Story Cafe: A silent voices speak by Trishna Singh OBE

Pauline reflects on a wonderful, illuminating Story Cafe with Trishna Singh…

Trishna Singh OBE is a first generation Scottish Bhat Sikh born in Glasgow in1953.  She moved to Edinburgh on marrying and in 1989 founded Leith Sikh Community Group (now Sikh Sanjog) which supports women of the Sikh Community in Edinburgh. She has a degree in Community Learning and Development from Glasgow University and was awarded an OBE in 2014. Her memoir A Silent voice speaks was published in 2022.

Wendy and Morag welcomed Trishna and members of Sikh Sanjog, Wendy felt that Trishna wrote “so evocatively about your childhood … capturing a time that no longer exists” and asked her about the story behind the book, Trishna explained that she started writing at the age of 62 with her “desire, even need, to express how I felt about my childhood” and then read early extracts from her memoir beginning with the journey of her grandparents and parents to Scotland following Partition in 1947 and describing her early childhood in Glasgow. 

Taken out of school at 13 she was prepared for the traditional life of a Bhat Sikh woman – marriage and motherhood within the home.  Following a family tragedy she began to study the Sikh faith and to read the writings of its founder Guru Nanuk, who had embedded equality in his teachings and she “came to understand that we had been living a life that was entrenched in ritual, customs that had no link whatsoever with our religious teachings”.   She was supported throughout in her journey of education and her work to improve the lives and opportunities for Scottish Sikh women by her late husband, Harbhajan John.

After the break, Trishna explained the long process of writing and publishing her memoir, and Morag asked about her hopes  for the future of Sikh women and girls. Trishna hoped that “through my achievements I have served as a role model to which the younger generation of Sikh girls can aspire”. Indeed the women who accompanied Trishna were examples of that, in their achievements within both their community and wider Scottish society.

At event after event, whether in fiction, poetry, memoir, travel or biography we hear the stories of resourceful, enterprising and brave women whose lives and writings are an inspiration. Trishna Singh is one of these women and we were so pleased and grateful that she and her friends had come to share their experiences with us.  The applause at the end was warm and appreciative and the chat continued well after 2.30.

On reading her memoir afterwards I was especially moved by two pieces in the prologue “The wee Indian woman on the bus” and the poem “Mother”.  A Silent voice speaks is available from GWL and I highly recommend it – an inspirational book.

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