Guldasta

A bouquet of flowers picked along the way ….

The ransom Sikh’s pay August 13, 2012

Repeated below is an email I sent to my local Sikh community today. I’ve made a couple edits but nothing significant.

Yesterday, in India, my Sikh friend from 30 years (which is almost all my life) got married to his long time Hindu girl friend. Part of my family attended the wedding and so did common friends from college days. Today, I learn from them that my turbaned Sikh friend is now clean shaven; “perhaps as part of the deal he removed his turban and shaved his beard”. It first came as a shock and then a throbbing sadness, like that from a deep personal loss.

A friend who attended the wedding, found some resonance between the wedding yesterday and this story about Punjabi Americans from the early 1900s. And the words “perhaps as part of the deal he removed his turban and shaved his beard” are from the story.

So, now, I have no friend from the first 20 years of my life who wears a turban. There is a vacuum which cannot be filled. And the sadness of this loss pervades my heart. Yes, it is a personal loss. Yes, I am being selfish.

Countless Sikhs, specially in Punjab, have chosen to give away the beloved symbols of their faith. Some for prosperity, some to avoid looking different, some to avoid the daily duty to maintain long hair, and some for a wife. While we (the Sikh community) mourn the shootings in Wisconsin and work hard to educate the world about our turbans; while people from other faiths stand beside us and come to our “temple” to wear turbans; we, the Sikh community, have an internal threat that is even more urgent. And it is more urgent because of its hidden nature and its numbers. It is rare to see a non-Sikh become a Sikh for any reason other than having discovered a faith they fell in love with. And that should be the only reason for faith conversion. I am perfectly fine if a Sikh were to choose another faith of his own free will, under no greed or duress. But to negotiate, to pay one’s faith as a ransom to acquire another thing, is not okay. That is true for any person of any faith.

Where does the love for faith begin? Not a blind, mindless attachment. But, rather, a firm, righteous, yet kind love. It begins in the lap of your mother. In the stories and actions of your father. Sikh women, when they marry a non-Sikh rarely bring up Sikh kids. On the other hand, when non-Sikh women marry Sikh men, the story is no different. Again, the kids are often brought up as non-Sikhs.

A week ago, a white supremacist gunned down 6 Sikhs but could not make a dent to the Sikh faith. In fact, sensing danger, the community responded with more faith. Because we sensed danger and we sensed we were wronged. When Sikhs give up their faith everyday, we do not sense that same danger. It is a slow poison but one that claims thousands. One could argue it is a personal choice. But is it really a free choice? Would that Sikh give up the symbols of his faith had he got what he wanted (prosperity or spouse) without having to sacrifice his beliefs? Or was he given a either this or that choice? To me that is not a free choice. It is a ransom.

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A true soldier’s prayer June 28, 2010

Filed under: Ethics and Values,Inspiration,Me,philosophy,Religion — gurdas @ :

If I were given the choice to meet any one person in history, my pick would be Guru Gobind Singh. A figure unlike any other,  a soul most extraordinary. The 10th guru of the Sikh faith, fought battles against tremendous odds, lost all four sons in the struggle for the right to practice a religion of one’s choice, was a stellar poet in Persian, and instilled in the Sikhs a light that shines bright to this day. All of that in the brief 43 years he lived.

Guru Gobind Singh

Guru Gobind Singh

देह शिव वर मोहे इही
शुभ कर्मन ते कभू न तारों|
न दरों अरिसों जब जाए लरों
निष्चे कर अपनी जीत करों|
आर सिखाहों अपने ही मन को
एह लालाचाहों गुण तेओ उचरों|
जब आव की औध निदान बने
अति ही रण में तब जूझ मरों|

(transliteration)

Deh Shiva var mohe ihai
Shubha karman te kabhu na taron
Na daron arison jab jae laron
Nishche kar apni jeet karon
Ar sikhahon apni hi man ko
Eh lalachahon gun teo uchron
Jab aav ki audh nidaan bane
Ati hi ran main tab jujh maron

(translation)

O Lord give me this blessing
That I may never be deterred from good deeds
That I may have no fear while fighting against the enemy
And that I may triumph certainly
May I educate my conscience
To crave singing your praises
And when the last moment comes
I may fall fighting in the battlefield

Guru Gobind Singh (गुरु गोबिंद सिंह), 10th Sikh Guru, 1666-1708

Note: The image is from here. My home for the first 18 years of my life had this exact framed painting and I would like to pay my regards to the painter, Sobha Singh, whose works of Sikh gurus are without parallel.

 

1984 – The Sikh Massacre in Delhi August 29, 2009

Filed under: conversations,Ethics and Values,India,Religion — gurdas @ :

Reproduced below is a recent Facebook dialogue between me and friends about the 1984 Sikh massacre in Delhi, India. The dialogue is presented verbatim with correction of typos.

1984

About 3000 Sikhs were killed in 2 days in Delhi, Nov. 1984

Gurdas – 1984, Delhi, India. 3000 Sikhs massacred in less than 48 hours. That is one Sikh every minute. Not shot in a riot or street wars, but burnt alive in front of their families. Not in some distant corner, but in the capital of the nation. 25 years, and 10 enquiries later not one high profile conviction. We will NOT forget. http://www.sikhchic.com/1984

Deepanjan  – And we are a civilized and tolerant people!

Pawandeep  – Sometimes, it’s not the people. It is the State!

Gurdas  – Deeps: Well said. I gave up the notion of Indians being tolerant a very long time ago. We are amongst the world’s most racist, violent, and intolerant race. Pawan: I am not sure I understand your comment. Are you saying the State is accountable and not the people who participated in this pogrom? But isn’t the State a collection of individuals. I have no anger towards the government (as a body) or the population of Delhi (again as a body). The moment you say State, Government, etc it makes accountability very difficult. My anger is directed and pin pointed at every individual (starting from Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to Congress man Jagdish Tytler to the Poilceman who watched silently to every person who burnt, raped, and looted). And in that sense, I will say it is not the State, it is individuals. Try these individuals, hold them accountable, and justice will be delivered.

Gagandeep  – Given the way the trials are now going, I will not be surprised if anybody does not get any sentence…Notwithstanding other reasons, this is the most likely outcome also because

1. This is in a way similar to what happened in Gujarat Riots.. hard to pick up individuals except the Chief Minister and his aides directly… as the people who did it is a mob, which does not has any face..

2. Evidence against Tytler is minimal, and CBI has already given a clean chit to it.. then PM is no more..

These are also the reasons I tend to agree with Manmohan s’ take on it… Can’t keep this issue alive always in our hearts.. Move on.. and let the law take its course..And. I think the more one carries hatred and anger in one’s heart about this, the more bad for him individually and the more the possibility of him getting exploited politically..

Gurdas  – Gagan: Totally disagree with you. And here is why:

1. Delhi is different from Gujarat, where the violence was widespread and sometimes in remote areas. With 1984, the massacre is dead center Delhi. The mob has many faces and some are seen in the few pictures available. But not every face needs to be seen. How about the police stations under whose jurisdiction the areas of violence lies? They can be held accountable to begin with. And the CM and everybody else in the line of control. When you hold them responsible, the truth will come out. The policeman will be forced to tell he had orders to not act, and so on.

2. I am a big fan of accountability. And here is why 1984 is important. If justice had been done then, Gujarat might never have happened. We cannot walk away from this injustice and forget it. Not only because of the victims of 1984, but the future victims we will create by giving the message that mobs in India are free to kill.

3. There is incriminating evidence against Tytler. At least enough to not let him go scott free. I strongly recommend reading “When a tree shook Delhi” by Mitta and Phoolka. I quote this particular book because it is written by a journalist and a lawyer, both of whom are considered experts on 1984.

4. About the issue of forgetting it – I agree with forgiving and moving on. But, who do I forgive? Nobody has asked for it yet! Remember, 1984 is like an open wound. If the Sikhs have to forget it, somebody has to heal that wound. And that healing will come from justice. If Jagdish Tytler (just to name a person) stands up and says “I am sorry. I will repent by serving the community for next 10 years” I will go hug him and forgive him. You cannot forget a wound which is still bleeding, right? For those whose families were murdered, 1984 is ongoing….

5. The law is not taking its course. That is the whole point. I refuse to believe that the government is unable to find evidence. In fact the government is shoving evidence under the carpet. There are pictures where faces are clearly visible, there are recorded statements about Tytler, the list is endless … again, I point you towards the book by Mitta and Phoolka (which I am currently reading). I must repeat that my anger is very directed. I have no anger towards Rahul Gandhi for example. And I am also a firm believer that public pressure can do wonders. Even get justice. It took just one shoe thrown at Chidambaram for justice to creep out and show its face. I am against violence as a course of action. My ethics teach me to stand by the weak, to fight injustice. If I stop doing THAT, THEN I will have NO peace. I am not interested in the pseudo peace that comes from shirking away from my responsibility.

Gagandeep  – Gurdas, I agree with you conceptually that the justice should be done.. but what makes you believe that after 25 years there is a possibility of any justice..?? Accountability in the communal violences is much more difficult to come… the sooner you realize this.. at more peace you will be… Else, frustrations of injustice will never end in the SIKHs mind.. and GOD only knows when those bottled frustrations will give rise to another ugly act of violence….

Amit  – Gurdas, I totally agree with you that justice needs to be served. No doubt. But the problem, I think, is there is no unified attempt to demand justice from the govt or judiciary. No concentrated effort. It’s usually once a year news on TV channels on the anniversary of the sad event. Most victims and their families have moved on and are waiting for some kind of outcome of this case. The longer you wait for a trial, the weaker it becomes. Like Gagan said, when a mob is on riot, everyone is equally guilty. To expect that a ruling govt will try their own leaders in court is highly unexpected in India. Justice delayed is justice denied. While I am hopeful that the culprits will be brought to justice some day, it might just be too little too late.

Gurdas  – Amit: Two notable points:

1) There is a unified effort in the form of justice committees formed between lawyers and victims. Just that the government is dragging its feet and trying every possible trick of subterfuge.

2) Delhi had enough army stationed in and around the city to wage a war, let alone stop a MOB. I highlight mob because this was not a mob! A mob in an impromptu congregation of violent individuals. What happened in Delhi was an organized rampage in complicity with city leaders. There is a reason why people like Jagdish Tytler are being protected. I have a suspicion that if he did get charged so many skeletons will come out, that many of Congress’s top brass will be behind bars. Like you said, I do not see that happening.

Amit  – Gurdas, When I said unified effort, I meant by the general public – victims or concerned citizens. And they too will need a strong and influential leader to get it heard anywhere. I would rather  not depend on committees formed by lawyers. But again, who has the time? And for how long? As for Army not responding to the riots, when the riots take place at the behest of the ruling govt. neither army nor police will move a muscle. Whatever happened was evil and unfortunate. I am not sure what’s the best way to put a closure on this case. The political, judicial and police system are too corrupt and colluding to get justice. If you were looking for a high- profile name to be tried and sentenced, it’s unlikely now that Tytler has been acquitted by CBI and congress rules at the center.

What’s your take on getting justice?

Gagandeep  – Talking about the efforts, there are efforts underway like the other day when I was in NJ Gurudwara, California-based Jasbir  (one of the witness against Tytler who heard his orders of SIKH Killings in Delhi) had come there to gather support both morally and financially. He gave statements to Nanavati commission in 2002 but CBI said they couldn’t trace him .. and wanted his statements taken again.. in 2004.. He swore he would go any day if called by CBI.. and claims he was not contacted.. even though he admitted there were open threats to him and his family.. He is already in his 70s… There are few witnesses left.. many have already been killed long back.. Those left will not live forever to testify again and again and again.. and Congress knows this very well and is making process delays as their weapon too..

Gurdas  – Amit: To win the game, we need to play it. Or at least cheer those who are playing it. Writing on facebook, sending an occasional email, or other similar efforts are my way of keeping the memory and consciousness alive. And then we wait for the wheels of time to turn. But forgetting it is not an option. Because there are 3000 corpses lying in the middle of Delhi and their stench fills me with disgust. No, I cannot forget until those bodies are given a fitting burial. But one must write responsibly, and not quote stories and rumours. So, I am doing my due diligence of reading what little is out there about 1984 (on Sikh extremism, the subsequent attack on Golden Temple, and Sikh killings in the aftermath of Gandhi’s assassination).

Gurdas  – Gagan: Good input.

Amit and Gagan: May I use this dialogue as an article on my blog?

Amit  – It’s sickening, but not surprising, to learn that the agency entrusted with the responsibility to investigate the incident is lying about the testifying witnesses. Everything is influenced by politicians. If Mr. Jasbir ‘s testimony in 2002 has been brushed under the carpet, and his whereabouts declared unknown, I bet no matter how many times he gives statement, they would all be buried. CBI investigates the case, CBI comes under PMO, PM appoints CBI chief, PM belongs to congress, the alleged convicts belong to congress, good luck with getting justice. As much as it breaks my heart, even if a Sikh PM, who knows all the facts, did not move a brick in the last 5 years in power, who do you think you can rely on for getting justice? Can you think of even one politician ever tried successfully and sentenced? People can donate money and sign statements of support, but what purpose do they solve other than highlighting the case locally, for some time.

Amit – Sure, Gurdas.

Gagandeep – Sure do Gurdas! who knows… One thread less makes the wire snap!

 

My Prayer March 2, 2008

Filed under: Inspiration,life,love,philosophy,Religion — gurdas @ :
Tags: , , , , ,

 The open door, Key Gompa

God, this day and those that follow, gift me:

.

– the strength to help all, friend or foe
– the strength to love all, animate and inanimate
– the strength to smile, even in adversity
– the strength to speak the truth, always
– the strength to be free of cravings, including Life
– the strength to happily give away all that I think I have
– the strength to follow your will, come what may
– the strength to be you

.

Whenever I bow to whatever you might call God, I use the above lines one way or the other, in part or full. 

What is your prayer?

 

Ganesha! dude, you rock September 19, 2007

Filed under: India,photography,Religion — gurdas @ :

This past Sunday I went in search of the Ganesh idol that appealed most to me. Ambling through the crowded bylanes of the old city area, I came upon many forms of how the Lord is seen by his worshippers. What surprised me was the sheer scale of democracy in the visualisation. There were no two similar idols. Each devotee had and took the liberty to see Lord Ganesh in his own image. Hinduism, for all its ritualistic baggage is, even today after 5000 years, like a young religion ready to experiment. While I cannot comment on how spiritual the devotees are, what can be concluded safely is that this joyous freedom will ensure Hinduism stays around for another millenia.

Early in my assiduous two hour search, I came upon a Ganesha sculpted as a young, go-getter 19 year old. Mounted on a snazzy bike and ready to vrroom into your heart. Perched right in front was a photographer to take a shot of your kid out on a ride with the most worshipped Hindu God. I waited until the next kid was propped onto the pillion.

.

Ganesha - The Dude

Wonder what the kid is looking up at. Maybe praying for a safe ride? 

There was some more that I received, courtesy my S6500fd bridge camera. And that was instant attention and hurried clearing of the front deck so that I may take my shot. Which left me feeling a little guilty. But then who knows, maybe Ganesha willed it such. What an attention grabber he is – nothing short of a film star!