A Sikh’s inspiring journey from being called “Osama Bin Laden” to being honoured “NT Local Hero”, a truly Australian story

Tejinder Pal Singh, a true Sikh and a true NT local hero I Photo: DIBP Facebook page

3 November 2016: He is reputed to be “humble” but his actions are far more humbling. After all, not many spend their hard-earned cash to buy 80 kilograms of ingredients to cook up enlivening Indian meals “for hungry and needy people” of northern Darwin.

If you are already impressed with this man’s selflessness then please wait. He has done it not once, twice or half a dozen times; Tejinder Pal Singh has been doing this for the last four years, on the last Sunday of every single month. He finishes his 12-hour shifts as a taxi driver and then “spends five hours cooking up a storm in his kitchen”.

Yesterday, the Northern Territory Government honoured this pure-blood Sikh with the 2017 Northern Territory Local Hero Award.

The award means Mr Singh would now join other state-level winners from across the country for the national Australian of the Year Awards announcement to be made in Canberra on 25 January, 2017.

The food van founder with a soft smile always playing in the corner of his mouth has been featured in the Australian media many times; his art of giving inspiring thousands.

According to australianoftheyear.org.au, Mr Singh’s philanthropic journey was catapaulted by the racist abuse he had to endure at the hands of a passenger he was serving, “After arriving from the Punjab region with his family in 2006, Tejinder endured a racist tirade of abuse while transporting a passenger which inspired the humble man to break down the negative prejudice associated with turbans.”

Mr Sikh’s popularity has been so immense that even the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection appeared excited as it posted a social media status on the devout Sikh’s win. “Congratulations Tejinder Pal Singh, winner of the 2017 Northern Territory Local Hero Award. We proudly sponsor Australia’s Local Hero Award and encourage you to take the time to recognise the selfless contributions our local heroes make to their communities,” the department said in the post.

A man who attributes his generosity to his deep Sikh faith, Tejinder Pal Singh is undoubtedly a man the Indian community, especially the Sikh diaspora in Australia, looks up to with much pride and admiration. In an interview with SBS Punjabi presenter Preetinder Grewal, Mr Singh indicated that he was inspired to do something to spread “awareness of Sikh identity and the Sikh principles of service and humanity” after he was called “Osama Bin Laden” by some.

Commenting on the Department’s Facebook post, Sukhjinder Singh praised the food-van man for having beaten racism with his exemplary philanthropic response.

Similarly, Sydney-based community leader and noted cardiologist Dr Yadu Singh said the award was well-deserved by the Indian Australian.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner recognised the recipients for their outstanding efforts and contributions at a ceremony held in Darwin yesterday evening.

“These inspirational people epitomise selflessness by often putting others before themselves,” Mr Gunner said, “We can all learn from their efforts and hard work in helping make our communities and the whole of the Northern Territory a better place to live and work.”

He further added that these men and women are the people who go about their business unrecognised and so hoped that Territorians would join him in thanking the recipients and wishing them well at the national Awards in Canberra.

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