Over 21,000 and counting. That is the number of letters Gurbachan Singh, a 50-year-old Kapurthala head constable with Punjab Police, writes. At a time when WhatsApp has almost replaced even e-mails, Gurbachan’s hobby might seem out of place. Most of his messages are to people he has never met and will probably never meet.
“Most letters of mine are to families who have lost their near and dear ones,” said Gurbachan. “I find their addresses from the newspapers and request them to plant a sapling in memory of the departed soul.”
“My only relationship with your family is that of humanity,” reads one letter he wrote on Sunday. “Deeply saddened to know about demise of (XYZ) but God has his own plans. It is my earnest request to you to plant at least one sapling in memory of your loving one. When that sapling will grow into a tree, its cool shade will remind you of loving memories of your loved one. ‘Saye mein aate hi wo aadmi yaad aata hai, jis ne kuch soch ke ye ped lagaya hoga. Meri mout tey na royo, meri soch nu zaroor bachao’. (Standing in the cool shade of this tree, I remember that noble soul who must have planted it- with a thought)”
He undersigns the letter with his name, designation and a post script: Punjab police lokan di hamdard hai na ki darr (Punjab police is your sympathiser, do not fear police).
His first letter was to a doctor in Nawahashahr who lost his daughter in 2005. “He replied that he planted 300 saplings,” said a beaming Gurbachan. Gurbachan doesn’t stop with this. On his cycle, he attaches a plate every day with a social message.
Some of them read—Dheeyan hass ke apnao, Puttran nu nashey to bachao (Welcome daughters with a smile, save sons from drugs), Thekeyaan vich sharrab ni mukni, teri zindagi mukk jaani hai (Liquor won’t get finished at vends but your life will), Ikk botal daaru di, tera ghar ujaadugi (one bottle liquor will be enough to burn your home), naujavaan nu nasha mukht neta, afsar, teacher, maapey rakh sakde han (politicians, officers, teachers and parents can keep youth from drugs) and rukh manukh layi oxygen, panchiyaan layi ghar (Trees are oxygen for humans and home for birds).
In letters to over 6,000 village sarpanches till now, Gurbachan requests them with the same social message.