Sukhi Bath: Surrey’s Biggest Hero
On the exterior, Sukhi Bath may look like the ordinary suit wearing, business owning, corporate mogul counting the zero’s on the ends of his bank statements. With one sit- down conversation, however, my entire perception of him changed.
Sukhi Bath is the ultimate paradox: a successful business man with the softest of hearts. “Mere thou kisay dhi gareebi nai dhek hundhi” (I can’t stand to see people in poverty). Today, Sukhi Bath donates a surprising 80% of his income to needy people of all capacities. 80%: a number that widens the eyes of even the most generous of people. While others are constantly thinking about money and power, Sukhi Bath truly, first and foremost, is thinking about all those suffering around the world. “When you start learning how some people live, your heart just aches and can’t help but do something.”
Giving his money away is just the tip of the iceberg for Sukhi Bath. What makes him so special is that he has such a genuine desire to visit, get to know, and interact with people who are suffering. Not only does he give 80% of his income, but 80% of his time is now spent being Surrey’s biggest hero. “You get addicted” he reveals. “Once you start seeing how you can change people’s lives, you get addicted.”
On the morning of the devastating hurricane occurring in the Philippines, Sukhi remembers hearing about the news while having his morning cup of tea. He was struck by the sheer carnage of the attack and the pain that so many people were enduring. That morning, he got ready and went to work as usual. Within two hours, his soft heart spoke and soon he was on a flight to the Philippines. “I saw body parts still left hanging on the trees” he said hauntingly. Within 7 days, he was able to wire $131,000 to the Red Cross to help the victims.
Thousands of Pilipino people survived the aftermath of the attack because of Suki Bath.
In India, Sukhi has currently taken 25 orphan children into his care. He discovered that these children, some as young as 3-years-old were forced to fend for themselves. Today Sukhi pays for their food, clothes, education and even the hiring of personal caretakers so they are taken care of on a daily basis. More so than just giving them money, he spends quality time with them and genuinely considers them to be his own. “They are my family” he reveals “if god is willing, I hope to see each of them get married.”
25 young orphan children will live a full life because of Sukhi Bath.
One very pressing health issue in India is the lack of eye care for its poorest citizens. This has led to countless cases of severe infection, blindness and even death. As soon as Sukhi became aware of this, he set up eye camps in India’s poorest areas. As of early next year, he will have opened a total of 50 eye camps in India and single handily be responsible for over 50,000 eye check ups among India’s poorest. He will have funded approximately, 6000 eye surgeries and 6000 corrective lenses. Sukhi has also made extensive feats in helping those in India with other physical disabilities. He has set up 5 camps in India where disabled people are provided everything from wheelchairs to funding for artificial limbs
Thousands of people in India are now able to see, walk and move because of Sukhi Bath.
One of the most famous things Sukhi Bath has done for the extremely poor is funding weddings that would otherwise never happen. In India, a father will pay a dowry to give his daughter’s hand to another family. Many fathers in India simply cannot afford this and thus, their daughters do not ever get married. One wedding at a time, Sukhi Bath is changing this. Today he has funded 192 weddings in India. He hosts these weddings in his village, in his very own home. What’s so special about these weddings is they are not watered down because they are given through charity. These to-be wed girls walk into ceremonies with full catering, decorations, music, a Doli—Sukhi does it all. Further, he doesn’t just marry off the girls and hope they can now fend for themselves. Instead, he sends off each girl with 100,000 rupees worth of items for daily use.
192 marriages, 192 families exists because of Sukhi Bath. These 192 couples will have children, who have children, who have children—generations of families will exist because of Sukhi Bath.
When I interview anyone, my first instinct as a reporter to gain as much information about them as possible: to know who they are, how they grew up, what they do for work, and any important accomplishments they may have made. I found almost nothing on the Sukhi Bath Foundation.
Although I found extensive information on Sukhi Bath Motors and his financial success, there very few details about his charity work in print. Even that is information was only as old as 2 years and Sukhi Bath has been making life changing donations for more than 16 years. He does not flaunt, he does not boast. He does not share his amazing story, so I took it upon myself to do just that.
Here is his time. Found out about the man that I sat down with to do a normal interview and got back up from my seat with a new role model. A hero. Found out how the surprising details of how he grew up, what his motivation is, and what truly fills his heart.
It seems easy to get caught up in a life of wealth, fancy cars and big houses and choosing self-indulgence over helping others. Where do you think your giving nature comes from?
From day one, I actually belonged to a very poor family. I had 8 sisters. There were times when we didn’t know if there would be food at the end of the day. But still in those days, my mother told us to always give to people who needed more than we did. So I got my nature all because of my mother. She was a really religious woman and a very soft hearted woman. In those days, my sisters and I naturally grew up wanting to help people but it was really my mother who was the hero in the story. Even when we had very little she would be the one to say, “don’t do this, save this dollar, and go to that place for that person. You know, help those people, pay some other students for their education fees, do whatever you can.” That was my mother.
And you know what my mother would say? When I was 8 or 9 years old, she would always say “C’mon Puthar (sweet child) become a loving human.” And I tried my best to be. Then when I was 11 or 12 she’d say “you’re good at being a loving human but now start doing it without condition. Please love them without conditions.” So that statement, right now even I work on a daily basis “love humans and do it without conditions.” I love humans, there’s no conditions and I do it from a clear heart. And when you start helping people and see how it changes their lives, it’s like you get addicted. It is such a good feeling, you become addicted.
What events lead to you stating the actual foundation?
Well, 16 years ago I went India on a small budget actually. I took 25,000 rupees and I had nothing in mind about what I was going to do with it. But what I ended up achieving, what became of it was really good. I feel really good about it and it was just a small incident that started so much. My wife and I were in one of the bazaars shopping and just busy looking at clothes and doing this and that. And my daughter, she was 7-years-old at the time, she looked outside and saw a man who had lost his legs from an accident. And he right there in the bazaar was begging for money. And he had nothing to help him move. I went outside to see the guy and I asked him what happened. I asked him what happened and he told me about the accident. Right there I just felt he needed our help. So I asked him to come back to the same place the next day.
After we finished our shopping we went and bought a wheel chair. The next day we went to the same place and we found the same man. I remember we lifted him up and put him in the chair he held on tight because both of his arms were still working. And oh god, at that time…the way he was first on the floor with cars going by and bycles riding by, and then he was using his arms to move. To see the look on his face. That was what, a thousand dollars worth in a wheel chair but Puthar but that feeling was something worth much more. The feeling that I had done something right. From there I had about 15,000 left and did a couple of other things there. I enjoyed it so much. What I could do for needy people on that trip, I felt good. And that’s where it came into my mind. I decided I would continue with this.
What made you start the wedding foundation in particular?
There were a few incidents very early when I started doing work for the needy that really shook me up. People were dying because of 10,000 or 15,000 rupees. $200 and $300 and people were dying. People committing suicide. $200 dollars.
I met a family, and this was 16 years ago, very poor family and they had two grown daughters. Many things weren’t go right for them in the village and the father could not afford to get the girls married. And he was harassed because of it. He was made to feel like nothing. He felt so badly about this that he took his own life. He committed suicide. The older girls was the first one that took initiative for and arranged for the wedding the going to the in laws house. Today (he smiles) today she has three kids now and is a very active member in the foundation.
That kind of feeling you see somebody die because he doesn’t have 50,000 rupees (1,000) to do things for the wedding and do her daughter’s wedding and that’s the sad part, he lost his life because he was harassed by other people, he feels like he’s nothing and kills himself. There’s hundreds different incidents that happened this year that have brought me closer to these people in India. I love it.
I’ll be honest I’m not friends with any rich people, you can ask anyone, I’ll even say it at functions (laughs). I’m not friends with any politicians, nothing. I don’t fit in with rich people. I want a very simple life and these people that I meet and help, they are my friends, they are my family.
Not a lot of people know about the foundation. Why do you think that is?
I was very quiet about the foundation until about two years ago. It was actually my daughter’s idea to share it, she said “you know we’re doing good thing, what’s wrong with letting other people know and we can inspire them too?” Now we update a few radio stations and TV stations here and there and definitely now that we live in an electronic world with social media, we could try to encourage more people. But I’m an old timer I still believe “Jai main puhn karna fir main dasna kateh ya? (“If I am helping someone what need is there to tell people?).
But it does make me happy to hear that when people know about what I am doing, they begin to do their own seyva. That makes me happy. There are the kinds of things we are not doing enough of.
What is your main goal with this foundation? What do you hope to achieve?
If I can, I want to give people a better life. You know right now I am working on more weddings, 55 more will be done in the upcoming year or so. What I really want to work on, and what I’ll continue wth the next generation is this: so I have so 25 girls I have of my own form my village or other places in India. I want to give them enough, enough education so they can stand on their own two feet and I won’t even have to spend money on their weddings. I want to make the next generation strong. That is the main goal from the foundation, to educate young girls Hopefully god will continue give us the blessing and it will go well.
A lot people may give money to an organization but instead you created your own organization and visit these people yourself. Why is that?
My mom always taught us “oh pun nai hunda jinu hutie na kita javeh” (if you’re going to help someone, you must do it from your own hands”). If you find someone hungry and you want to buy him food, giving him $5 is not the whole point. Pick up the food, sit down next to him and let him eat.
Why do you think most people do not donate their time and money?
For helping people, you have to have a heart for it. You know, a lot of times many people come to me and say “Oh Sukhi we want to do this and that” and they have millions of dollars but when the time comes it become too busy. I always think, you know if I leave 50 million to my children, what’s the difference? There born in Canada they are such nice kids they can take care of themselves, so who is really helped? And with my business, I reached my target for myself 7 years ago and now my daily routine and my money goes to the needy people. It’s time.
You know, I came to Canada with nothing in my pocket. I was born in a family where we had an issue with not knowing if we are going to eat that night. I’ve been there. I’ve seen being poor. But I think helping the poor is something someone does for themselves to live a good life and a peaceful life. We must do something, whatever we can “jo ve sukhdeh tho hunda.” Its god watching us. I never seen god but I believe there is a god and he is watching us all the time. He is watching us now and that god is inside us. To me, accepting there’ss a god that exists that gives me the fear to walk straight. Everybody should do whatever they can
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting the foundation?
I’m not sure if you would call it a lesson but instead I learned that: the more I do, god gives me more. That’s the lesson for me. Yeah I know some foundations have a lot of ups and down. But to me, what I do with my own money and my own hands, we go to 50 camps and 50 villages, god is in our favor. I feel it.
And you know, when I go to India, I want to live a very ordinary life like I used to life 37 years ago. I don’t have a “kothi”(mansion) I have a very simple house, my dad’s house. I don’t have a “gezar” (water tank) for hot water, we have cold water. For 6 weeks when I go to the camps I sleep on the floor. I live the way I lived 37 years ago. I love it. But you know when I go to India, I have children, Canadian born children, who sometimes go with me. One day, I remember we were doing work at a camp we always set up accommodations for everything but one of the days there were more people that and it was the end of the day maybe 11 o’clock and everyone had already gone to sleep and there was nothing left for my son and I to sleep on. And we said okay, we’ll go to that corner and sleep on the floor. And when we went, I saw that my son was having a hard time falling asleep, I had been watching him for 5 or 10 minutes and I say son “what’s happening?” and he said “dad, the floors not bother me but I never sleep without pillow”
So I picked up my shoes and I put it under his neck hand 5 minutes later falls asleep and I kept watching his face. I kept watching his face and saluting god. Here is a Canadian boy who grew up with so much luxury, he got whatever he wanted and now he’s in a village in India and here is sleeping on the Gurdwara floor. That’s the gift. That’s the blessing. Those are the kinds of things that encourage keeping doing what I’m doing and to keep doing more. Because god has given me everything. God has given me angels: my children and my grandchildren. That’s the biggest gifts in life. You feel it.
What’s something you try to teach to the people that you help?
You know, people don’t hear too much about the foundations but when I do go radio stations or TV stations, I always try to encourage very carefully to people that I’m not trying to tell them “look at how good Sukhi Bath” is,” when I come on these stations I really just want to tell people how easily you can achieve what you want to achieve. And when you do good in life, good things happen back to you. Even with my own experience, you can look anywhere with family point of view from when I started the foundation 16 years ago. 16 years ago I had two 12 year-old kids and now they are achieving everything they want—that’s the gift. 16 years ago I had one business and now we have 5 business and 240 employees. I think god gives it to you back. He says “you’re doing good, you need more money? Here’s more money, go spend it” (laughs). So I ask everyone to try feel other people’s needs, you first need to feel.
What I also want to teach and I say this in my book—I am writing a book called “Je Jeena Hi Hai Tha…” (If you want to live then…) and the first 30 pages is on happiness. Something sad that happens in our community is that people become so into money but they don’t know the real meaning of happiness. And they have happiness inside but they don’t know how to bring it out. I see daily in our society, people postponing their happiness “aj nai yaar, kalu sai” (not today my friend, tomorrow) and tomorrow never comes. Kuch karo, do something. My advice is do something that makes you feel and do something to help the needy. It’s our ethical duty, we must do this. Kuch karo.