We spoke to Surender Kandhari, the author of one of our most charming autobiographies, The Temple of My Dreams. Born in India to a business family that dealt with tyres, Surender moved to Dubai, UAE in 1976 and was among the first to set up shop and start a business in tyres. He is now the Founder and Chairman of Al Dobowi Group and is an active and respected leader both in business as well as in the community. He believes in giving back and has been recognized globally for his many philanthropic efforts. An avid golfer, he is a founding member of the Emirates Golf Club where he has served as the Golf Club Captain. He is also the Chairman of the Guru Nanak Darbar Sikh Temple in Dubai, in which he played a founding role.

• • •

How and why did you decide to become an author? Did you always want to be one?

I had never really considered myself an author. I am an accidental author. Basically, I wanted to share the thoughts about my life and pass on my message of success, hardwork, sincerity and dedication with the youth. I thought of giving shape to my thoughts, and here it is today in the form of a book – Temple of My Dreams.


Tell us about the last book you’ve written:

a) What inspired you to write it?

My wife, Bubbles Kandhari, wanted me to write an autobiography, and there was no way I could deny her wishes.

b) How long did the process take?

18 months

c) What key themes do you explore in it?

Art of Living

d) What major challenges did you face while writing it?

Walking down the memory lane.

e) How has the reception been to your book?


f) Where can readers find your book?

In most of the major book stores in the UAE.


Do you have a writing process? If so, can you tell us more about it?

I have a very casual writing process, and I only do it when my thoughts go towards thinking on my life. That's when I pen it down.


What do you enjoy most about writing? And is it a specific topic that pulls you to the act of writing?

Being my first book, I wrote everything from my heart.


What were some of your favourite books growing up?

I have been reading a lot of Autobiographies of famous people.


What facets about your life and your journey that you have detailed in the book, are people mostly fascinated or even shocked by?

My business experiences in difficult situations.


How did you come to build the magnificent Guru Nanak Darbar Sikh Temple?

I had followed my family tradition of leading the community’s efforts to build Gurudwaras in places where there are none and how it was my destiny to serve God and the Sikh community.

It all started more than 58 years ago when my grandfather Atma Singh, who himself had helped build a Gurudwara in Vijaywada, in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, in 1956, told his eight-year-old grandson Surender Singh Kandhari, that one day he too must help build a Gurudwara when he grew up.

The idea of the Gurudwara germinated 13 years ago with the growing need of a proper place of worship for the Sikhs, who until January 2012 shared space in the temple premises in Bur Dubai. In the Sikh culture and religion, a Gurudwara is central to the community as that’s where we gather and hold our weddings, celebrate births and festivals, mourn deaths, meet each other, eat Langar (free community kitchen) and bond as people to show our care and concern for another. A Gurudwara is not just the house of God for us, it is the life force that ties the whole Sikh community together and our lives revolve around it. 

I decided to do something about it and along with other prominent members of the Sikh & Sindhi & Punjabi community in the UAE spearheaded the community’s efforts to build a Gurudwara in Dubai. In 2008, after six long years of petitioning the rulers, who I must point out always gave us a very patient hearing, we finally had cause to celebrate when His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, very generously gave us the permission not only to build the Gurudwara but he also gave us 25,000 square feet of land absolutely free in Jebel Ali Gardens.

Five years and Dh 65 million later, the most talked about Gurudwara in the world was commissioned on January 17, 2012 with funds raised a lot from within the Sikh and Sindhi, Punjabi community and many others in the UAE.


What was easier to do, writing your first book, building the Gurudwara or running a successful business? Tell us why.

Running a successful business was my livelihood and building the Gurudwara was my passion and my first book was my love for my business and passion.


In reference to the previous question, what does it take to achieve these big accomplishments?

Sincerity, commitment and fulfillment of one’s own dream.


You have been in the Emirates since 1976, can you share a special memory of life back then?

In 1976, when we moved here, Dubai was just opening up as a trading hub. We derived the advantage of being the early birds. The boom had just begun and Dubai’s proximity to India was another huge advantage. There was freedom for business and the place was tolerant towards other cultures. Dubai was the best place to set up shop and I began exploring the idea of setting up our tyre business while noting that Dubai provided the best opportunity with the place becoming a financial base.


In your opinion, what makes a great autobiography?

A sincere life story on one-self without any frills.


What advice would you give to a young author, or someone with a dream following in your path here in the UAE?

You have to be dedicated and sincere to yourself. If you don’t cheat others and if you are true to yourself, you will be successful. It’s painful to see how people kill and hurt others.

Always respect your Elders and learn from them. Every day is a day of learning. Knowledge and wisdom comes from the teachings of our Elders and we should take advantage of their age, experience and knowledge so that we can grow and pass it on to our future generation. This is the message I have passed through this book, where I want the youth have confidence and be sincere to themselves.


What are you currently reading or have read recently?

Books on tolerance


Do you have another book in the pipeline?

Yes, it's called Lighthouse of Tolerance.


What is the best part of your day?

I am a morning person, and the best part of my day is early morning when I have time to be with myself, and have time to ponder on things and plan my whole day.


What’s your favourite quote?

If you do not grow, you begin to die. One has to work hard and keep growing and be with the world.

• • • 

The Temple of My Dreams is available here and is priced at AED 95.