Human : Sahib Randhawa
Country: Maharashtra, India
Domain: Data Science and Analytics, Mechanical Engineering
Job Profile: Manager, Data Analyst, Mechanical Engineer
A faith founded in the early 15th century has paved the way in showing the world what service to humanity looks like. The Golden Temple, the most revered spiritual site of Sikhism, bears witness to the way of life their Guru’s teachings have shown to the community. Each day a लंगर/ langar or communal free kitchen prepared by devotees and volunteers serves thousands of people who throng the holy place irrespective of religion or faith. It is often touted as the world’s largest free kitchen and represents a tradition that upholds what service to mankind is all about.
ਜਦੋਂ ਚੰਗੇ ਕਰਮ ਦੀ ਸ਼ੁਰੂਆਤ ਹੁੰਦੀ ਹੈ, ਤਾਂ ਸੰਦੇਹ ਦੀ ਕੰਧ ਢਹਿ ਜਾਂਦੀ ਹੈ। ਉਹ ਪਿਆਰ ਨਾਲ ਗੁਰਾਂ ਦੀ ਰਜ਼ਾ ਨੂੰ ਸਵੀਕਾਰ ਕਰਦਾ ਹੈ।
Jis karam khuli-aa tis lahi-aa parh-daa jin gur peh mani-aa subhaa-ay.
‘When good karma dawns, the wall of doubt is torn down. He lovingly accepts the Guru’s Will.‘Sri Guru Granth Sahib ( 1001-19)
And our next human embodies the Sikhs way of ‘seva‘ or service and what it means to be a compassionate believer in the goodness that still exists in the world around us. He isn’t just a wonderful conversationalist who would strike up friendships anywhere he goes but also one of those rare beings who would stop by and help out people in need . So here’s introducing our next human in the series , the magnetic Sahib Randhawa, born in the heartland of Punjab and raised in the ‘city of dreams’ in Mumbai with a background in mechanical engineering and foraying into the world of data science & analytics. He is an outspoken proponent of gender equality as well as an ardent advocate for humanitarian causes.
Forging a unique identity
Born in the historical industrial town of Batala in the North-western state of Punjab, he fondly recalls summer holidays in what is known as the ‘breadbasket’ of India. A summer filled with the aroma of scrumptious Punjabi delicacies and ‘खेत’/khet or farmlands where kids would splatter around water tanks in the scorching summer heat. His dad, the senior Randhawa, served in the Navy and the family relocated to the city of Mumbai. But his parents made sure the children knew where their ‘Pind‘ and roots were from. And he recollects train rides to Batala on school holidays and a house brimming with relatives and food.
On being asked what does he identify himself as , he would say, ‘ A global citizen.’
That he truly was. He grew up in a cosmopolitan setup in a Navy household and remembers how it shaped his views on the world around him. His father is someone he immensely looks up to as he tells me how there is no stopping the sturdy septuagenarian who still loves to head to work and finds the resilience to be independent on his own terms. The Senior Randhawa did break a lot of barriers in his ‘pind’. And is clearly reflected in the affection his son feels for his dad and his path-breaking achievements. There really was nothing that could stop the spirited ‘papaji’ from breaking more preconceived notions about retired veterans.
The selfless service for a greater good is something his community strongly believes in and he recollects how his dearest mom would travel for miles on end to teach underprivileged children in community schools. Come rain or shine , she was dedicated to the cause for the longest time. And if there was one thing the Randhawa‘s imbibed in their children was the act of being selfless – of using your resources and your abilities to help others who need it. That little spark handed down by his parents has ignited a passion for service and championing humanitarian causes in Sahib and he shares how he would love to someday be able to contribute his small part to the world.
Navigating a world of prejudices
Growing up in a progressive set-up, he had to learn to navigate through the outside world which wasn’t always fair and just. He narrates to me an incident in his ‘Uni‘ days where one of his favorite professors didn’t reveal his sexual orientation until it was time for his students to leave the Uni.
In his own words, he would admit, ‘It just goes on to show how stigmatized homosexuality still is in our society that a professor, rather a friend knew us for four years and still thought it was best to hide an intimate detail of his life, maybe in the fear of being ostracised.‘
He remembers how Prof. Kiran helped him set up the literature club at Manipal University which in turn brought in the MUN society at his college. The brilliant professor never let who he was dictate what he could do and he paved the way for a whole new perspective for his students. It wasn’t just timeless literature that the professor introduced them to. He showed them a world where who you were or what you were didn’t dictate what you could or couldn’t do.
That was one of those instances where he realized how sometimes the biases and notions that exist in our societies create the facade we have to put up for people. And that is also one of the reasons why he feels so passionate about breaking the mould and removing stigmas that exist around us. He has always identified himself as the biggest proponent of gender equality and has been pretty vocal about his views.
He would proudly declare, ‘Of course, I am a feminist!.’
Here was a person who wasn’t apologetic about his views or the causes he ardently believes in. He tells us how he has seen his mom and sister navigate through a world that wasn’t always fair or kind to the other gender. The sexism, the inequalities and the prejudices did exist across all walks of life and having seen the world through their eyes as well as experiences, he understands the problem that ails our system.
And as he would say that acknowledging it is the least he could do.
Finding a niche
‘The city of dreams’ – Mumbai is a place he calls home for the longest time. He describes how Mumbai was once upon a time an amalgamation of seven different islands. It is indeed an engineering wonder considering the number of skyscrapers that peak through the skyline. Those skyscrapers as he recalls did inspire him to dream bigger for himself.
When asked if his favorite thing about his hometown is those high rises, he cheerfully remarks, ‘No, the airport is.’
Being in the ‘air’ was something he truly loved.
He would associate ‘freedom‘ with flying. There was a certain ‘liberty’ that he felt about being miles away from the ground and that same ‘liberation‘ was something he was seeking in his professional life too.
His formal background in mechanical engineering did give him exposure to several domains in the industrial sector. From visiting paper manufacturing plants to nuclear power plants, he has indeed seen the best of the manufacturing industry. He admits there are equally good days and bad days. He recalls an incident where he narrowly escaped the NTPC Unchahar incident by just a day. He had been there the previous day before the incident that killed a couple of people at the site. It was moments like this that did remind him how fragile life really was and that time was slowly slipping by.
But what scared him the most was being a part of what he calls the ‘rut’.
He would lament, ‘I don’t want to be another robot in the system.‘
The technological domain was something that really fascinated him for the longest time. His formal training did limit his ability to dive into the domain of computer science. But this was an opportunity that he had to take to find the freedom that he had been looking for.
He confesses ‘Technology is like magic.’
He has always marveled at how the smartphone that fits in the palm of our hands has so much potential to change the world around us. It is simply not just a product of technology, but a means to create ‘change’. So it was only a matter of time before he dived into the deep end of the tech world and make a path for himself.
Chasing his dreams
He recollects how in 10th grade , he and his friends would play this game called ‘Cows and Bulls’, where one has to think of a four-digit number and the other has to guess it. He proudly confesses how it was the only game he could code in C++ .
He would say, ‘I felt like an artist.’
Creating that game gave him the confidence he needed and made him realise how technology has so much potential.
But the road wasn’t always easy.
He had to take up another domain in his college. But the intrigue he had for tech remained with him through the years. He recounts a few years of a lull in his professional as well as personal life and how he almost gave it all up.
So it was only natural that when years later he was made aware of a coursework that could help him get into the tech world that had fascinated him for so long, he would immediately sign up. He was back to learning the ropes of programming and putting in the hours to navigate the world of computer science and data analytics. With a job that demanded constant travel and a fixed working hour, he could barely squeeze in time to get to his studies. But he was determined that he was going to make it.
The multifaceted Sahib didn’t just succeed to enter the tech scene but also got into a business school that he had been trying to get through.
He had risen above any limitations and challenges that came along his way. There was no stopping this young hard-working lad from achieving greater things and crossing more barriers each day. If there was something he showed us along the way , it was the beauty of patience and faith in one’s dreams.
The only thing he had to do was not give up.
There were really no limitations when it came to the tech industry. He had found the power to create.
He explains, ‘A blank page on a text editor on your computer is your canvas and you are the artist.’
It has indeed been a bittersweet journey from testing times to now being skilled with the tools to be able to create products that he has always marveled about. His intention as he confesses is to be able to give back to the community by generating employment. He wants to extend the concept of ‘seva‘ that he has been brought up with to help create jobs through the various technologies he has equipped himself with.
Seeking the future
The moment Sahib walked into our lives, we knew we had encountered a rare breed of humans that exist around us. The passion with which he addresses global issues and his dreams of creating change around the world as well as his vocal support for gender equality and human rights leaves us with a ‘hope‘ that the world is in safe hands.
There is no stopping this ‘munda‘ who wants nothing more than to live a life worth living.
He reminds us of a famous poem written by the poet Baba Najmi:
Manzil de matthe
de utte takhti lagdi unhadi,
jede gharon banaake turde ne
naksha apne safran da.
The destination is the place where those who find thrones,
start out with a map of their journey.”
His journey has not just inspired us but shone a light on how the darkest of days don’t last forever when you refuse to settle for the ordinary.
He represents not just a new generation of young dreamers in India ,who are seamlessly transitioning from their limitations and breaking new barriers in the tech space , but also showed us how your domain or job profile or age do not determine what or who you can be.
Technology is and will always be an equaliser.
As he would quote us a Japanese proverb , ‘Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still.’
It was indeed true that the only thing that can stall you is ‘You’.
So this is for all the ‘paaji’s‘ and ‘bibiji’s‘ burning the midnight oil for their dreams , pushing through their 9-5 ,chasing a new direction in their lives, aiming for creating something extraordinary, forging a new path in ਵਿਦੇਸ਼/’videsh‘ or abroad, breaking the barriers as well as limitations in their societies and communities to fight a little harder for their ਸੁਪਨੇ/Sapne or dreams.
Just like this one young lad has shown us.
We will make it through all odds.
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