Sardar Balbir Singh Bhangu
(October 1, 1930 – October 28, 2016)
An Eulogy by Suresh Kurl
Time never stays. Only memories do.
Recently, I learned Sardarji is no more. His passing brought me face to face with a shock, then grief and then frustration. If I knew Sardarji was or had been sick I would have gone to see him and held his hand.
I had known him since the summer of 1971. That was the day when I had received a phone call from him. I had never heard of him ever before.
He introduced himself, “My name is Balbir Singh Bhangu. A few days ago, I arrived from India. I am a student of your uncle, Acharya Brihaspati.”
Within less than twenty fours hours of his call, we met at my residence and found him very gentle, humble, very respectful of my uncle and very enthusiastic and keen about the Indian Classical Music. He said his mission was to teach and promote the Indian Classical Music in Canada. Soon he put together “India Music Society” to achieve his objective in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.
Sardarji and I clicked right away, mentally, emotionally and socially, became friends and remained friends since that day.
Though we were friends, I never called him “Balbir,” or Balbir Singh,” or “Mr. Bhangu.” For me, he was respectfully “Sardarji” and for him I was always “Doctor Sahib.”
Whenever we got together or talked on phone, we talked about four things — our families, our health, his Guru, Acharya Brihaspati and the Classical Indian music.
On the morning of every January 1, Sardarji was always first in Canada to wish me A HAPPY NEW YEAR.
Sardarji was a kind man. He had a pure heart, free from petty thoughts and feelings. I never sensed him suffering jealousy.
I had never imagined that one day I would come to a funeral home and speak about him in the past tense. Speaking of someone in the past tense is a sure give away of his or departure from this planet.
Sardarji was born in Kotla, a village in Ludhiana District of the Panjab, on October 1, 1930. That made him my elder.
He had a Post Graduate degree in Political Science and Classical Music. Among his gurus were Sardar Sohan Singh and my uncle Acharya Kailash Chandra Deva Brihaspati.
My uncle worked for the All India Radio (Delhi) as Director and his wife was a professor of Music at the Delhi University. Though I never had the opportunity to listen them sing, I could always imagine how good they must have been through his student, Sardarji, whom I had listened to several times privately and publicly on CBC Radio. He was an effortless singer with a very sweet voice.
Not only that, Sardarji must have had an excellent understanding of the science of Classial Music to win a President of India award for translating G.H. Ranadey’s classic Hindustani music, it Physics and Aesthetics from English into Punjabi.
For ages, spiritualists, religious leaders and priests have been quoting us the Bhagavad Gita that soul is immortal. “Swords can cut it not, Fire can burn it not, Water can wet it not and Wind can dry it not.”
Then, they have also been telling us that body is mortal, bound to decay as something disposable like old garments; not worth getting attached to:
As leaving aside worn-out garments
An individual takes new ones,
So leaving aside worn-out bodies to new ones
Goes the embodied soul.
However, the reality of living is that despite the repeated reminders about the immortality of the soul and mortality of body, we, who stay behind – as his wife Rajinder Kaur, son Karaminder Singh, his wife Sukhraj and his daughter Bhavneet and her husband Kent Macleod, will always grieve his absence, not for his soul or body.