Dr. Ranjit singh- a Doctor & Golfer
Ranjit Singh was born on March 20, 1925 in Naushara, Pakistan to parents Dr Bhag Singh and Mata Pritam Kaur. He completed his primary education in Karachi and moved to Lahore where he completed his secondary education and enrolled at the King Edward Medical College to start his medical training. During his college years Ranjit Singh was an accomplished athlete competing in high jumps, pole vault and discus throwing. How- ever his passion for field hockey was what defined him. He captained his team and enjoyed many wins both at local and state level.
He was also a proud Sikh who was politically active as a college student and one of the founding members of the All India Sikh Students Federation. Unfortunately, he saw the trauma of the partition of India in 1947 and was one of the thousands of refugees to leave Pakistan on the last train to Amritsar, India. He transferred to the Government Medical College, Amritsar in order to complete his medical training. He got married to Davinder Kaur in April 1952, and moved to Uganda in summer of 1953. He was first posted as Medical Officer in Luzira Prison outside of Kampala where he served for 2 years. He was then transferred to Jinja Hospital where he served as Medical Officer specializing in surgery and Gynecology for 10 years. His passion for field hockey was again ignited and he started playing with the Sikh Union team in Kampala as a full back.
His team played national and international tournaments against Kenya, Pakistan, and India. His love for hockey made him a natural coach, mentor and role model for young people that were eager to learn and play the game. He established and coached the first ever Uganda women’s hockey team in Jinja. In 1963 Dr Singh was transferred to Masaka Hospital where he served for 2 years before getting transferred yet again to Fort Portal Hospital in 1965. After serving in Fort Portal for a year or so, he decided to return to Masaka to establish his own private practice. Golf In Masaka, Dr Singh quickly realized that the team game of hockey was not possible and started his long golf career in 1964. This was an extraordinary decision as golf was seen as primarily a European game which not many Indians played at that time. He excelled at this game achieving an enviable handicap of 4. But at heart he was still a team player, coaching more than 60 South Asian men and wom- en in playing the game, creating winning teams that participated in golf competitions in various cities including Kampala, Kilembe Mines, Masindi, Soroti, Tororo, Fort Portal and Jinja. He revived the Masaka Sports Club into a vibrant community place where almost every Sunday, families would get together to play and picnic. He took his role as “Captain” very seriously, making all arrangements for tournaments,
Dr. Ranjit singh- a Doctor & Golfer |
accommodations, meals & entertainment. He won Masaka’s prestigious Moss Cup many times and his pride reached an all high when he lost the cup to his son Kanwal aged 13! For Ranjit Singh, playing sports was the way to building strong family bonds while teaching children about responsibility as well as keeping them healthy and focused at school. His wife and sons became accomplished golfers in their own right. His overwhelming achievement was to getting 7 holes-in-one over the course of his golfing career. As a physician, he was very devoted to his profession, and always put his patients before all else. He had a way of relating to them that generated trust and com- passion, and he enjoyed much appreciation from his patients and their families. His compassion for his patients, their pain and suffering was very profound and became more obvious when he moved back to Masaka to set up his private practice. That is when his patients got the best possible treatment, irrespective of their ability to pay. He often said that his patients’ “blessings” were invaluable and very important for him! He tried to juggle his work and golf and there are many stories that he loves to tell. One such story is worth a mention: he would start his golf at 5 pm in the evening and if ever there was a patient in-labour waiting to deliver her baby, Dr Singh would be on stand-by with clear instructions to the ambulance service that they would come and pick him up from the golf course when the patient was ready to deliver. This system worked very well for the doctor and his patients! His love and passion for his faith and Sikhism was an inspiration to his family growing up. He impart- ed the messages of the ten Gurus to his children and encouraged them to discover Sikhism on their own. He drew on his own experiences as a youth leader starting the All India Sikh Students Federation in medical school and how they participated in the political process during partition. He was not a prayer person but had deep convictions about the will of God (Hukam) and that whatever happens for the best. This kind of faith is very humbling and inspiring at the same time.
In 1972, Dr Ranjit Singh left Uganda as a refugee and went to the United Kingdom where he established a family practice in Gravesend Kent. Although he was very grateful for settling his family again, he missed Uganda. He still has vivid memories of his last day in Masaka when he went to see his clinic for the last time before heading to the airport. He was surprised to see a line of patients
waiting for him. He attended to a few but had to leave for Entebbe but recalls how his patients begged him not to leave, sitting on the ground, crying and holding his hand. This was a emotional experience and very sad because he didn’t want to leave either. How does one move from these images and memories? Family practice in England was different from the hands-on practice he had in Masaka as he felt that his skills were not being used effectively. He went to Zambia for a short period of time to explore opportunities there. However, his growing family needed him to return and settle in England. And he continued his golf and enjoyed being an active member of his club, winning competitions. After retiring from the National Health Service, his family persuaded him to move yet again! He moved to Canada in the year 2000 and settled in Surrey, BC. He reestablished his game of golf in Greater Vancouver and continued winning competitions in various categories up until 2 years ago when he got diagnosed with early stages of dementia. Adjusting to his condition has been challenging but he is at home and enjoys a set routine. Dr Ranjit Singh and his wife Davinder Kaur have one daughter and three sons, all married. They also enjoy the love of 8 grandchildren and one grandson-in-law.