Sikh Missionary Society U.K. (Regd)
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Reg Charity No: 262404
God Oriented Man
Mela Singh Khokhar
Mela Singh Khokhar, was son of Bhagat (Saint) Boorra Mall of Batala,
District Gurdaspur, Punjab. His mother was Mata (mother) Nihali (Nihal
Dai). He was born on 14 July 1884, at 12 Oclock - midnight. He was 8 years
old when his mother died, and he was brought up by his grandmother Mai
Dialan, and elder sister Bibi Melo. His younger brother Bishan Das died
young, and a younger sister died as a child.
In 1900 AD, when he was studying in 5th Grade, he was married to Bibi Isri, daughter of Budh Singh and Rukman, of the village Banguvaanee, Tehsil Dhariwal, District Gurdaspur, 12 miles from Batala,. She died and he again married Bibi Isar Kaur, younger sister of his previous wife.
Bhagat Boora Mall
Bhagat Boorra Mall, father of Mela Singh Khokhar, was 6 feet tall, robust, healthy, a hard working saintly householder, and a friend of faquirs and saints. He did not differentiate among the Hindus, Muslims, any others, and equally loved everyone. He was master of the craft of carpentry, and spent his life working at Baring Union Christian College, Batala. Till today, the main door of the college church stands decorated with his masterpiece carvings. The principal, staff, students, and the people in general revered him.
He was charity minded, and during summer, he would serve melons to the
people especially on the day of Nirjala Akadashi - a special day according
to the Bikrami calendar.
Boorra Mall, obstructed the dirty-water drain of Prabh Dayal, his cousin brother, to pass through his house. Prabh Dayal sued Bhagat Boorra Mall. Boorra Mall and Mela Singh were waiting for the call outside the High Court, Lahore. Sa-in sweIN sweIN (a Muslim Saint) Lughae Shah, a friend of Boorra Mall, happened to come that way, and curtly asked, “Tell me the truth, why are you here?” Reluctantly, Boora Mall told about the case. Angrily, the saint raised his long bamboo stick high, hit the ground hard, and said, “He harasses my father’s son! I have crushed his head.”
The saint asked for melons, when brought, he divided them into four parts. He kept one portion for himself, gave another to Boorra Mall, and two to Mela Singh - one for him and the other for his wife. Without telling, he knew that she was pregnant. Later, Pritam Singh Khokhar was born to her.
Boorra Mall was so healthy that once he drank more than one kilogram
of Ghee (butter oil) and comforably digested it. He was hardly in his forties
when the Bhagat died of an ordinary fever. Meera Baksh told his son Mela
Singh,”The friends of your father have come.” There was a Darvesh (faquir)
sitting in the way, and he was playing drum striking his hand on to a bowl.
He was asked to leave the path for taking out the deceased. He retorted,
“Today, my friend is leaving, and they say get aside, why?”
Mela Singh Khokhar became a student of Mahant Kesar Singh of Gurdwara
Dera Sahib, Batala, and learnt from him Gurmukhi, Nit-Nem - routinely recited
Scriptures, recitation of Guru Granth Sahib (the Holy Book), and Gurmatt
- orientation to the Guru and God. In 1904, he passed his middle school
from M.B. Middle School, Batala.
In 1904, he joined the Railway at Kotri in Hydrabad Sindh (near Karachi, now in Pakistan), at rupees 20 per month. To learn the trade, he offered one rupee and a turban to Mistry (mechanic) Ramzan, and became his disciple. Later, as a trainee he went to Mogulpura Railway Workshop, Lahore. From there, he left for Allahbad to join the railway, but the doctors failed him, because they were not given a bribe. It was his principle neither to bribe anyone , nor to accept a bribe.
He rejoined at Mogulpura Workshop. His officer Mr. Echlon advised him, “Mela Singh, keep your hands clean” - stay honest. All his life, he kept this advice dear to his heart and followed the honesty. There, he rented a room at rupees two per month. On coming to know that prostitutes were in the neighborhood, he imediately moved to the inn of Wazir Ali, who had reserved one room in his inn for the Sikhs to hold their Gurdwara (a place for them to pray).
He passed the railway grade examinations, and with his hard work he progressed quickly, became a Head Train Examiner, and later acted as a Carriage and Wagon Inspector. He was responsible for maintaining the running stock, repair of the carriages, checking of the fitness of the running trains, and for recovery as well as repair of the accidented compartments. The locomotives were under a separate department.
He handled the staff with compassion, and understood their needs. He used to make the irresponsible person understand with his politeness and if need by reprimanding, but would never harm anyone with his pen, although he had wide powers to employ or discharge anyone. He would get incorrigible persons transfered to keep an ideal atmosphere.
He was ever helpful, however angry he might have become. His staff and
colleagues knew it well. It was taken for granted that if he became annoyed,
his request or application was accepted. He was very kind, considerate,
compassionate and helped everyone. He alwas rescued his associates Lal
Singh, Mohammad Sadiq etc. from their problems. Once, Lal Singh lost his
job, and he had to marry his daughter. Mela Singh sent rupees one hundred
for her marriage. In those days, one hundred rupees was a huge amount.
He occasionally sent money to his one retired English friend living in
In the Great War I, during the tenure of his service, he was sent on contract to the Railway in Africa. He took with him Panj Granthi, Bhagat Bani, Nit-Nem, and Sukhmani Sahib - books of the Scriptures. The ship left on 3 February 1917. In the ship, he opted for raw (uncooked) ration. His Gursikh (a practicing Sikh) subordinate Lal Singh, cooked meals for the both. He was very strict in cleanliness and would not allow anyone to touch his food with unclean hands. Rather he preferred a properly inducted Sikh to serve him. He strictly observed Souch suc suc (purity - cleanliness) in his everyday life, and seriously practiced his faith.
At Darulislam, there was not much work, and he spent most of the time reciting Gurbani. In his cottage at Africa, Lal Singh continued cooking the food, and when short of kerosene, would use butter oil to start the fire. It was not a cheap commodity. Mela Singh would give away his ration of whisky to Bhagat Singh who was fond of drinking.
He was checking a military railway special. A white Muslim assistant was with him. In the special train there were negro soldiers and their wives. A black woman went to him and said,”Meat of this white man should be tasty. Sell him to us.”
A dog had been crushed by the train. The soldier from the military-special train asked his permission, started fire at that very spot, half roasted the dog and ate it. Anderson was standing nearby. A black lady went there, pointed to white man and said, “What a nice thing. I will like to eat him.” Even in such a country, Mela Singh was respected and appreciated for his honest hard work, ethical life, and God orientation. In illness or health, he never missed his Nit-Nem - reading his prescribed Scriptures, and Nam-Jaap (recitation of the name of God).
Once, early in the morning when it was still dark, Mela Singh took a
Garvi (a pot, jug) of water and went out to the closeby forest to answer
the call of nature. Suddenly, a lion roared, and he bolted back to his
shed holding girdle of his pyjama in his hand.
He left Africa for home on 1 February 1918 AD, and joined duty in the
Vacuum Department at Mogulpura Workshop. To his honor, he invented certain
gauges and devised mechanisms to solve the problems of vacuum of
the railway trains.
At Makkarwal, Mohammad Din was suspended. The police brought his search warrants for theft of the railway oil-lamp. Mela Singh assured the police, “First search me and then go to him.” It earned him high appreciation and increased his respect multifold.
There, he had an area of 300 miles under his control. According to the
orders of the railway authorities, he labeled specified railway cars not
to be loaded with coal. The mine owners, railway station masters etc. tried
their best to bribe, and even threatened him, but he kept to his honesty
and did not revoke his orders. He had stiff opposition, but he left every
thingto Waheguru (God), and serious misunderstandings created among
the officers cleared up. The truth and honesty always win!
At Lalamusa, his immediate boss Mr. Majiz wanted Mela Singh to secretly report about his staff, but he flatly refused to oblige him.
Some Sikhs were taking a foal in a railway cargo car, to offer it at
the Gurdwara Hazoor Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh had repeatedly appeared to
them in dreams and had directed to take it to his last resort.
Shortly after taking charge at Naushehra, he was transferred again to
another station. His one colleague manged to get himself posted there.
His staff felt sorry for this. Mela Singh retorted, “One has to work, here
or anywhere else.”
Kundian. He believed that when anyone earns his name with good qualities, his name travels ahead of him wherever he goes. At Kundian, Mela Singh was awarded many certificates due to his dedicated, intelligent hard work, and compassionate handling of the staff.
He was pained to see that Dost Mohammad, son of a very able blacksmith Ali Mohammad, though a qualified fitter, was serving as a cooly in the carriage shop. With his strong recommendations he got him promoted as a rivetter. His opnion was that one should get what one deserves - the qualities of no one should ever go to waste.
There, the people selected him president of the Gurdwara - the Sikh place of prayer. The staffs of all departments cooperated with him, and in place of a small mud house, a big brick building of Gurdwara came up. After the project was completed, he very humbly got aside and left Gurdwara to the Sangat - congregation, to manage it. He believed, after the goal was achieved, one should get aside when one was still respected.
When transferred from Kundian, he was given a big party by the Carriage
and Wagon, Loco, and Station Master’s staff, all combined. His work
and qualities were highly appreciated, and gifts were given - a gold ring,
and a cane stick with his name inlaid on its handle, etc. He with his family
was taken to his decorated railway compartment in a procession led by Ranga
and Mathura beating drums and dancing. He had a high pile of garlands around
his neck, and his face was half covered with them. There was a rush of
friends and fans at the railway platform, and speeches were given in his
honor. The train left with crackers bursting on the railway track, and
the people on the platform saw him off with heavy hearts, welled up eyes,
and beating drums.
He was the first Indian, incharge of the Carriage and Wagon Department
at Karachi. He had a staff of 275, and it also included the English
people. He reorganized and streamlined working of his department. To eliminate
rampant bribery among the office clerks, and to control pilfering of the
railway stores, he took into his personal supervision many workings of
his office. His officers appreciated it and Mr. Brown was on his support.
Once, he advised, “Mela Singh, a fine imposed is not to a person, but to
his family who suffers.” When transferred, he was very happy, “It is nice
that you are leaving here with a very good name.” Mela Singh never took
undue advantage of his any officer. He believed, practicing ethics was
essential to provide a role model for your staff to be ethical, and when
one dealt with love the staff fully cooperated.
When at Peshawar, he with his family regularly attended Gurdwara of Bhai Joga Singh. Wherever he was transferred, he always had Guru Granth Sahib - the Holy Book, at his bungalow and reserved a room for it. He recited it as his everyday routine.
Suraj Singh, a learned saint, another blind saint, and Saint Jaswant Singh were his friends. They occasionally visited him. Saint Suraj Singh would stay with him for months and would write his books. Mela Singh and his family used to visit Saint Jaswant Singh at Ramdas, in District Amritsar. He had his own library of some selected books on the faith. It was common for visitors, friends and others to accompany him home for tea or food.
Sant Suraj Singh, more than 90, had promised Mela Singh to be with him at his (saint’s) last moments. On getting information that he was not well, Mela Singh brought him to his residence at Kalabagh - on the other side- North, of the river Sindh (Indus). The saint had uncontrolled loose motions.
Isar Kaur, wife of Mela Singh was very patient, and God fearing woman with firm faith in the Gurus. She herself served the saint with her own hands, and did not leave it to the servants. She would comb his hair, feed him, and wash his soiled clothes. One day, the saint said, “Mother, after my death, I will come back to you.” He had prepared his own black coffin with his poem needle-worked on it in Gurmukhi. The poem depicted his Sikh discipline of Amrit (5 Ks), that he observed all his life -
Wearing, Kangha (comb), Kachh (underwear),Soon after the death of saint, Prem Kaur, daughter in law of Isar Kaur-Mela Singh (wife of Pritam Singh Khokhar), became pregnant and a son Inderjit Singh was born to her.
Karra (iron-bangle), Kirpan (dagger), and
Kaes (hair), Suraj Singh is departing after spending his life.
At Naushehra, Faquir Chand was not present to check the train, and by chance an officer arrived in it. Faquir Chand already had a bad record. To protect him, in his place, his boss Mela Singh attended his duty.
He took it as a Dharam (religion, responsibility) to stand for the needy.
On the death of Noor Deen, his mother was not getting his gratuity. Mela
Singh wrote applications on her behalf, personally took her to the officer,
and got her payment cleared. To pursue this, he did not care even
to offend a superior.
On 13 April AD, he left for visiting Hazoor Sahib with his family,
his one clerk and his family. One and a half hours before getting down
at the railway station Nander, he dreamd that he was standing before the
main gate of the Gurdwara, and above the gate was a photo of Guru Gobind
Singh. On reaching Hazoor Sahib, he saw exactly what he dreamed of a short
In about 1940 AD, his one son was falsely implicated and a very prejudiced English police chief named B.T., wanted to make a bomb case against him. He was put into the Lahore fort, and none could trace or visit him. In his dream, Sant Suraj Singh met the boy, and assured him not to worry. It elevated his morale. It was by chance that his father Mela Singh went into the fort unhindered and happened to see him there. This, further encouraged the boy. A Baelcha-Party man (spade-bearer) hit B.T. on his head with a spade, and he died. It closed the case. Thanking the Lord, Mela Singh contributed for the marble for Gurdwara in Taran-Taran, and Gurdwara Atall Sahib in Amritsar.
He kept aside one tenth of his income - tithe, and used it for
regular subscriptions to the Gurdwaras, contributions for celebrations
of the Guru’s days, subscriptions to the magazines related to the Sikh
world, and for charity i.e. help to the needy etc.
He went to the railway saloon-car to meet an officer on his inspection
tour. The officer asked him to give a tin on the table. It was a carton
of cigarrettes. Mela Singh became furious. The Sikhs do not use or even
touch tobacco. Wherever the officer went he remarked, ”I have seen a real
Sikh, Mela Singh.”
Mela Singh was a worshipper of the truth
Mari Indus was on the southern bank of the river Indus, and Kalabagh was on the other side, towards the North. He had dual charge of both the offices. Lala Chuni Lal, brother of the owner of coal mine at Makarwal, was standing on the railway station Mari Indus. He lightly remarked, “We give so much money to the railway people, and even then we do not get wagons to transport coal.” Mela Singh snapped back, “Who says it?” Chuni Lal folded his hands, gave a smile and retorted, “Baba ji, I haven’t named you.”
Mela Singh was the most senior officer in his department. At Mari Indus,
he was promoted to act as the Railway Inspector. He was provided with a
special railway saloon car for his touring. He retired from this station
on 13 August 1945. Gurdwaras both at Kalabagh and Mari Indus held Dewans
(congregations), honored him with sweets, Saropas (scarves of honor) and
Nit-Nem Gutkas - prayer booklets. The staff and friends took him and the
family to the railway station in a procession with beating drums, and the
fresh flower garlands piled up around his neck. Outside his compartment
at the railway platform, he thanked for cooperation of the staff and friends,
advised them about the honesty, sincerity, hard work, respect for elders,
and met everyone individually. The train moved, crackers placed on the
railway track started bursting, and drums kept beating for a long time!.
It was a goodbye to a practical Gurmukh - the God-oriented person who adopted
the rules of ethics in his life and lived in total surrender to the
Guru and God!
Mela Singh was an Amritdhari - properly inducted into the Sikh faith. He had a firm faith in the Guru and God, and never wavered from it. As a routine, he used to get up at 4 A.M., and took bath with fresh cool water. After this, he did Nit-Nem, meditated, and recited Guru Granth Sahib - the Sikh Holy Book. He attended Gurdwara daily in the morning, listened to Kirtan, and returned after taking Parshad - sanctified pudding. He gave a small portion of it to some of his friends who met him on his way back, to others in his Mohalla (area of his residence), to everyone at home, then ate it himself, and after that he used to take his breakfast. When at home, he spent maximum time reciting Paath (Scriptures) and Guru Granth Sahib, meditated and worked on his rosary. He did not believe in superstitions, astrology, magic, soothe-sayers, miracle men, and charms etc. In health or disease, he prayed only to God and to none else. He was strictly against gambling.
When going through bazar, he would meet his acquaintances, and inquired about their healths and families. The whole town, and everyone of every faith respected him. He was truthful, fearless and would not hesitate to say things right at the face. After his retirement, he and his wife visited their sons, and stayed with each of them for a few months.
He was with his son Pritam Singh at Asam. On the day of Pritam Singh’s
interview for the extension of his key engineering post with Assam
Oil Mills, Mela Singh entered the prayer room. He meditated for a long
time, came out and told Mrs. Pritam Singh that he had been selected and
there was nothing to worry. Yes, he was selected for the post! He had great
intuition, and would become aware of the coming events.
End of Journey
At Batala, he developed paralysis. Bed ridden, he would keep reciting
Gurbani and Urdu, as well as Panjabi couplets foretelling his end. After
about one month of his illness, he breathed his last on 1 November 1960,
Tuesday, at 9.55 P.M. Exactly nine days before, he had predicted the day
and time of his death, “I will be free from afflictions on the ninth day.”.
His body was kept in state at home, in a wooden box filled with ice, for four days for the family members to arrive. The countless people visited daily, circumambulated the box, looked at his face, and bowed before him with reverence.
His sealed will was opened on his death. He had advised his wife Isar Kaur to stay carefree as his sons would take full care of her, and would provide her their full support, protection and dedicated service. He had laid down the route of his taking to the funeral ground. His Babaan - long tent like body-cover (coffin), elaborately decorated with flowers, garlands, fruits and toys, carried by six people, was taken according to his willed route. As the procession moved, the people closed their shops, left their homes, and joined the procession preceded by Shabad-Kirtan (singing of the Holy Hymns), Sankh - blowing of a counch, and a gong. The Babaan was first taken to Gurdwara Dera Sahib where Guru Nanak Dev was married, and Mela Singh had his religious education from Mahant Kesr Singh. From there he was taken to Gurdwara Kandh Sahib, where the marriage party of Guru Nanak rested before his marriage ceremony. Suggested by his nephew (son of his sister) Prithipal Singh, on his Babaan was written in Gurmukhi script -
kbIr sMq mUey ikAw roeIAY jo Apuny igRih jwie ]His wife Mata Isar Kaur lived for about 25 years after him. She constantly kept absorbed in the name of God. Gradually, she became totally detached. She suddenly expired due to heart attack, on 25 October 1984, at 10.55 P.M. At that time, she was with his elder son Pritam Singh Khokhar at New Delhi.
rovhu swkq bwpury ju hwtY hwt ibkwie ]
kbIr sMq mUE ikAw roeIAY jo Apuny igRih jwie ]
rovhu swkq bwpury ju hwtY hwt ibkwie ]
Kabir sant mooae keaa roee-aae jo apunae gr;ehe jaa-e
Rovohu sakat baaprae ju haataae haat bikaa-e
Kabir, why cry the death of a saint, who departs to his real abode |
Wail the person who is not oriented to God!
They both, who lived an elevated Guru and God-oriented ethical life, were the real householder saints. They were the revered parents of the author of this book!