A Selfless Life| 45mins
Director: Joginder Kalsi | Producer: Joginder Kalsi
Focus Years: 2009 | Country: Canada
Most religions of the world, in one way or the other, emphasize serving others in need and adversity as a human virtue and a channel for spiritual attainment. Yet only a few are known in human history to live by that ideal truthfully and wholeheartedly. Bhagat Puran Singh of Pingalwara, Amritsar, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta are among the few shining stars in recent history who devoted their entire lives to serve the sick, the weak and destitute. They can truly be considered modern-day saints.
As Khushwant Singh wrote, â€œMother Teresa had the support of the powerful Roman Catholic Church, of the Western media and foundations like Rockefeller and Ford, plus the enormous sums of money she got from the Nobel prize. Bhagat Puran Singh had absolutely nothing.â€
Bhagat Puran Singh, a selfless humanitarian and philanthropist, was born in a village Rajewal near Khanna in East Punjab in 1904. His birth was a tragic story, having been born after his mother had to abort three pregnancies forced on her by her husband.
His mother, Mehtab Kaur, was a pious woman who had a lot of problems in raising and schooling him. She had to get menial jobs to support his education and had to travel to far away places.
Bhagat ji started his social service in Dera Sahib Gurudwara at Lahore. When his family left him in the entrance of the Gurudwara at night, he took the responsibility of looking after Pyara Singh, a deformed child of 4 years. Bhagat ji carried him on his shoulders for 14 years.
In 1947, when India won her independence, Bhagat Puran Singh moved to Amritsar and started looking after these marginalized people on the roadside, washing their wounds and clothes and feeding them till he opened Pingalwara, "A House for Cripples."
Pingalwara was a pioneering approach to building a hospital for the common man. Bhagat ji believed that it is really up to the society at large to shoulder the responsibility for health care.
In an established city like Amritsar, where fully equipped hospitals existed, what the common man needed was a convalescence facility for longer stays with full board. Unlike conventional locations, Pingalwara was and is a health care and rehabilitation center that serves everyone. This, according to Bhagat ji, was the reason for the existence of Pingalwara.
Bhagat ji was a voracious reader and a multi-dimensional personality. He was keen in spreading the message of great people to the masses. He started a printing press where he published thousands of books, pamphlets on social issues and distributed them free of cost. He was 50 years ahead of his time: he believed in protection of the environment, he preached about pollution, and encouraged people to plant trees. Even on his deathbed, when the chief Minister of Punjab asked Bhagat ji if he could do anything for him, Bhagat ji replied, â€œGrow more trees."
Bhagat ji died in 1992, leaving a legacy for the world to see. This 45-minute documentary explores the history, religious co-existence, political, art, culture, and social fabric of one of the worldâ€™s most remarkable cities.
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