01 May 2008

Being A Sikh

I have been wanting to write this post for a long time, but it seems every time I actually sit down to write, something intervenes. A new announcement from Sikh Activist Network arrives, a Sikh brother has been attacked in his taxi, the Canadian government is again trying to kidnap Laibar Singh or the government of Haryana has decided to arrest and torture an innocent Amritdhari sister - or some such emergency that needs my immediate attention.

I am temporarily putting aside the slightly gloating, but also tragic post I want to write about the firing of KP Gill and a really interesting article about how 9/11 made us rethink so much. The SAN announcement has been posted, and, as far as I know, none of the others need my attention this minute, so I am setting aside the time to write a post just for my own pleasure. I hope our loyal readers enjoy it, too.
For twenty years, I avoided everything and everyone that reminded me of anything Sikh. Anything at all. My own family, even. I ceased being a Khalsa and tried to get Guru Ji to give me back my head. (He refused, but I've already written about that.) Eventually, though, I wandered back, not all of my problems worked out, my wounds still unhealed, but my sanity slowly restored. And I learned the truth of the line from the song Stones,
by Neil Diamond.

Being lost is worth the coming home.

I enjoy being a Sikh.

A friend suggested that I sounded a little fanatic the other day when I grandly, with a sweep of my arms, well, my right arm, my left arm just isn't quite up to sweeping, and OK, he didn't see the sweeping gesture anyway because it was in an e-mail, 'I love everything about being a Sikh!'

I do. But Fanatic? The dictionary says a fanatic is

A person marked or motivated by an extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm, as for a cause.

Enthusiastic, sure, but I don't think extreme. And I'm 100% certain not unreasoning.

I love the beliefs, of course, the prayers, the songs, the Panj Kakkars, all the usual things. But it goes beyond that. Being a Sikh is a complete package, a 24/7 experience.

The sounds of the tabla and the harmonium. The voices of the Sangat singing kirtan. The voice of the Sangat Jaikara-ing. The sweet sound of the words of Guru Ji in the air.

The dull roar of the langar hall, the wonderful smells that waft their ways in and through.

The Nishan Sahib, flying joyfully and proudly above the trees against the sky of blue or grey or filled with the colours of sunrise or sunset. The clean, beautiful appearance of the gurdwara building itself. (Note: Driving by the Sabha Singh Gurdwara Sahib in Renton the other day, I noticed that the sign in front really needs to be painted.)

Even more, the many people, dare I say colourful characters, I have met?

Let me skip over my own family; I have written a great deal about them, much of it in my personal blog, sometimes - 2. Feel free to go there and check out the labels Family, Dad, Mani, etc.

I think also about the lovely Babas that I am so fond of. The gentleman I found with his turban neatly tied and his hair hanging to his waist. The other gentleman who was, in a confused state, imperiling his life by making - indecent - proposals to women. The gentlemen I see daily walking, just as my own Dad did, backs straight, eyes strong and clear, gait sure, turbaned heads held high and proud. These send a thrill of pride through my whole body.

And no Baba he, the Nihang in Amritsar that rescued a seven-year old girl, who, ashamed of her shorn hair, ran away from home, and then carried her back to her family on his broad shoulders!

The women I have known, with or without dastaars. (More are tying dastaars these days, a trend I heartily applaud.) My dear Kaurs, the nurses who saved my life two years ago and have continued to be my close friends. Several I know who wish to remain in ghostly shadows, those who, like myself survived the carnage in Delhi during November, 1984. The ones I have never met, but who are, nonetheless, my sisters who survived and raised their children, somehow salvaging some chardi kala to keep going on, day after harrowing day, seemingly forgotten by the Saadh Sangat, ignored by the wealthy SGPC. These women are among our greatest, bravest heroes and deserve our highest praise - and our material help.

The people I have met online. The only one I will identify by name is Kamal, who is listed as an author of this blog. She hasn't written anything here - although she certainly is welcome to - but she is helping me preserve this blog, just in case. She is a young Amritdhari woman, as sweet and just plain wonderful as anyone could be, a constant source of light and encouragement to me. All my Sikh friends on facebook - my nonSikh friends there, too, but right now I'm writing about the Sikhs - an interesting and varied group. There is my gentle, determined young man friend from Punjab who wonders if Vaheguru couldn't be more gentle in teaching us here in Maya. The young woman who is friends with Laibar Singh and lets me know how he is doing. My secretive friend who doesn't want to be quoted. My even more secretive son who won't tell me his name. My two lovely bird ladies, we exchange e-mails and comments, not just about birds, but that's how our communications started. Even, perhaps, the strange young Amritdhari man on orkut who seeks, I think, to preserve the purity of the Khalsa, by inquiring into - forgive me - my sex life! (And me old enough - almost - to be his grandmother.)

I love the Vaisakhi celebrations, just concluded. I love our contentious arguments by people that just refuse to give in. I love the giggles of the Aunties to the young bride. I love being a part of all this. Oh, I could go on and on. Sikhs are a colourful, varied lot. It is a sobering thought to me that I fit into such an interesting, varied group.

More than those things, though, being a Sikh has given me something greater. I am part of something grand. Something much bigger than my rather ridiculous little self. Something strong and wonderful. And precious. Let me explain it like this:

Along with many other of our brothers and sisters, I was called upon to face the worst thing I could imagine, the violence and horrors first of Bluestar and then of whatever you want to call the carnage in Delhi. It might be argued that being a Sikh put me in those situations. What cannot be argued is that being a Sikh gave me the strength and courage to survive and want to go on building a life, wanting to do something to improve the world in which I live. Believing that I could make a difference. Knowing that whatever may happen, I don't have to give up or give in. To know that Guru Ji loves me and will give me whatever strength I need. All this just for the price of one worthless head!

I hope you enjoy the Nihung Ardaas and some more pictures by Charles Meacham. Please check out his website at Charles Meacham Photography.

BTW, in the time I have written this, two hours, my inbox has grown from 16 to 54, mostly from GLZ and IHRO, Sikh groups both.

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