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Gurdip Singh Grewal: Passionate Thinker

Courtesy: Sikh-Diaspora (Yahoo! Groups), Sarbjit Dhaliwal, and The Tribune.

The Sikh Times, Apr. 25, 2006

Photo: Gurdip Singh Grewal

Gurdip Singh Grewal, a concerned Sikh and activist, succumbed to a sudden cardiac arrest after a short battle with stomach cancer on April 20, 2006. Bhog services will be held on April 29 at Gurdwara Amb Sahib in Mohali, Punjab, India.

Although many friends of the Sikhs will mourn Gurdip, his death is a personal loss to me. I often depended on his wise counsel during my projects and used his hospitality during my visits to Chandigarh.

Brigadier Sahib, as he was known to his colleagues, was born in December 1935 at Baghdigi, Bihar to Sarwan Singh Grewal, who later became India's first chief inspector of mines. On account of partition the family moved from Pakistan to settle in Raikot, District Ludhiana.

After finishing college, young Gurdip joined the Indian Military Academy in 1956. During his 32 years of distinguished service he held several key posts all across India. His meritorious service earned him the Vishist Seva Medal (V.S.M.) in 1982. He took early retirement in 1989 on account of the deplorable events of 1984.

Upon entering civilian life, Gurdip dedicated himself to the study of Sikhs and Sikhism. He used his in-depth knowledge of the philosophical underpinnings of the faith and his understanding about the socio-cultural, political and religious aspects of Sikhs and Sikhism to forge bridges between politics and religion.

A founding member and former general secretary of the World Sikh Council, an advisor to the Anandpur Sahib Foundation, convenor of the Sikh Core Group, and an active participant in the Institute of Sikh Studies (I.O.S.S.) in Chandigarh as well as several other philanthropic projects, Gurdip worked tirelessly to communicate a vision of Sikh society in the twenty-first century. His brilliance made a mark on every organization he worked with and his prolific writings were often published.

Brigadier Sahib's counsel was terribly important to me as it was to all those who worked with him. I once sent him an outline of my vision of the Sikhs in the twenty-first century and he spent days writing notes in the margins of my lengthy paper. He exhibited similar depth and commitment while debating the formation of the International Sikh Confederation.

Brigadier Sahib's skill as an organizer and promoter of group participation earned him respect among the Sikh leadership from all quarters. His influence came through, most of all, in his faith in our ability to make plans work, which enabled his colleagues to have faith and confidence in the future. He blended energy and concern with his ability to keep cool among people with conflicting opinions and views. He had a gentle, yet passionate, approach towards complex issues and an ability to discuss issues intensely without raising his voice. These unusual skills made him a constant inspiration to all those who worked with him. It will be difficult to find his likes easily.

Brigadier Grewal has been closely associated with the Guru Nanak Public School, Sector 36, Chandigarh, since 1998 when he was elected member of its governing council.

I cannot think of too many names whose death will mean as much of a loss of wisdom and dedication to the causes of Sikhs today. Brigadier Gurdip Singh Grewal left behind his dedicated wife, Gurdarshan, son, Charandeep, two daughters, Imandeep and Mandeep, and six grand children. His wife, Gurdarshan, is the sister of Captain Kanwaljit Singh, general secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal (S.A.D.) and a former finance minister of Punjab.