On World Suicide Prevention Day we are presenting a short video on the experience of Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa who was bereaved by his father’s suicide.
The video is introduced by Dr Gurpreet Kaur, Chartered Clinical Psychologist (@DrKaurTherapy), who asks for the video to be shared with people in your immediate family networks who are less likely to access social media.
The video covers the following areas:
The term ‘committing suicide’
Is suicide selfish
What might have helped his father
The experience of grief
Does grief end
What do we (the community) need to get better at?
Crisis line numbers
Sikh community contact points
Contact for Dr Gurpreet Kaur
As this video is about a young man who lost his father, please do share it predominantly with male figures in your life, such as your father, grandfather, uncles, brothers, sons and friends. Suicide prevention can only happen if we all become more adept at discussing mental health difficulties and struggles openly. By doing so, we will also create avenues for people to understand that there is a pathway towards hope and healing.
Thank you to Kalwinder for bravely sharing his experiences. If you would like to learn more about his work please visit his website: www.khalsir.com or follow him on various social media channels: @KhalSir.
If you have any queries or would like to share your mental health experiences please email email@example.com.
On 1 September 2018, we published The Colour of Madness, an anthology exploring Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) mental health in the UK. The book featured the art, poetry, stories, and essays of over fifty contributors*.
Far from being a one-off publication, The Colour of Madness has taken on a life of its own. We have given talks, spoken on panels, and run workshops at universities, festivals, marketing agencies, council events, and more. Edinburgh University students took our stories from the page to the stage, and our contributors have been making waves across the country. Our book is now in the hands of so many people we admire, from Jackie Kay, to Sharmaine Lovegrove, to Reni Eddo-Lodge. Here’s a snapshot of what we’ve all been up to!
“I really enjoyed dressing up for the Derby Lock-Out scene. I look forward to seeing the final version at the Derby Silk Mill when it unveiled in the Summer of 2020. A great honour to be involved”
Red Saunders is a professional photographer who combines his photographic practice with cultural, artistic, musical, and political activism. The aim of Red’s Hidden Project, through re-imagining those events, is to reproduce important historic scenes involving the dissenters, revolutionaries, radicals and non-conformists who have so often been hidden from history.
Derby’s history can be understood through its people, place and energy. Three historic and globally significant moments for the city will be recreated by Red Saunders in a series of three photographic tableaux for the new Museum of Making:
Derby as the receptacle for a global flow of knowledge and the birthplace of the Enlightenment in the 18th Century.
An expression of working class solidarity and resistance in the first Factory Lock-Out of 1833-34.
The region’s technical advancements that created new ways of understanding and living in the world from 1880 onwards.
This is an once-in-a-lifetime experience to produce a new artwork, both featuring and created for the people of Derbyshire. We’re looking for people of all ages, ethnic groups, genders and abilities who are living and working in the region to get involved and be part of Red’s Derby People Histories tableaux.
Little Pear Tree Ram is Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa’s rambling love letter of sorts and thoughts to the city of Derby and it’s wonderful folk.
A collected children’s edition of poetry and prose, which follows the life of a Derby boy. Touching upon identity, community, culture and many other things that define and strengthen the man that he has become.
The 30 poems in this collection are collected together from Pear Tree Rambler, Pear Tree Rampage, Pear Tree Rampart, Pear Tree Ram and 3 extra poems.
This morning, volunteers from the Derby Museum of Making arrived for a tour of the clock works. After a short introduction from Managing Director Bob Betts, which touched on the history of the family company and its commitment to the future of clockmaking, Bob handed over to Customer Service Manager, Tony Charlesworth, who led the nine visitors on a tour of the factory.
Of particular note was the Harrison Clock. Tony outlined how Smith of Derby apprentices had been responsible for the dismantling, restoring and reassembly of the clock, and how the clock was back to full working order and ready for reinstallation in the Museum of Making at some point before its reopening in 2020.
Among the visitors was Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa, author and teacher and long-term resident of Derby. “I’ve grown up in Derby”, he said, “and now work here and it’s exciting to see Smith of Derby, a company synonymous with Derby itself, continuing the work they have done for generations. Clocks give you a (sense of) time and a place, clocks themselves and the memory of them can take you back in time. It’s sad when you see a clock somewhere and it’s stopped, as soon as a clock dies it’s not the same. Time is a beautiful thing and horology and it’s great to see your work here at Smith of Derby and how you are evolving and restoring clocks and keeping them alive.”
Joining Tony on the tour was also Nick Whitworth, 6th Generation of Smith Family, who enjoyed being reminded of what unusual and interesting company Smiths is when seen through new eyes. Nick remarked how “it’s great to be amongst those who are perhaps encountering the work we do for the first time. They asked lots of questions and were inquisitive and wanted to know how clocks worked and why they were the way they were. Of course, those of us connected with the company are proud of the work we do, the traditional and the cutting-edge, but it’s nice to share this feeling with others and to see that our work is prompting an enthusiastic response.”
Tributes paid to much-loved Derby PE teacher who was as an ‘absolute legend’
Steve Jones has passed away
By Nick Reid
08:56, 1 JAN 2019
A “jolly blue giant”, a “gentleman” and a “legend” is how former pupils have described a Derby PE teacher who died just before Christmas.
Hundreds of pupils and teachers from the former Homelands Grammar School, which later became Village Community School, have paid tribute to Steve Jones who taught there for 30 years.
Many have come forward to share their memories of the 68-year-old grandfather and how his influence has helped shape their lives.
Former pupil Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa, 39, said: “I will always remember him as a jolly blue giant, with a great big moustache as he would always wear the same blue jacket and tracksuit bottoms.
Steve’s son Andy Jones said: “He was a real character, a great role model, much loved by everybody and he made a difference to so many people’s lives.”
Another former pupil Yas Ellahi wrote: “Most of us will not remember many teachers names, but you mention Mr Jones and people will say Homelands school, he was the pillar of Homelands.”
A great guy who everybody loved
Mr Jones, of Mickleover, started teaching at the school in 1972 and was one of a handful of teachers who was still there when closed down back in 2002.
He went on to teach at West Park School, in Spondon, before retiring at the age of 57, around ten years ago.
Andy Jones, 35, paid tribute to his father and was delighted to see so many comments from his former pupils.
He said: “My dad was just a great guy who everybody loved.
“It is still very raw at the moment, but it has been so comforting to read the comments that have been flooding in across Facebook.
“It fills in the blanks as you don’t often see the impact he had on so many people’s lives.
“He will be missed by everyone in our family, it is such a sad time.”
A lovely, kind man
Mr Dhindsa was at the school from 1991 to 1996 and was inspired to become a teacher because of the influence Mr Jones had on him.
He said: “He was just a lovely, kind man who had such a great influence on me and so many students.
“You never wanted to be in trouble with Mr Jones. He always had that presence that if you misbehaved he would be tough. You never saw that side to him though.
“He was at the school for thirty years and was there right until the end in 2002.
“When you are a kid you have your sports heroes, like David Beckham, but as you get older you realise that the real heroes were back in the playground and in the classrooms.
‘Teachers’ by Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa
Superheroes disguised unveiled in hindsight.
Superpowers bequeathed through the moonlight.
Remember those dreams that left you spellbound.
Life’s greatest heroes prowl the school playground.
Mr Dhindsa said: “Did I have Mr Jones in particular in mind when I wrote it two weeks ago? Most probably. As well as all the other great heroes and heroines of mine from school.”
“We had some great teachers at the school when I was there and Mr Jones is one of those that you always remember.
“The school had its problems over the years, but we were one big family and it was people like Mr Jones who made it such a special place to be.”
He was always willing to help
Sam Robinson also contacted Derbyshire Live to share her memories of Mr Jones.
She said: “He was a teacher second and a friend first as he would do anything he could to help.
“I had a real phobia of school because of bullies and he used to take me there every morning.
“He was more like an uncle than a teacher and you could go to him with queries or problems and he was always willing to help.
“There are a lot of people who have been left shocked by this and my thoughts are with his family.”
Many former pupils of Mr Jones and colleagues have take to social media to express their sorrow of his loss.
Several have posted in a special Facebook group set up for those who went to the school over the years.
Adam Leather wrote: “He always had time for you no matter what was going on. I think he was the only teacher to truly understand us guys at Village. It was an honour to know this great man. He will be sadly missed.”
Lisa Mason wrote: “Pupils were his number one.
“He gained as much respect as he did then and now as he knew how to treat his pupils.
“To gain respect you need to show respect. He certainly did that. One of the life lessons I took away from him. He wasn’t one for numbers, we were children growing and achieving, not a roll number.”
Absolute hero of a teacher
Tasha Beswick said: “He was the best teacher I have ever known. He was always there for his pupils. He would treat you with respect and would always listen.
“He will be very much missed. I never respected a teacher like I respect him.”
Zafar Iqbal wrote: “He was my PE teacher and an absolute legend. He was a great teacher, may he rest in peace.
Tris A Hb, who attended homelands between 1981 to 1986, wrote: “Absolute hero of a teacher. Not just a teacher, but one hell of a gentleman who impacted on all who attended Homelands School.
Kelly Sahota wrote: “He had a great sense of humour. When I think of Homelands, I think of Mr Jones. RIP Jonesy.”
Manjit Bains said: “He was funny, down to earth and approachable. A teacher I will always remember.”
Celebrated British Punjabi author Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa, pictured above with Senior Teacher Dr Elizabeth Coombes, gave a personal talk to our students today, confronting the ever-growing issues of mental health within society. He emphasised the importance of discussing one’s problems in order to move beyond them and lead a positive life. Khalsir has written extensively on the subject of depression and has completed a very well received memoire documenting the challenges he faced following the suicide of his father. The talk was poignant, thought provoking and uplifting.
I shall be in attendance signing copies of my books ‘My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree’ Part One & Two.
“Kalwinder’s book “My Father & the Lost Legend of Pear Tree (Part One – The Trough)”, published in 2016, traces the story of his father’s life and suicide, and how that impacted upon the author during his life in the Pear Tree area of Derby.
His sequel “Part Two – The Crest” was published in May 2018 and recounts how he has achieved salvation from his grief through his active dedication to DCFC’s heritage. He tells how he turned his dream of establishing permanent memorial statues at Pride Park Stadium to Rams legends – Steve Bloomer, Brian Clough & Peter Taylor – into reality.
Kal’s writings are an important contribution to how supporters continue to promote Derby County’s great legacy and also to improving the awareness of mental health issues. He is our guest at the Derby Football Memorabilia Fair; he will be offering signed copies of his books at special prices and talking about his Rams heritage work”.
I appeared at Whooverville X yesterday and met some great people.
Here I am with Paul Cornell. Paul and his Doctor Who story ‘Father’s Day’ appear in Part One of my own story. It was nice to chat to him and share my love of that particular episode and how much he meant to me as it was the last episode I ever watched with my father.
Here I am with a fellow Doctor Who fan by the name of Helena. She had already read Part One and was very much looking forward to reading Part Two. It was great to chat to her.
And here I am with the actor David Gooderson who played Davros in Destiny of the Daleks. Incredibly, I found out that he was born in Lahore. So in effect he is a Punjabi like myself. I had a good chat with him. A very nice man. He also once appeared in Lovejoy too.
Steve Bloomer was an England international footballer who became Derby County Football Club’s all time record goal scorer. Although not born in Derby, he was raised in a inner city suburb called Pear Tree where he would develop his footballing abilities and go on to become one of the greatest players the game has ever produced.
My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree is essentially a story about my father’s suicide. In a series of moments in my life I reconnect with Steve Bloomer, a ghostly pale face from the past, who then takes me on a journey of regeneration and discovery. Thus allowing me to eventually come to terms with my father’s death and in the process kick off my quest for happiness. Told in a non-linear time format I take the reader through a journey in time. Recounting how my father, myself and Steve Bloomer all grew up in Pear Tree, Derby and what then became of all our lives.
MF&TLLoPT is essentially a story about my father’s suicide and how a reconnection with a ghostly pale face from the past takes me on a journey of regeneration and discovery. Thus allowing me to eventually come to terms with my father’s death and in the process kick off my quest for happiness.
The story is told in two parts over the two years I worked as a teacher of Science at John Port School in Etwall, Derbyshire. Beginning with the death of my father in March 2006 to the birth of my daughter Layla in October 2008, and then ultimately the unveiling of the Steve Bloomer bust at Pride Park in 2009. During the progression of my story a series of flashbacks take me back to happier times as well as the more recent darker days leading up to and after my father’s death. Told in a non-linear time format I take the reader through a journey of how my father and I both grew up in Pear Tree, Derby. Halfway into Part One I reveal a memory about a legendary Derby County & England Football player who I had unexpectedly stumbled across in my childhood and who would never leave my thoughts.
It is Steve Bloomer who I reconnect with in Part Two after I leave my teaching job and look for a happier life. With time on my hands and a need to keep busy and distracted I decide to fervently buy up and read as many books about Derby as I can. Anything to somehow make connections back to my father, and look back into times in which I believe he would have been happier. I finally decide to read Peter J. Seddon’s Biography of Steve Bloomer, which had been consigned to my bookshelf, unread, for a year. As I begin reading the biography I realise that Steve Bloomer was a Pear Tree boy just like my father and myself. I become captivated and begin retracing Steve Bloomer’s steps up and down the streets of Pear Tree, where Bloomer, My father and myself had all been raised. It awakens my spirits. I’m reminded of the day I first came across Steve Bloomer and how sad I felt that he might have been forgotten in time. I also read the account of Steve Richards, Steve Bloomer’s grandson about how he was at his grandfather’s side on the day he passed away. Again it saddens me and I realise that I must reclaim Steve Bloomer’s legend for the people of Derby, as no good person should ever be forgotten in death. It is my way of remembering a good father: it is my way of remembering my own father. I contact the local newspaper, the Derby Evening Telegraph, and tell them that I have discovered the pub where Steve Bloomer passed away in 1938. I visit the Great Northern and have photos taken with the landlady who was also unaware of the connection. The story is then printed in the newspaper filling me with a great sense of pride and satisfaction. BBC Radio Derby then does a follow up interview with me at the pub. At this point Steve Richards writes to the landlady and thanks her and myself for remembering his grandfather. News has also travelled to family members still living in South Africa. Steve Richards also reveals that he would like to meet me. Hoping to somehow share my father’s story as well as that of the Legend of Steve Bloomer, I have an epiphany that feels like a regeneration (Doctor Who/Quantum Leap). I realise I can tell both their stories and also the story of Pear Tree, Derby and all it’s lost heroes and heroines.
A few weeks later Derby County reveal that they will erect a bust of Steve Bloomer in Pride Park. In the Derby Evening Telegraph the sculptor Andy Edwards asks Rams fans to come down and see him at work. I rush down to Pride Park and Andy and I immediately hit it off and become good friends. Helping Andy out with the research for the bust I also share with him my loss and my ideas for my own statue projects. He immediately realises how much Derby means to me and the pride I feel for my old neighbourhood and the city. One particular statue project I have in mind and discuss with Andy is of a Brian Clough AND Peter Taylor statue in Derby.
Our daughter Layla Anise Mohin Kaur Dhindsa is born a week or so after initially meeting Andy.
I attend the unveiling of the Brian Clough statue in Nottingham and feel gutted that Nottingham born, Peter Thomas Taylor was not also by Brian Clough’s side. Clough and Taylor were a partnership and they were a success together. It upsets me, just like I felt when I first came across Steve Bloomer’s plaque at the old Baseball Ground. Another father forgotten in time? Another man forgotten by his people? After initially having reservations about a Brian Clough and Peter Taylor statue I immediately change my mind. I ask Ashley Wilkinson, a Littleover schoolboy, who originally created the ‘Brian Clough Statue’ Petition to add Peter Taylor’s name too. He agrees that we should change it to Clough AND Taylor.
Steve Bloomer’s Bust is unveiled in Jan 2009. Andy allows me to put a little Pear logo under Steve Bloomer’s elbow. A reminder to everyone that he was raised in Pear Tree, Derby. I finally manage to meet Steve Bloomer’s grateful family and his two Grandsons, Steve Richards and Alan Quantrill, who both thank me for my contribution and efforts in keeping their grandfather’s memory alive.
The story finishes with the unveiling of the Steve Bloomer bust. However, in the epilogue I also reveal the unveiling of the Clough and Taylor statue too and all the other projects I have involved myself with off the back of Steve Bloomer. Including a Sikh Poppy Khanda I designed for the Royal British Legion to honour all the Sikhs who fought and sacrificed their lives to help the British Empire in their time of need during two World Wars. The Khanda is also my way of honouring Gian Singh VC who was a soldier from my Mother’s village in the Punjab. Like Steve Bloomer, Gian Singh also guided me through my dark days.
Our second child Raman Rohan Singh Dhindsa is born in November 2011.
I still have periods of darkness ranging from extreme lows to extreme highs. Until one day my dark days are finally put behind me after I read a newspaper article about the death of Robin Williams. I finally come to the realisation and understanding that my father took his life because he had a mental illness. It took nine years to fully accept this and in the end I am eternally grateful to Steve Bloomer and all my heroes[*] who kept me so distracted and busy so that I was unable to follow the same dark path that my father travelled. Even at my lowest points they were always there to remind me to keep ticking, to keep going, to keep fighting and most of all to never, never, never give up.
I owe them my life.
My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree
Chapter 01 : D-Day
Chapter 02 : High Rising Spirits
Chapter 03 : The Gathering Storm
Chapter 04 : Catch – 51
Chapter 05 : Derby – England
Chapter 06 : Nawanshahr – Punjab
Chapter 07 : Steve Who? I & II
Chapter 08 : Into The Storm
Chapter 09 : The Silence
Chapter 10 : DeAD
Chapter 11 : Bury Your Head
Chapter 12 : Back To School
My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree
Chapter 13 : Seconds
Chapter 14 : Operation DynaMO
Chapter 15 : Fields of Dreams
Chapter 16 : Destroying Angel
Chapter 17 : Good Old Derby
Chapter 18 : The Great Northern
Chapter 19 : Steve Bloomer’s Watching
Chapter 20 : Pear Tree Ram
Chapter 21 : Crossed Wires
Chapter 22 : For The Bairns
Chapter 23 : Stoked
Chapter 24 : Lost & Found
Chapter 25 : Epilogue
[*] Some of them who have a connection to Pear Tree, Derby.
Steve Bloomer – Gian Singh VC – Clough & Taylor – Dave Mackay – King of Rome/Charles Hudson/Dave Sudbury – Alice Wheeldon.
My Father & the Lost Legend of Pear Tree, Part 1 by Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa. 2016 (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, £8.99). Available from Amazon and listed in the Suicide Bereaved Network Library.
It is rare to find a book that deals in any depth with the subject of suicide in a minority ethnic or religious community, and Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa’s self-published book is to be welcomed for filling this gap and for providing such a rich and informative account of life in the Sikh community in his hometown, Derby. The loss of his beloved father, Mohinder, to suicide when he himself was in his mid-twenties is the central theme of the book, and this event provides the starting point for the narrative. Although Mohinder was a man of few words, his relationship with his son is described in a very authentic way, leaving us in no doubt about this man’s devotion to his son and to his wider family. This makes his decline into depression all the more heart-breaking and heightens the sense of loss felt by his family and community following his suicide.
The book provides a vivid description of the young Sikh boy growing up, from a perspective that spans two continents. Kalwinder’s pride, both in his Punjabi ancestry and in his East Midlands hometown is vividly evoked. The cultural complexities of Sikhism are explained, particularly the hierarchy of sibling roles within the family and – amusingly – the difficulty Kal experienced in trying to maintain his top-knot as a young boy.
This book also provides a remarkable insight into the male psyche, describing the author’s pride in his beloved Derby County Football Club, his strong work ethic and drive to achieve, and how he draws on these elements when navigating his grief at the loss of his father.
My Father and the Lost Legend of Pear Tree is not necessarily an easy read, as the narrative tends to jump around and there is so much background detail to absorb. There are also some sections that don’t add much to the reader’s understanding and which would have benefitted from editing. Another observation is that the pages of this book are unnumbered, making it difficult to refer to specific locations in the book.
However, this is a hugely valuable and informative book on the themes of suicide and suicide bereavement, on the Sikh community and culture in Britain, and on masculinity and father-son relationships.
I received the following email message yesterday from the Anthony Nolan Stem Cell Register
Dear Kalwinder Singh,
We are pleased to inform you that you appear to be a potential match for a patient requiring a stem cell transplant, and would be most grateful if you could provide blood samples to verify this match. As a registered Anthony Nolan donor you are eligible to continue to be tested and to donate until your 60th birthday.
I had initially signed up to the register about 7 years ago during the Rik Basra Leukaemia Campaign. A couple of years later I also helped promote the Gaurav Bains Campaign. And since then I’ve tried my best to promote many more campaigns especially within my own BAME community.
Last year saw the highest ever number of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people register as stem cell donors, according to a new report which shines a light on the inequalities which remain for BAME patients in need of donors. The annual review from Anthony Nolan and NHS Blood and Transplant, From Strength to Strength, reveals that BAME people made up 23% (42,326) of new registered adults on the UK donor register, which rose by 185,000 in 2016 to almost 1.3 million.
It’s great to see the register numbers increasing especially in the BAME community. Since I joined the register I have seen firsthand on many occasions how family and friends mobilise and come together to try and save the life of a loved one. After all that effort to try and get as many people as possible to join the stem cell donor register. How unbelievably rewarding it must be to find a match against what feels like unsurmountable odds at the time.
I hope that now that I have been identified as a potential match I can also do my little bit to help save a life. Fingers crossed that all goes well and ‘potential match’ become ‘confirmed match’.
We are co-producing the Museum of Making with an inspiring team of volunteers, each bringing their own unique set of skills, energy and ideas to the project. Today’s volunteer profile, in support of #VolunteersWeek, focuses on Kal, who drives projects for the Museum of Making forward, sharing his unparalleled passion for and knowledge of Derby’s history and its famous (and sometimes not-quite-famous-yet) residents.
How have you been Making the Museum of Making?
I have been involved with the This Is Normantonexhibition as well as contributing to others across Derby Museums. I have also made some laser etched wooden coasters with the help of Graeme Smith at the Silk Mill.
What inspired you to get involved?
I’m a Derby man. I love Derby and really enjoy engaging with my community and sharing stories about Derby and Derby folk.
What’s your favourite thing about volunteering?
Something that made me feel proud was being part of the This is Normanton exhibition and seeing my photo alongside my friend Dave Sudbury who wrote, in my opinion, the greatest folk song ever written ‘The King of Rome’. Dave and myself both attended the same school (Building).
I have also enjoyed sharing stories about the likes of Kevin Coyne, Alice Wheeldon and the King of Rome to people who were unaware of Derby’s great heritage and history.
Have you gained anything by becoming a volunteer co-producer on the project?
I’ve gained a lot of good contacts, who either work at the museum or volunteer there. I am now able to share my thoughts and ideas with them knowing that they will always listen and consider what I have to say.
What is the first thing you remember making as a child?
The first thing I remember making was little ponds in the garden. A huge hole would be dug out in the soil and then a carrier bag would then be placed inside the hole to cover all the sides. I would then fill it with water to make my own little underwater world filled with miniature figures and soda boats collected from cereal boxes. I would also add some plant life and continue to play with it until the water was no longer clear.
Share something unusual about yourself.
I designed the Sikh Poppy Khanda for the Royal British Legion. I am an author from Pear Tree, Derby. I write books about Derby.
If money/time were no object, what would you make?
A virtual reality augmented reality head piece that can be used to show how Derby used to look like at various times in it’s history as you walk around the old town and city.
If you are interested in volunteering to make the Museum of Making contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
I was on BBC Asian Network Radio today discussing #MentalHealthAwareness and the impact of Anxiety in everyday life.
Do we take anxiety seriously enough? Musician Ariana Grande has opened up in a Vogue Magazine article about her history with the condition and says it’s “very real”. After that Imam Qasim and former Apprentice star Uzma Yakoob talk about the passing of Philanthropist Ali Benat. He captured the hearts of thousands of people around the world after setting up a charity called ‘Muslims Around The World Project’ when he was diagnosed with cancer. And this week’s Big Debate’s Little Debate comes from Sandi Shokar. She contacted us and said she wants to talk about the lack of stem cell donors in BAME communities.
We are pleased to confirm that our friend local author Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa will be at Whooverville 10. Kal is a Whooverville regular and a long-time supporter of our event.
During the day he will be at the Whoovers stall selling and signing copies of his book My Father and the Lost Legend of Pear Tree – Part One & Two, which discusses his father’s battle with mental illness, culminating in his suicide.
Being a fan, the book also contains references to Doctor Who.
The following email was sent to me by a family friend about 6 years after my father passed away. I’ve kept it all these years hoping that one day I might be able to share it.
As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week I have decided that this week is the perfect opportunity to share it amongst not only my own Punjabi community, but the wider public too.
At the time, this email really did add to my story. As much of what is expressed was also touched upon in ‘My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree’. Obviously I’ve had to redact some information from the original email to exclude names and other personal information.
Thank you to my family friend for allowing me to share their experiences.
“Hi Kal, I would like to share a time when your dad came to my mum’s house. I believe it was in Dec 2005. 3 months before he left us all, I can remember walking in and seeing your dad sitting down talking to my mum. I said hello how are you? He said that his head hurts and that he doesn’t feel too good and he has been to the doctors, but the doctor did not know what it could be, possibly thinking it was to do with his head injury in the past.
On previous visits to the house he had mentioned his head and the fact that he was taking medication in the form of anti depressants.
I then said to your dad that the medication can make you feel like that, I however did know as I too have been taking them and suffered symptoms. I started taking them back in 2000 when I started feeling physical symptoms of anxiety. Not knowing what it was I went to the GP who also did not know what I was suffering, but put me on anti depressants and beta blockers. At that time I did not know too much about these meds but just started taking them.
Being an Asian man you find it hard to explain to others what you are suffering – call it pride or just being too ashamed. It took me nearly 1 year before I told my wife and 2 years, before I told all my family, which made me feel a lot better. I believe your dad found it hard to explain what he was suffering, like I said, pride, too ashamed. It has been over ten years for me now; I have tried all types of anti depressants and suicidal thoughts play a big part in these meds. I however at that time didn’t suffer too much depression because my problem is only anxiety, but I did feel suicidal with the meds. I have since experienced my worst ever depression about 4 years ago, as I was off meds for a year but had a relapse in my anxiety and started meds again, which put me in to severe depression.
Depression is very hard to cope with I still do suffer but not as bad. If only I had tried to explain to your dad more that time, but I believe we all could have tried to understand. I am strong as I have learnt to cope, but your dad found it to hard to share his thoughts – he didn’t even want to talk to me when I asked him – like I said, PRIDE.
Also your dad said that he has stopped drinking because of the meds, I didn’t personally agree with that. The reason is that your dad was a social drinker, not heavy unlike me them days. But that didn’t stop me – meds can help you out of depression but can also put you in, like me. What helped me was that I continued with my life, so depression doesn’t take over, however, your dad decided to stop as the GP said to. But that also took a lot from your dad because he liked going to the Chestnut Pub. I know it’s very hard when you’re in depression like me when I feel down I base my whole life on just that day, thinking how will I cope, but then I say to myself, its just for a few days I will get better, you need to fight it, but like I said its hard as I still find it difficult at times but I know my family’s here for me. I have stopped anti depressants over a year ago and my mind is a lot free and clear. Meds do mess you up, but like I said, they also do help some.
I wish my GP never put me on them because they do mess your mind up. I believe the GP should explain in more details about side effects and also speak to a member of the family to let them know that side effects of suicidal thoughts do occur and there is a worsening of depression when starting any anti depressants. Your dad didn’t know this but I now Google any med I take to check on side effects ¬– not always a good idea as most only write about the bad side effects, not how well they work.
Your dad leaving us really hit me hard as he was the only person that visited me as he liked to see me doing up my house and give me ideas. He used to come at least twice a week. He was like an inspector coming to pass off my work. I still remember taking that call that afternoon. This moment and the above are the only ones I will never forget. I have always wanted to share this moment with you but just didn’t know how.
I don’t blame anyone especially not your dad as I know how it feels. I have made some enemies in my life but I wouldn’t wish depression on anyone, it’s horrible.
What we need to learn is that as Asians we need not be ashamed to talk openly and understand. My wife and mum always say don’t think too much, but I say you can’t just stop thinking, its just our genetic makeup, we’re all different.
I know I can’t add to your story, but I did know how your dad felt. We all need to be there for others in the future. I just wish he told someone that he was suffering depression.”
The vast majority of us in this room today will be familiar with what this means, because as Sikhs we have had it ingrained into us from birth.
Chardhi Kala is the Punjabi term for aspiring to maintain a mental state of eternal optimism and joy, even during times of great adversity.
A positive mental attitude.
An ascending energy.
To be in constant high rising spirits.
A state of mind in which a person displays no negative emotions such as fear, jealousy or enmity. Instead the mind is filled with positive feelings including joy, satisfaction and self-dignity.
But what if I told you that Chardhi Kala was a load of nonsense?
Some of you are probably now wondering who on earth invited me up here to talk such nonsense?
How can a so-called Sikh not believe or even practice Chardhi Kala? This man is no Sikh? He doesn’t even look like a Sikh?
Well I’ll be honest with you. I do believe in Chardhi Kala. The only reason I said it was nonsense was because I wanted you to reflect on how we judge others.
You see, what if I was diagnosed with a mental health condition? What if my mind was corrupted by a mental illness that prevented me from practising Chardhi Kala?
Would you still judge me the same? Might you even abandon me because I could not live according to the Khalsa spirit.
Sadly I think there are too many within our community who readily reject those who cannot fully practice this aspect of living in Chardhi Kala. As a community we are seriously letting our people down. They deserve better.
It is the Sikh way to defend and protect those that are vulnerable or who have fallen on hard times. It is not the Sikh way to abandon them.
Two years ago I released Part One of my book, ‘My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree’. Part Two will be released within the next month.
My story deals with the stigma of mental illness and how it continues to ruin lives. It was always my intention to share my father’s story as well as help others in our community who have also been similarly bereaved by suicide.
Suicide stops people talking. That was definitely the case with my father and it almost became the case with me. But as time went on I realised that the longer I refused to speak up about my father the greater the possibility that he could be forgotten in time. That was not fair on him, nor all the other good people in this world who have ended their lives by their own hands. I refused to be silenced by suicide. Their stories deserved to be told. They deserved to be remembered.
12 Years ago when my father died by suicide I could never imagine that one day I would be here talking so openly about my father’s passing. But I am Sikh and that is exactly what a good Sikh should do. To help others who have also been bereaved by mental illness.
As I continue to speak out I no longer feel afraid. I no longer feel any embarrassment or shame. I feel alive with high rising spirits and overcome with a feeling of great happiness.
The launch of the British Sikh Report 2018 has found that almost 3 out of 4 Sikhs know someone with poor mental health. 77% of Sikhs find their lives stressful, and twice as many Sikh women have diagnosed mental health issues compared to Sikh men
Speeches were made from the following individuals:
A new memorial to one of Derby’s most-celebrated footballing sons – Steve Bloomer – has been unveiled.
A blue plaque now sits on the front the Derby County legend’s former school building in Derby’s in Portland Street, now home to Paul Wallis Fashions.
The plaque was unveiled in a small ceremony in honour of Bloomer, who scored 332 goals in 525 appearances for the Rams – he was leading scorer for 14 seasons – and 28 goals in 23 matches for England between 1895 and 1907.
At Tarakī, we want to help shape an open, honest society in which Punjabi men can speak comfortably about mental health.
Tarakī wants to normalise mental health discussion for Punjabi men. I am looking for Punjabi men who are able to share their mental health experiences… submissions can also be done anonymously! Please email email@example.com
For many men, their fathers define what it means to be a man. In this talk, we celebrate the men who made us who we are, and delve into the ideas of masculinity we inherited. Featuring Howard Cunnell, Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa, Scott Graham, Karl Hyde and Yomi Sode.
– Howard Cunnell, an author whose most recent book Fathers & Sons (Picador) is a critically acclaimed memoir of both growing up with an absent father and then as a father himself, having a daughter who is becoming a son.
– Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa, a British-Punjabi author, whose debut book is a memoir called My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree. Born to Punjabi parents in Derby in 1979, Kal was raised as a Sikh. For the first 28 years of his life he lived in the Pear Tree area of Normanton in Derby.
– Scott Graham, Artistic Director of Frantic Assembly who created Fatherland, an acclaimed play exploring the complexities of contemporary fatherhood, commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival, Frantic Assembly, the Royal Exchange Theatre, Lyric Hammersmith and LIFT.
– Karl Hyde, musician, artist, founding member of Underworld and co-creator of Fatherland.
– Yomi Sode, poet, father and former social worker. Over the past nine years, he’s had work commissioned by The Mayor’s Office, BBC World Service/Africa, Channel 4, charities and for the UN Humanitarian Summit. He also created Daddy Diaries, an online forum for fathers.
Chaired by actor and writer Ben Norris. In 2013 Ben became the UK All-Star Poetry Slam Champion and has since performed his spoken-word across the country, from Latitude Festival to the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. His work has been broadcast across BBC radio, his first poetry pamphlet was published in 2014 and his debut solo show, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family, won the 2015 IdeasTap Underbelly Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before touring the UK extensively in autumn 2016, finishing with a sell-out run at Southbank Centre.
“Do we still hide mental health issues in the Asian community? BBC 2 drama ‘The Boy with the Topknot’ tells the story of a boy growing up in the Midlands, who finds out as an adult that his father has mental health issues which the family have been keeping secret”.
“I only begun to learn about mental health after I was impacted by anxiety whilst at university,” says Shuranjeet Takhar.
He started university being a sociable person but his experience changed all that. And it’s only now he is coming to terms with it.
“Now, as a postgraduate at Oxford University, I want to ensure that mental health isn’t something that needs to be experienced at its worst to be understood,” he says.
Shuranjeet is starting a new campaign called Tarakī to change how we deal with mental health issues.
“I formed Tarakī to try and make a structural change to how mental health is seen within the Punjabi diaspora community,” he told Barfi Culture. He chose the name because ‘Tarakī’ means being progressive and forward thinking in Punjabi he says.
He isn’t alone in his quest. The writer Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa documented his own battle with mental health issues in his book, My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree. His father Mohinder Singh Dhindsa took his own life after a long battle with depression, just as Kalwinder had gotten married.
Dhindsa wrote on his website: “Suicide stops people talking. Whether it is the person who has just taken their own life or the loved ones bereaved and left behind to pick up the pieces. Lack of engagement with the bereaved is a serious problem in our community due to the apparent fear of upsetting close family or just not being able to approach the subject or not knowing what to say.”
He adds: “Another factor in this is the issue of shame and dishonour within cultural groups. All these factors further diminish the good memories of the loved one who has passed on, resulting in a paradox in which as they are no longer talked about – they could possibly be forgotten in time forever.”
Researchers says that mental health problems are a big taboo not just among Punjabis, but South Asians in general. A recent report found that ‘sharam‘ (shame) was a big reason for people keeping their mental health struggles to themselves. And Punjabi men are particularly affected since they are not used to talking about their problems.
“Taraki wants to shape a society in which Punjabi men understand mental health as something they can speak openly about, discuss with their families, and most importantly, seek help if needs be,” Takhar told Barfi Culture.
The campaign hopes to reach out to Punjabi men, publish and amplify their experiences of mental health, and show that such difficulties can impact anyone, no matter their ethnicity, gender, class, or age.
He adds: “My focus is on Punjabi men, as that’s how I feel I, as a Punjabi man, can make the best impact.”
To start with Shuranjeet published a video with his own experience and the challenges he faced. He hopes others can also join him.
“We want Punjabi men to come forward from all walks of life to share their thoughts. In the longer term, Taraki will facilitate workshops and link individuals to support systems for the Punjabi community.”