09 October 2011



This will be my last post as owner of this blog.

A few weeks ago my husband, my companion of 22, years died.  I am now alone and re-examining my life.   I have found that my life has become out of balance.  Most of my time has been spent in sewa at the expense of my Gurbani studies and (attempted) Simran.  I am now going to take a much-needed retirement from public life for a time.  It might be temporary or permanent;  I do not see into the future very well.

I love you all!  (Yes, even the one who threatened to kidnap me and take me to India to be hanged for treason)

Harinder Kaur called "Mai"


10 September 2011


Source:  US Department of Defence
So, it's 11 September 2011, ten years later.

CBC has been obsessing about this, even outdoing the USA networks.

These have been a very difficult time for us Sikhs in North America.  We have been snubbed, bullied,beaten and murdered in a case of mnistaken identity.  I admit that I often think that this is a willing mistake on the part of those who have chosen to hate us.   We look different - even worse, we CHOOSE to look different.  We choose not to blend in, we choose to stand out.

Still, I, at least, feel a bit guilty when I explain that I am not a Muslim, a chunni is not a hijab.  Am I implying there is something wrong about being a Muslim?  No, I am not!  But sometimes, it is taken that way, especially by Muslims.  I can usually get them to see what I mean by asking, "Would you like to be taken for a Sikh?"

I heard of a group of Christian girls and women in Kansas City, who, with much publicity, donned hijabs after the attacks with the state motive to make it impossible to look at a woman and know iof she is a Muslim.  Look at the picture below.  Can you be sure of her religion?

I have no idea how the Muslim community reacted to this, but it raised an interesting question:  How would we react as a community if a group of non-Sikhs grew kesh and tied turbans to protect us?  I'm really not certain, but it's interesting to think about.

It has been ten years, ten difficult years for Sikhs in the USA.  I will not compare the North American experience with what the Sikhs of India suffered in the last 15-20 years of the Twentieth Century.  That is a different situation, and I hope my fellow Diasporan Sikhs draw courage and commitment from those Sikhs. 

I think that this would be a good time to renew our commitment to stand for good for all humanity.  Let us live the truth of the words we say at least once every day:

Photo:  Courtesy NASA

To that end, I suggest we join with Pete Seeger, a great USAer and a great humanitarian, singing the great USA song of hope, optimism and commitment, WE SHALL OVERCOME.    I'll make it easy for you.  This video has on-screen lyrics.

CREDIT: GIRL IN HIJAB by Mohammed Ibrahim

04 September 2011


All of you know her.  An elderly, tiny, shriveled Khalsa Kaur who seems always to be at every Sikh gathering, but rarely says anything to anyone.  She sits in a corner and keeps to herself, her face expressionless as she does her sewa.  

When I was growing up, there was such an elderly Khalsa Kaur in our sangat.  To me, a young girl, she seemed impossibly ancient, skin wrinkled like a raisin, her teeth often left at home, always dressed in drab colours, her tiny frail body  lost in a chunni that seemed to engulf and swallow her.  She rarely said anything to anyone, quiet, possibly shy and, of course, a widow.  A solitary woman who seemed to almost disappear, unnoticed, into her environment.

She sewed kachera.  Whenever I saw her she was stitching, tiny, even perfect stitches.  To me, being young, I thought she was doing a lot of unnecessary work.  Why not get her a sewing machine?   When I suggested this to Dad, he just gave me a knowing smile and said nothing.  

I decided that if no one else was going to help her, I would.  

So one day, I walked up to her - although I was a bit afraid of her - and said, "Khalsa ji, would you like to have a sewing machine to sew your kachera?"  She stopped her sewing,  looked up at me and did something I had no idea she knew how to do.  She smiled.  A huge, wide, happy smile.  Then she patted the floor beside her, inviting me to sit down beside her, which I did.

Again, she picked up her sewing and began stitching.  That close to her, I could hear her almost silent "Waheguru" with each stitch.  I never again suggested she get a sewing machine.

[Note:  those are pictures of me that I have aged using the magic of Photoshop.  Now I know what I'll look like should I live to be 100.]

22 August 2011




Photograph by: Fred Thornhill, Reuters

"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton"

With those words, he bids us farewell.   
Jack Layton is no more.   Jack Layton has gone to his heavenly abode.  Jack Layton has passed on.  Jack Layton is dead.  Jack is dead.  

I am stunned, at a loss for words.  The Sikh Kaum has lost our staunchest ally and friend in Canada.  The loss there is incalculable.  But Jack Layton was more than a friend and ally;  he was proof that it is possible to be a moral, upright, strong, uncorrupted human being - and a politician.

Like myself he was a native of Montreal and a graduate of McGill University.  Like myself, he was a social democratic.  I really am at a loss what to say about him.  He took the New Democratic Party (NDP) from a sort of fading bunch of would-be do-gooders in 2003 to becoming Canada's official Opposition Party in 2011.   He died of prostate cancer.  Mani was an oncologist, a cancer doctor.  Perhaps he could have cured him.  Again, those saddest words, "What might have been."

I think the best way to describe Jack Layton is to let him speak for himself.  When he realised he might be dying, he wrote this final statement to us.

Jack Layton, MP, Député

Toronto – Danforth

Leader of the Official Opposition/Chef de l'Opposition officielle

Leader, New Democratic Party/Chef, Nouveau Parti démocratique

August 20, 2011

Toronto, Ontario

Dear Friends,

Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.

Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.

I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.

I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our

party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.

A few additional thoughts:

To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don't be discouraged that my own journey hasn't gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope.

Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

To the members of my party: we've done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let's continue to move forward. Let's demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.

To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.

To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada's Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.

To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world.

There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world's environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you.

My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don't let them tell you it can't be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton                      

I am watching CBC news as I write this.  I smile as I hear the announcers and the people talk about "Jack."  Not "Jack Layton."  Not "Mr. Layton."  Jack.  Our Jack. 

 He belonged to all of us, the people of Canada, people of hope and love and goodwill everywhere.  Even those who opposed his politics liked him.  That bright infectious smile was no act.  Writing now is difficult for me now;  I suppose you can feel this.

I asked a friend when I first received the news, "Can I cry?"  The response was, " You are a kharkoo.  You are not allowed to cry."  All I could say was, "Too late."

We will go on.  Of course, we will go on, but things will not be the same.  A Great Soul has left us.  I cannot help but think of a sort of obituary I wrote a few months ago about Osama bin Laden.  The good die.  The evil die.  And each death diminishes us in one way or another.  I am going to quote in this post, as I quoted in the one before, John Donne's words:

No man is an island,  entire of itself; 
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; 
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, 
as well as if a promontory were, 
as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were;  
any man's death diminishes me, 
because I am involved in mankind,
 and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
it tolls for thee. 

I must correct myself.  Earlier I wrote, "Jack Layton is no more."  We write that, but in this case it is not true.  As long as we hold true to his hopes, his dreams, his optimism, Jack Layton is still with us.  I ask each of my readers to please take a moment to say a prayer for his family, for Canada, and for the world;  our world has been diminished by his death.

I just heard him described as "relentlessly optimistic."  I wonder if he knew the phrase "chardi kala."  Whether or not, he certainly lived that way. 

Good-bye, Jack.  I love you.


JACK LAYTON 1950-2011
OK.  Sorry.

Unhotlinked picture of Jack

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world.

Mes amis, l'amour est cent fois meilleur que la haine. L'espoir est meilleur que la peur. L'optimisme est meilleur que le désespoir. Alors aimons, gardons espoir et restons optimistes. Et nous changerons le monde.

06 July 2011


I have just received word that Khalsa Aid is starting a programme to get food to the drought-stricken Horn of Africa where 10,000,000 people are threatened with starvation! 

Once in a while, an organisation is found that is worthy of our total support.  Such an organisation is Khalsa Aid.  The whole Panth can be very proud of Khalsa Aid.  Their main project is aiding the poor Sikhs of Punjab, especially the families of our honoured shaheeds and of those Sikhs in jail or person for only-the-police-know-what reasons.  They are engaging the children of rural Punjab in their PURE (Punjab Rural Underprivileged Empowerment) Programme that aims at educating children in both secular subjects and Gurbani while engaging the whole family in the hope of curbing drug and alcohol abuse among Sikhs there. 

I URGE ALL MY READERS TO HELP KHALSA AID IN EVERY WAY YOU CAN.  Volunteer.  Donate your daswandh.  Say ardas.  Every Sikh can do something.  

Khalsa Aid helps poor Sikhs in Punjab, and that is not all they do, either.  They are visible Sikhs doing worldwide sewa for other groups needing our help.  Volunteers went to Haiti to help those devastated by the earthquake there;  they still maintain a long-term presence there, providing food and clean water to the still-desperate Haitians.  I am very proud that my friend Harpreet Singh Mann of Toronto is among those who have volunteered in Haiti.  As noted at the top, I have just gotten word minutes ago as I write of a major project being launched in the Horn of Africa to feed the people of that drought-stricken region.

Currently, Khalsa Aid is working at the Libyan border providing clean drinking water for the refugees streaming ocross the desert fleeing the fighting in that country.   
Take a look at this video.

Please take a look at their website at Khalsa Aid and if you are able, make a donation.  
Every little bit helps.   And If you want the experience of a lifetime, volunteer. 

Here is their latest newsletter.

Update Focus Punjab – Shaheed Parivaars
Focus Punjab – Shaheed Parivaars:
Since the Focus Punjab project was extended to include the monthly welfare support for the Sikh families who have lost their sons and fathers to the violent and destructive period from mid 1980's to mid 1990's. (http://www.ensaaf.org/publications/)

 Khalsa Aid has been inundated with urgent requests for support. Although we have a fulltime employee in Punjab, who coordinates the allocation of support for Shaheed Parivaars, we regularly send volunteers to oversee and support the projects.

Although the state sponsored massacres (Operation Woodrose) during the 1980s to 1990s in Punjab were turbulent and horrific, we cannot and should not forget those who are still suffering from the consequences. Following a needs and means assessment, Khalsa Aid is providing monthly support to these affected families, who are more commonly known as Shaheed Parivaars.

KA Volunteers Kiratraj Singh and Karam Kaur earlier this month travelled to Punjab, and were understandably overwhelmed with what they saw:

To control your tears while Mata ji and Pita Ji and their families relive the events of 1984 and tell us about their Shaheed Singhs is indescribable..These Mothers are the Jewels of our Panth, they sacrificed so much for the Panth, but why don’t we care about them?

"We have met countless families of Shaheed Singh’s and its absolutely heartbreaking to see the level of poverty which these families are STILL living in!”          Karam Kaur

Khalsa Aid is eternally grateful to the Sangat, as through the support of the Sangat we were able to provide Rs. 3 Lakh to Major Dalbir Singh, Dharmi Fauji. We had earlier shown to the Sangat what the conditions this family was living in, their house was decrepit and dilapidated and did not provide even shelter from the elements. Now he and his family can finally live in a house with full shelter.

Karam and Kiratraj were shocked after visiting Shaheed Satnaam Singh Cheena family and seeing with their own eyes the level of poverty his widow and son were living in. Monetary support was provided, including the start of monthly welfare support and unlimited support for his son education.

If any member of the Sangat wishes to see our projects, or meet a sponsored family in Punjab, we are happy to provide transport and facilitate the visit.

Donate via SMS/Text:
Please text SEVA13 £5 to 70070 to donate £5 (your credit or phone bill will be debited by £5)

Please continue to support Khalsa Aid, so we can continue to do Seva and increase the global awareness of Sikhs.

Khalsa Aid:
Khalsa Aid is the first cross border humanitarian organisation based on the Sikh principles of Sarbat Da Bhalla and Vand Kay Chakna.

Khalsa Aid is dependent on the generosity of the Sangat to carry out such vital Seva.  We are extremely grateful to the Sangat for supporting our global aid projects over the past 12 years since our launch.

To donate monthly or to make a one off donation, please click on the following link:http://www.justgiving.com/khalsaaid or please visit www.khalsaaid.org for more information about the work we continue to do.

Join our Mailing list http://www.khalsaaid.org/lists/?p=subscribe
To receive updates on our projects as well as volunteering opportunities.

Khalsa Aid
UK Registered Charity (#1080374)
Main Office: +44 (0) 1753 567 457