Punjabi taxi driver to get Australian of the Year series award

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A Punjabi taxi driver, Tejinder Pal Singh, running a free-food van will receive the Northern Territory Local Hero 2017 award as part of the Australian of the Year awards at a function in Canberra on January 25.

Tejinder Singh works by day as an air conditioner mechanic and by night as a taxi driver. Despite his busy life, he still manages to find time to give back to the Darwin community, in the form of a monthly food drive, in which he feeds up to 100 of Darwin’s neediest.

He prepares 80 kilograms of vegetarian curry and rice in his kitchen, and then serves it as free lunch. The feast is funded entirely from his pocket and his van bears the sign ‘free Indian food for hungry and needy people’.

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Alongside young son Navdeep, he dedicates the last Sunday of every month to cooking and distributing vegetarian meals to any and all who are hungry, no matter what class or race. Often finishing his taxi shift in the early hours of the morning, this means his food drive is often completed on little sleep but the act of giving, he says, gives him the energy to continue. He has rejected monetary offers from supporters, instead, he encourages others to begin their own food drives within their local community.

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“The van, the pots, anyone can use them. It’s for mankind.”, he says.

Like many other turbaned Sikhs living abroad, Tejinder too had been a victim of racist abuse. But he chose not to be demoralized by it. Taking inspiration from him, three other groups have also taken up the free food service.

“One more step to making awareness about Sikhism and share thoughts. Thanks to teachers and future of my beautiful Australia (sic),” said Tejinder Pal Singh in a social media post.

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Northern Territory chief minister Michael Gunner, while recognizing the recipients, said, “Our recipients hail from vastly different backgrounds, yet they all have one thing in common – an overwhelming desire to help others.”