Odd tale of the little temple on the prairie
A Sikh man who says God told him to travel from Florida to build a temple on the Canadian prairies has become the centre of a bizarre will-he, won’t-he saga.
Harvinder Singh arrived in the township of MacGregor, midway between Winnipeg and Brandon, Manitoba, in September 2008.
He arrived in a gold Hummer with a woman and two youths and also brought two horses and seven cattle for a farm he wanted to buy. But then in February he suddenly disappeared from his rented accommodation with his companions and also took the animals, allegedly leaving behind debts of $20,000.
Mr Singh, 47, subsequently told a Winnipeg newspaper by phone that he disputes one claim for payment which centres on whether a contractor made proper improvements on land he planned to buy. And he says he intends to return.
Mr Singh admitted to the Free Press newspaper that cheques had bounced but said this was because there was a 15-day delay in transferring funds into Canada from the US. He said people were paid in the end.
He maintained he will return because he has already spent $40,000 on the project but is delayed in Florida waiting for a visa to be approved.
He talked of building a first temple made of steel, followed by a grander version at a later date.
The Free Press was told he owned a house in Clermont, Florida, and had also opened five restaurants.
He told the Central Plains Herald-Leader newspaper he chose to build a temple in Manitoba because the land was cheap, although MacGregor is hundreds of kilometres away from the nearest centres of Sikh population in Canada.
Creditors hold different opinions of the man who owes money. Some are writing off small debts but others want to track him down.
Nothing is straight forward in the situation.
It is not known if the woman, who has lost a hand, is his wife, or if the children are his.
Cheques written under the woman’s name bounced.
While he was in MacGregor Mr Singh created a prayer room in his rented house, which he said was open to all.
He said he had previously opened a temple in Florida and God had told him to build five of them.
He said his devotion to Sikhism began after he met a Sikh monk near his home in India. He studied with this guru for many years before travelling to America in his teens.
MacGregor residents await the next instalment in the will-he, won’t-he story with curiosity, with Mr Singh’s future intentions made no easier to divine by the fact that he can no longer be contacted by cellphone.
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