How do I change?

tranformation

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

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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

chatthe kenya

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

sohan-surinder-prakash-kenya
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

Keepers of Law and Order

Keepers of Law and Order

Surjeet SIngh Virdee, Kenya Police Chief Superintendent, directing traffic in 1963 in front of the Khoja Mosque (at the intersection of Government Road – presently Moi Avenue – and River Road) during the period when the Ismaili community was commemorating the newly attained independence of Kenya.

Considered as loyal and efficient lawmen, with a firm commitment to their faith, the 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 policement in the Kenya Colony in 1895, more and more Sikhs got attracted and encouraged to follow suit to serve the colony and country.

The Sikhs in the Kenya Police continued to serve in civic duties even after independence but over the next few years, their recruitments dropped as the Africanisation of the country’s affairs begun to be put into effect. As for today, no single Sikh remains in national law enforcement capacities.

Kenya-born Harbans Singh Jabbal became the first British Police Officer to wear a turban on duty, 28 January 1970. He had earlier worked as a Detective Chief Inspector in Kenya until 1966.

Photo Credit – Gurdip S. Bhogal

Do It. Don’t Quit.

DO IT - DON'T QUIT

When things go wrong as they sometimes will; When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill; When the funds are low and the debts are high; And you want to smile, but you have to sigh; When care is pressing you down a bit; Rest if you must, but don’t you quit; Life is queer with its twists and turns; As every one of us sometimes learns; And many a failure turns about; When he might have won had he stuck it out; Don’t give up though the pace seems slow — You may succeed with another blow; Success is failure turned inside out — The silver tint of the clouds of doubt; And you never can tell how close you are; It may be near when it seems so far; So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit — It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit. ~ EDGAR A. GUEST

Nanak the Saint. Nanak the Warrior.

sword-rosary

The Sikhs of Kenya have been around for over a century now, but they still remain as much a mystery for many as they were when the pioneers Sikhs first stepped into British East Africa. Their unique turbans and flowing beards have earned them respect, nevertheless, but their faith and practice is a matter of much curiosity for non-Sikhs around the world. The few who do know a little about the Sikhs cannot seem to tell why some of them wear Kirpans (holy swords) and sport unshorn hair, while the others choose to simply be the Sikh they define for themselves (cutting their hair, not wearing turbans, following fake godmen etc). The confusion and argument is an issue of great concern for not only non-Sikhs, but for Sikhs alike. Many erroneously draw differences between the founder Guru, Guru Nanak Sahib and the last human Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, especially in issues on keeping long, unshorn hair, wearing of the turbans and even wearing kirpans as part of the Sikh faith. But the difference is in their lack of knowledge of Sikh history, principles and in the Scriptures of their faith – the Guru Granth Sahib. It is impossible to judge the depth of the ocean just from the surface, for one has to dive into it and experience the true essence of it. Faith, and Sikhi, is like that ocean, where one cannot even begin to pass his own opinions about it without first delving into it, studying it and practicing it. To make matters a little easier to understand, this article will touch on the basic facts that will help eliminate the misconceptions people have about Sikhs and this needs to become an inspiration to learning more through further study of the Sikh history, faith and principles.

Guru Nanak’s principles and teachings were not only revolutionary, but they were designed in such a way that they were a part of the picture that was to be completed in the over 240 years of the founding of the Sikh faith, which was, is and will ever remain, a distinct and unique faith amongst the others in the world. Sikhs are neither Hindus, nor Muslims, they are simply Sikhs, and the fact is proved through the very Word of the Sikh Scriptures, if one sincerely studies its depths, rather than its surface. The image that the Sikhs have today – that of the warrior-saint – was conceptualised by Guru Nanak Sahib and finalised into its final form by Guru Gobind Singh Sahib. Nothing that the two Gurus taught and instructed was in conflict, they tallied with each other, just as the teachings of the other 8 Gurus (and of the additional interfaith co-authors that contribute to the compilation of Guru Granth Sahib) were all part of a process that led into the creation of the Khalsa (the complete, pure Sikh). The Khalsa (baptised Sikhs who wear the 5Ks – Kanga (wooden comb), Kachhera (short underpants), Kirpan (holy sword), Kesh (long, unshorn hair) and Kara (steel bracelet) is the final form of Guru Nanak’s Sikh who had visualised its identity from the early days of the Sikhi (Sikh faith, principles and practice). If one was to look into the hymns of the Guru Granth Sahib in their entirety, they would realise that the word of Guru Nanak transformed into the Sword of Guru Gobind Singh – and that many of Guru Nanak’s revolutionary ideas were swords in the form of words, and Guru Gobind Singh’s sword was indeed a form of the Word.

One has to studiously search into the Scriptures, History and Lives of the Sikh Gurus that indeed, there is no difference between the Sikh of Guru Nanak and of the Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh (they are one and the same). All the Gurus built Sikhi as they lived along, passing down the light of wisdom and vision to the succeeding Guru, each one introducing a new and improved ideology, leading to the final form of the Khalsa. Through the Word, the Gurus sought to enlighten and dispel the darkness of ignorance from the midst of man, while through the Sword, the Gurus (3 of the Sikh Gurus bore arms) sought to challenge the tyrants of their time who had been hell-bent for centuries in taking away the faith of the land and forcibly converting them into Islam. Together, the image of Guru Nanak (man of the WORD) and of Guru Gobind Singh (man of the SWORD) formed the complete image of the Khalsa – that of the Warrior-Saint which are inseparable. The idea behind this concept was that as much as the Sikh is a man of God , meditation and peace, he is also a warrior that is ready to defend his faith, and of others, from the hands of oppressors who seek to impose their might on the men of God. Sikh history is replete with unparalleled examples where Sikh Gurus and their Sikhs arose to fight off the Mughals who were terrorising the Hindus into conversion. Had the Word of Guru Nanak not taken the form of the SWORD in those particular times, one can only imagine what the spiritual fate of that land would have been today.

There is no contradiction between any Sikh Guru, least of all between Guru Nanak Sahib and Guru Gobind Singh Sahib – for they were one and the same in spirit and soul – word for word. Over the years, guru after guru (of the Sikhs), the form transformed, answering the need of the time. Today, the Khalsa continue that legacy of the warrior-saint identity of the Sikh, for the wars with the soul and with the world are far from over, and this very identity was not merely a call of the times, but an image for the rest of time. The very intention of the Sikh Gurus was to teach the soul to live in freedom from the inner and outer enemies, defend the weak and oppressed and challenge the mights of the tyrants that have even the slightest inclination of taking away the freedoms of the peoples that inhabit our earth. And that is why the WORD is entitled to the throne of GURU by the Sikhs (Guru Granth Sahib) where the Sikhs are now entrusted to the Living Guru in the form of eternal, infallible WORD, and not in the form of the fallible humans. Any Sikh or non-Sikh that continues to argue over what the Gurus taught and practiced, cannot even claim to know what Sikhi (way of the Sikh) is, for their ignorance separates them from the Truth. Truly, to understand Sikhi, one has to come into Sikhi, there is no other way to rightly judge or comprehend it. The Sikhi of Guru Nanak was never an easy concept to understand and adopt, and it still is not any easier, without becoming a complete sacrifice to its principles and teachings.

Nairobi Dreaming

nairobi 1930s

As contemporary Kenyans, we continue to ponder over what ever went wrong for the once very beautiful, clean, relatively safe, meticulously-planned and organised model city of Nairobi. When we all reminiscence the past glory of the city, the general question that pops up in everyone’s mind is – ‘why can our city not be just as quiet, humble, simple and stress-free as it was decade back, even only up to the 1980s?’ A city was built from a mere swamp that it was, to a thriving little town as a result of the building of the historic Uganda Railway (1896-1901) as it snaked its way from the ancient sea town of Mombassa to the centre of of East Africa, Kisumu. Today, besides its admirable high-rise skyscrapers, Nairobi’s denizens decrying of countless unnecessary headaches makes one wish that there was a way we could return to the past and replace the present with it.

I personally think that back then, we all worked together – regardless of our differences and status. We trusted the city’s godfathers and they also in turn believed that whatever they came up with, we would all love it. These days, development is overly commercialised and even scandalised. We are divided in all spheres. That is what I believe has been our bane. If we still dream of a Nairobi that it was for almost 7 decades, we can turn that dream into reality and build on the laurels of our historic achievements – only if we learned to co-exist as one, free of politicisation of our affairs. We can one of the most admired cities in the world, sitting pretty in the ranks of even the best of Europe and the Americas, only if we could work hand-in-hand with our leaders and the leaders with us. I have no doubt that if that could happen, nothing could stand in our way back to greatness.

Oh, all those Celebrations!

celebration

As much as the fanfare and celebrations excite the world, they sometimes worry me. Every year, I keenly observe the dedication with which Sikhs around the world mark the day of Vaisakhi and other ‘auspicious days’. In 1999, the world also witnessed the same celebrations, but on a grander scale. And now we have amongst us more celebrations – and from what I gather, I can see how people are so fond of their heritage that they like to share with the rest. So what am I really worried about then?

I’m rather confused. While all these celebrations are being done with the earnest of intentions, I’m left lost for words about where we are headed to. As a Sikh, who constantly works towards refining the self and becoming a true Khalsa (which is the also the true living of a Sikh), I’m ever in search for ways in which I can come closer to my Guru, besides visiting the Gurudwara or knowing the names of our Gurus, that I believe most Sikhs are simply comfortable to know and the rest they just wait for life to do it for them. It doesn’t quite work that way.

Going to the Gurudwara, doing our Nitnem and doing seva are all becoming empty rituals. Then we have all these celebrations popping up and people hardly even realise how the Guru has created opportunities for them to wake up and use them to become Gursikhs. We have simply become a lazy and thankless lot.

How can one claim to be a Sikh when they do not even heed the Guru’s basic Hukams? And if the basics are not even being done, then what is the use of going to the Gurudwara and taking part in seva? It is sad to note how many Sikh youth are doing away with their kesh, and to cap up the shock, the elders are no less lost. Men are trimming their beards and cutting off their kesh and the women are no less guilty of cutting short their kesh. Indulging in intoxications doesn’t even strike to
them as an insult to the Gurus’ teachings. We squabble in our Gurudwaras, we transgress the Sikh code of conduct, and yet we dare call ourselves Sikhs! And to add insult to injury, we do nothing or precious little to correct ourselves, least of of humble the self. So what use are all these celebrations and fanfares, for when they are not being harnessed in making each one of us better Sikhs?

How we love to console ourselves and we think we can fool the Guru as well! We are degenerating into exactly what the Gurus salvaged us from. But all is not so grim and grey for those who are still on the path of the Guru, despite the numbers game that the world loves to play.

Spare yourselves all these celebrations if they are not geared towards investment in Gurmat and Parchar. We readily spend bucket-loads of money on everything else, but when it comes to charity, we either limit our pockets or want to be seen and honoured engaging in them.

The next time an important event in history nears, prepare yourselves to learn and grow through them, otherwise the Guru will be anywhere but in our shiny Gurdwaras where Gurmat is  reduced to mere talks and little adherence to it.