Sikhi inspires, never intimidates

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When Sant Baba Isher Singh Rara Sahib first came to Africa to carry out Kirtan Updesh upon the request of the Sangat that lived in Kenya, attendance would swell into the thousands. On his last day there, an Amrit Sanchar was organised in which he himself also participated as part of the Panj Pyare. Many Sikhs committed themselves in getting initiated into the Khalsa Panth at the Amrit Sanchar.

Wherever Baba Isher Singh performed Kirtan, there were mass gathering of Sangat that came from across East Africa, which concerned the Kenyan Government, perhaps fearing that this Saint from Punjab was trying to evoke a revolution within Kenya. The Government entrusted Sardar Harbhajan Singh who at that time was working in the police force, to investigate and find out what it was that Baba Isher Singh was preaching in these religious gatherings.

Harbhajan Singh heeded his national mandate, and made his attendances where Gurbani was being recited and Sangat in full attendance, immersed in the discourse of it. As he listened over the days, he was so overcome by the power of Gurbani Keertan and Katha by Baba Isher Singh, he also decided to dedicated himself to Sikhi and get initiated into the Khalsa order – and realising that the fears of the Kenyan government were unfounded and returned to advice them accordingly, himself a renewed spirit at the end of it all.

Sant Baba Isher Singh was a reknowned Sikh saint of his time, who helped enjoin thousands of Sikhs to Gurbani and Keertan.

NOTE: Considered as loyal and efficient lawmen, with a firm commitment to their faith, the Kenya Colony saw in the Sikhs the perfect role models to set in the community and colony as police chiefs. After the appointment of the first Sikh policemen in the Kenya Colony in 1895, more and more Sikhs got attracted and encouraged to follow suit to serve the colony and country.

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Africa and her plundered soul

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Forget about the current poaching crisis in Africa, what early hunters did here is not only revolting and morbid but also darn right murderous!

Even an American president and his son could not help themselves to amusing themselves at the expense of Africa’s living treasures.

The more I dig into history, the more sinister and grim the discoveries about just what Africa once was – and what’s left of it .. until it’s all gone.

Might is Right?

It is terrible to those of us who half a century ago were born  into a world of peace and order; who cherished legitimate hopes of stability and gradual development; and who now have to live through the dishonesty and immortality of the very historical happenings. That bluff, impudence, and aggression succeed where a decent readiness to co-operate failed. The first seeds of this new historical demoralisation, let us remember, were indeed planted, not by Fascism or Communism, but by the frauds, the imbecilities, and the impotence of democratic statesmanship, which led us into the World War; then into the ensuing injustices and betrays of the Peace Treaties.

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Bronislaw Malinowski (1884 – 1942)
Facing Mt. Kenya (Jomo Kenyatta)

Losing our Gurmat Keertan to commercialism

rabab-nanak-daIt saddens us, and it should concern all Sikhs, that what was once a great heritage and practice even at Sri Harmandar Sahib of Gurmat Sangeet as per the Raags of Guru Granth Sahib, is now being lost to filmy and commercial tunes. We need to return our Gurudwaras and homes to the rich heritage of Raag Keertan to not only reap the highest spiritual benefits, but also for the preservation of it for posterity.

Listen to Bhai Kultar Singh who speaks about the important and rich history of Raag Keertan, as he winds up his Kenya tour.

Kenya – once a promising world power

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The British colonial government had primed Kenya as an agricultural economy with tourism on the side. This premise saw Kenya’s arable land being zoned for coffee, sisal, cut flowers, tea, cotton, pyrethrum and subsistence crops like maize, beans and wheat. Livestock for both dairy and beef was also clustered in this.

Between 1963 and 1973, Kenya’s economy grew at an average real growth rate of 5%, and from 1973 to 1980 at 8%. Kenyatta started off pretty well and in his time the Kenyan economy showed more promise than that of the Asian Tigers.

It is during Kenyatta’s presidency that Kenya became a leading global producer of pyrethrum, sisal, tea and coffee.

Source: africanbusinessmagazine.com

How do I change?

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If I feel depressed I will sing.
If I feel sad I will laugh.
If I feel ill I will double my labour.
If I feel fear I will plunge ahead.
If I feel inferior I will wear new garments.
If I feel uncertain I will raise my voice.
If I feel poverty I will think of wealth to come.
If I feel incompetent I will think of past success.
If I feel insignificant I will remember my goals.
Today I will be the master of my emotions.

~ Og Mandino

Seek what Guru Gobind Singh sought for your soul

Vaisakhi - Call of the Khalsa

The next time you are at the Gurudwara Sahib to commemorate Vaisakhi, don’t just wash the Nishaan Sahib with milk, wash the mind with Gurmat; don’t just drape afresh the Nishaan Sahib, drape the mind with wisdom of Gurbani; and don’t just marvel at the Panj Pyaare, seek their blessings that you too may become a marvel as a Khalsa – the true Sikh of Guru Nanak.

Do not turn Vaisakhi into another spectacle to get together to have a good time with friends and family, but turn your life around by committing yourself to the true living of a Gursikh, because otherwise if you allow the occasion to just come and go, so will the chance to fulfil your life as a true Sikh, as intentioned by the very spirit of Vaisakhi.

Guru Gobind himself, through example, sought the elixir of life – Khande-di-Pahul – from the Panj Pyaare (his very embodiment) so that he too may be formalised into a Singh. He lives only in the Khalsa and if we are to call ourselves his Sikh, and seek his approval as one, then it is pertinent that we live by his teachings to ‘Peevo Pahul Khande Dhaar Hoye Janam Sohela – Partake in the Amrit by the Khanda (and live by the ideals of Khalsa Rehat)’ and make your life worthy and complete.

Sketch Credit – Gagan Singh, New Delhi

Responsibility of Every Gursikh

Nanak and the Siddhas

Parchaar and Vichaar of Sikhi is not the responsibility or prerogative of a select few or those that have ‘kamaai of naam’, but of every Gursikh, as Guru Nanak states in Gurbani that ਜਨੁ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਧੂੜਿ ਮੰਗੈ ਤਿਸੁ ਗੁਰਸਿਖ ਕੀ ਜੋ ਆਪਿ ਜਪੈ ਅਵਰਹ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਾਵੈ. The Guru’s intention of message is that we do not have to wait to be ‘qualified’ to share Sikhi because as we practice, we grow in it along with fulfilling our divine obligation to inspire others, too. I have often heard from many Gursikhs that we need to ‘concentrate on our own bhagti’ because it is futile to teach and preach to others. On the contrary, the very principle of Sikhi is to keep persevering the Nanak way – relentlessly seek the company of those willing to learn, and abandon the company of those that remain defiant and indifferent to the wisdom of Gurmat. We are to share a Daswand of our Sikhi time to helping develop other Sikhs, as we are not here to seek just our emancipation, but of others as well (Sarbat da Bhalla) – through the Grace of the True (Shabad) Guru.

Kibos’ Band of Brothers

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Resham Singh, Chanan Singh and Ajit Singh, sons of immigrant Sardar Santa Singh Chatthe (b. 1902) who settled in Kenya in 1918, and who worked for the Kenya Railways as a labourer for four years at Port Florence (now Kisumu). He later joined his elder brother Sadhu Singh in the sugar farming and jaggery manufacturing business. Besides the sons, the Kibos-based Chatthe family also had five daughters – Balbir Kaur, Gurmit Kaur, Nirmaljeet Kaur, Gurcharan Kaur and Jaswant Kaur.

The Chatthes became the first Sikh family to establish a sugar mill in Kenya – Kibos Sugar and Allied Industries Limited.

Voices of the Soul

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World-famous Punjabi folk singers and sisters Prakash Kaur and Surinder Kaur, during their tour of Kenya in 1967, and pictured with Kenya’s legendary Punjabi poet – Sohan Singh Josh – and who was also Alaap’s lyrical backbone. He passed away in 2012, leaving behind an unrivalled body of works – his life being a celebration of achievements and innumerable accolades ..

Surinder Kaur, made her professional debut with a live performance on Lahore Radio in August 1943, and the following year, she and her elder sister, Parkash Kaur cut their first duet, ‘maavan ’te dheean ral baithian’, for the HMV label, emerging as superstars across the Indian subcontinent.

Singing had been an attraction for her since childhood, though her parents didn’t allow her to perform, saying it was ‘not acceptable for a Sikh girl to do any such thing’. But she proved her way through into fame, having left behind over 2000 recorded tracks to her name.

Surinder passed away at 77 in 2006, following a prolonged illness. Upon her death, the Prime minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh described her as ‘the nightingale of Punjab’, and ‘a legend in Punjabi folk music and popular music and a trend-setter in Punjabi melody.’

Prakash Kaur had passed away earlier at 63, in 1982.

Photo Credit – Deljinder Singh Mudher