The Secret Handshake

The Secret Handshake.

I saw a beautiful Sikh temple in Tampin town. Decided to photograph it up close and was confronted by one of the toughest strangers to engage with. Mr Gurdev Singh, the 85-year-old temple caretaker was wary and distrustful initially. He was, after all, a retired Special Branch police officer.

His dog Rajoo was menacing and I had to first win his faithful companion’s trust. When the dog started licking my face, Mr Singh said I passed the first test. There was to be another secret handshake. He scribbled on a piece of paper “godisnowhere” and asked me to put in the spaces. I put it is as “god is now here” (instead of “god is nowhere”).

The man finally let his guard down and we chatted like old friends. He told me the history of the temple, about the handful of Sikhs living in Tampin and even invited me to his nearby house for wild boar curry.

Tampin is such a quaint, idyllic and serene town. Stay behind to explore and meet other warm town folk. Find a hotel in or near Tampin here:

Olympus OM-D, ISO 200, f6.3, 1/200 sec.

PS: Updates: reports are coming in, stating Gurdev is hale and hearty.

#sikh #punjabi #sikhtemple #dog #tampin #sepia #malaysia

Gurdwara Tanjung Priok Jakarta

I was exploring Jakarta Chinatown (Glodok) when I stumbled upon a Sikh Temple named Gurdwara Tanjung Priok in North Jakarta. It is also known as the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple and the Gurdwara Pasar Baru,

What awesomeness to be standing before a temple founded in 1925. Awesome also because many fellow Malaysians and friends are Sikhs. It was built, funded by Sikh workers and their families in the harbour or port area. The temple survived Dutch and Japanese Occupation but was moved from the old site in 1999 when the land was acquired by the government to redevelop the harbour area.

Nearby reasonably priced hotels are Classic Hotel, Alila Jakarta Hotel and Red Planet Hotel Pasar Baru where one can also walk to Jakarta. Cathedral and the National Monument or Monumen Nasional. All mentioned hotels can be found at MyCen Hotels –

#sikh #gurdwara #temple #jakarta #indonesia #landmark #travel

A Sweet Love Story

The joys of street photography is not just in capturing people with your camera. It is about meeting, engaging strangers, to listen to their life stories, if they are willing to share. Inter racial marriages seem to be more common in small towns and I was happy to hear a new perspective. A sweet love story.

Meet The Family.

Puan Saudah’s husband Ameer and daughter Ramizah came to join the conversation. Looking at my pics on the iPad, the man noted he knows one of the guys I photographed. It was Gurcharan Singh from the Sikh Temple in Kalumpang.

I looked up at Ameer’s face again and did a double take. Our conversation went from Malay to English at this point:

Me: Don’t tell me you are Punjabi?

Ameer: Yes (with a grin). I am Ameer Abdullah, formerly Balbir Singh the Sikh.

Me: How long ago was it when you married Saudah and how did your community take it in those days?

Ameer: Some 30 years ago. I fell in love, converted to Islam, discarded my turban and married the girl of my dreams.

Me: That’s so sweet.

Ameer: I became an outcast for leaving my religion, was shunned by my own community and treated as traitor.

Me: I understand. I had a Punjabi classmate who hated singer DJ Dave just as much for the same reasons.

Ameer: Not surprised. Hey. I know Dave and he is from Tanjung Malim (further up on Federal Route 1).

Me: I think things have changed and people from the Sikh community are now more tolerant of inter-racial marriages?

Ameer: Yes. And time heals everything. I am accepted as a friend again.

Me: How do you know?

Ameer: When fellow Punjabis in town call me by my childhood nickname.

Ameer, a civil servant, is happily married, deeply religious and have four grown-up children now. Ramizah is 22 and is a teacher at a Islamic religious school in KKB.

Am honoured to meet such a warm, honest and animal-loving family.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 100, f5, 1/80 sec.

#documentaryphotography #sikh #muslim #kkb #kualakububharu #smalltown

Finding Jarnail Singh In Perth

Finding Jarnail Singh In Perth

Searching for an old long lost friend is incredibly frustrating. A million similar names turned up. It’s a jungle out there. Finally found an unexpected break but may NEED YOUR HELP.

Anybody with a Linkin account? I dont have a Linkin account and I dont understand how it works. I was searching for an old college mate who migrated to Australia. Searched on Google and found him on Linkin. Saw his picture and he has aged as all humans do. But I can recognise him. There are some clues in his resume that suggest he might be the same person.

Last I met Jarnail Singh was when he was known as George and was a hotel management student in Chur, Switzerland in the 1980s. During our last online contact he told me he switched career to become a server admin and migrated to Australia. Before G-mail, every precious mail on Outlook was lost. Sadly

If you have a Linkin account maybe you can message him? All I need you to do, is for you to contact him and asked if he was from Ipoh and studied in Switzerland and was George then.

As I recall, he was a bit sensitive about his childhood name after settling in Australia and disowned it. Maybe is a “born again Sikh” thing? Nobody knows him by George anymore, he told me by our last email. Then, please tell him politely that his old freind TV Smith in KL is longing to contact him. Please contact me at or by Facebook, if he has one. I am excited by the development and prospect. Thank you so much to anyone helping.

The Linkin link is

Update: Kind friends, please update me if you made contact so he doesn’t get spammed repeatedly. Rian Maelzer. I now you are proficient with finding people through Linkin. Maybe you can help or guide me?

1st picture is of me and George drinking in Switzerland.

2nd pic. Crazy George calling home to Ipoh in winter and was in a sarong after we drove to Austria looking for drinks after midnight.

3rd pic is his current profile pic in Linkin.

George, George, George of the jungle
Lives a life that’s free
Watch out for that tree!

Only Chinese In Kampung Bota Singh

Saw a signboard that says Kampung Bota Singh in the Hulu Bernam area and decided to drive in. Heh. Didn’t I meet the only Singh in a Chinese village a few days ago? This time at a village named after a Singh, I met a lone Chinese guy holding a pair of garden shears.

Mr Ng who is 69-years-old and a Hakka, held on to the shears menacingly as I introduced myself. He soon let his guard and the shears down and started telling me the history of the village.

The former rubber plantation land was owned by a wealthy Sikh named Bota Singh. In fact, many of the land around here are owned by Sikhs, according to Mr Ng. He and his family bought the land from the now deceased Bota Singh.

I noticed an old-fashioned kitchen cupboard in a messy garage (behind him). You know the type grandma used with four water bowls on its legs to prevent ants from crawling to the cooked food stored inside?

Told him to hang on to it as someday a stranger will come and offer him at least RM 100 for it. The collector will take it back, restore it and some hipsters will gladly pay a thousand ringgit to own one.

He was bemused and flabbergasted. I didn’t know how to explain ‘hipster’ in Hakka or Cantonese. Unadulterated Hakka dialect is quite funny with the standard expletives thrown in. Is quite hard translating it to clean English. Nevertheless, I will try:

Me: Is true, some city people will pay a thousand bucks for it.

Mr Ng: Smelly worn-out birth canal opening, are there really such fools in the city?

Me: There are. We call them “hipsters” in English.

Mr Ng: Hip makai male reproductive organ people! Copulate! Ptui!

Me: Hahaha. You are a jolly man, sir.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 250, f4, 1/60 sec.