Embracing the author within
Surender Singh Kandhari, chairman and founder of Al Dobowi Group, has been in the UAE for 44 years. He built his business with passion and integrity and has distilled his life and business experiences in two books
How and why did you decide to become an author? Did you always want to be one?
I had never really considered myself an author. I am an accidental author. Basically, I wanted to share the thoughts about my life and pass on my message of success, hard work, sincerity and dedication to the youth. I thought of giving shape to my thoughts, and here it is today in the form of a book - Temple of My Dreams.
Temple of My Dreams
Tell us about the last book you've written. What inspired you to write it?
My wife Bubbles Kandhari wanted me to write an autobiography, and there was no way I could deny her wishes.
What facets about your life and your journey that you have detailed in the book are people mostly fascinated or even shocked by?
My business experiences in difficult situations.
How did you come to build the magnificent Guru Nanak Darbar Sikh Temple?
I had followed my family tradition of leading the community's efforts to build gurudwaras in places where there are none and how it was my destiny to serve God and the Sikh community.
It all started more than 58 years ago when my grandfather Atma Singh, who himself had helped build a gurudwara in Vijaywada, in the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, in 1956, told me that one day I too must help build a gurudwara when I grew up.
You have been in the UAE since 1976. Can you share a special memory of life back then?
In 1976, when we moved here, Dubai was just opening up as a trading hub. We derived the advantage of being the early birds. The boom had just begun and Dubai's proximity to India was another huge advantage. There is freedom for business and the place is tolerant towards other cultures.
In your opinion, what makes a great autobiography?
A sincere life story on one-self without any frills.
What's your favourite quote?
If you do not grow, you begin to die. One must work hard and keep growing and be with the world.
Lighthouse of Tolerance
UN International Peace Day celebrated at the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara, Dubai
What is this book about?
This is a 272-page book that is self-published and offers a general understanding of issues pertaining to tolerance (or lack thereof), appreciation for multiculturalism and diversity. It is the second book after my autobiography. It attempts to create awareness about the importance of happy and peaceful co-existence in today's technologically advanced and globalised diverse world.
What made you write it?
I attended several interfaith conferences all over the world, as a delegate on behalf of the UAE Government. The need of these times is to understand each other and live in peaceful coexistence. Love and tolerance are the essences of a happy living.
Do you think tolerance is in short supply these days?
Tolerance is not in short supply. Lack of understanding and the meaning of tolerance is what am trying to explain in this book. We must promote tolerance at all levels, whether at home or outside.
You have been at the forefront of promoting interfaith harmony, serving meals during Ramadan and representing the UAE government at various summits to promote religious pluralism. Why is interfaith harmony important to you?
The principle of Sikhism is that we are all equal and we should respect all religions and hence this has been in my DNA to treat every human being as equal and hence the interfaith harmony is very close to my heart. Guru Nanak Devji said, "Before becoming a Muslim, a Sikh, a Hindu, or a Christian, let's become a human first."
You once said the UAE is a place that recognises the 'otherness of others'. I thought that was a brilliant line - especially considering the sectarian strife many countries, including India, continue to witness. Do you think there is a certain additional onus on government leaders to promote peaceful coexistence?
85 per cent of the population of the UAE are expatriates and there are over 200 nationalities of countless different faiths living here. Every human being is respected irrespective of religion, caste and creed and I repeat here they respect the otherness of others, they give utmost respect as a human being. My book on tolerance is inspired by these sentiments.
What are one or two key insights you talk about in the book?
In this book, I have done a survey between the oldest country India, which has been practising tolerance for centuries and comparing it with the UAE the newest country promoting tolerance, and it is the only country having a Ministry of Tolerance.
Do you practise what you preach? Do you tolerate everything?
I am a very positive thinking person, do tolerate a lot of issues so that I can make a happy living. If I am happy, I can spread happiness.
'Ghar Sukh, Bahar Sukh', which means 'peace in the house brings peace to the world'. I have been married 50 years; I have learnt tolerance.
What are you hoping people will take away from your book?
Love and tolerance are what I want people to take away from this book. Peace can only be achieved when one puts his mind to it. There is a saying in our holy scripture by Shri Guru Granth Sahib, 'Mann Jeete, Jag Jeete', which means if you control your mind, you can control the world.
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