Keeping America Secure

Khushwant Singh

Gurutej Singh Khalsa Founder Akal Security, Inc

Another post 9/11 contract was from the newly carved Department of Homeland Security whose mission is effective enforcement of immigration laws. In four large DHS centres where foreign nationals await deportation, Akal provides seven hundred officers to secure the facilities. The DHS that turned to Akal to ensure the quality of services at these centres has consistently reported that Akal’s effective recruiting, training, supervision and management programs have made a positive difference in supporting their national security efforts at all four facilities.

And like location is to a restaurant, training is to a security agency, for which Akal has developed an advanced training program in detecting explosives and weapons. The company has delivered this training to CSOs, police departments, and federal agents nationwide. ‘Our training has always been the foundation of our services,’ claims Gurutej Singh, a fact confirmed by a photograph of Gurutej that features him target practicing with a pistol at Akal’s training centre in Nevada. Akal’s nationally recognized training programs include basic and specialized courses in every aspect of security and law enforcement. Their flexible course curricula are adapted to every client’s specific needs and requirements, while remaining dynamic and effective.

Akal is an industry leader in many specialized training areas, including entry-screening techniques, access control, and conflict management. The course in detecting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and weapons has been delivered to courthouse security personnel, along with teams of law enforcement officers from the US Marshals Service, NYPD United. Ironically, Akal, which hires mainly former police and military officers, has virtually no Sikhs in its cadre. Akal’s contract with the federal courthouses prohibits its guards from wearing turbans or having facial hair, unlike the company’s officials, who are proud Sikhs.

‘We must reach the kitchen soon,’ said Gurutej, ‘as we have to prepare the lunch.’

‘I’m ready when you are,’ I said, as Gurutej had been busy taking phone calls and going in and out of his room. I had spent the time reading through some of Gurutej’s poems and excerpts from a historical fiction titled Rajni he was writing. A trilogy, the first part of the book is located in the period around the advent of Guru Nanak and goes into the time of Guru Ramdass. It revolves around a girl called Rajni. The second part is from the time of Guru Arjan until the death of Guru Harkishen, but focuses on Guru Hargobind. The last volume takes you through a journey from the time of Guru Teg Bahadur to the period twenty to thirty years after Guru Gobind Singh.

‘Ok, let’s go,’ he announced. The walk from Gurutej’s office to the community Gurdwara Sri Singhasa-e-Khalsa is just a minute away. The gurdwara is a small structure with a golden dome and provides for the religious needs of the American Sikh community where they perform regular kirtan. A huge open area with poplar trees adds to the serenity of the place. The kitchen is adjacent to the sanctum sanctorum and is equipped with all modern facilities.

The highlight of the day, however, was pasta for langar and the process of cooking it. Unlike the lentil and chapati that is served in India, langar in Espanola had assumed an eclectic form, thanks to the American Sikhs. ‘My wife is an Italian, so she loves pasta,’ said Gurutej. ‘She’s already made the sauce, which is really exceptional and we just have to add the pasta. The other dish is fried eggplant.’ Langri like, Gurutej was soon stirring the ladle vigorously in the huge stainless steel vessel containing the sauce. A giant frying pan lay on the next burner, and I lent a hand tossing in the chopped eggplant. Assistance also came from three other Sikh women who helped Gurutej with the cooking and laying out the buffet in the veranda of the temple complex.

That the kitchen would become a venue where Gurutej would share his personal life was the last thing I had imagined. And the dialogue, I must confess, put us both on an emotional tangent as Gurutej rewound his life, to describe the most unfortunate incident he had experienced. The loss of a seven year-old daughter in a bizarre accident in 1981 had transformed Gurutej’s life forever. During a school outing, Nav Jiwan Kaur had lost her balance while climbing a hill and had hit a rock. ‘Such incidents can really change your life,’ said Gurutej, his voice heavy, an indication of its impact on his life.

Gurutej’s son, Sri Darshan Singh Khalsa, is a successful entrepreneur in Los Angeles on V Street and owns a high-end furniture store that is visited by the super-rich and top celebrities. Gurutej has been married twice. He met his second wife when, ‘at the direction of Yogiji, I taught her meditation and different kriyas. That is what led to our getting married. It was a very powerful experience meditating with her’. Gurutej got re-married in 1993 and the couple still spends many evenings meditating together.

It was about 11.45 a.m. and the crowd, comprising the American Sikh community who worked with Akal or at the Sikh Dharma secretariat, had started gathering at the park, eagerly waiting for the langar. ‘Guru Fateh’, ‘Sat Sri Akal’, ‘Satnam’ were some of the salutations they exchanged with me and when told about the purpose of my visit, had kind words for Gurutej, the birthday boy. ‘It’s a nice gift on his birthday, to write about him,’ said a young teenaged girl, dressed in a white salwar kameez and a matching turban on her head. A metal badge, in the shape of a sword, was pinned on her turban.

Khushwant Singh
  • Bhavleen Kaur

    What an amazing piece to read? Really enjoyed reading it. What an amazing man! I felt I was travelling with you to meet Mr Khalsa…. very nice write up