I was born in Nottingham, England on March 18th 1985. Ever since my mother gave birth to me via Caesarean Section, on account of being a breach baby, she knew that I would come and turn her life on its head. I have always been a bit crazy and a bit on the eccentric side and I have always resisted my mother’s efforts to try and tame me!
I was named after a great Sikh General, Major General Subeg Singh who died fighting Indian Government forces during the invasion of the Golden Temple in 1984. Being raised during a turbulent political time for thenSikhs, both in the UK and in India, had an enormous impact on my psyche as I was growing up.
I always felt a strong affiliation with the Sikh community despite being born and bred in the UK and therefore my sense of identity was very strong. A funny memory I have, from when I was a child in nursery, is that I used to poke fun at my non-Sikh friends for not having a topknot on their heads, when usually it was Sikh children with topknots who were singled out for bullying!
Though I came from a moderate Sikh family, I had always taken a keen interest in Sikh history, even as a small child. This was partly because of my parents’ influence, partly because of the fact that Sikh conflict with the Indian State was at fever pitch at the time, and partly because I had a hugely vivid imagination.
Sikhs are a martial race and this aspect of our culture used to take up a dominant space in my young growing mind. I would daydream for hours, play with toy swords and guns, and paint pictures of bloody scenes from Sikh history with my crayons and colouring pencils.
When teachers asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I always used to say that I wanted to be a Sikh soldier. My creative writing pieces were always about battle and warfare, and my artwork always depicted gory, bloody scenes.
It would be more than an understatement to say that both my parents and teachers were a little worried about me!
Initially, I didn’t do that well academically. I was good at art and creative writing but poor at Maths. I always had a knack for performing though. I used to love drama and always used to get good parts in plays. In order to encourage my interest and passion for drama, my mother enrolled me for acting classes at Central TV Drama workshops for kids. Through this, I gained a lot of confidence and it landed me some small parts in Children’s TV shows like Harry’s Mad, Woof, and The Freddy Star Show.
I experienced a bit of bullying in primary school on account of being a Sikh kid and looking different. Sometimes kids would come and grab my topknot and shake it around. As a result, my mum would get very worried and come and wait in her car outside the school playground, during break times, to keep an eye on me and ward off the bullies. Unfortunately, I also experienced hostility from one or two teachers at primary school as well. As a result, I never really fulfilled my full potential and ended up being a slightly under confident and shy child.
It was only at Secondary School, at Trent College in Derbyshire, that I began to grow wings and realise my full potential. With a very supportive boarding school culture, great teachers, and so many different extra-curricular activities to choose from, the soil was fertile for development.
Interestingly, Trent College, though a private school, was not my first choice. My parents always wanted me to go to the Nottingham Boys High School but I was not ever able to pass the exam. Although I was disappointed at the time, looking back, it was a blessing in disguise. I honestly do not believe I would have done as well as I did, had it not been for the support that I received at Trent College.
Whilst at school, I started taking a keener interest in sports and fitness. I was pretty good at Rugby and Athletics and represented the school teams in both. Rugby made me tough, durable and brave. I also started learning the drums and began playing the drum kit in Jazz and Swing bands.
Aside from that, I had some great experiences taking part in school plays and musicals, which at Trent College, were pretty high-level productions. I particularly enjoyed playing Daddy Warbucks in the school musical, Annie, for example.
Out of nowhere, I came to realise that I had a decent singing voice and had the opportunity to sing Lou Bager’s Mambo No5 and Tom Jones Sex Bomb in front of large audience concerts with a full live band!
Whilst at school, I aced all my exams, got fantastic grades, managed to get into Medical School, played sports at a decent level and drew great satisfaction from my exploits in the Performing Arts, for which I even bagged an award.
However, it always seemed apparent to me that I was living two separate lives in two separate cultures. Half of me was living the life of a white, middle class privately educated schoolboy, whilst the other half was fully immersed in the Punjabi Sikh world.
My parents had always wanted me to learn to read and write Punjabi, which, I managed to study up to A-Level standard. I also attended play schemes, youth clubs and camps for Sikh children to be able to socialise with each other and learn about the Sikh faith. The organisation, which took the lead on all of this, was the Sikh Community & Youth Service, Nottingham, in which my father had played a pivotal role in setting up.
Part of my Sikh education included learning classical kirtan, or the singing of devotional hymns on the harmonium. I also learnt how to play the Tabla.
I wouldn’t say that I was a particularly talented or enthusiastic student, and I remember my harmonium teacher suggesting to me, on more than one occasion, that I should give up! Despite this, I felt great solace and peace whilst singing devotional hymns and the skills I learnt would prove to be very useful to me when I decided to pursue a singing career in later life!