A Tribute to Tejinder Singh

It is my honor to write this tribute to the late Tejinder Singh who I feel proud to call a friend. Tejinder grew up in a small town called Kharagpur in the State of West Bengal, India. He enrolled in one of the prestigious and premier technical colleges– the Indian Institute of Technology/Kharagpur (IIT/KGP) to be a civil engineer. But his passion was journalism, and he abandoned the idea of being an engineer. He became a journalist that took him to Greece, Geneva, Brussels and finally the United States.

I met Tejinder about 4 years back at an event in the National Press Club, Washington, D.C. We soon connected as I also attended IIT/KGP. In our first meeting he spoke excitedly about his work and particularly India America Today (IAT), the monthly newspaper for which he was the Editor. He roped me into being on the IAT Board and soon assigned me the task of writing an article about Africa, a continent that I know well. He became fascinated about Africa and wondered aloud ‘Why are Africans mired in poverty despite having so many resources”. He read up a lot about Africa and it was not uncommon for him to come to my home late in the evening to talk about Africa. ‘I want to go to Africa’ he said one evening. And I promised to take him with me on my next trip. But the pandemic upset all plans and his dream remained unfulfilled.

Teji, as he was known to his friends, was a special person who loved his profession but loved meeting and interacting with people more. No one was a stranger to Teji. He would contact anyone who would be able to answer his probing questions for an article he was writing. Although known as a journalist, he was more than that. He was a caring person who respected the otherness of others.

One of the recent highlights of his career was the trip in November, 2019 as a part of a group of pilgrims who traveled from Punjab, India to Kartarpur Gurudwara in Pakistan, a holy site for the Sikhs. He proudly showed off the pictures of his trip at a gathering in our house. At this event he was a little child with a new toy!

Teji was a gentleman and always respectful even when asking tough questions at press briefings. For those of us who knew him as a friend and shared stories and laughter will miss him, but always knowing that he was a remarkable person, and I feel privileged to have known him.

Au Revoir, Editor

Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. ~ Robert Frost

The above lines were oft-quoted by Tejinder Singh, Founder and Editor of India America Today. He was born and brought up in the industrial town of Kharagpur, in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal. Tejinder initially studied civil engineering at the elite Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kharagpur, but journalism was his passion. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Osmania University, India.

A veteran multimedia political and business journalist, Tejinder lived in India, Switzerland, Germany, Greece, and Belgium, and was fluent in six languages.

Tejinder worked as EU Correspondent for APM Health Europe, and as a broadcast journalist with the BBC, South African Broadcasting Corp., and Flemish-English and Indian networks. He was the editor-in-chief for New Europe, The European Weekly, based in the EU capital of Brussels, Belgium from 1997 – 2009.

Tejinder moved to the United States in 2009, and founded India America Today in 2012. He was a White House, Pentagon and State Department Correspondent.

Tejinder was the National Press Club’s Chair of the Newsmakers Committee in 2010. He also served on the Broadcast Committee and the International Correspondents Committee. He served as vice president for print of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) from 2011-2012.

To those of us he worked with he was Tito, Teji, Tej. I have worked side by side with him at India America Today since 2014. He had a sharp wit, a disarming smile, and could file news stories with amazing speed, sometimes typing articles on his phone to get the news out quickly. Tejinder was unfailingly kind, caring, encouraging, and soft spoken, but wielded a pungent pen.

He is survived by his younger brother, Vikramjit Singh, in India.

Thank you all for the many messages, emails, and phone calls sharing memories of him and expressing condolences. We are including some of the messages here:

“I had many opportunities to interact with him and benefit from his keen intellect and encyclopedic knowledge during my tenure as India’s Ambassador to the US. I found him deeply involved in issues that concerned the welfare and interests of the Indian community in USA. An out of the box thinker, I was often benefitted by the ideas and suggestions he proffered on the issues we dealt with. His passing away leaves a void in the Indian-American media space and in our own hearts.” Indian Foreign Secretary, Harsh Vardhan Shringla.

“Tejinder reported the news with sagacity and skill. He pursued his questions doggedly, and he charmed with his pearly white smile. He made me think. He made me work. And he made me feel privileged to have the opportunity to speak for the U.S. government on the issues that meant so much to his readers. But the thing I will remember most about him was his manner. His dignity. He was a gentleman, through and through. And gentlemen are as rare today as they are important. I will miss that smile. I will miss that gentleman.” John Kirby, Pentagon Press Secretary.

“Tejinder was a bright light in the State Department briefing room, always there with a smile and an interesting question about whatever the news of the day was. He was incredibly kind and treated everyone else with respect, qualities that are far too rare in Washington. He was so welcoming to my parents when they came to visit, and they kept up with him on social media afterwards. I cannot believe that such a happy soul is no longer with us.” Marie Harf, former State Department Deputy Spokesperson.

“Tejinder covered the State Department for 11 years, participating in many State Department briefings both in person and also calling in every telephonic briefing. We already miss seeing his name in the question queue here today. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and colleagues as we grieve his loss. And I speak for my colleagues here when I say that he was such a pleasure to work with for all of us, and his presence will be sorely missed.” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter.

“I wanted to send my condolences for the loss of our colleague Tejinder Singh – he was such a vibrant, warm, and kind person and a true pleasure to work with. We were all saddened to hear the news of his death, which is a huge loss for the State Department press corps. I always enjoyed working with Tejinder; he always sent the most interesting questions, kept us honest in explaining our policies to the public, and of course served an integral role in keeping the Indian-American community informed. I miss him and I’m sending you my warmest thoughts as you and your colleagues grieve his loss.” Grace Chung, Press Officer, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA), U.S. Department of State.