A “true friend of the French” Harjinder Singh Kukreja continued his camaraderie with the French by participating in the Bastille Day celebrations at the French embassy in Delhi. Harjinder, who loves to be known as “a friend of the French”, has made his presence in the past at French functions from St. Tropez to Paris and from Chandigarh to Delhi.
In a unique gesture of appreciation and recalling the Punjab-French connection during the times of the Sikh emperor Maharaja Ranjit Singh who had a French general as his army chief, the young stalwart, Harjinder Singh Kukreja gifted a unique new painting of Maharaja Ranjit Singh with the French general Jean François Allard, to the French ambassador in India and his spouse. Ambassador Alexander Ziegler was visibly delighted to receive the painting and his spouse too showed keen interest.
“I am particularly enamoured by the story of General Allard who modernised the Sikh army. He was born in St. Tropez and died in Lahore. I thought there could be no better tribute to the Maharaja and his General than a painting of the two to the French on their national day, hence I gifted this painting by a young Ludhiana-based artiste, Ayushi Gupta to the French ambassador” explained Harjinder Singh Kukreja.
Significantly, on Bastille Day last year, the bust of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was officially revealed for the French community in India and the Indian friends of France. This year’s French National Day marks a year of that occasion. “The installation of Maharaja’s bust is a milestone in Franco-Punjab relations and I feel proud that I was present at St. Tropez when the bust was made public last year,” said Harjinder Singh Kukreja.
Sikhs have always had a cordial connection with the French, having laid thousands of lives for their liberation during the World Wars as part of the Imperial forces of Great Britain. The French Republican national motto of “liberty, equality and fraternity” resounds Sikh values of the brotherhood of mankind and fatherhood of God.”
Harjinder Singh Kukreja runs a French bakery and chocolatery in Ludhiana. Not stopping at this, Harjinder Singh said that he wishes to continue to engage and enhance Franco-Punjab relations by seeking more French investment in Punjab and working for setting up an Alliance Francaise in Ludhiana. “In association with French scholars, there is scope to start a French-Punjabi and Punjabi-French dictionary too.” Someday soon, I propose to have a French-Punjabi Cuisine festival in the heart of Ludhiana city. He was quick to add, “without French wine, of course.”
Thierry Morel, a French diplomat in India, admired the keenness of Harjinder Singh Kukreja’s participation at French celebrations in India and France and hoped that this will one day fructify into something substantial for the Sikh-French connection which will make us proud.
“Kukreja’s effort reminds the French of the great memories between Sikhs and France,” says Ranjit G Singh of Sikhs de France, an organisation which represents French Sikhs.
Spelling out his next plans, Kukreja said that he looks forward to overwhelming participation of Punjabis in the French social, educational and cultural participation during the Bonjour India celebrations in Chandigarh among the 40 other Indian cities early next year.