26 April 2008

A Letter To A Friend

Dear Bhai Laibar Singh Ji,

Vaheguru ji ka khalsa! Vaheguru ji ki fateh!!

Today is a very special day for me, the perfect occasion for me to write you this letter. Our mutual friend, Bibi Ninder Kaur, has promised me she'll see that you get it.

I am a few years older than you; I hope you won't mind if I talk to you as a slightly older sister. You know, older sisters are a little bossy, tease a little and are filled with love. So I will imagine you are sitting next to me in a big, comfy L-Z-Boy chair, your dastaar neatly tied and a big smile on your face.

When I first heard of your case, I paid little attention. A quadriplegic? Canada is a country with a big heart, filled with human compassion. They won't really try to deport this man. When I was proved to be wrong, I took up your case in this blog and also in my personal blog. (You can check out the 'Laibar Singh' labels in the right-hand column.) I have, through these months never wavered in my support of you. In a way not many can, I understand at least part of what you are going through.

Maybe knowing a little bit about me might clarify things. I am not going to write about my experiences in India in 1984 now; they are irrelevant to my point here. Let me just say that my life has had its share of tragedy.

Instead, I go back two years ago tonight. I died two times and was twice revived. I had a big stroke - major or massive, depending on who is talking. After the second revival, I was breathing and my heart was beating, but I was in a coma.

My husband was told to prepare for my funeral. He was further told that on the chance that I survived, I would be in a 'persistent vegetative state,' a human vegetable.

The doctors were willing to just let me die; they didn't even put me in intensive care. But thanks to excellent, loving care from a group of nurses named Kaur and a determined stubborn husband I survived.

When I woke up and grabbed for my hair, which my lovely nurses had kindly tied on top of my head, and it was clear I was conscious, my husband was told that my intelligence would be very little, in other words, I would be retarded.

When it slowly became clear that I did have both my wits and intelligence about me, we were both told I would never walk or talk again.

Don't believe these negative things you are told. Today I walk, a little wobbly, as I've lost some of my balance. I talk pretty well, although I've lost a couple of languages, French and Punjabi, which I used to know. I have never been able to pronounce the letter 'j,' however, and it still comes out as the French 'zh.' (Growing up, my brothers loved to coerce me into saying things like: Jumping Jiminy, James and John, jam and juicy jelly just jumped.' )

I am still recovering. My left side has little feeling except nerve pain (OUCH!!!). My left hand still clenches into a fist and hurts when I use it. I use it anyway. I have a goal that by the beginning of 2009, I'll be typing with both hands again. My languages remain locked away somewhere out of my reach - for now. And I trip over my own feet every time I try to Bhangra.

Enough about me! Let's talk about you.

Remain in chardi kala, Brother Laibar. Nothing can substitute for that. Nothing. I know sometimes it seems that everything is dark and horrible and you just can't take another second. I know in these past months there must have been times when you've been bored, unable to do what you are used to doing, frightened both of your physical condition and of what the Canadian government might pull next. Let me tell you what my Dad, a grand old Khalsa and a very wise man used to tell us:

When your enemy has his knife at your throat, his gun at your temple and his boot on your face, you laugh at him. 'Ha! You can kill me, but you can never defeat me!' That's chardi kala. That's what it means to be a Sikh.

This is your birthright, please claim it. Never give up and you'll never be defeated. Laugh a little - or a lot! I know I'd get a giggle if I ever saw a blogpost with a ribbon that said 'Save Mai Harinder Kaur!' or even just 'Save Mai.'

I am enjoying writing this, but I suppose it should end. I know many in the Saadh Sangat feel as I do about you; you are our brother and we will not let you down. I have no idea what will happen in your case, only this: Whatever happens will be the Hukam of Vaheguru! There is no way around that. Remembering that has gotten me through many difficult twists and turns in life's path.

I hope some readers will leave you some good wishes in the comments here (hint, hint), but my readers usually say very little, so I can just hope.

Oh, something personal and just friendly. Unless you have some emotional attachment to that black and white blanket, would you please get your friends at the gurdwara to get you something cheerful, maybe bright flowers or butterflies or even a lion? Tell them that Mai asks for that for you. If I could, I would send you the lion from my own bed. Unfortunately, that is my own husband's security blanket and I can't stand to see him cry.

So, my dear friend and brother, I close with the words my friends, I fear, get tired of hearing from me.

Be strong! Be brave! Have courage! Remember who you are and what you are and what you're about! Never give up! Never give in!


Chardi kala!



Your friend and sister,

Mai Harinder Kaur

P. S. - Suni and Vini also send their love!

Note: The photo is from earlier this month, given to me by Ninder Kaur. What a gorgeous beard and dastaar!