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Bhavdeep Singh – On Sikhism and Society

Bhavdeep Singh is a Managing Partner at Whitehawk Associates LLC, an independent business management consultancy specializing in Retail, Human Resources, Leadership Development, and Healthcare. He has also been the Chairman and co-founder of HealthQuarters, a destination for curated and clinically-backed health and wellness services.

Bhavdeep Singh has gained a reputation as a dynamic business leader through his various roles  which include serving as Head of United States Operations for Ahold, a $26 billion business, where he had complete P&L oversight for 800 stores and 110,000 employees. Following his time at Ahold, he was the Chief Executive Officer of Fortis Healthcare in India, where he led one of the largest private health systems in the world.

Apart from his professional career, Bhavdeep, a practicing Sikh, is an immigrant from India to and is actively involved with the Sikh American community. He is a frequent lecturer and often speaks, with the topic often focusing on the intersection of leadership and service.

We recently had the opportunity to connect with Bhavdeep Singh, where he shared some thoughts on his faith and the challenges facing minority religious groups in an increasingly divisive society.

What does Sikhism have to share non-Sikhs?

Some foundational elements of Sikhism can be shared with all. As we know, the core values of most religions are based on a few strong founding principles for human lives. Here are two that appear to resonate with Sikhs and Non-Sikhs worldwide.

Sewa – a Punjabi word that means selfless service. Sikhism not only preaches this concept but has taken it to an impressive level of execution. I do not know how many people are aware that you can walk into a Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) anywhere in the world during a prayer service and  you will never be denied entry and or a free meal.  That holds for all 7.8 billion people. Call me biased, but that’s just plain impressive!

The idea of “Chardi Kala” – aspiring to maintain a mental state of resilience and positivity, an acceptance that life ebbs and flows with hardship, and to rise above that adversity. I value this for the practical purpose it serves. It teaches us how to live. If we knew how to live right, the world would be more forgiving. The simplicity and conclusiveness of Chardi Kala can do good for so many of us.

How can we close the gap between religions?

Sikhism is a religion; people have varying opinions on religion, and rightly so. For a true alliance, the first step is to look at Sikhism for what it gives to others and how it impacts the world rather than focusing on dogma.

I can give thousands of examples from around the world of when the Sikhs stood up for humankind. From the fires in Australia to COVID patients in Delhi, India, Sikhs choose humans. To be an ally, one does not need to try very hard – we have been extending our hand since the inception of the faith in 1469. We are built on the foundation of Vand Chakna – giving to charity and helping others.

The Sikh Temple, referenced as a Gurudawara, is probably one of the first things that come to mind when we think of Sikhism. If you ask the millions of people (and I mean it, just people, Sikhs, non-Sikhs, all people) who are struggling with hunger and have had the good fortune of walking into a Gurudwara, they will not relate Gurudwara to Sikhism. They will connect it to food and open access.   It really is as simple as that.  Sikhism cares above and beyond the social, cultural, and communal boundaries that often divide us. This connection here is for us all to see each other through a different lens — one that does not judge and accepts us as we are.

 What more can be done to prevent hate and discrimination against minorities?

Generations of people have been trying to figure that out, and yet I do not know if there is one answer. But, from my humble perspective, you have to start with communication and education. But that won’t necessarily fix everything. Knowing that the “thing on my head” is called a turban does something, but not everything. So the crusade for awareness and inclusion has to be continuous and progressive. Let us keep all efforts active until this question is asked in the past tense.

For someone interested in learning more about Sikhism and the Sikh experience, what books, movies, influencers, and/or Websites do you recommend?

Fortunately, a great deal of information is available, and it is all at your fingertips – you have to look and explore. I would also say that I encourage dialogue and communication – if you see a Sikh, talk to him or her and ask them anything you like. You will find us extremely responsive, and we will be pleased to engage in a dialogue or conversation on anything and everything.

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