Amrit Singh

State of Punjab, India

Amrit Singh's portrait
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“Most of time if any tragedy happened to me; I saw two examples: One bad, one good, always at the same time.”

Amrit is from the state of Punjab. He is a Sikh; hence why he and his wife, Amninder, who is also featured in this project wear the turban. Sikh are taught to lead a life of discipline; to rise early in the morning; to cleanse externally and through prayer; to meditate on the Almighty; to discard negative traits of the mind and grasp the positive vibes from their Guru’s word (Gurbani). Sikhs have a very strong sense of duty to oneself, the family and the community and perform this to the best of their ability on a day to day basis. Amrit explains that because he is a Sikh, it is his duty to help and that a true Sikh will never shy away from someone’s call for help. He explains that the turban, the beard and the rules and regulations that he follows are “his real appearance”; one that he returned to after he migrated to New Zealand.

He remembers that he always tried his best back home India. Having a good career is very important to Punjabis but he reminisces that no matter how hard he tried, he was unable to achieve the things that he wanted to achieve. He decided to leave India and chose to come to New Zealand because of the work opportunities that could open themselves up to him here. Amrit admits that it was difficult for him to settle in New Zealand. The culture was very different to what he was accustomed to, the language difficult to understand and even more so; the people we difficult to make sense of.

He arrived in New Zealand just after a young Indian boy was shot in South Auckland. There was tension in the Indian community and he was advised to “wait a bit” before starting to look for work in the area. Settling in “it took time”. His priority was to find stable work, like many young migrants who come here with the support of their family but do not have this continued support after their arrival. It took him four months to begin to understand what people were looking for; he explains. From then, he was able to work on himself and hone the relevant skills to make himself employable and finally start making the most of the chances he knew existed in New Zealand. He remembers the interesting and somewhat confusing experience of working in a dairy shop. He was new in New Zealand and didn’t know the law or how the police worked here. Many times, the owner would tell him that someone had stolen from the shop and that he should chase them and he would! He even remembers that he almost got hit once; trying to catch up with a guy who had stolen something from the shop. He says however that he also saw the good in people during his time there. To him, this is how the world balances itself out: When something bad happens, something good will also happen…Amidst some of the bad, Amninder happened.

Amrit and Amninder met through their parents. It is not an arranged marriage; rather a suggested meeting. They were both young Sikh beginning their lives in New Zealand and they had both shared similar challenges. Amninder was an energetic young lady and Amrit was calmer and more poised. They hit it off stragithaway and were soon married. It is after their wedding that they decided to return to their Sikh roots; something that neither of their parents had considered yet. In spite of his young age Amrit, seems to have had this clear idea that change is state of mind…a way of thinking. As a Sikh, he says that some people feel the change happen on the inside and that the outside just becomes an expression of this new inner life. Others however, hope that by changing the outside, the inside will follow. For him, changing and embracing Sikh tradition came from within his deepest self, at a point in his life when he was seeking guidance and substance but was not able to find those in the life choices he had made for himself. For Amninder, embracing her true Sikh identity almost came as a coming-of-age. She shed away Amninder, the young naïve student and became Amninder Kaur; a strong and confident woman who takes pride in her Sikh heritage every day; not matter what and who has connected with her inner strength through her change.

Change seems to have been an integral part of both Amrit and Aminder’s growth here in New Zealand. They both experienced a certain degree of resistance after their “change” and while they admit that their experiences could have deterred them, or others, they simply took it upon themselves to turn this resistance into a tool for learning and a tool for growth. Amrit says that he often gets confused for being a Muslim and that he has had a certain level of prejudice thrown at him because of this. It happened to him here in Ashburton; but once more, this injustice was counteracted by a positive action. An older man who was walking past and heard the abuse being thrown at him, came up to him and apologized on behalf of the people who had yelled at him. This is what Amrit chooses to focus on. He prefers to uphold the positivity that underlies the Sikh religion and his life. His message is simple…Don’t hate.