June 7, 1943 – June 19, 2020
A great humanitarian has passed on. A man best known for his love of his family and devotion to his work. And work he did. Amrik Singh’s work was never for his own interest. He cared more for the needy and the underprivileged. Most of all he cared and loved his community and country more than he cared for himself.
Amrik was born in Surat Thani in the south of Thailand on the 7th of June 1943. He studied in India for two and a half years, returning to study English in Bangkok. He frequently travelled overseas, “Just to see the world,” but has always returned home because “Thailand is the best. When I was young, I was poor. I saw the world and realized nobody was any different.”
Amrik Singh was the head of a family of six brothers and three sisters. He married Satwant Kaur on 28 February 1965. Together with his loving and most respected wife, they have three sons and one daughter who further gave them many grandchildren.
In the late 1960s during the height of the Vietnam War, Amrik worked as an interpreter/translator for the American military forces at U-tapao Air Base near Sattahip. At the same time, he ran his own tailoring business called Taj Mahal Tailors.
At the end of the war when US bases around Thailand closed, Amrik and his family moved to Pattaya where he set up his tailoring business with the same name.
At that time, about 45 years ago, Pattaya was still a small fishing village, and tourism was still in its infancy. At the end of the Vietnam War, tourists from other parts of the world discovered Pattaya. As their numbers grew, business men and women from all over Thailand came too, setting up shops to cater to their needs. Amongst the migrants to Pattaya were a handful of Indian businessmen who were predominantly Sikhs. In later years the numbers grew into the thousands.
From a materialistic viewpoint, success had arrived for Amrik Singh. He supported his large family with his business enterprises and saw all his brothers and their families set up in business too, but success is not the high life, or envied possessions, for him.
In an interview with Pattaya Mail 21 years ago, Amrik Singh said, “Success comes as a direct result of your past actions. If you are happy, and you try to help your neighbours, you listen and give advice and then people respect you. No man can say I want to be this or that. You have to earn respect.”
Amrik attributed his success in business to “having a family business with many family members helping me. I did not have to hire any man.”
Being a man of pure heart, members of the Sikh community were attracted to Amrik Singh, and soon he was regarded as their leader. Not much later, he was honoured as the head of the Sikh community. Amrik Singh refuted the title of ‘Head’ saying, “It is not an inherited honour. In my view, everyone is the head. You have to have respect for each other.”
Up until 1985, temporary venues were set up as Gurdwaras for Sikhs to pray and make merit, until Amrik Singh and his committee decided to initiate plans to build a permanent Gurdwara or Sikh temple in Pattaya where the Sikh congregation could assemble and worship the Almighty according to their beliefs.
Plans were finalised and construction began. The magnificent Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Pattaya in Soi 17, South Pattaya, was completed and consecrated on 28 October 1990.
In the meantime, Amrik Singh Kalra was elected as the President of the Sikh temple committee, a position he held until his passing on 19 June 2020.
The Indian community lovingly called him ‘Shah’ – meaning the head of the community. As Shah, he was responsible for problem solving, allocating charity where necessary, and leading ceremonies in the Sikh temple.
The important values for Amrik were, “Harming none, helping when you can, and simple living. For a man to live properly, 200 baht a day is enough. Today the young want to spend too much,” he added. The perceived ills of the “western” world have obviously crossed many cultural boundaries!
After retiring many years ago, he said, “I thought to myself, why am I doing this? The more you are involved in business, the more headaches you have.” He considered his greatest achievement was having all his children and his brothers married and well settled. “All my family respect me and that is all I need.”
Pa Amrik was known in every circle of men and women, from different walks of life, different professions, different colours and creeds, belonging to various charitable organisations, not only in Thailand, but also all over the world.
There is not one who came in contact with him that was not touched by his charm and kindness. He loved people. He loved life. He strived to see everyone around him love themselves and be happy and contented. He was always there to extend a helping hand, picked them up and held them steady until they were strong again.
To all who knew him he was a man of strong, just and upright convictions, tough as nails. But he was also a man with a heart that he wished was bigger so that he could engulf all humanity into his breast and overwhelm them with his love.
We shall miss you Pa Amrik. The pain will subside but the memory will grow stronger. You will be remembered and honoured until eternity. Your guidance and teachings will be our strength to carry on your work.
We know that you will be with us in spirit to see us through. Rest in Peace, dear friend. May God receive you in his heart and keep you and protect you and soothe your pain as you have done for others all your life.