18 June 2009

Where Ever It Is Dark - An Illustrated Poem

I came across this poem one day while reading Preeti Kaur ji's blog, The World I Stitch. As I read, I saw pictures of all that our children go through in school, especially in America and I felt the need to illustrate her painfully beautiful poem. She has graciously given me permission to reproduce the poem here. The words are hers; I am to blame for the pictures. (She approves of them, though!)

I would suggest that any children experiencing such problems, go to Khalsa Kids. There is a lot of help there. Parents are welcome, too, of course!

where ever it is dark (revised, kid-friendly version) 12/7/07
for r. singh (especially) and children everywhere

after school
i tell my mummy
i don't want to go back

she asks me why

i tell her
today in the playground
push me
punch me
kick me
shout at me
potato head!
even osama bin laden!
everything i know
i am not

i fight back
throw a fist

imagine the bullies as monsters
call them ugly things too
my cheeks burn
my heart thumps
i am MAD

i didn't start this
i am just one
and no one listens
when i yell
stop it!
leave me alone!
no one helps me
when the bullies
rip the cloth
from my head
pull off
my patka

not even the friends
i swing with
everyday on the monkey-bars
or the kids
who swap sandwiches with me
in the cafeteria
not even the adults
who patrol the playgrounds
to make sure
everyone follows the rules

bloody noses
the teachers sit us down

a peace negotiation
where no one questions
the bullies

why am i a target?

i am like a match
like the ones my daddy warns me not to play with
a blue flame
which grows shorter every second
burning my insides
faster than i expect

i go home
and cry
and cry

i tell my mummy

my mummy
wraps her arms
around my shoulders
tells me she loves me
with her eyes

she unwraps
my joora
lets loose
my long hair
runs her fingers through

mummy whispers
your hair
is like the night sky
your hair
is the universe

she combs my kes
with a kanga
twists my hair firm
on the top of my head
a galaxy you carry high
mummy says

she takes the square patka cloth
angles it
like a diamond
sets the patka on my scalp
and ties it tight
mummy tells me
this patka
crowns you

one day
you will wear a turban
cloth as long as the seven oceans
the full span of the earth
will rest on your head

be a brave young prince
like Sahibzaada Zorawar Singh Ji
like Sahibzaada Fateh Singh Ji
when bullies
big as kings
threaten them
for carrying the universe on their heads

like true princes
when bullies
torture them
with three nights
in the cold
in the dark

when everyone wanted them to just be children
they raised their chins high

no tears
just the ways of the lion prince

with questions and conversation
a duty for the kingdom

mummy kisses my cheeks
i kiss her back

i tell her
i will go back to school tomorrow
i will be like a prince
a shooting star

bright and brave
where ever it is cold
where ever it is dark


14 June 2009

Shaheed Guru Arjun Dev Ji - The Moth and The Flame

Please take another look at the picture.

We have all seen it so many times that perhaps it no longer has the impact it should on us. We need to be deeply grateful to those who went before who sacrificed so much for us, just because it was right thing to do. So let us think deeply and feel deeply and love deeply.

It's not easy. In fact it's nearly impossible. I admit I feel ashamed, embarrassed, even overwhelmed when I read the words below:

"As long as man divides his world into friends and enemies,
He'll remain separated from God;
As long as man discriminates between himself and others,
There'll remain a distance between him and God!"
[GGS, M5, 609:4]

I know they are true. How hard to read without sinking into despair! As long as I divide my world into friends and -- Indira Gandhi, Jagdish Tytler, Rajiv Gandhi, Sajjan Kumar, KP- Gill -- the list goes on...As long as I divide my world this way, I will remain separated from God. How does one overcome the anger and hatred and personal pain that we have all been through in large and small ways? It seems impossible to this simple Sikh grandmother, except--

The way has been given to us , not handed to us on the proverbial silver platter, rather on a red-hot platter containing our sweet and loving Guru Ji.

What does our history tell us he did? He repeated Naam and praised God!

When those hateful thoughts and feelings come up - and they do, of course - the simplest thing to do is jap naam, either out loud or silently. This can be done anywhere, at any time. Just remember the wonders of Vaheguru, Akaal Purakh, Ek Onkaar, whichever appeals most to you and repeat, "Vaheguru, Vaheguru, Vaheguru..." The power of Gurmantar can push everything else out of the way, especially those thoughts and feelings of anger and hatred. There are many methods of Naam-Jap. Use any or none. A very wise and beloved friend of mine known to me as Papa Ji told me that there is no wrong way to jap naam. Just do it!

This is neither magic nor self-hypnosis. Mindless repetition is useless and unSikh. It must be done consciously. In time, the love and peace will come to me, and I feel a little less separated from God.

Here is an inspiring article about Guru Arjan Ji from Sikhchic:

The Moth and the Flame


It is such a Sikh thing to do!

The extraordinary Man who gave Sikhi two of its greatest gifts ... the Guru Granth and the Harmandar Sahib ... was in the prime of his life, a mere 39 years old, when his spiritual activities were deemed a threat to institutionalized religion by the ruler of the land. Refusing to waver from his faith, he was tortured until his body succumbed.

His name is Arjan, our Fifth Guru, on whose shoulders stands much of Sikhi as we know it today.

So, how do Sikhs commemorate his martyrdom?

Well, here's what we've never done, and still don't do:

We don't beat our breasts. We don't wear hair shirts. We don't mourn. We don't lament. We don't rail against the forces of evil and brandish recriminations.

We've never been bitter.

But here's what we indeed do.

It's simple.

We take some water. We add milk to it. And sugar. We then add gulab jal (rose-water) to give it flavour. We add chunks of ice to chill the beverage.

Then, on the day marking the great martyrdom - invariably, the peak of the sub-continental summer, when temperatures bake in the Celsius forties - we set up stalls in every village, and town, and city. In every neighbourhood.

We serve the refreshing libation to all passers-by. Free.

Nay, many do better. Volunteers spill into the streets and gently stop the traffic and offer the kacchi lassi to those in cars and buses, rickshaws and tempos ... and ask for nothing in return.

It brings no medals. No awards. No certificates. No media coverage.

It's done for the sheer joy of it all. Year after year. Century after century.

This is how we, the Sikhs, celebrate - yeah, CELEBRATE! - the great sacrifice.

It is simple. It captures everything that Sikhi offers. There is no greater glory.

This is how we remember this Mard Agamra - The Ideal Person - who did so much that we enjoy today.

Arjan was born at Goindval in 1563 to Bhai Jetha (who later came to be known as Guru Ram Das, the fourth Nanak) and Bibi Bhani.

Though the "baby" of the family, he was deeply spiritual. Impressed by his true piety, Guru Ram Das named him the next Guru. He took the mantle at the young age of 18, when the former shed his mortal coil.

Guru Arjan was a walking institution: in the ensuing 23 years of his life, he led the still-nascent community into maturity.

He began and completed the construction of the Harmandar Sahib in the middle of the Amritsar sarovar. At the commencement of the project, he did something revolutionary: he asked Sayeen Mian Meer, a respected Sufi from Lahore, to lay the cornerstones of the new structure.

Arjan also started and took to fruition the monumental task of compiling the authentic compositions of the preceding Gurus and fifteen Bhagats whose spirituality was in consonance with that of the Gurus.

The investiture of the new Granth in the new Harmandar took place in 1604, and Baba Buddha ji became the chief steward.

Arjan was a poet, a linguist, and a musician, par excellence. He combined his talents not only in compiling the bani, but ultimately became its biggest contributor through as many as two thousand verses, which now comprise one-third of the Guru Granth Sahib.

He sang:

"As long as man divides his world into friends and enemies,
He'll remain separated from God;
As long as man discriminates between himself and others,
There'll remain a distance between him and God!"
[GGS, M5, 609:4]

He came to be known as Sacha Padshah, the True King, to his contemporaries.

All of this did not go well with the Mughal Emperor, Jahangir, and the clerics that surrounded him.

Jahangir wrote in his Tuzk:
"So many of the simple-minded Hindus, nay, many foolish Muslims too, have been fascinated by the Guru's ways and teaching. For many years, the thought had been presenting itself to my mind that either I should put an end to this false traffic, or he be brought into the fold of Islam."

Ultimately, Jahangir had Arjan taken prisoner and presented with the choice in Lahore.

He was tortured over the course of several days, with hot plates, burning sand, and boiling water.

A Hindu official, Chandu, encouraged the Mughal. On the other hand, Sayeen Mian Mir offered to intervene. The Guru declined.

With "Sweet is Thy Will, O Lord ..." on his lips, he was taken to the River Ravi nearby.

"A dip in the river's cold water was more than the blistered body could bear", writes historian Gurbachan Singh Talib. "Wrapped in meditation, the Guru peacefully passed away."

A Jesuit, Father Jerome Xavier, who witnessed all these goings-on, in a letter he wrote from Lahore on September 25, 1606, says: "In that way their good Pope died, overwhelmed by the sufferings, torments, and dishonours."

Bhai Gurdas, the great poet, scribe and chronicler of Sikhi, described it thus:
As fishes are at one with the waves of the river,
So was the Guru, immersed in the River of the Lord:
As the moth submits itself to the flame,
So was the Guru's light merged with the Divine.

In the extreme hours of suffering,
Aware was he of nothing but the Word Divine,
Like the deer who hears no sound
But the ringing of the hunter's bell.

Like the humming-bee who is wrapped in the lotus,
He passed the night of his life in a casket of bliss;
Never did he forget to utter the Lord's Word,
Even as the chatrik never fails to utter his cry.

To the man of God, joy is the fruit of devotion and meditation
With equanimity in holy company.
May I be a sacrifice unto this Guru Arjan!
[Varan, xxiv, 23]

* * * * *
From T. Sher Singh, the author:
[In writing this piece, I owe a debt to the historical essay on Guru Arjan by Gurbachan Singh Talib.]

12 June 2009

Slumdog Sikhs

I received this letter from IHRO today. Please read the letter and watch the video. Before going any farther, let me say I know nothing of this particular group. They seem legitimate. I do know that the conditions that our sister and brother Sikhs are living in are disgusting. I also know that we are, on the whole, a wealthy community and have the resources to alleviate these subhuman conditions.

Beyond that...idols in the Gurudwara Sahib? A lizard running across Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji? What they state at the end is absolutely true. Moist eyes will accomplish nothing. Action must be taken. I leave it to you, my dear ones to choose what action you will or won't take.

The letter:

Waheguru Jee Ka Khalsa Waheguru Jee Ki Fateh

Video Link: Watch Video

A study, conducted by SHS representatives, on Sikhs living in Delhi’s Sultanpuri Area has found that nearly 100% per cent of Sikhs of the area live here in sub-human conditions.
The plight of Sikhs of the area is presented through this documentary. Kindly visit the link below. Your suggestions are welcome. For any details contact info@sikhbusinesspages.com

Also Visit us at : Sikhs Helping Sikhs

We need volunteers to work on this project, so please come forward and help these Sikhs. Till now we have got a committment from various individuals and organisations for sponsoring 110 children in the area. We also have commitments from some individuals for reconstruction of Gurudwara Sahib.

"Save Life.. Register at www.Blood4All.co.in"
Waheguru Jee Ka Khalsa Waheguru Jee Ki Fateh


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06 June 2009

6 June 1984-2009 If Ye Break Faith...

Another sleepless night. I had not intended to write a special post for 6 June this year, as there are so many others. Last night, however, as I lay awake, some thoughts came to me that I feel the need to share.

Again I saw the billowing clouds of smoke rising from Akaal Takht, choked on the acrid air, gagged at the smell of blood and decomposing bodies.

After Sohila, as I was logging off, this very famous picture flashed for a moment on my monitor:

and a poem that I learned in elementary school came into my mind:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses [and Khandas!], row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

— Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

[For the story of the poem and its historical context, click on the title]

I saw the saffron turbans of the shaheeds as those poppies growing "in Flanders fields" and thought about the meaning of those turbans and the kes they protected. I considered the meaning of our kes.

I know this is a topic that has been beaten to death, and you may well be sick and tired of it. Please indulge me and read on. My husband and son and other family members achieved their shaheedi protecting and honouring that kes; I am left alive to speak for them.

"If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep."

Those are haunting words, aren't they?

Is not dishonouring your kes breaking faith with these brothers who lie dead a mere 25 years ago? Please think about this, think very deeply. Does their sacrifice not serve as an inspiration to honour them by keeping your hairs unshorn? Is it really such a big sacrifice for you to keep your hairs, for my brothers to refrain from cutting and shaving, to tie a turban and walk proudly in the shadow of our Gurus? Is it really such a big sacrifice for you to keep your hairs, for my sisters to refrain from plucking and threading your eyebrows, for refusing to shave the hairs of your legs and underarms and "bikini line." We are all familiar with the picture of the scalping of Bhai Taru Singh, blood pouring over his body from his bleeding head. (If you aren't, here it is:)

Our mothers and fathers, our sisters and brothers, our daughters and sons, have willingly become sacrifices for this part of our bodies we Sikhs hold sacred. If it really is a sacrifice, is it not a sacrifice worth making?

"If ye break faith with us who die..."

Please, if you have kept kes and are considering shearing it, on this Day of Remembrance, think of this great sacrifice of our beloved shaheeds and make your own much smaller sacrifice.

"If ye break faith with us who die..."

And, if you have kept kes in the past and have stopped, today is a good day to reconsider. Words such as mona and patit are easily thrown around, I know, and I have found few Sikhs who want these words applied to them. These words can be left behind. Our hairs are very forgiving. Cut them or shave them, they grow back. Pluck them - it takes a bit longer, and they still grow back. Shearing is a deed that can, to a great extent, be undone.

If ye break faith with us who die..."

If you have never kept kes, today would be a good day to start. Yes, I know your friends, colleagues, co-workers might think you eccentric, strange, even silly, you might face ridicule and lack of understanding, it won't be easy. What in life that is worth accomplishing is easy? And who ever said being a Sikh is easy?

So...please consider the meaning of kes and start today becoming a "visible Sikh" in the tradition and footsteps of our Gurus, our sants and our shaheeds. Tie a turban today. You do not have to wait until your hair are long to do so. If you don't know how, go to your nearest gurudwara; I guarantee that there are those who will be delighted, overjoyed to teach you. And, yes, this applies to girls/women as well as boys/men.

If you are still not inspired - or even if you are - take about ten minutes and watch this:


From Raj Karega Khalsa

This Shabad is by Guru Nanak Dev Ji in Raag Raamkalee on Ang 941 of Dhan Dhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj:

The Gurmukh lives in Fear of the True Lord.
The Guru's Bani refines the unrefined of the Gurmukh.
The Gurmukh sings the Lord's Immaculate Praises.
The Gurmukh attains the pure, supreme status.
The Gurmukh meditates on the Lord with every hair of his body.
O Nanak, the Gurmukh merges in Truth. The Gurmukh is pleasing to the True Guru; this is contemplation on the Vedas.
Pleasing the True Guru, the Gurmukh is carried across.
Pleasing the True Guru, the Gurmukh receives the spiritual wisdom of the Shabad.
Pleasing the True Guru, the Gurmukh comes to know the path within.
The Gurmukh attains the unseen and infinite Lord.
O Nanak, the Gurmukh finds the door of liberation.

And while we are at it, think of the blood of our shaheeds that was spilled on this day, the blood that turned the water of our sacred sarovar red, the blood that the army soldiers told our sisters and daughters to drink to quench their thirst, think of their blood, then go to the gurudwara sahib and give some of yours so that others can live.

01 June 2009

SIKHTOONS - Ninth Contest

Is there anyone among us who has not speculated as to what indira gandhi was thinking when she attacked Harimandir Sahib? Is there any among us who would not like to put words in her (filthy) mouth? Here's your chance. The Ninth Sikhtoons Captioning Contest has been announced. Here is the picture:

Add her saying something, give the 'Toon a caption or do both. Then go here, Sikhtoons 9th Contest and submit your entry. It's as simple as that. I have already submitted mine. I think it's pretty good.