By Prof. Thakur Singh in Poorab Janam Kay Milay Sanjogee
Sree Maan Baoo Mul Singh jee's most beloved friend was Subedar Harbachan Singh jee. Bhai Harbachan Singh jee had been allotted land in Baoo jee's village of Chakk 52/2 L Okara, and his house backed on Baoo jee's house. He was the son of Baoo jee's 36th Regiment head-clerk, Sardar Maan Singh jee. Because he regularly visited Baoo jee's house from a small age, his love for Baoo jee was so solid that it lasted till the end of his life.
When in 1912 Bhai Sahib Randheer Singh jee brought Baoo jee and his family from Panch Khand to Narangvaal, it was because of these Gurmukhs' desire that the amrit sinchaar and sree akhand paath saahib were all held at Ambala ChhauNee.
After this amrit sinchaar smaagam, by the grace of the Lord, they would meet daily with Baoo jee at amrit vela and also at night for paath. This solid program also lasted until their final days.
After some time, Subedar Harbachan Singh was made the clerk for #66 Regiment and because of his suitability, he soon became the head-clerk. In the first World War, he was sent to Basra, where with the army he spent six months on the Kotalmara Front, and after six months of being surrounded, he became a prisoner of Turkey. Despite many hardships, his food arrangements remained just fine. Bhai Sahib's body was not very strong like the other soldiers, and after 5 or 7 days in transit, he became so weak that he collapsed and fell unconscious. The Turk Officers left him there. For their part, they had left him to die, but the Lord protected his servant. After advancing another mile, the entire troup stopped and Bhai Sahib Mastaan Singh (who later joined the NirbaaN Keertanee Jatha and did keertan on the Rawalpindi trips) asked his Col, if he may be allowed to bring Harbachan Singh, and permission was granted. Through Bhai Sahib's efforts, veer Harbachan Singh was brought in his unconscious state and administered medicine. When he was revived, he was bathed and at this point Bhai Mastan Singh said "That Satguru who has given you this new life, meditate on him, and please recite for us Sodar daa Paath."
After this, during his time in captivity, due to his suitability, he was appointed an interpreter and was able to pass the entire time well, and returned after the war and was sent to KohaaT ChhauNee.
Subedar Sahib's Kindness
Subedar Harbachan Singh was a very merciful and kind person. Because of Baoo jee's love for me, he too used to show me a lot of love. Once he arrived at Okara on a leave and the Guru Kaa Baagh Morcha was going on, and Baoo jee was gone to Sree Amritsar. We both decided to also leave for Sree Amritsar for darshan and ishnaan. When we were leaving we decided to take an account of our money. He had 105 rupees with him and I had 21. I became the treasurer. We arrived at Sree Amritsar and did darshan and ishnaan. For two days we enjoyed the bliss of keertan. When it was time to return, Bhai Harbachan Singh told me to keep five rupees each for the trip back and put the rest in the Guru's golak. "This money is given to us by Satguru jee and the extra should be offered back." We did this and returned.
Once in Okara, Bhai Attar Singh was reciting nitnem for Baoo jee in the dead of winter. Bhai Harbachan Singh did his ishnaan at home and came to listen as well. After the conclusion of the paath, when he was leaving for his home, he took the beautiful new blanket he was wearing and put it on Bhai Attar Singh and said "His blanket is thin, so I offer this one to this beloved."
Subedar Sahib's Sense of Humour
Subedar Harbachan Singh was a very lively and cheerful person. I remember a very funny story about him. In those days veer Haree Singh was also there. At night, we went for our walk to the farm land. In our way came a water irrigation canal. We skipped over it and proceeded, but Subedar Sahib had a heavy body. When he attempted to jump across, he fell in the canal with his shoes and pyjama. When he tried to climb out from the other side, he would slip back into the water. After slipping three or four times he said "I didn't take the Kotalmara Front to be anything, who does this canal think he is??" He made us laugh so much and he himself began to laugh.
The next day he took out a new suit and went on his walk with us, when we saw another wide canal. He said "I'm not as good as you because yesterday I couldn't jump the canal, but today I'll surely jump it." When we both jumped over after raising our pyjamas, he took a running start from a distance and again fell in the canal with his boots and pyjama. He came out laughing again. Every day we'd be ready for some kind of joking around like this and he was always ready to be a part of it.
Thirst for Keertan: Rawalpindi Smaagams
In his platoon, he had keertanee friends like his most beloved friend Bhai Mastaan Singh and even after going into the army, he continued to live a religious life by doing the sangat of his divinely coloured friend Sreemaan Baoo jee and enjoyed naam, baaNee and keertan. He would always thirst for keertan and satsangat. Whenever the Jatha went to Rawalpindi, he would always attend.
When in 1928 Baoo jee went to Rawalpindi with the Jatha, he took a leave from his platoon and came. At that time, the Jatha was staying in the home of Bibi Inder Kaur's maternal grandmother in the city. Baoo jee was speaking about Gurmat when he saw Subedar Sahib and became ecstatic. He emotionally spoke the line
The Lord gave his blessings and keertan began. Such an environment was created that everyone was swaying in divine colours. Satguru jee had given Subedar Sahib not only a holy soul, but a high consciousness. He was lost in a divine state and his simran was going very powerfully and his consciousness was enjoying the amazing spiritual colours. Seeing him in such a state, the rest of the sangat was also becoming amazed. That night, the entire sangat enjoyed such a bliss that cannot be described and is unforgettable. I cannot be forgotten. It is because of his high avasthaa that Bhai Sahib Bhai Randheer Singh jee used to call him "dulayshvar jee".
When in 1929 the Jatha came to Rawalpindi again, Subedar jee took a leave from Kohaat and arrived. That day keertan was taking place at Bibi Inder Kaur's home and it was a very blissful scene. Sree Maan Baoo jee motioned to Subedar Sahib to begin a shabad. He sat in front of the vaja. When he began the keertan, his consciousness became elevated into divine colours and he was lost. His naam khanda began to rattle and the entire sangat began to sway silence. After some time, the rest of the sangat began to depart but sitting with Baoo jee, the khanda continued. Much of the night passed like this. Then Bibi Inder Kaur came and with two hands clasped together requested the two Gurmukhs to eat. Both ate and then went to rest.
In 1930 Bhai Sahib Randheer Singh jee returned from jail. In 1931 the Jatha arrived in Rawalpindi with even greater splendour. Amazing keertan took place. One day at amrit vela, the Jatha was going to Bhai Sardha Singh's home for keertan when Subedar Sahib arrived from Kohaat by train. Everyone was very happy. Baoo jee and Sree Maan Bhai Saahib kept hugging him. Particularly Bhai Sahib jee was in bliss by meeting his long departed brother "Heera Harbachan Singh". In that embrace, Baoo jee noticed that Subedar Sahib's body was very hot and he had a fever. Baoo jee requested Dr. Gurbaksh Singh to give him medicine and tell him to go rest at home. The carriages had arrived so the Jatha departed.
Subedar Sahib then came to me and said "I've come here to see the Gur-Sangat and enjoy Keertan. I will not stay at home and have medicine nor will I rest. Let the Jatha go first and we'll later call our own carriage. We'll arrive after them."
So without telling anyone, we arrived at the house the Jatha had gone to. When the Jatha had sat down, Sreemaan Bhai Sahib put the second vajaa before me, and just like he used to say, said "take a shabad". According to Hukam, the shabad began
Bhai Saahib fell into divine colours at the very start of the shabad. He took the shabad to the highest notes. The sangat became such an environment that everyone was lost in love and were on some other world. Every line of the shabad was touching the heart. Every line was sung many times and like this the sangat enjoyed bliss for a long time. Subedar Sahib was sitting behind me and putting his hand in mine said "Look! I've received my medicine. I've got my treatment. The cure has worked. My shirt is soaked in sweat and the fever has broken."
The keertan ended at 11AM. When everyone was rising from the divaan, Sreemaan Baoo jee saw Subedar Sahib and in surprise, said "We had asked you to take medicine from the doctor and rest." Subedar Sahib laughed and replied "I've followed your orders. You Gursikhs in sangat, beloved-ones, are my doctors. By letting me hear keertan of GurbaaNee, you've given me the cure:
"ਤੀਨੇਤਾਪਨਿਵਾਰਣਹਾਰਾਦੁਖਹੰਤਾਸੁਖਰਾਸਿ ॥ "
By way of which I've enjoyed spiritual bliss which is beyond description. What is this bodily fever? See for yourself, with the very first shabad my fever broke and I began to sweat. I came here thirsting for satsangat and keertan, and so Satguru jee has given his blessings and the fever has broken."
Sreemaan Bhai Sahib jee again embraced him. They had met after so many years and he gave his love to his heart's content. After this, the Jatha ate and returned to rest.
Retirment and Final Years
Subedar Sahib was still serving in the army when he had a heart attack in 1940 or 41, due to which he was given his pension and an allotment of land. The land was in Montgommery near Okara. He came back to his village to live a peaceful life of rest and again began to enjoy the sangat of Baaoo jee. He had such a love for Baoo jee in his heart that he would always walk behind him out of respect. In 1938 when Baoo jee fell from his horse and was seriously wounded in the head, Subedar Sahib arranged for taking care of him and the doctors' treatment.
After receiving his pension, Subedar Sahib came to meet me in Ludhiana for some time. He would take some medicine but his trust was on GurbaaNee and keertan. This was the greatest treatment for him.
From Rawalpindi, Bibi Inder Kaur sent a letter that her aunt was on the Maree mountain range and there was a beautiful house there that could be used for rest purposes for Subedar Sahib, to escape the heat. We went to Rawalpindi and asked Dr. Pargat Singh jee about this suggestion about going to the Maree mountain. He said that it was good for its temperature but a mountain was not a good place for a heart patient. "If you want to go, then travel in leisure and there too, rest. Listen to keertan, but don’t' sing along. This would give you strain." Subedar Sahib remained silent.
We arrived on Maree and the arrangement for staying and bathing at amrit vela was fine. After nitnem, Bibi Inder Kaur's aunt would do parkaash of Sree Guru Granth Saahib and would sing keertan. There was a vaja there. When I began to do keertan, Subedar Sahib said to me "Dr. Sahib has advised that I can listen to keertan but not do it. But keertan is the food for my soul and the medicine for my body. I cannot last without it. How can I follow this advice of not doing keertan?" He then laughed and said "It's not as if he's going to see me doing keertan…So we'll do keertan and enjoy the bliss." The entire time he stayed here, he enjoyed keertan, and remained very happy.
Bhai Sahib Randheer Singh jee in the book "Ranglay Sajjan" writes about Subedar Harbachan Singh jee,
"Only his close friend, Gurmukh veer Baboo Mul Singh jee can speak of his [Subedar Sahib's] spiritual experiences. What can we write about his Gurmat qualities? They cannot be written down; they are countless. He was a prime example of a Gursikh who lived Gursikhi. When I read the praising and brief-description like stories from Bhai Gurdas jee's Vaaran and Kabitt Svaiyaas, the life of our doola brother Bhai Harbachan Singh comes standing before me."
Bhai Sahib, in the end of this chapter, writes:
"He has left this transitory world, but I don't believe he has left us. Like the lotus, living untouched in the life of a householder and unattached to the material world or his family, not caring about bodily pains, he left his body for the abode of the Guru in an instant. But his soul, at every breath and instant, remains present and visible among the divinely attuned beloved Gurmukhs, and it seems as if had never left."