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My dad, in his own words: Sharon Johal

Neighbours star Sharon Johal sits down with her father Saroop Singh Johal, entrepreneur and community stalwart.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

‘My dad, in his own words’ is a series paying tribute to our fathers, ahead of Father’s Day. We asked children in various age groups to interview their fathers, showcasing the intergenerational bond between them and celebrating the wonderful and eventful lives they’ve both had. This time, Neighbours star Sharon Johal sits down with her father Saroop Singh Johal, entrepreneur and community stalwart.

Sharon Johal: Let’s start at the beginning – what do you remember about the day I was born?  

Saroop Singh Johal: You were our second child, but the liveliest. We remember the day vividly as you were a 10-pounder baby! We started with half a bottle of milk, but you were always hungry for more and after a bottle and a half, you’d sleep like a log for 6 hours. What an entertaining child! 

Sharon Johal: I sure was entertaining! I remember organising concerts for our family friends and neighbours without letting you know, so after a hard day of work you’d suddenly come home to a group of people you had to host. Wasn’t I annoying as a child?  

Saroop Singh Johal: You were super annoying. You’d ALWAYS ask questions and challenge us; your grandfather said you were always going to be a lawyer. Whenever I told you anything, you’d always ask “why?”, and my answer was never good enough for you! 

When your grandfather came from India to stay with us for cancer treatment, you kept asking him where his “wife” was – your grandmother has passed away. You’d ask him why he was living with “my dad” and told him to “go home” whenever he told you off. 

an indian bride and her father dance together
Wedding day excitement. (Source: Supplied)

Sharon Johal: I remember that! Tell me about a time I really got on your nerves. 

Saroop Singh: When you were about 8, and we were living on the farm, I took you to the olive orchard to drive the tractor for me. Your mum and I were walking alongside the tractor spraying weeds. Suddenly you jumped off the tractor and ran, and the tractor crashed into a tree. Turns out there was a giant spider and cobweb between the trees you were driving through. It was an expensive mistake. 

Solid ground: Life lessons from Dad (Source: Supplied)

Sharon: What brought you to Australia? 

Saroop Singh: My father always wanted one of the sons the family to live abroad. As the youngest, my father arranged my marriage to your mum, who was from Australia. We started our lives with not a spoon to our names; it was tough and isolating but we are very proud of everything we’ve achieved now. 

Sharon: So am I. Whenever I need any guidance, I call you first – you’re my favourite human, always so wise, grounded, and diplomatic. The most valuable piece of advice you gave me was when I was 16, and I told you I wanted to do acting full time. You advised me to have a backup plan that was stable and secure – so after getting into dentistry, I became a qualified lawyer, making sure I have something to fall back on. What about your career journey?  

Saroop Singh: I finished my Bachelor of Arts and mechanical engineering courses in India, but my dream was always to be my own boss. After 18 months of solid work, we were able to become property owners in the early ‘80s, and we kept expanding to bigger and better properties, acreage, and businesses. I also worked tirelessly for the community and started the first place of worship in South Australia. After six years, the community applied for me to become a Justice of the Peace – I was the first Sikh JP in South Australia. In 2010 I was a recipient of the Governor’s Multicultural Community Worker award for South Australia, and in 2018 I won the Parliament’s Community Worker Award. 

a bride touches the arm of her father at a wedding
‘Wise and grounded… my favourite human.’ (Source: Supplied)

Sharon: I am definitely your daughter! I’m a hard worker and a passionate community advocate, just like you. I’m also very sociable and generous and would anything for anyone. But I’m also like mum – we’re both bossy and great cooks! What drew you to Mum as your life partner? 

Saroop Singh: My marriage to Molly was a traditional arranged marriage, and although we met once or twice before marriage, it was my family’s wish that we get married. Once we did marry however, I fell in love with how hard my wife worked alongside me to create our life together. She is a smart woman.  

Sharon: That’s sweet. Finally, what advice do you have for aging well? 

Saroop Singh: I haven’t retired yet because I have too many projects on the go. I am trying to slow down because you keep insisting, especially when it comes to hard labour! But when I do retire, I will be spending even more time doing community work, because my acts of service are always what have brought me joy. I think I am aging well because I keep myself busy.

 

Read also: My dad, in his own words: Vivek Bhatia

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