Nanak Dev Singh

The winter of 1984 was particularly hard. Most children spent the winter break at Rishikesh in a dorm-style bungalow. The American Sikh converts who were appointed to live with us in India were referred to as “Singh-Sahib” (for the men) or “Bhenji”(for the ladies). These were “the guides”. The guides had little to no experience working with children and volunteered to travel to India on this program on very meager pay. The guide who was the most abusive was Nanak Dev Singh. He was meant to be the authority over everyone. He had executive order above all others, and well, if they didn’t agree with him, he would bully them into acquiescence.

Our daily routine began with waking up at 3:30 AM to take a freezing cold shower followed by Morning Prayer. At Prayer Nanak Dev Singh would whack us with a stick if our spines weren’t straight, or if we feel asleep. He loomed over us during meals, teasing children and haranguing. Then he led the children in some sort of Sikh martial art or athletic activity. He verbally abused and taunted all the children and he physically abused several children both boys and girls. He physically assaulted a girl behind closed doors and poundend on her chest and back causing serious bruising and welts. This incident was just total confusion from my perspective, but I remember bigger kids guarding the door where he had enclosed her to assault her. Looking back, his assault was pre-meditated, to the point where he had the wherewithal to lock her in a room and have the door guarded.

When a child didn’t respond to his harangues, he humiliated her (or him) in front of everyone and made her carry around a twenty-pound stone called an EGO ROCK so everyone would know she was punished. After he assaulted my friend, he made her carry around one of these stones for about one month. This practice even became a trend among the rest of the singh-sahibs and bhenjis. It got so bad, a seven year old was made to carry around the ego-rock. She dropped it and it broke her toe.

Although abuse was institutional, Nanak Dev Singh is personally responsible a majority of it, including most of the harshest assaults. It is my belief that he is culpable for most or all of diagnosed and undiagnosed cases of Post Traumatic Stress.

Nanak Dev Singh currently lives overseas, and most people want nothing to do with him. But I say, don’t let him duck away so easily – email him – his email is: and website.

I remember wanting nothing more than to coast under his radar, avoiding his randomly selected harangues and blow-outs. One time he did sneak up behind me, grabbed me by the throat and said “relax or I’ll snap your neck”. But my memory of the particular abuse incidents is mostly that of feeling major confusion – never knowing the details, never knowing what would come next, and experiencing crippling fear around him. My only guess how he got away with his tyranny is that is was sanctioned by Yogi Bhajan.

3 Replies to “Nanak Dev Singh”

  1. Hi, It’s m. You got me laughing again. I don’t know why. The thought of him sneaking up behind you, like that. What a fucking LOSER!!! But I’m laughing so hard I’m crying. Thanks! I needed that.

  2. Hey it's M. Just wanted to say that I'm doing some trauma based therapy and Nanak Dev, once again is front and center. Today my therapist very matter-of-factly stated that he is a monster for all of the things he did to us, made us do to each other and made us witness as children. I wish I could send him a bill for the time and hours of therapy I've had to do to recover from the four years of my childhood he stole and destroyed. I googled his name, because I had forgotten about this. Thank you so much for writing this. I feel like it's bearing witness to what was done to us.

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