Saturday, January 07, 2006


Tragedy struck during Christmas Week when my friend and brother Birjinder passed on from this Earth. I dont think I can truly put into words the genuine love and affection that I had for Birji. He was perhaps the most noble and decent man I ever had the privledge of knowing. I cannot really remember a negative word about anyone else uttered from his mouth and his jubiliant and caring nature were just overwhelming and drawed people of all races, colors and creeds towards him.

Birj was a character in the truest sense of the word. From the 35 metric tons of sugar he used in all the iced tea he drank, to his penchant for creating totally fallacious stories he would tell to get people to believe some oddity about his life. One such story I remember was when he was doing his MS at UC Santa Cruz, he would tell people that he was living in a campground as he couldnt find housing on campus. Now this may not seem like the most intersting of story or even that funny at all. To that all I can say is, you just didnt know Birj.

In Anand Sahib, the prayer of bliss, Sikhs read everyday:
"Eh Sarir(a) Meria, Es Jag May Aae Kai, Kia Tudh karam Kamaaeiaa.
O my body, why have you come into this world and What have you really earned.

This thukh from Gurbani has always stayed with me as a guiding principle of how I would want to live my life. While I have probably not lived up to it too often, Birjinder did on a daily basis.

His passion for the cause -- whatever cause it was he felt was valuable -- was unwavering. As an undergrad student at CAL, he was a tireless cog in the Sikh Students Association machine of the mid 90's. After he graduated he still stayed true to his activist roots for the environment, global justice and social reform. It was after 9/11 that Birjinder truly shined, as a co-founder of ASATA that he really came into his own. While I cant speak to all of his work in detail -- see below for people who can -- I can speak to his passion for his work.

Birj took the troubles of the world onto himself and felt that he could be the one to solve them all. He was ever vigilant in working to a common goal and was a tremendous team player; be it drafting a proposal, working on a human rights presentation and poster till 5am for an 8am conference, or making 10,000 copies for handouts.

I las saw Birj at a film festival in San Francisco just before he was leaving for Hong Kong for the WTO Protest last month. As always we gave each other a huge hug as though it had been years since we last saw each other. I invited him to lunch with some friends and I, but he had to wait for some people and I went on my way. I remember how excited he was about Hong Kong, his research on worker conditions in India for his thesis and just in life in general. I remember thinking how proud of him I was to see him really having all parts of his like clicking on all cylinders and him having them going in the exact direction he wanted. That is most likely what made it even more difficult when I heard the news of his passing.

While I have so much more to say and feel I am not doing justice to my dear friend, I can only hope that those that knew him will continue to look to him for advice, counsel and inspiration. We need to continue his fights and struggles, as a tribute to him, AND becuase we OWE it to him.

I will end for now with a poem that many have posted in response to Birjinder's passing:

I loved my friend.
He went away from me.
There's nothing more to say.
The poem ends
Soft as it began-
I loved my friend.

Langston Hughes

For more on Birjinder's life, struggles and passions please read the following:


At 9:19 PM , Blogger brainy said...

thank you kavneet - mini

At 9:19 PM , Blogger brainy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8:59 PM , Anonymous Gauravjit Singh said...

Thank you for the very touching and memorable comments on Birj. Brings back some of the memories I have of Birj...I remember the first day I moved to California and I was in Berkeley. The first Californian that I met, who was also the first Sikh I met, was Birj. He was sitting outside Pasqua coffee house enjoying a cup of coffee with a friend. He stood up, greeted me and my mother, and made us his friends. Since then, I always knew Birj as a friendly person and never without a smile.
We'll miss you Birj.

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At 10:35 AM , Blogger jaslyn said...

I will always remember little Birjinder, we played, we argued, we shared our cheesburgers and fries! My love for him is stronger than ever. I know in my heart that he was supposed to be an angel, because he was an angel amongst us all. He just got promoted in doing work for our Guru ji. I love you Birjinder. One day, we'll meet, our broken chain will link again.


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