[UPDATE: Unfortunately the story of Gulab Singh has not been a pleasant one since the great start that this post originally reported on. Current, and still evolving details, here.]Â
A few days ago a reader sent me a link to a BBC story about Dr. Gulab Singh Shaheen who has been inducted into the Pakistan Punjab traffic police and has become a celebrity on the roads of Lahore where he is quite literally stopping the traffic as Lahoris stop to embrace and greet him.
I felt real good about the continuation of this trend towards reintegrating minority communities who have been systematically sidelined in the past, and even more about the wonderful reception Lahore is giving to Sub-Inspector Gulab Singh. And, of course, my fascination with traffic cops is well known to ATP readers (here, here, here, here, and elsewhere).
However, I hesitated because I wanted an on the ground confirmation. That came today from the Lahore Metroblog (yes, in general, I have more respect for the three Pakistani Metroblogs than for BBC!).
(By the way, I am intrigued by the fact that he is a homeopathic doctor since we had earlier carried another post and video report on the Khalsa Dawakhana and Hakim Sarbir Singh; of course, Sikhs have a long history in what is now Pakistan – here and here – but I wonder whether and why this community has a particular focus on traditional medicine studies).
It turns out, in fact, that Daily Times had a wonderful story on him last week which I had missed earlier. Here is what it said:
“Since yesterday, I have been hearing different greetings, such as sat sari kaal, jo bolay so nihal and ballay ballay from car and bus drivers, motorcyclists and children. Lahoris are really very loving people and these are unforgettable moments for me,” remarked Dr Gulab Singh, the first-ever Sikh to be appointed traffic police warden in Pakistan, in an exclusive interview with Daily Times.
Gulab, the 25-year-old Sikh traffic warden, who hails from Nankana Sahib and now lives in Defence Housing Authority, said that joining the force as a sub-inspector was a dream come true for him. Pledging to do his duty wholeheartedly, he said that the loving welcome he had received from the public had added to his joy. He said he had joined his duty station on Wednesday, and by the second day, dozens of children had forced their parents to stop the car so that they could meet him. Singh is deputed on Alif Laam Meem Chowk on Aziz Bhatti Road in Cantt.
Gulab said he was born in Nankana district in January 1982. His father, Manna Singh, is a farmer and a father of seven – five boys and two girls. Gulab is the youngest of the siblings. Gulab completed his matriculation in Nankana district, graudation in Lahore and then received a doctorate in homeopathy from Bahawalpur. Gulab said he also operated a homeopathic clinic, which he might have to shut down because of his new and demanding posting.
Gulab said he applied for the sub-inspector post when announcements inviting applications appeared in newspapers, but did not tell his family. He informed them only after he was appointed, which translated into a delightful surprise for them, he added. Commenting on his training process, Gulab said, “The attitude of my fellow trainees and officers was very good towards me. Nobody ever forced me to do anything against my religious beliefs.” He said he had no problems wearing his kara (bangle), or keeping his kirpan (dagger) on him. He added that, as he was a vegetarian, green meals were arranged for him in the mess during the training period. “I am very grateful to my officers for this gesture,” Gulab said.
Gulab is multilingual and has command over Urdu, Punjabi, Pashto, Seraiki, and Sindhi. He added, “I can also speak English, but not very fluently.” Gulab also said that he was fond of Punjabi bhangra music and that his favourite singers are Abrar-ul-Haq, Harbajhan Maan and Waris Baig. In terms of the future, Gulab said, “I will do my duty honestly, work like a true and dutiful citizen, and dream of a corruption-free atmosphere.”