You just go with what your inner soul wants. Those people didn’t change, I changed but they may have found the change hard to accept. Therefore all negativity will be thrown at you, just keep following the inner guide. Everybody is rightfully just acting as per what they know is best.
You say your biggest obstacle when had taken Amrit was your work place. In what way was it hard?
Yes at that time my minds biggest obstacle was my workplace for sure. I work in an office of 500 non-Sikhs in Warwick. There was not one Kesdhari Sikh in the offices and I had worked there for 3 years. At work I would try and mix in, getting embarrassed when anything Indian came up. I used to think how will I go into work with my hair and beard, at that time all the terrorist attacks had happened. That was a concern for me. But that was it, it didn’t take me long to get over it. Any challenges I just overcome now. The decisive person comes into play.
Have you ever received any negativity?
Yes, I see many people being negative for different reasons but I just think let them be and let them continue. Negativity can be a good thing if it’s transformed into positivity. Everything is Hukam whatever it may be. My guiding shabad in life which really comes on inside me is Hukameh Andar Sab Ko Bahar Hukam Na Koi from Japji Sahib.
Why was Dharam Seva Records set up? What was the main purpose?
The purpose is very different now to when it was set up originally. At that time I had this inner feeling that I really need to do this. I have a passion for music and Kirtan. I wanted to be involved in being a charity organisation that does not ask for donations. In the years after becoming a Singh a vision which Guru Sahib Ji gifted took form. Dharam Seva Records was formed as a registered charity. Dharam Seva Records is a Nishkam 100% voluntary charity registered in the UK which just used music to ‘Preserve the Past & Inspire the Future’. Having completed hundreds of projects this is my true passion in life combining music and Sikhi. But we work voluntarily and we don’t ask for anything in return just that we want to serve Gurbani. In India, I learnt music labels were using Gurbani as money making tool which really hurt me. I don’t want to sell Gurbani for money and for a living which is why I don’t give up my day job. This is what the industry has become. But there are labels in India who have no interest in Sikhi or the shabad it’s about the money. They release spiritual music to make money. That was one of the reasons why we set up Dharam Seva Records where we give more quality and attention to the kirtan and the work behind it. Then we have no personal gain from it. Our names are not on there also. Today we are working on projects to learn from them. We are not trying to teach as such we are learning ourself.
I’d like to pay a big amount of respect to the team behind Dharam Seva Records without whom it would not be possible to run.
Bill Mato, Gagan Singh, Jarnail Khalsa, Harnam Nijjar, Tony Kale, Parminder Mangat (Germany), Jassi Grewal (New Zealand) Billu Khakh, Honey Vee, Deep Bawa, Muninder Dhaliwal, Roops Chahal, Raj Singh, Gursimran Singh, Manveer Singh Mani, Karanjit Singh, Vikram Singh, Ash Johal, Manraj Pooni, and countless other supporters and helpers across the world.
Why the name Dharam Seva Records?
The reason for the name is, Gurbani is telling us that there is one Dharam. One cosmic law of Dharam. I love all faiths. We stand by our Sikh’s also. You don’t judge. I understand there is good and bad in everyone.
You and Bill Mato are co-founders of Dharam Seva Records- How did you guys meet?
Bill and I have known each other since school. Not only Bill but the whole Dharam Seva Records team are my family connected by our mindsets. We have always been intertwined with each other somehow. Bill is always just there. Through good times and bad he has been there but not only that, his merits are his hard-working nature and his passion to help the poor and needy. Bill is responsible for any Seva which is carried out in India or abroad. He’s also a very talented Assistant Director and Line Producer in video production as he showed in The El Sueño video shoot. We have always been close. Bill is a really hard worker and he had similar life goals as me. Bill has a good heart and a passion to help which is a special quality. The rest of our team are all amazing brothers as well.
Now you like the artists take front stage and you like to be in the background. Why is that?
I prefer to stay in the background. We promote movies, music and shows. It’s not hard for me to help splash somebody all across the world on TV and radio as I am constantly working with those Media, TV & Radio organisations. To me, it’s just work and I prefer to keep a low profile. Naturally, with the line of this work, you get recognition but it’s a byproduct of the work.
Your children obviously watch what you do and pick up things do you think that’s true?
My elder son does mirror me at times. Every night I read him stories of Sikh history. A really proud moment for me was just the other day. I asked Angad what he does at playtimes and he replied to me that sometimes he goes off on his own and tries to do Japji Sahib until he gets stuck and forgets the words. This really was a special moment for me as I know he picked this up inspired by what Guru Nanak Dev Ji used to do at school as I told him this story a few months ago. It is true children mirror their parents.
( I found this so inspiring that a little boy really looks up to his dad and watches what he does and the fact he wants to learn this by himself shows the impact Gurbani can have on anybody. I had to write this part in my blog, as soon as Kaka mentioned it I was like this has to go in.)
You have worked with many artists such as Manika Kaur, what was that like?
Manika and I were introduced by a friend. Manika has the same vision as we do. Kirtan For Causes is inspirational. She is a good friend now and she is very active in her projects and we will always help her with anything. We met through the grace of Guru Ji. I am now working with people who inspire me and wants to do good in the world.
How did you end up working with Diljit Dosanjh and becoming his manager?
Around 4 or 5 years ago we spoke regarding some Dharmik tracks and then we met with Truskool and from there it all took off. Thanks to musical inspiration Tru-Skool again another super talented musician and music producer. Notice the link in my life has always been through people who play rhythm. Tru-Skool for me is on an extreme level of musical knowledge his dedication and stand is something I admire. After our initial meeting we went on to do projects for Dharam Seva Records and due to Diljit’s star power our charity idea really took off. So Diljit is a key contributing factor to our growth. From here on Truskool selected me to be part of Diljit’s band and I ended up performing on stage as a musician for Diljit between 2014 and 2016. From here on I ended up becoming his manager in UK & Europe.
Diljit Dosanjh is phenomenal energy and a phenomenal human. I learn a lot from him because he is so humble in his true approach and when your such a big star yet so humble it’s a huge attribute. Diljit Bhaji is truly a “Nekh” person. I can vouch for this as I know his ways of working. When somebody is of such good nature and intention then I would give my all to ensure he’s protected. Looking after his work is a true honour for me.
Do people only contact you sometimes as you are Diljit Dosanjh’s Manager?
Yes! All the time, I mean daily. I’m proud that he is doing so well but sometimes people don’t understand how busy he really is. There is only 1 Diljit Dosanjh in the world but everybody right now wants a photo or a shout out or to run a film script or lyrics by him. He doesn’t have any time left after a days shoot and it can be hard to make somebody understand that. However he’s always helps behind the scenes to send messages to people suffering from serious illnesses or anything to help with Seva projects no matter how busy he is.
The EL SUENO song has gone massive I mean 20 million views so far, whose idea was it for the video, it was a very Peaky Blinders feel to the video?
It was a joint idea even though I know he credited me with conception. The is that Diljit is the creative force behind the video. So all credit is due to him. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here doing all this. The music, of course, is all the amazing work of Tru-Skool and Lyrics Lally Mundi. My team at UK Production Office and Bill Mato did a great job. The video director was Kavar Singh he deserves great respect and credit.
What is your biggest achievement so far?
Biggest achievement so far has to be the start of Dharam Seva Records. It’s just given a purpose and attachment to researching Gurbani and Sikh history. It’s a lifetime mission and I plea to God to give me drive and constant motivation so I can try to be of service to Guru Nanak Dev Jis Shabad. Dharam Seva is my duty, I don’t have a choice in the matter. If it’s praises of God then it’s my number one priority. I hope I can have God in my mind and heart as much as humanly possible and Dharam Seva is the vehicle to achieve this. I mean for me this has not even started yet. It’s growing in the background so rapidly. The objective is not to have to super hit songs it is to learn from what we are doing. Me and my team to learn what we are doing from our projects. Listening to the Kirtan grains in our hearts when we make videos for it. It’s fulfilling my life and I don’t care about money and just working on Kirtan. I give it importance. Listen to it and visualise it. We then show the world. We do get positive feedback. It’s a massive vision for us.
You have done a lot of projects with Dharam Seva Records, is there any particular one you are proud off?
The Words of Akaal Nitnem Banis, The Words Of Har Sukhmani Sahib Ji were special projects. We have done 31 Raags and we have to do the video’s also. I don’t feel proud. I feel this is my duty. This is my job as a Sikh adapting to modern technology’s and formats to decorate my Gurus Words and this is now part of me. My transformation into Sikhi and the drive within me is linked to Dharam Seva Records and its mission.
Whats next for Kaka?
I could drop dead any second (laughing). I am managing the UK tour for Diljit Dosanjh in 2018. We also have some huge movies releasing. Sajjan Singh Rangroot in March and Soorma in June starring Diljit Dosanjh. There’s also more to come via Dharam Seva.
I would also like to thank anybody who reads this from my heart and I truly wish good energy and Prem to everybody out there in the world.
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh
I have known about Kaka for a long time now and I have never met him until this blog. I have always admired his work mainly with Dharam Seva Records. I admire his team who bring Kirtan alive and makes you want to listen to it a lot. When I personally watch Dharam Seva Records their video’s they produce for the Kirtan it makes you connect not only on a spiritual level but on an emotionally and visually level also. I admire the team who really put their heart and soul into the projects they have produced. Below are a few video’s/ Kirtan that I enjoy listening too. Please share and support the work Kaka and his team tiresly do. To make us all learn and connect with Kirtan. It isn’t always easy writing and sharing a blog about your life story. But I am glad me and Kaka sat down and spoke his journey. I learnt a lot whilst sitting with him. That is what Dharam Seva do they make you want to learn and educate yourself. Please share some love and support for this great cause.
Everyone knows I have a huge soft spot for MLSS with the work they do. I am so proud of the guys who put their heart and soul into Seva. These are the unsung heroes for me.
On the 4th November 2017 I was invited to attend the Midland Langar Seva Society’s annual dinner. I also knew that this was a very important day for us Sikh’s. It was Gurpurab, meaning it was Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s birthday. Our first Guru the founder of Sikhi.
The bus is incredibly special and not only does it say “Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Langar Bus” But the bus can be seen for its boldness. What also makes it special that our Guru made this beautiful opportunity happen and the launch to happen on this auspicious day.
The bus will be going around the UK and it will be for feeding the homeless. It will be parked at the locations for the feeds and it’s a safe place for them to eat and drink. The doors will be open where they can come inside and no matter what the weather conditions are. They can enjoy a hot meal and a hot drink.
What can I say about the event it was just amazing, made my heart burst! The atmosphere was just incredible the amount of people who came and showed their support was just so endearing. I remember looking over and seeing people everywhere. It was brilliant. MLSS are a huge family. I was meeting people and engaging with the volunteers.
This was a different annual dinner there was no dancing this was purely about the seva and the volunteers who have shaped MLSS. I really loved that. There was a great Piano player called “Ivory Keys” who set the tone for the event so nicely.
I’m a huge fan of Annette Badland who used to play Babe on Eastenders. I mean who doesn’t love Eastenders! Annette was the host for the evening and what a great host she was!! She was engaging, helpful and a clear crowd pleaser and its nice to see such a mainstream actress care so much about what MLSS do.
Also the legend Sukhshinder Shinda came to show his support for MLSS and he was just incredible also. I grew up listening to him so it was great to hear him sing. Below is a short clip!
Whilst I was sat down and was looking around the room I felt such an emotion when each volunteer came on to talk about their stories in regards on why they volunteer with MLSS and what it means to them. It sent a shiver down my spine as these people are normal human beings but Seva is so important to these individuals and more of us should think about doing more for our communities. I remember I had an urge to film short clips of the volunteers speaking. Some may not be very good due to a lot happening around me but the message is quite clear. But hearing Randhir Singh Heer and Parmjit Singh always blows me away. Now I should be used to them talking as we have sat and wrote blogs together, but something always happens to me when I hear them I get a huge sense of emotion and its a happy one as my dear brothers are really the unsung heroes including their volunteers. Below is the video of them talking about their MLSS journey! So happy that Annette read my blog on Parmjit’s life. (Thank you Annette)
The most special part for me personally were the children volunteers. I cannot believe how much the children love doing seva and you can feel that when they were giving their speeches. Some children wrote beautiful poems about their experiences and for me that really made feel so emotional. These are children are learning what seva is. Why do they do Seva? I mean that is all because of MLSS and their parents who have given them the opportunity to help with the feeds. One poem below has touched my heart. We forget how much MLSS is impacting on us all. These children were not told what to say they wrote everything in their own words. For me that made more real. As its coming from their eyes and hearts.
I wanted to show a few clips from the volunteers from all around the UK but MLSS isnt just in the UK its in Delhi India also. I cannot tell you how proud I was sitting there and listening to MLSS journey.
If I were to ask you to name a charity, which charity springs to mind? I imagine most of you would say a household name such as Unicef or NSPCC. But MLSS has now become a household name. Small charities are at the heart of our communities and work tirelessly to support those who need it most. The secret to the success of small charities is the passion of the CEO’s who believe in what they do and their resilience and their ability to adapt. Smaller charities are surprisingly good at doing a lot with very little. Also the volunteers they are also the heart of the work. Despite this, they still need help. That’s where volunteers and sponsors come in.
The MLSS team did a timeline on how MLSS all started and this was insightful and you heard from teams and about their thoughts and feelings. The timeline was excellent and showed how much they have achieved and still doing now. Its a very creative idea to showcase their achievements.
The first video is Bhupinder Singh Heer (Popsy) Randhir’s brother who I think look like twins.
The next clip is by Hari Hayer from the Birmingham Team
The next clip are the Plymouth Team. Saranjeet Kaur and Chaz Singh my dear friends. Great people!
The next clips are from the team who went out to Greece with the MLSS team and this really got to me. The lady was very emotional. Her voice was breaking due to going out and doing seva with them. I mean she wasn’t well on the day but, her speech blew me away. It was very sad to hear what the children were put through over there. I now it isn’t just Greece its all different countries. But it brings back home to you on how lucky we are. MLSS team do so much have a listen to this.
This next clip is from Home serve. Brilliant speech!
Next clip is from TSB- Pride of Britain
Next clip is the Northampton Team, the lovely Indi Kaur Jutla giving her speech on why she volunteers and how it began.
Also the Coventry Team. Another great speech their were personal reason’s on why he chose MLSS. Have a listen.
The next clip is from Ajji Singh another MLSS volunteer.
The next clip is from the team in Huddersfield.
Next clip is from the London Team. This is so inspiring as this teacher from London has inspired her school kids to go out and feed the homeless. The kids would sit and talk to them like they are human beings. This is very incredible!
The final clip I wanted to share was a beautiful poem written by a young girl who is a MLSS volunteer who also shared her experiences.
This whole event was very special and I keep talking about it. But it’s because it’s true. I have been to the Homeless feeds myself with my Police Association. Unless you have experienced what MLSS do, you just can’t imagine what you will see or feel unless you come down and do Seva. I am one of the privileged ones as I have seen first hand what they do. It’s a huge family. They all take care of each other. They pull together when one is down. Its more than a team. They do it for everyone not people who are just Sikh.
I mean MLSS have support from Homeserve who also go out and feed the homeless, but they also did a sleep over in Birmingham in the cold to put themselves in the victims shoes. They have given overwhelming support. This stretched even to directors its just brilliant. The MLSS volunteers who work there are known as the “Magnificent Seven” I know why they are called that. I’m sure everyone knows why also.
MLSS are such humble human being’s and anyone who speaks to them it touches your heart and it makes you want to do more. They are not nobody’s! It makes me feel that way. The event made me want to write about this and what I thought and felt. I took my partner who is a serving Sikh soldier in the British Army and I took him for one reason only and that was, he has never seen anything like this before and he has never done or attended a homeless feed. I wanted to show him who MLSS are first hand at the event. I mean he has done Seva but only at a Gurdwara so this really opened his eyes on the lengths MLSS go to help others. I looked at him when volunteers were speaking and I could see his emotion on how much they do. This has led him to want to get the army involved for homeless feeds in the future. So MLSS really does have such a massive impact on so many people. I may come across as biased as I love what these guys do and I write blogs about them. But for me personally I write about them from the heart and what I write is the truth. They do all the hard work. They are out there all the time.
Parmjit Singh even got me to do a interview with Sikh Channel for my blogs so that was a huge surprise! I was not expecting to get pulled up like that! It was a great experience. Sukhi Kaur was the Sikh Channel host and she is amazing on what she does. Such a lovely and bubbly person. She didn’t have to interview me but she did. Amazing woman!
Also the last part of the event was Co Founder’s Randhir Singh Heer and Parmjit Singh gave out certificates to the kids! Which was such a personal touch. I loved it!
Please show your support with MLSS by sharing this blog with your friends and family. This is all their hard work. I really hope more people go out and do Seva and help MLSS and the people who need them the most. Randhir and Parmjit always thank their volunteers. As they say MLSS is just a name its about the Seva. I am hugely proud of them.
I hope you read this blog and mainly watch the video’s about the MLSS volunteers and really listen to their stories. Really capture that moment when they are talking. It is an event I won’t forget for a long time. I will continue to blog about them as their hard work needs to be raised and to be shouted about! Think about being compassionate, sympathetic and show concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Think about that when you walk past someone that is homeless. Think that could be you. Think how would I feel if people walked past me like I’m invisible. Compassion involves allowing ourselves to be moved by suffering, and experiencing the motivation to help to prevent it. Acts of compassion is defined by being helpful. Qualities of compassion are patience, kindness, not being judgemental and perseveranceand being caring.
Below are some photo’s of myself at the event. Please share and support MLSS!
Nuts is the word there are many faces to Amrit. I can be serious and I can be religious I can be crazy. I’m just a fun loving spirit kind of person. I try and put that in every aspect of what I do. Whether its work or whether it’s with friends. I’m just generally fun.
What is your day job?
So I work at the BBC and I’m an assistant producer. I kind of landed on the radio. People always ask me if this is something you’ve always wanted to do and the answer is no. I always knew I wanted to work in the media. But I didn’t think it was obtainable. When I was at school I was a massive geek and I loved English and I wanted to be an English teacher. My teacher’s really inspired me and that’s what I went off and did. So I went to university and I did English literature because I really enjoyed it, with the hope that I became a teacher. So I ended up doing a teachers module and I was put off by it. There was just so much paperwork and I thought to myself I don’t want to sit there and plan lessons. Iwanted to go out there and automatically go and inspire people. So I started looking at magazines and writing with something I was always very good at. I did several internships in London after uni. that was really really good but it was very very competitive. So I wasn’t even earning anything as it was an internship. So that’s how I started doing blogging. I always used to be blogging all the time when I was to finish work and I needed to come home I used to be on my laptop. Friends and family used to ask me what I was doing and I already used explain that I was blogging and I was actually doing something. When I moved back to Northampton I was looking for more 9 to 5 jobs. I was an ice cream lady that was fun. I also worked in the fashion department for Avon. I was my buyers assistant. It was a 9 to 5 job but it had a creative edge and it was really fun. That’s how I kept my passion for keeping my blog going. I was getting more experimental by using YouTube and making videos and going live and I’ve also done a few events.
How did you get into the BBC?
So my contract with Avon didn’t continue so I then picked up the phone to the BBC and asked if there were any jobs going. I picked up the phone to the local BBC in Northampton. I just rang them up and said I have loads of experience and I’m looking for a job. I remember the BBC saying it doesn’t work like that. I said email this senior broadcast journalist. I really thought that I was getting fobbed off and I thought that they weren’t going to look at my email. But I still sent my email off. I was very naive but still sent it and the lady emailed me back, the lady asked me if I wanted to come in for a chat and I didn’t even know what that even meant (laughing) So I just went along thinking I might get a job out of this and if it doesn’t work out at least I went and to get some experience and what it looks like to do an interview. she took me around all the news rooms showed me around. I remember her saying I was very brave as in to send in all my stuff to her and I came across very confident. The lady said to me you would be really suited for radio and I was quite shocked as I thought I’d just wanted to write some pieces for their website nothing about radio so I was really shocked. The lady was like no no you’ve got a lot of confidence you would be great and give the radio a think. She introduced me to community radio stations and there was one radio station called inspiration radio FM and I was part of their volunteer program and within two months, and because I was in that circle of broadcasters and in radio it completely changes the way you think when you look at something. When I was in fashion my eye was trained to look at fashion. So by chance, I came across an internship with the BBC Asian Network and I remember thinking oh my god I’m never going to get this and I was very inexperienced I’m not very good at radio. It was the BBC at the end of the day.
So I just applied and it was through creative access at the time there was a charity and they were helping BAME people in the media. So I applied and I was put through interview stages. So I got through and that was pretty much it and I’ve never looked back and it is something I really really enjoy and it’s definitely the direction I want to be in. I trained with the BBC for a year and I was working with all different shows from Noreen Khan and Bobby Friction.
So you were the Assistant Producer for Noreen Khan Show and Bobby Friction Show what was that like?
The two presenters are very different so their shows are very different even the time of day was different. So what was funny with Noreen when I was doing my blogging way before the BBC. I was reporting at a fashion event and Noreen was there and she was showcasing some of her pieces for her fashion. I remember meeting her at that event and speaking to her and I remember two weeks later I was at the BBC and she came over and she like “oh what are you doing here”. I was like oh I’m going to be on your team (laughing) it was really funny but a brilliant experience a lot of fun on that show.
I worked on the Bobby Friction show first I always say this but Bobby I spent 6 months on his show and he really taught me everything that I could carry with me today. Since been working with the Asian Network I’ve done a few radio shows here and there. that was at BBC Northampton and also with sunny and Shay. how was will remember that Bobby gave me my first piece of advice just always be yourself and I will always keep that very close to my heart because he said that.
You were a journalist for Punjab 2000 also, how did that happen?
Yes, I was. I don’t do as much anymore due to my work commitments. I’m very close to the guys there they do just such a brilliant job. So when I was blogging, Tony Pabla he found me online. He introduced himself and said we would love for you to write for us, we would love for you to come on board and blog for us. I will always remember the day that happened I was going to wireless Festival that day and he was like yeah yeah that’s great you can write your first piece about it. I will always be grateful to Tony because he found me online due to my blogging and I was already doing that. It gave me a platform for me to share the work I was doing at the time. I got introduced to the whole Punjab 2000 team. At the Asian Media Awards, I was an intern then for the BBC and that was the year that Tony had passed away and the Asian Media Awards they wanted to pay a tribute to Tony. I remember no one could go down and I get a phone call from Tej, he asked me could you do it could you speak at the event. So I did do that and for me it was good because I could give Tony a tribute because not only did he give me a platform so did Punjab 2000. They are the fore front on most events also. What they do they do with passion.
Who is your role model and inspiration?
Oh god, that’s a really hard question because I could break it down into all different categories. I’m going, to be honest, the main people for me who will be my role model’s and inspiration is my family. But I am the way I am due to my family. I mean I’m a bit nuts but they all appreciate that. But I also get a lot of stick for it but so what, they will take the piss out of me but they get it and they know that’s who I am and they’re very supportive. they are always encouraging me in anything that I do. I mean for an example back in my blogging days and I was working on something and I’ll be sat there with my laptop and he asked me what are you doing and that’s because they were actually interested and what I was doing. It’s really nice to know that they are interesting in what I do care about what I do. I have a massive family. I mean with my immediate family we all live together and then my cousins they live down the road we are so used to being in each other’s faces all the time. We have never kept anything for secret we’ve always been very open with each other. I mean I go to loads of events interview you know lots of guys you know I’m travelling all the time and it’s not an issue for my family and that’s the main concern because the other see if they trust me and they know what I am doing. I have my family’s blessing.
I mean my parents both have full-time jobs but they are also carers for three of my grandparents at home. My grandmother, she had a stroke, my grandfather he’s very old now and also my dad’s uncle (chacha) He also lives with us as well and he has Down Syndrome and Dementia.
We have a very very busy household, people sometimes say their carers for these people in the household but that has never stopped them from having a social life and doing their own day-to-day things that they need to do. I mean my mum she effectively looks after me and my sister and then my grandparents and she’s doing all that and having a full-time job and running a household I mean it’s just inspiring.
Also, we were featured in The Guardian Newspaper. (below is a clip Amrit did on her blog)
Musically I used to listen to R&B back in the day and Destiny’s Child was definitely part of my life especially in my childhood, songs like independent woman and even Beyonce she’s just incredible. Destiny’s Child song for me when my favourite has to be soldier is very poignant, as you know I have a love of fashion and it was them vs them so it was so good.
In the media have to say Anita Rani has to be my god she is one incredible lady I just love her if I had to look at a broadcaster she is the one. I mean what she has done for British Asians it’s just outstanding she’s putting them on the map. She is a professional. I look at her and that is someone I aspire to be like.
You have your own blog “Amaretto’s World” First why that name? Why did you start a blog?
So Amaretto’s World started because at uni I didn’t have many Asian friends. Growing up in Northampton I possibly had one Asian friend there wasn’t many around. I only ever knew Asians because they were my family I didn’t actually have many Asian friends. So when I went to university a lot of my friends were English and when I used to introduce myself and tell people my name they couldn’t pronounce it or say it properly. I need to remember I had to break my name down into syllables that people could understand what my name actually was. I remember someone saying your name actually sounds like amaretto, I was like oh yeah I actually quite like that. Then that name just stuck and that’s how people started to know me as.
This was a very DIY blog, I created it. It became easy to blog when people take photos and jump on peoples bandwagons. I am proud of my blog that recently posted that I got 2000 followers that may not be a lot but that’s down to the fact I didn’t pay to get followers. It was all because people wanted to see what I did and were proud of what I did. That’s what makes me proud. My blog is something I care about. It was a personable thing for me.
When I started the blog I thought It will be really funny to call it that it as it was different and I loved the title Amaretto’s World, as it’s my little world it’s my little bubble. I remember sitting in my room at university and I remember thinking I don’t like wearing what other people wear I like to wear completely different clothes. So when I used to go out at university I used to make my own clothes. We have an attic at home and my mum keeps all her vintage clothes up there so I remember taking them and making my own clothes out of them. It first started as a fashion and media blog really and then it just kind of progressed into blogging about everything.
What was the most memorable article you wrote?
So I just spoke about my blog being a lot about fashion and media. So as I became more interested in the media. It started to become more of a profile on me and what I was doing. So it was my journey and I remember as I left uni and started to work in London I used to work for this magazine called Interact and we were all assigned our own articles at the time. At the time my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and this was a very life-changing and significant point in my life as you know I was involved with the Caring of my grandmother also. So when my parents were at work I was around for all the appointments for my grandmother. So I wrote an article about it and it was the first time for my wider and extended family to be able to read and understand my articles. It was my thoughts and it was my way of dealing with things and my feelings at the time. That was for me a very very important article.
On your blog who would you say was the most memorable?
When I say blog it’s also mixed into my vlogs. The most memorable one for me I have to say it was Bishamber Das. I did an interview with her and at the time, I was doing talk time with amaretto. I wish I had a little bit more time where I could do that again and profile more people. I mean what she has achieved and is still achieving now which is just incredible. As a person she is very very relatable and she’s a people person and it came across in the interview if you watch it you can see how wonderful she actually is. She is a real person. We clicked straight away.
Do you get any negativity for being curvy?
Yes. So this is something I have started to recently talk about as you know. Being part of The Yours Campaign and the way that came about was a friend messaged me and said you should apply for this you’ve got a really good platform for it and I was sort of like a bit apprehensive first. Never really thought about myself being curvy before you know you do get comments like oh that’s not going to fit you or you’re just too fat for that. I’ve always took it on the chin and it never really really ever bothered me. Both me and my sister are curvy unfortunately for my sister she had it a lot tougher growing up. I think that’s a very Indian thing to be honest. I never look in the mirror and thought oh my god I don’t look good I really really just don’t let it affect me. I just don’t listen to peoples comments.
You entered the “Face Of Yours Campaign” which i voted for you. Why did you personally enter?
The reason I entered is I wanted people to see it through my eyes. I mean for me no matter what you want to achieve you should never let your weight or what you look like stop you from doing that and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do this campaign. I want people to look at the inner confidence than the outside I mean sometimes that’s even through friends that say don’t post that picture because you look fat in it. I mean if you have to be comfortable within yourself look at how beautiful you are as a person and not what you look like. You know what be realistic about life be happy.
Whats your biggest achievement so far?
The fact I’m doing a job I love and I’m passionate about and its my career. Working at the BBC is something i’ll always be grateful. I love travelling. I’m proud of that. I have done a few shows and learning about presenting. I have hosted a few community events. I am believer that things happen for a reason.
Tell me about Desi and Desire?
When I was at university. I grew up reading Roald Dahl and Jacqueline Wilson books your standard children’s books. I never got to relate to the characters as they weren’t Asian. So I then discovered Bally Rai books and I was like wow there are indian people in books! I then discovered Nisha Minhas, it was selection of books with real quirky titles like Bindi and Brides. So I read them and formed my opinion on them and did my dissertation on it and my research was limited and it was really interested. Years later Lambert Publishing contacted me and asked me if I was a author and I was like yes! They published my book and then I thought of the campaign #desianddesire. I have done 4 out of the 5 books and there might be a music video! I have created all different images and it was so cool and it would be great to have an exhibition about it.
Any advise to anyone who want to get into media?
Yeah just like the Nike saying goes, Just Do It. People like Satnam Sanghera are an inspiration I remember reading his book when I was 17 years old. Things that were going on in his life was like I met my foil like an older person who literally went through what I had too do. There was a strong connection there. Over the years I got in touch with him as he really inspired me. Through work we got to know each other. It was because of him I found out about the Intership’s with Creative Access. I’m proud of him and he’s just brilliant.
Whats next for Amrit?
Who knows wherever life takes me!
Wow what can I say about Amrit Matharu, she is so creative and fun loving! Meeting her for my blog was an amazing experience and she is just so lovely. She is known for Amaretto’s World, a BBC presenter at BBC Asian Network. Also the author for Desi and Desire. Amrit it was fun talking to you and you are inspiration and role model for females and males out there!! Very proud of you!
I am a very caring person. I mean I can be a bit grumpy at times. I do like my own space just like everybody else. But I’m also a very loyal person. Due to my past and we will be going into my past I’m not really a people’s person. Due to my background and due to my abusing alcohol and drugs. I don’t trust many people there’s only a select few who I trust. I sometimes find it very uncomfortable to communicate with people sometimes. Even with my wife, I find that quite hard to communicate and that’s where some arguments occur. I am very mentally strong. If I put my heart to something I will accomplish it. If I put my mind to something I know I can conquer the world. I have a good heart.
So what’s your day job?
I own a couple of businesses In Recycling and Transport. I have been quite successful when it came to my businesses. I’ve had businesses where I have taken £20,000 and turned it into 3 million pounds. My background is transport that’s where my expertise lies.
What’s your education background?
I mean I left school with no GCSE’s and I was a very clever guy. I was more interested in listening to my music listening to Heera. Dossing with my friends. I took my exams again but failed them. I went to college and did my BTEC and my HND Diploma this was in Business and I passed that. I was so interested in the Bhangra scene back then as well as drinking. I went to Staffordshire University. I got into a bit of debt with loans and credit cards and I had to start paying it back and get a job.
You also left home for a while tell me about that?
I started to work for a company and I started to progress quite quickly. I have always worked no matter what I have done in my life I have always worked. In any company, I always achieve a lot. I even lived in Germany for 6 months and that’s where I learnt my transport skills.
I was told to leave home at 14 years old. I have no brothers or sisters. I fell into the wrong crowd and I just did stupid things I was arrested and done for drunk and disorderly but I moved back home at 22.
Your personal background was that you grew up without a father figure around. Can you tell me more about that?
I remember some parts as I was young. My mum left my dad when I was 18 months old. That would have been around 1976/77. My mum was 18 when she had me. My mum was a single parent. She went to live with her brother but that didn’t go well. We will leave that there. I mean the people we serve at MLSS, the homeless people and people living in hostels and children homes. I lived there. I have seen it first hand. I know what it can be like and how it hard times are.
I remember one Christmas I was about 5/6 years and it was near the island and next to that island was a homeless shelter. I was living there and this lady gave me a gift. I have seen things my dad did which he should have never done. We never had our first house until I was 30 years old. We lived everywhere but no home was ours till I was 30. When people were going home I was walking the streets waiting for my mum to finish work. I mean my mum worked so hard.
Theera states ” I remember seeing Parma sitting in telephone boxes waiting for his mum to come home. I remember him sleeping in a telephone box”
Your mum worked all the hours to bring you up, your mum raised you by herself. can you tell me more?
I always remember Caldmore Gurdwara when my mum used to take me when I was 4/5 years old. Even at night. We never even had a TV. My mum never washed me in that place we were living. Every Saturday she used to take me swimming where I could bathe myself. That was my weekly wash. I’m not making this up. My tea and biscuits were my highlights! My mum was such a hard worker did everything for me. My mum was disowned by her own family because she divorced my dad and never remarried! I saw a lot with what my dad, in terms with what he put my mum through. My dad was claiming my child benefit as well so he never wanted me to leave. We never had a house and we lived a hostel and then we got a flat in Walsall. My mum gave me everything that I needed.
What point in your life did you turn to Alcohol?
When I had all my businesses I saw a lot of money and that’s where Alcohol found me. I used to drink lager and I remember I used to keep in touch with my dad also. He used to trigger me off. He was a big drinker. He was a womaniser. It is hard to even now to show any emotion. I wish I could. Its one of the major arguments I have with my wife as I can’t show any emotion. I never used to drink shorts but then I started. I was earning a lot of money and I was using that money to buy alcohol. I was drinking so much as I was earning a lot. Every time I used to buy new cars. I had the money to blow. My ego took over as I was married then. So there were many factors. I was turning into my dad everything I was accomplishing it was like my dad. Then I turned to cocaine. I fell into the wrong crowd.
You fell into the wrong crowd and things turned dark. How?
I never saw a sober day in 7 years. This was around 2007 even on Christmas day I remember I wasn’t even sober. Drinking a bottle and a half was nothing. People used to get a free drink out of me because I used to buy it I have the money. Then my business went into liquidation and my drinking went further and I drank even more. I made a mistake which I’m not going to go into right now and I really regret this mistake. I ended up being the person I hated and that was my dad. One thing that did really change me was when my son was born. My son was born in 2010. My guardian angel has always been there always. When my son was born he had a kidney problem. He had surgery when he was 6 months old. Around that time my drinking really got a heavy then. I used to drink I was up for about 4 hours and that was that. I mean my doctor gave me 6 months. 4 years of my life was black and I remember going work and drinking that was my life. It was just black. I went into debt 80 grand. I was so low. I was in a spiral. I wasn’t interested at all. I was doing all sorts of things I even upset my wife. There was no waking moment where I was happy. I had the shittest life. I couldn’t admit I had a problem. My wife wanted me to go to AA. I did go a couple of times. But it didn’t help. I had to go and do it myself.
You and your wife were told that you couldn’t have children?
Yes. We were told we have to go through IVF. Again my guardian angel appeared we went to see Babaji. We went to the doctors and I remember 2-4 days later I think. My wife was pregnant. We were told by doctors we couldn’t have kids. I just felt so blessed.
You had a tough time growing up, what was the hardest time for you?
When you go home, you go home to a family. You go home to your brothers and your parents. I had no siblings and all I ever wanted was a brother or sister. It was lonely and it was hard growing up with no one around or talk too. Even now I had the desire to be loved as I had no brothers or sisters. It was hard being alone and having no one to talk to about your issues maybe my life would have been different. My mum gave me everything in the material and just the love was missing.
I have 4 real friends. Theera is one of them. I will call these 4 friends every day and make time for them. They care for me and I care for them. I have been used so much by people. Whether it was for my contacts, my brains with my knowledge of my work or money. There are people who have into my life and have shit on me! I hate negativity. I know that there is a guardian angel watching me. Whoever he is! He is there! People were only friends with me because of money!
You and Randhir (Theera) have been friends since you were 5 years old. So he is like a brother to you as you had no siblings. Tell me about your friendship?
We have known each other for a long time. He is my big brother and he has always looked out for me.
I remember when I was getting smacked around by some guy and I remember crying to Theera. I said to Theera you know he’s just hit me one and I remember they are grabbing him giving him a telling off. Theera has always been there for me always. He is like a gentle giant.
Theera states: My mum always used to stay always look after, as his mum and my mum were friends. My mum used to say look after him because he has no brothers or sisters. You know he’s alone just making sure you look after him. For me, I’ve always looked out for him from the age of 5. I mean no one messes with Parma. I mean we are the same age. I’ve always been happy for him with any of the success that he has achieved in his life. I will always be around. When mlss started I heard about his situation if he continued with the alcohol he literally had six months. All I thought was his mum his wife and his son at that time. that’s when I took him under my wing. I used to lecture him all the time laughing. We had already spoken about MLSS and also about Niskham Centre. To me in my eyes, he is my brother. I am very very protective over him. We both look out for each other someone says something wrong we always have each other’s back.
You turned your life around in 2013 you married and blessed with 2 beautiful children. How did the transition happen?
31/12/2013 I changed my life around. I literally just stopped. Theera sent someone round to tie my Dastaar. I had no help. No rehabs I literally just stopped. It was Maharaj. It was him that stopped me. The amount of support I had from Theera was something else. I even started to have money in my pocket and I was sober and I was doing Simran. I was doing seva. I wanted to get out of the situation I was in. I didn’t like who I was and becoming. So I changed and my mother didn’t bring me up for this. It was Maharaj Kirpa that helped me.
Do you have any regrets?
Yes, I have many. Yes, hurting loved ones. But I have turned my life around. My wife is happy. My kids are happy. My mum is happy. We go places as a family.
What made you join the Sikhi Path?
I always going to the Gurdwara and there was always something there. I learnt about Sikhi and I learnt more by doing Seva. I learnt about the Gurus. I am not baptised yet. But there is God in everyone.
How did your MLSS journey begin?
I remember reading a newspaper and Nishkam Centre was feeding the homeless. I rang Theera and said I want to do this. I remember Theera saying just go. Something kept drawing me to do Seva. I do have a good heart and people do say that about me. That’s because I have seen things and had a shit time. So I know how it feels. Seva for me was an addiction. It started with Theera and I always trusted him and he wanted to start our own up. The Seva is done by the heart. No agenda. I swear on my heart I am not there for any photo’s or awards. Theera has to do that part as I really don’t like doing that. We are there to help. We have come from feeds were very emotional. We don’t take money off people or donations.
What was your main struggle setting up MLSS?
The slander. We still get it. We have been dragged down. My mum got slander at the Gurdwara and she has bad legs and went to sit on the bench. My mum did her prayers (mattha teekh) One of the ladies there got off the floor and sat in her place. The poor woman had to stand. She was in a wheelchair. That’s how cruel some of our own people are because we are feeding the homeless. It’s not nice. We have had all sorts. Our own people spread slander. Maharaj is watching. But I want to be known as something other than a drinker. I also want my kids to see that also that I am a gentle person. That’s also important to me.
I want to know more about the Breakfast Initiative MLSS are doing
We don’t tell many people about that. But yes we do that and it has been going really well. 2 years ago this had started. 2000 kids get served a week. They did a survey on children whose parents are on drugs or have alcohol issues they are going to school without breakfast. Education was being affected as they weren’t being fed. My son’s school do a collection for MLSS also and it’s so nice.Maharaj does a lot.
Can you remember a time where you encountered a situation during feeds a good one and bad one?
Yes, the bad one was when we went to Calais. That was such an eye opener. We went there to give out clothes and they were attacking our vans. I mean we saw guns and it was a tough time. But I trusted Theera. We had to give out the shoes in a line quick time. That was the first time we went to Calais. I remember looking at Theera when this was happening. I will never forget that.
There are many I mean feeding children and mothers hiding her kids near a bridge and they needed food. I mean the Asian lady who you remember, the one who was abused Theera spoke to her and I know you spoke to her. The emotion that goes in the feeds are incredible. The feeling you get when you know you have fed someone. Especially little children.
One I do remember was a male called Derek and he had Autism and he was always hanging around at the back of the queue. Theera and I started to talk to him. Derek just used to stand there. Derek looked very rough and he had dreadlocks and eventually he made friends with us. there was a stage where he wasn’t bothered about the food he would just start clapping when he saw us. Derek was 17 years old when his parents kicked him out. But he was crying so bad he was choking back the tears. Derek had 7 brothers and sisters and he was kicked as he was different to them. He had Autism and my dad used to beat me up. Derek wanted to be a plumber and wanted to read and write. I said I will find out for you. Derek said the reason was I want to make my dad proud and I want to buy a watch for my dad and flowers for my mum. Derek was 50 years old and hasn’t seen his parents since he was 17 years old. It was sad and he was talking like a child. Derek was childlike. Derek had no money and he said he misses them. We brought the card for Derek. But we gave Derek a Christmas card as well. But he held the card so close to his chest and just sobbed. Derek stated he has never had a Christmas or Birthday card. Giving someone something or trying to make people happy is important and touching someone’s heart. That’s what MLSS is about.
Do you feel other charities help and support you?
Yes we do get support. We will always support anybody and will help everybody as no one helped us.
I want you to quote this, certain individuals know how to manipulate Social Media. But they are doing no Seva. I have seen this with my own eyes. MLSS we talk the talk and walk the walk. We go out and do it. MLSS belongs to Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The bus is for him. We are blessed.
Have you ever received negativity whilst started MLSS?
Yes. People have tried to put differences in between me and Theera. I mean some people really go to extreme lengths to cause problems. I mean people had gone up to Theera and say “we know what he is like” People always slander. Why are using him to do Seva. Nothing will ever come between me and Theera. You work at your friendships. It is all Maharaj’s connection. We just don’t let it bother us. When you have hate you have ego.
I mean a lot of people who are in the media such as Peter Virdee and Emelie Heskey have to come to the feeds. How did that happen?
Yes. It was a great experience. Peter Virdee has been following us for a following us for a while. It was raining and they came and got stuck in. That’s what we wanted. We have a booking system and he came along. Peter Virdee has offered us a lot of support and he’s been brilliant, he is very down to earth.
What’s your biggest achievement?
Putting my Dastaar on.
Do people ever say you are scary? (laughing)
Yes! (laughing) But I wouldn’t harm anyone. Its just me and my look.
You recently won the Top 10 for the TSB Community Partner Award. Well Done!
Yes that was a shock! We are extremely happy.
What’s the message for MLSS?
We want to help people. We want to do seva. This is for anyone going through a hard time take one step forward and lead that life and you can do it. There are a lot of people going through what I have been through. It’s hard but you will get through it.
MLSS have a very special place in my heart. They are so humble and selfless and seeing their work with my own eyes I know I can write about them correctly. How MLSS in particular Theera and Parmjit get slander for feeding the homeless I will never be able to comprehend. These men/women go out every night whilst we are in our beds. Feeding the less fortunate. What people really do forget is that we are only a few paycheck’s from that. Anything can actually happen. So when we see someone who is homeless go and help them don’t sit and judge them, don’t look at them disgustingly. Every time I see someone who is homeless I think of MLSS. I always go and buy them a sandwich or even money. What these guys do is seva and they do it because they want too. They do it from their hearts. Every time I see them in action I feel a sense a pride. These are my brothers who are going out and doing something good. They have a team of volunteers who serve around 5,000 meals a week to the needy in 15 towns and cities. They rely on local people donating food and also support school breakfast clubs. These breakfast club are so amazing, they are helping young children to get fed so that they can concentrate at school. They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Before you judge MLSS ask yourself first could I every day go out and do what they do?
Help MLSS by donating food for the less unfortunate.
We, Tigerstyle, are 2 brothers, Raj & Pops from Glasgow and have been DJing and producing music since the late 90s.
Why the name Tigerstyle? Whats the meaning behind it?
Well the name Tigerstyle actually came from a radio show we used to present when we first got into DJing around 97-98. We are huge fans of WuTang Clan and had sampled one of their songs where they had a taken a dialogue sample from a Kung Fu movie. The sample is of “Tigerstyle” being repeated over and over.
We had used the sample to create an intro for our radio show. When we first created a demo tape of our production and played to Panjabi MC the B Side of the tape had a recording of our radio show on it and the tape was labelled “Tigerstyle”. PMC asked of that was gonna be the name of our production outfit and it just kind of stuck from there.
The name fits well with our image and sound because we come from the Sikh warrior tradition and our sound is also cutting edge and powerful.
Tell me how Tigerstyle began?
We started DJing parties in 1997 under a different name. We felt that at that time the DJs in Scotland were playing dated music and weren’t really mixing properly or presenting themselves in a good way. The desi club scene in Glasgow was also pretty much non existent apart from dodgy Day-timers that were starting to get a really bad name so we wanted to enter yhe scene and try to take the DJing and club nights to a new level.
After DJing and promoting club nights for a couple of years we felt a natural progression for us would be into production as we had both learnt tabla and sangeet from a young age. I was also already experimenting with making hip hop beats using really early midi sequencing software so it just took a little bit of guidance to really set us on the path to recording our first album.
You started back in 1997 Desi Bombsquad Sound to try and nurture Bhangra in the Scottish scene as you felt it lacked. What was the journey behind that?
We were at a wedding reception and the DJ was playing really old songs and wasn’t even aware a lot of the more current songs. We realised that we could quite easily enter the party circuit and surpass the DJ’s in our city in terms of mixing and presentation so we decided to buy some equipment and give it a go. From there we went on to DJ at a number of private functions and club nights and also promote our own club nights.
Have your families been supportive in regards to music? As you both have been brought up in a traditional Sikhi way and people say that music makes no money and there is no career do you agree?
Our parents were a little bit wary and concerned at first but once they saw we were serious and actually making a go of it they really showed a lot of support. We always tried to make sure the content of our songs wasn’t promoting bad habits that would go against our beliefs so we managed to strike a good balance between our own values and the music we make.
In terms of making money, its not an easy business area to be in. You need to be really driven and you need diversify in terms of your sound and the market areas you target in order to sustain a long career. We have been working full time as Tigerstyle for 17 years and have managed to sustain a good income by making music and also programming electronic music making workshops for young people funded by Creative Scotland. More recently we have also diversified into making music videos which is proving to be very enjoyable.
Nachna oda nai was a massive hit and still plays at parties and weddings. When you was producing it did you think back then it would be such a massive track? Especially when Signature used it on Britains Got Talent.
With our first album we had actually created a full version of “The Rising” that was a little too experimental for its time and when we played it to the label they advised that for our first release we should create something very commercial so that we can build a fan base and that we could do more experimental material later in our career. We then took inspiration from the way hip hop producers created beats from sampling old records and used those techniques to put together the final version of “The Rising”. Sukhi Chand then helped us mix the album and it went on to be a massive hit for us.
We never imagined Nachna Ondha Nei would be so huge. Its incredible that it still gets people moving 17 years after it was first released!
Have you ever faced any negativity with your music or via social media? As you both are very vocal about your opinions
We have had our fair share of negativity over the years but we have had far more positive responses from people than negative. Everywhere we go we meet people who love our music. They might not like everything we do but overall they see our vision and appreciate that we make music that is true to who we are.
My favourite track of yours that you produced is Kawan with Bikram Singh and Gunjan. What is your favourite track you have produced and a favourite song you haven’t produced?
We actually produced and sang a Dharmik Geet called “Gabru Punjab De” for one of the Immortal Shaheedi albums a few years ago. For me that has to be my favorite as it was a chance for us to express the passion we have for Sikhi through our music. The response we have had for that song has been amazing. So many Singhs tell us it is their Gym Anthem!
I really love listening to Yellow Claw and they have a number of amazing songs I would have loved to have been a part of.
Back in 2007 you performed at BBC introducing stage at Glastonbury Festival. How did that come about?
We were part of BBC Introducing that year and they asked us to perform on their stage at Glastonbury which was a great honour and a brilliant experience. Fun memories of people covered in mud and journey to and from the site with the crew as well as the performance itself.
You worked with Immortal Production on Shaheedi 400 how did this happen?
We actually had the track “Warcries” on our first album. That track contained samples of Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bhindrawale talking on it and because of that we had contact from the Singhs behind the Immortal Shaheedi project.
We have tried to create material all of their projects but haven’t been able to more recently because of a lack of time due to other commitments.
You both when I watch your videos you are rarely in them you rather take a back seat. Which i admire as I believe you put the music first. What’s your reason?
To be honest we aren’t the type of people that are hungry for the limelight. We have confidence in our music and know that it speaks for itself. Also, we are both married men with young kids and both Sardars so it does not fit our persona or image to be in videos too much. Especially where there is a female model or dancers involved. For us the video should be a visual representation of the lyrics or the story within the song itself.
Who are your role models? For me I’m a massive fan of yours. I could write hundreds of questions for you!
In terms of role models I think there are many great Sikh warriors, Shaheeds and Mahapursh that provide a great deal of inspiration with the way they lived their lives. Musically i think someone like Timbaland and Missy Elliot are incredibly inspiring as they have always had a unique style that sets them apart from other artists within their genre while also being very experimental and progressive with their sound.
What do you think of the bhangra scene at the moment? In terms of mixes and artists. As i feel they don’t make music anymore like they used too when i used to listen to it back in the day. Its all about money and publicity.
A lot has changed about the scene since we started. Initially physical piracy was the issue. That has been replaced my online piracy. It used to be that talented people with musical ability released quality material and captured a strong fan base. Nowadays someone with zero musical ability can buy a ready made song from someone, shoot a video for it and pass it off as their own without the public really knowing any better. The UK scene is nowhere near as good as it used to be. India and North America are leading the way these days in terms of talent. The way the TV channels work as well means that someone with little talent but lots of money can make themselves look very successful. Its all a big money game. Artists only see money from bookings and PRS royalties so its not anywhere near as financially rewarding as it used to be.
Saying that, there are also a lot of positive things happening in terms of the music reaching a wider audience and collaborations developing within mainstream and bollywood.
You are hugely respected in the Music world. Your tracks are always hits. Your videos are always relatable. Why do you think that is?
We try very hard to make sure our videos relate to the lyrics of the song and are visualised in a creative and interesting way. Our early video didn’t have as much involvement from us in terms of content so we weren’t very happy with how they represented our music. More recently we have had much more input as to how the videos should look.
Whats both of yours biggest achievement?
Probably managing to sustain such a long career and also make time for our other halves and children.
Whats the biggest compliment you have received?
We often are told that our Dharmik songs have inspired someone to take more interest in Sikhi. For me there isn’t a better compliment.
Anyone who wants to get in the music world. What advise would you give?
Study your craft, perfect it and then put out material that is true to your own self. Work with people you trust and always be honest with your music and how you work with others
Whats next for Tigerstyle?
We have a number of songs lined up. We have been involved in Harbhajan Mann’s album which is due out soon and also have big songs coming with Jaz Dhami & Kanika Kapoor and also with Roshan Prince.
As many who do know me well, know how much of a huge fan of Tigerstyle I am. They are raw and original and when I hear a track playing I instantly know if it’s Tigerstyle. They have that concept that makes them so different from others. Tigerstyle make music you don’t hear much of anymore. Even their Live Vaisakhi Global Gathering Session I just love. The passion you can see. I have shared below one my favourite Live sessions. When I asked if they could be part of my blog they were so supportive and to me that says so much about their character. Show some love for Tigerstyle!
I am a Sikh, being one allows me the space to explore within myself, the tools to finding peace within the chaos, the ability to recognise my ego and the understanding of the continuous work I need to do on myself in order to obtain liberation. The examples set by the Sikh Gurus of seeing God in all, serving humanity with compassion and humility, living truthfully, standing against oppression and tyranny, remaining absorbed in Naam inspire me daily as I work towards figuring out who is Manika Kaur.
As a person I am family orientated, very much someone who prefers to stay at home, I rarely go out and when I do my friends usually have to guilt trip me. I am a creative creature so singing kirtan, composing melodies, understanding the emotion behind the passage is a wonderful way for me to express the love in my heart. I’m a non – judgemental, I feel that a person who is has failed to understand Sikhi, that we are here and what we experience and where we are at is all Hukam so instead of passing judgements one should focus internally on personal connection and growth and as try genuinely to send love, positivity and encouragement into the world. I am a mother, my son is 6 and is often my muse. I am a wife and I have a husband who supports me and believes in me, I often say to him that he gave me wings, he is the type of man that every woman should have, someone who sees all they can become and helps them reach beyond their imagination. I am a daughter to parents who have showed me how to live through the way they live, they taught me about Sikhi through love and not force, their examples are etched into my soul and have help me overcome many hardships.
Before singing what were you doing before that as in your Career?
I was born in Melbourne, Australia and I completed a degree in Fashion Business. In my final year I had an arranged marriage and moved to Dubai after graduation. Adapting to life in Dubai and being away from everyone who loved me and everything I knew was challenging at 23. I always prioritised meditation and prayer, this was an important part of myupbringing, it was during this time that I had a dream which was the start of my life’s mission. In my dream I was holding a kirtan cd, on the cover, there was a message ‘all proceeds donated to building the first Gurdwara in Dubai’ and when I turned the cd over I saw my picture. I immediately woke up with a knowing that I was supposed to do this, that’s how I started recording kirtan and started my foundation ‘Kirtan for Causes’.
Have you always been into your Sikhi?
I grew up in a house where my parents did Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji seva. My parents would have special containers built to fly hundreds of SGGSji’s to our home in Melbourne along with palki’s, gutka’s, rumala’s, chaur’s, chabas and chandovas – basically everything a family would require in their Babaji’s room and we would distribute these as a seva. From the age of 10 till 23 my weekends were spent doing this seva, cleaning SGGSji’s, preparing langar, and setting up our home for kirtan. My siblings and I often performed kirtan as in those days Australia was quite cut-off from the world and we would often have no bhaiji’s to sing. It’s impossible to describe what that was like, it often feels like a dream.
Have you always had a passion for music and singing?
Absolutely, I think most people love singing and in my formative years I was in love with Disney songs but when I discovered kirtan it was like uncovering a piece of myself – there is this treasure we all have access to that can create this quiet within, it’s like melting into the universal expanse.
Do you any play instruments?
I play the Harmonium, I’m self-taught and learned to sing and play kirtan by ear. I’m currently taking guitar lessons and I use a keyboard when I’m finalising compositions but I have no formal music training.
When did you realise this is what you wanted to do in terms of singing?
I remember a conversation I had with my husband before marriage. He asked me “apart from family, what are the 3 most important things to you?” and my reply to him was “Spirituality (Sikhi), Charity and Music”, even as a young girl I often spoke about doing something in music which my dad discouraged, at the time I had no idea I would be singing kirtan and in this way. It was after my first album, which was recorded with the purpose of raising money for building the Guru Nanak Darbar in Dubai. At the time my hope was that the album would raise 50,000 dirhams but when the album raised over a million dirhams (300,000 pounds) that I realised I wanted to spend my life doing this – composing and recording heart touching kirtan whilst serving humanity and thus my foundation ‘Kirtan for Causes’ came to be. Since then, through album sales and ticket sales from live concerts, Kirtan for Causes is currently educating 200 children in Punjab, we also built one home for a family and we are starting the second construction project soon. I am also talking to someone about sustainablehomes which are more affordable and will help us grow this project. We are also working with Binti Period to tackle period poverty for our children and their families.
Who is your role model and inspiration, someone you look up to?
I am currently writing a book and have been researching the lives of several of the Sikh gurus when Guru Arjun was martyred and sang ‘Tera Kiya Meetha Lagay’ – this kind of acceptance, of submitting – it moved me but also changed the way I approach many situations in my life. However, growing up and watching my mom handle life with so much grace – till today she inspires me, whenever I feel weak or sad I just have to remember that I am the daughter of Ravinder Kaur Uppal, I am the daughter of a fearless, unstoppable, loving woman and there and then I feel my spirits lift. Just remembering I came from her is enough.
In 2008 you entered and won a radio competition for singing your own composition how and why did you decide to do that?
I was relatively new in Dubai and I would write a lot of songs and poetry, I have done so all my life but I found a lot of inspiration in the hollowness of my new life, it was a difficult adjustment. I didn’t fit in, I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t feel loved, I missed my family and my home so singing kirtan, meditating and praying as well as writing and composing English songs was my escape. At the time I was working with a producer in Dubai who submitted my song into this radio competition and the track won and was played several times, it was definitely cool hearing my song on theradio!
You released your album Bandhanaa in 2013 how did this happen?
Actually ‘Bandhanaa’ was released in 2010, it was re-released as ‘Satnam Waheguru The True Name’ in 2013 when I was signed to a label and the album was released on Itunes and other musical platforms. When the album came out it was completely a new sound for kirtan, thanks to Sukhbir Singh who produced the album, it was so loved and appreciated. I received emails from people from all around the world letting me know how much the album meant to them or how for the first time their children were actually listening to kirtan. All this lead to the album having an official release and soon after I was working on my next project which was on the life of Guru Ram Das. For this project I composed the melody and worked with a Swedish producer, I also wrote the script and contacted renowned hand shadow-grapher Amar Sen, I used this artistic medium to create this video which went on to win ‘Best Short Film’ at the Sikh Arts and Film Festival in California.
You won the 2016 Sikh Award for ‘Sikhs In Entertainment’, did that come as a shock for you? Also you had over 10,000,000 views on You Tube?
It was an honour to receive this award but mostly I had the chance to address the crowd. I took that opportunity to tell them about the epidemic facing Punjab. I shared a heartbreaking story about a family in Punjab whose two sons Princepal Singh and Amritpal Singh were being educated by Kirtan for Causes. We decided to travel to Punjab and interview some of the families whose children’s education was being sponsored in an effort to show and encourage others to support the education of the forgotten children in Punjab. When we entered this particular home the two boys were sitting on their grandparent’s lap, they informed us that their son committed suicide that morning. It’s a moment that I can never forget, how these grandparents were going to support their grandkids, they sat there and delivered the news with virtually no reaction. That’s when I realised that suicide was the new normal in Punjab and we could no longer ignore the cries for help. It is time for a change. Any opportunity I get to speak about my experiences in Punjab I take as a chance to create awareness on the dire situation there.
Having 10,000,000 views on my channel is definitely wonderful, there is a lot of love in the world and it is humbling to receive this kind of support. The planning and effort behind every track and video are immense so having it reach people and mean something to them is a wonderful feeling. I wholeheartedly thank all those who have and continue to encourage me.
What is your favourite Kirtan you have produced or performed?
This is really hard because each shabad left me with a gift. If I had to choose, at this point in time I would say Guru Ram Das Rakho Sarnaee.
After the completion of my first album with Sukhbir I thought to myself ‘What next?’, I wondered if I could keep creating beautiful kirtan without the help of a superstar producer like Sukhbir. Hence, when I composed ‘Guru Ram Das’ and worked to produce it in the way I wanted and created a video which received 4.5 million views on youtube and won an award, I felt like I proved to myself that I am capable and to trust myself.
You worked and met with Legend Bhangra pop star Sukhbir Singh how did that happen?
This entire project was one of divine providence, everyone I met along the way since I had the dream (as mentioned above) came to serve this very same purpose. I met Sukhbir during Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Gurpurab, I sang there and spoke to him about my wish to record this album for raising funds for the Gurdwara, he immediately said he would produce it and he did so entirely as a seva. It was an exciting time as Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum had recently donated the land to the Sikh community to build a Gurdwara, this actually happened on my birthday the same year I got married and moved to Dubai.
(Opening of Dubai Gurdwara)
The entire community was excited with the news and many people donated money or time to this project. It was the second time in my life I would be involved in a Gurdwara project. When I was younger my parents purchased a large post office in Blackburn, Melbourne and donated it to the Sikh community, it wasconverted into a beautiful Gurdwara, I remember helping to re-paint the walls and how the entire community came together and did their bit for the project. I wanted to somehow contribute to the project in Dubai so I begged Waheguru to give me some kind of seva in my new home where Ioften felt out of place, I had no idea at the time of what the Guru had planned for me – divine providence.
You have also worked with renowned DJ, tabla player and producer Talvin Singh a pioneer of Asian electronica he has played with legends such as Madonna. How did that happen?
After my video on YouTube Guru Ram Das came about, I was approached by a manager Vinod Gadher who said that he loved what I was doing and spoke to me about Talvin Singh, soon after he was my manager and asked me to compose something and send it to Talvin. I started keeping in touch with Talvin over skype and email, when we met it was just so easy, I learned a great deal about sound from him, I will always consider Talvin to be one of my teachers, recording an E.P with him has been an adventure and I am humbled that he even wanted to work with an amateur like me.
You also have worked with Dharam Seva Records and Tigerstyle on certain projects how did that come about?
Dharam Seva Records are involved in such wonderful Sikh-centric projects which really align with my interests, I was introduced to them through a mutual friend and everything just felt right. Their passion for seva is touching and genuine and I enjoy being a part of the team.
I have just completed an EP with Tigerstyle, it was my manager Vin who felt put me in touch with them and arranged the whole project. Interestingly, I never met them face to face. I composed the melodies for the tracks and explained to them the type of sound I wanted but their natural ability to create a signature sound is infused into my melodies and the entire process was smooth, they are talented and professional, it was a pleasure to work with them.
For people who don’t know what is Kirtan For Causes?
Kirtan for Causes is my foundation (and also my mission statement) – 100% of all proceeds made by my kirtan is used to serve causes. My main focus being in Punjab, we educate children, build homes and deal with the everyday problems that our children and their families face. For example, our children expressed to us that they find it difficult to study because they do not have electricity so in the evening there is no light, we responded bysending out 400 powerful solar lights. We also arrange internet, laptops, mobile phones for our children attending university if needed.
You are also a devoted philanthropist. But you are raising funds and awareness for Punjab via your organisation Kirtan For Causes I have seen the videos of your work it is amazing. But not only that you also sponsor over 200 students and you actually visit and speak to them about their journey. Can you tell me more about that?
Motivation. We want to remind them of the heights they can reach if they make use of this opportunity to get educated. We ask the families of our daughters not to marry them too young, to allow them to become independent so that they can create a better life and future, we remind them that these children are also ours and we will be there to help every step of the way. One of our boys Nishan Gill has recently gotten a job in Dubai as an IT support engineer, Gurpreet Kaur who has overcome some incredible circumstances is in Chandigarh University studying journalism and has already been offered a job there. Amritpal Kaur, this was the family in Gurdaspur we built a home for, is studying to become an Intensive Care Technician. We are so proud of our kids and being a part of their journey is essential.
You also did your photo shoot for Kirtan for Causes in London. How did that come about? Why London?
I am in London quite a bit, I receive much love and support from the community there and enjoy being there. Last year I was invited to sing kirtan in Houses of Parliament which was incredible, I feel the talent level of people in the UK is exceptional so I love coming there to work with musicians, artists, photographers etc.
Photoshoots are important for the press, website, social media and also for album covers so every 2 to 3 years I need updated photos. I try to do everything to the highest standards and I have noticed that it always pays off, a great picture can land you a full page interview versus a small quarter page nod. It’s difficult trying to shift kirtan into a more prominent position, it takes time to educate listeners with every new sound but it does help people to take notice when you reach the world music charts or get played on mainstream radio. If you set out to do anything in life, do it well so that you are not left with regrets!
Have you ever had any negative feedback in regards to yourself?
Not to my face. (laughing)
One time someone said that because I used instruments other than harmonium and tabla I was breaking rehat mariyada because the Gurus used only these instruments, I informed this person that the harmonium was invented in the 1700s well after the time of our Gurus and asked him to not judge me but instead join me in sharing love and positivity in the world and if possible help to educate a child in Punjab.
Someone who meant well once told me I should use images of myself looking into the heavens or into the distance as it comes across more divine and less like self-promotion, my response was what could be more divine than being real and authentic, using an image in hopes of projecting or creating some sort of illusion isn’t real and I would rather fearlessly be me and stand by my choices then dress up as a pious person and pretend I’m above what it is to be human. I’m just always me, not what society wants me to be and because of my thinking I am free and boy does it feel good not to be trapped by dogma.
Also, my understanding is people see you as they are, it’s not a reflection of who you are, so negative feedback from someone about you is really negative feedback about themselves.
You are a role model and inspiration too many did you think at the time that you would touch so many people with your beautiful voice and Kirtan?
Firstly, Thank you.
When I begin a project I don’t plan some outcome I want. It always starts with prayer, I try to be in the moment of what I’m doing, to experience it wholly. The fact that people can share that with me makes it all the more beautiful. I am so moved that many people are sharing this seva with me – their kindness makes it possible for me to keep going with the work in Punjab, it will take everyone to create the change in Punjab that desperately needs to happen – this must be a collective seva, one of true and pure unity.
One video I do remember so vividly in my mind, which was when you attended The Freedom Rally in Trafalgar Square in London, where you addressed over 25,000 people. I sat and watched you and I was totally blown away. You spoke the truth and spoke so passionately. How was that for you?
That moment will always be extraordinary. I stepped out of my comfort zone and it helped me to grow immensely. Just being able to speak to my community about 1984, Punjab today and my experiences, the response was overwhelming. Unforgettable.
What’s next for Manika Kaur?
I am shooting two new videos next month (one will be released this year) and will be working on a new shabad, which will be a duet with the multi-talented Sukhshinder Shinda. I will be sending him the melody next week so we can start working on the track. He is also doing this single completely as a seva, the compassion I have experienced is overwhelming.
Early November I will be releasing a new video titled ‘Dear Punjab, I’m Sorry’, this is a spoken word style video. I am also working on a project to bring and build sustainable and affordable housing to Punjab.
Next year I will be releasing a double E.P (Talvin Singh and Tigerstyle) which is coming out on an American label as they feel I should take steps towards the 2019 Grammy’s. I have also started working on a kirtan educational project for children which will come together in the second half of next year. Currently, most of my time is spent chained to my desk as I write my first book which will be published next year.
I also blog monthly about what I’m working on, wherever possible I create vlogs so people can get a peek behind the scenes of the more exciting projects. All my work can be found on my social media pages and my YouTube
I am in such awe of Manika Kaur, she is such a selfless and compassionate woman. When I first wrote an email to her, her response was just beautiful and that’s when I knew she is a very special woman. The support and help she has given to my blog have left me feeling very empowered. Not many people will do that in life. But Manika showed nothing but love! Manika’s love and drive for what she believes in is just endless. The amount of seva she does for the children out in Punjab just astounds me. Not only that she helped build a Gurdwara in Dubai and built houses in Punjab for families. I fell in love with Manika Kaur with her beautiful and unique voice the composure she has is just fantastic. Every time I hear her Kirtan it puts me in such a trance and gives me a push. I urge people to listen to her Kirtan because you can connect with it. Close your eyes and feel it. I do. The Kirtan that stands out for me is Auhkee Gharee. The video just blew me away. It was real and very heartfelt.
Harjinder is a restaurateur, chocolatier, traveller, foodie, social media influencer, social activist. I have 2 sons. One is 6 and the younger one is 2. Absolutely in love with my wife and kids.
You are a successful businessman and social worker could you tell us a bit about that?
I follow my passions – food and philanthropy. I love my work. I believe that One should be effective and impactful and that’s what I try to be.
You are very much known for your bakeries Belfrance and Hot Breads which is a big favourite with your fans how did this begin?
The family was in the hospitality industry even before I was born. After joining the business, with the global exposure that I had and guidance of the elders, we have innovated and expanded.
You also run the franchise The Yellow Chilli launched by Sanjeev Kapoor how did this happen?
In the year 2000, we started The Yellow Chilli. It is the maiden restaurant of Chef Sanjeev Kapoor in India. It was my father and uncle who convinced the MasterChef to partner with us and open a restaurant.
You have always stepped up when it came to helping the unfortunate and you have helped in events such as Tsunamis, Floods and Earthquakes. You gave clothes, money and items that they needed. Would you class yourself as a Humanitarian?
Yes, I am a humanitarian who believes that the teachings of Sikhism are soaked in humanitarian values. In fact, I will go a step further and say, Sikhism is Humanitarianism.
Have you always been charitable?
I’ve always been someone who likes to contribute and make a difference
I read that you are a religious man and takes our faith seriously. As I follow you on Social Media(huge fan) But you also respect all religions. You were very upset when France wouldn’t let our Sikh’s where their Turbans. You then did a sky jump with your Turban on from Melbourne to raise your voice in favour of our Sikh Religion. What made you decide to do this?
Thank you for your kind words. France 🇫🇷 is beautiful and the French have deep regards for the Sikhs. The Turban ban in Government schools and workplaces in France are indeed unfortunate. I wanted to voice my concern in a positive way so I skydived with the Turban from 14000 feet in St. Kilda, Melbourne.
You are so well respected and have a large Social Media Following, Why do you think this is?
I believe for multiple reasons. For being passionate about social causes to actually spending time and resources to grow my reach on Social Media.
Also do you ever get any negativity in regards to your Social Media? As you are not afraid to talk and raise key topics that some people may think is controversial.
Yes, I do at times but I am mostly non-controversial and positive. Don’t get much hate because I don’t seek it. I focus on the good in the world and aim to expand it through my social media communications
You also update Social Media with any events or issues that are happening all around the world how did you get into doing this?
I only do that to those that I am passionate about.
You also greeted our MP Tan Dhesi for his visit to India, how was that?
What an honour to have hosted the 1st Turbaned Sikh MP in the UK. He makes us so proud. I believe that we have connected to spread goodness around the world and take up humanitarian causes and issues affecting mankind.
You have met a lot of famous people who would you say is your favourite?
Fauja Singh Ji
You are an incredible role model and you continue to inspire people every day, what’s your message?
Focus on the good in others. Love everyone around you.
Any other advice you would like to add?
Stay true to yourself. Discover your passion and live life full out.
Harjinder is such an incredible role model and he his works speaks for itself! Harjinder is a social media influencer I go to his pages to find out what’s going on in the world He is very well respected in our community.
Okay! What a question, I have never been asked that before (laughing) So who is Shay. A person I’m a caring and personable. I have always described myself as I’m a woman first. Then a wife, a friend, daughter and a presenter. I’m not necessarily a feminist I don’t think. But I do believe in Women’s rights and I do believe in independence and as a woman, I am very independent. I have a beautiful family around me and I love and care for them. Actually now yeah thinking about it I am a feminist (laughing) I’ve never had to describe myself before so that must be the worst examples ever! But in 3 words what am I, I’m caring, personable and a fond person to be around.
Before joining the BBC, what were you doing before that?
We have been part of the BBC for 8 years now. Before that, I was working in the city in London. I was an HR consultant I was doing that for a number of years. When I was doing The Family Show myself and Sunny were keen to do something else other than the jobs we were in at the time. Doing radio and what we are doing now is something we have always wanted to do. It was just trying to find the right way of doing it. We were doing a lot of behind the scenes work that a lot of people don’t know about. Going to interviews for absolutely free. Going to red carpets events standing in the freezing cold for 2/3 hours to do a 5-minute interview. Those were the things we had to do. We had to put in the hard work and have the commitment to get to where we are now.
A lot of people class you as a role model and inspiration. I believe you are especially in the Asian community. But who is yours?
Well, firstly I don’t know why people would think that. I really appreciate the kind comments. I have never looked at myself like that before. You started off asking me who is Shay and I stated I was a woman first. If I was to think about role models and people who I look up to in life or have influenced me, to be honest, it has to be women in my life. I have seen how they have gone against the norms, and I have seen how they have stood up against society’s expectation. They have always done what is right with their families. The role model and inspiration firstly has to be my mum. My mum really brought me up to be independent and as an Asian she wanted me to know that I’m equal or even better than men. My mum never let me feel I couldn’t achieve what I wanted too. If I said I wanted to do something she has always supported me. My dad did also as well. I was my dad’s little princess. But, there was something about my mother doing it that in a very male-dominated world and work environment. That really inspired me. Even though I and my mum don’t talk today, she has always been the basis and foundation of my inspiration. I look at someone like Sunny’s mum my mother in law. I think she is another great inspiration. The way she has kept her family together and she has been a rock in her family. I’ve always really liked that. I have thought to myself now I’m going to become a mum and I will hopefully like to have that, the foundation and have that ability to keep my family together. I think that is a beautiful thing.
In terms of looking at big names you know like celebrities but growing up I mean I don’t know about you but as a British Asian there wasn’t many people I could look up too. I wasn’t someone who looked at Bollywood and aspired to be that way. Or even Hollywood. I have a lot of musical influences. Such as Prince, Beatles and The Police (my fave growing up too) I like that kind of stuff. I wouldn’t say they are inspirations as such. I have always drawn from my personal experiences or relationships as role models. My mum, Sunny’s mum, my Sister In Law they are more inspirations to me that of famous people as unfortunately there was no one in there i could relate too.
Doing The family Show, did you realise or thought in your mind you would become so popular and relatable?
No! When we agreed to do the show, our biggest concern and really really worried about the aftermath. As a family, we were very strong. But we thought we are comfortable with who we are and how we live our lives. But obviously with my personal situation, Sunny, and Sunny’s mum and dad were worried that we would get judged and looked down upon. As you know unfortunately with our community these are taboo subjects. We were more worried we never actually thought that people would be so open and welcoming. We had people not just in this country but people from Dubai, South Africa, Australia from different walks of life. Even from different communities, not even Asian. They were getting in touch saying they can relate to us. The fact of the matter is when you have a family dispute like for me it was my mum who didn’t agree with my relationship. It was a simple as that. She didn’t want me to get married to Sunny. There was no lea-way in regards to this. I think other people can relate to that. You don’t have to be Asian to go through that. That’s what I learnt whilst doing The Family, how many other people go through that. Sometimes parents and children don’t get on. It can be for different reasons. It doesn’t have to be that you have fallen in love, someone. You may not see eye to eye. So if I’m very honest with you whilst doing The Family I did not think, I thought the opposite that I was going to get the backlash. People might not understand what I’m going through. That they would completely judge me. But it was so heartwarming and such a beautiful thing the love we received over the years. I mean in November it will be 8 years since The Family.
How did The Family Show happen?
The Family came about as we were approached by Channel 4 production team as they were looking for an Asian family for over year. They had interviewed a lot of people. They basically bumped into Sunny and I at the theatre. It was Sunny’s brother in law who was doing a theatre production. Sunny and I were there to make sure that our friends had tickets to go to the show. There was a short break before the production started. The production team came up to Sunny and stated we are looking for an Asian family. Sunny turned around and said I know lots of people but the thing is I’m really busy as I’m getting married and I won’t have time to talk to you. So can Shay just email you some numbers and you can then call them. Then as soon as the producer said that the producer said “Hold on you are getting married” I want to know more about you. You are getting married he was really interested in us. You seem like an entertaining family in terms of what you do. It then started from there.
You have your own show with the BBC, How did this happen?
We now work for the BBC WM and BBC London. We are radio presenters on both stations. When we were doing The Family, Sunny and I have always wanted to go into radio. Sunny actually used to run an RLC years before we ever did The family. Radio has always been a passion. We started off basically with BBC London. We started off by doing interviews with them. They used to really like our interaction as husband and wife. There was a presenter there that goes by the name Jo Good. To be honest with you Jo encouraged Sunny and I to come on radio shows she thought we were really funny. She loved what she saw on TV. Jo felt there was something we could do with the radio. What we didn’t know was she asked us to come on her show to talk about a new story or whether it was to review a film. Or a theatre play. Jo was getting the bosses to listen. The bosses were loving what we were doing. Sunny and I did a red carpet premiere for Salt with Angelina Jolie. I managed to get an exclusive interview with her. Talking about the Pakistan earthquake. That made the news and that set us to show we can do the journalistic stuff that was needed and the interviewing. There was a lot of 10 minutes on the air here and there. We didn’t just get to where we are now we put a lot of hard work into it. 8 years on we are on both BBC WM and BBC London which is great.
I work as a volunteer with the amazing Sharan Project. But you are an Ambassador’s. How did that happen?
Yes that’s right. At the beginning you asked who was i as a person. I was talking about how i am a woman first, something i am proud of. I sometimes feel women don’t support each other enough. Anything to do with women’s causes or women’s charities this is very close to Sunny and I. It was around 5 years ago, Sunny and I were invited to The Sharan Project they had an event and we went along. I just thought the work they do is just amazing and powerful. From that minute we started to support them in what they do. We was asked to become Ambassadors. As our role as Ambassadors we try and promote the charity work they do. They help victims of Forced Marriages and Honour based Violence also physical abuse. The help both men and women mainly from the Asian background but also non Asian background who may had to leave home due to their personal situation. It could be anything. That charity for me has grown over the last couple of years. We are so happy to support the work they do.
You have also worked with Brit Asia on a few projects. One of my favourites was “The Social Experiment” Where 4 people who have never met discuss topics mainly taboo ones. Whose idea was that?
That was a collaborative idea actually. It was a really fun idea we had we were lucky to do it with Brit Asia. It was a team effort. Sunny and I and Brit Asia came up with it. We were lucky to get different people from different communities, ages and walks of lives. To see what people really think. We live in a world now where we look at what politically is happening such as Brexit there is a lot of animosities as well. Even Islamophobia. Hate crime is on the rise. All the topics are on the news. But you don’t see how it affects a person day to day. Even with a work colleague how do people really feel about it? It may be a news headline but how do we feel about it behind closed doors. That’s why we wanted to do something like that. The Social Experiment was to put 4 people in a room who are from different backgrounds to see what they think about these issues. It could be anything. Will they say it especially when you are blindfolded you don’t know who the person is and we couldn’t hide the gender but we did with everything else. They won’t anything till they tell you. There were no names also. It was a really good idea.
Which one topic stood out for you?
One topic that stood out as we did one on eating Halal and non Halal meat. The reason that stood out for me was it was in the media at the time, where particular restaurants were putting Halal on their menu’s and people weren’t aware of it. It was really interesting to hear people’s perspective’s on the topic. One didn’t know what Halal meat was. Some weren’t bothered. Others were really offended. Also, people who ate Halal and how they felt. I’m a vegetarian so it doesn’t affect me and doesn’t make a difference. The other one was Terrorism and that has stayed with me. It was quite shocking to have one guest who wasn’t Asian but their perception of where they see Asian men and what they felt and how uncomfortable they felt. They admitted on the show they felt that way due to the media and what they see in the News. I was very disappointed about the stereotypes portrayed in the news as she felt she couldn’t approach an Asian due to how she felt and what she saw on the news. That was really powerful for me and that one will stay with me. It was a show where we got people talking to say we are all human beings at the end of the day. We all like to see our friends. These terrorist attacks that happen in my opinion are people who are not human. It’s a shame to put everyone under that bracket.
Find the rest on YouTube very interesting debates!
If you could interview anyone who would it be and why?
That’s a good question! There is a few people actually. I would love to had interview Prince. Prince would be a great one as I’m a huge fan of music. I would like to ask him the fact how many instruments he played and how musically he was. Right to writing his lyrics and concerts. Also currently someone who is alive would be Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May. I think we live in politically charged times in 10-20 years time our children and their children’s children will be talking about the EU Referendum and they will be living with the consequences of that. It would be very interesting to talk to them about their perspectives. Film wise i have been lucky i had a chance to interview Bradley Cooper and Angelina Jolie.
You recently won Asian Women Of Achievement Award. Was you shocked by that?
Yes I was. It was hand on my heart a honour to be nominated with all those women. I walked in there not in any way shape or form expecting to win. I did not think I would win. I didn’t think I was worthy enough to win. I have to thank the judges who felt like I did deserve it. To be nominated with women who are leading from their field whether it was Media Business or the Public Sector. It was an amazing feeling. AWA is very important it recognises and shows the world and country that women can achieve and we do it well. Especially Asian women, are on par with everyone else. In my acceptance speech i said that there is no ceiling that women can’t shatter. I really do believe that. I have been surrounded women in this Industry who have done it. I was shocked but humble to have won.
Have you ever had any negativity from people whether it is social media or face to face as you are vocal and you get your opinions across?
Yes I have. Over the years definitely. Most of what I do with my public profile is with Sunny. Sometimes people will bunch us together. Even though we are husband and wife and presenters. We have very different opinions. Sometimes people will criticise and say I am to vocal on women’s rights. Or Sunny was too overpowering and I have taken it on the chin. If you don’t listen to our show or watch us interact or see us on social media and then you won’t know who we are. They judge on one post or something or an event that we have done. I learnt over the years that you shouldn’t take it to heart. I just kind off brush it off. When we did The Family we got some negativity. For one negative comment we got a lot more positive. It outweighed it for me. Everyone has their opinions. I respect that and I try not to let it get to me.
What’s your biggest achievement?
Oh wow biggest achievement has to be definitely that Sunny and I work on 2 of the biggest radio stations in the country. Also as British Asian presenters, as husband and wife also. But i can’t ignore the fact we are Asian and it is a huge huge achievement. We live in a world where we constantly talking about Ethnic diversity is so important. But it isn’t reflected in the Media as it should be If you listen to our radio shows it doesn’t matter your background is and where your from you can relate to it. It’s husband and wife having fun in the afternoon. We are very different. We can do the radio shows the way we want to do. I’m proud of that.
What’s next for Shay?
Well as you know I am having a baby! So think this will be a new chapter in my life. The last couple of months I haven’t really posted much on social media as I’m coming to terms with getting pregnant and becoming a mum. I had a lot of messages on social media asking me if everything is okay. We haven’t heard from you and you haven’t posted. But when the baby is born I will talk about experiences and journey. It will be nice. I will definitely do that. The next important thing is as a woman is what I’m going through. I will try and be the best I can being a mum and I will share that. We heard in the Media that Kate Middleton is pregnant. She was suffering from chronic sickness like what i’m going through. 1 in 100 women suffer from it and not many women talk about that. People think you get pregnant and have a baby and that’s it. Actually what I have learnt in 8 months that women don’t talk about what they go through whilst you are pregnant. I try and talk to women about their experiences. For 2018 for Sunny and Shay we want to continue our work on radio and building up the hard work we have achieved and done more TV. Watch this space!!
Shay Is truly lovely and a down to earth person. One thing is for sure she will make a fantastic mother. Even when I was preparing for the interview and waiting for her. Shay made me feel comfortable trying to feed me M&M’s haha. But honestly it was a great experience. I used to work as a volunteer many many years at the BBC but when it was based at Pebble Mill studio’s and while Network East was still around. So it brought back memories being in studio again.
Shay is a fantastic role model and she is honest which is very rare these days. Shay wants to help people and help them succeed. What I loved about Shay that she is a normal person who is trying to make a difference in this world. But also Sunny was just as lovely and made me laugh so much. I know she is destined for a bright and fantastic future. I really hope we can work together in the future!!