Tejinder Pal Singh is one of the most popular people in the city of Darwin. He runs a free food service called the Food Van on the last Sunday of every month, eager to feed the hungry and needy people in Darwin. In this article, we profile this most unlikely of saints.
Every once in a while you come across news of hope concerning people who are selfless enough to put other people before themselves. Tejinder Pal Singh, a resident of Darwin, nominee for 2017’s Australian of the Year awards, winner of the NT region’s award of the same name, is one such person. Here are a few things about this remarkable man.
He came to Australia from Punjab in 2006
The story, as they say, began in 2006 when Tejinder came to Australia from Punjab. He began to work as a taxi driver, and when he encountered a racist tirade from a customer, he decided that he should do something in the community to remove prejudice against turban-wearers. Famously, he would say with calm and composure that ‘people who wear turbans are as much God’s creation as anyone else’, and that ‘their faith requires them to wear turbans’.
The idea of the ‘Food Van’
For the last four years, Tejinder has been driving the ‘Food Van’ around the community on the last Sunday of every month. In this food van, he cooks Indian vegetarian food and serves it to people regardless of class and race for free. The sign on top of the van says, ‘Free Indian food for hungry and needy people’. The local community has become used to seeing Tejinder every month now, and tens of people flock to his van as soon as it appears in the vicinity.
Driving after a full day at work
Tejinder does two shifts of work, during the day as an air-conditioner mechanic and a taxi driver during the night. In spite of being dog-tired at the end of the day, when it’s the last Sunday of the month, Tejinder sets out after his taxi driving stint to serve food for the needy and hungry. He says that the act of giving and the act of watching people eating his food gives him the energy to perform this gesture. When asked of the origin of this generosity, he simply replies, ‘Our religion asks us to give 10% of what we earn to charity.’
There have been various monetary offers to the Food Van, but Tejinder has turned down all of them. Instead, he encourages others to start their own free food projects. As many as three other people in the community have been inspired to start their own free food vans. Tejinder has found a great supporter in Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner, who bestowed upon him the award of Australian Local Hero. Neither is he a millionaire nor is he a king, but this Indian-born cabbie, working in Australia, is one of the most popular people in the city of Darwin.