It seems to many that Sikhs in politics is a brand new development a product of the 21st century, with our recent migration to the west. I frankly disagree with that assessment. We are Sikhs, to the word Sikh means to learn, and only the way to learn is to question, to question those in power and their beliefs is very a political act. Sikhism from its very foundation with Guru Nanak in questioned the logic of the caste system when in his eyes all humans were the same, the idea that women are equal and that money should be earned honestly or not at all, ideas radical then and in many ways still are now. These challenges to power formalized after the execution of the Fifth Guru Arjan, his son Guru Hargobind set aside the seli topi (caps of holy men) asked for a sword i and the kalgi of a king instead. He was given one but it was put on the wrong side, so he asked for another as well. Those two swords would represent Miri and Piri, the need to be powerful in the spiritual world so as to know injustice, and the physical world so as to have the means to actively oppose it. With that Sikhism challenged the might of the Mughal empire and opposed the religious intolerance of it. Time and time again our faith challenged those that sought to oppress whether they were the Afghan kings or the British empire. To say being political is in conflict with our beliefs would ignore that long history of active opposition to injustice and oppression. No, to be political is a consequence of who we are, where we come from and what we believe.
What right the Sikh have to live this life in willful ignorance? He who bows to a book, calls his almighty the teacher and himself the student, to which his relationship is one based upon his own enlightenment and not his own enslavement.
So today is the day of Diwali, a day of celebration marked millions of Hindus and Sikhs worldwide. While it is widely known for themes of family get together’s, going to religious and the setting off fireworks. Sikhs however we should not neglect the history behind it. For today marks the day marks the release from prison, the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind. He was wrongfully imprisoned by the Intolerant Mughal empire of India, along with him were 52 innocent Rajahs. Eventually the Emperor had a change of heart and allowed that the Guru be released. The Guru refused unless others were freed as well, the emperor conceded saying that however many Rajahs could hold his coat could leave with him, in the knowledge that this would limit them to a few. The Guru instead had a special cloak woven with 52 corners, and proceeded to lead all 52 Rajahs out of the prison to freedom. I believe in that spirit of freedom and opposition to tyranny and injustice is what Diwali should be about. Such an act was necessary then as it now for tyranny and injustice still continue to this very day, as is the need to stand against it. So instead of people spending money on sweets which are not only bad for health as Punjabi community continues to struggle with diabetes and heart disease, I propose that we ought to use that money and donate Amnesty International. an organization that’s symbol is a lit candle an organization whose motto is “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” not unlike the purpose of the lit divas of our faith, but most importantly it is a group that perpetuates the fight for the rights of the wrongly imprisoned, stand opposed to injustices that our fellow human beings continue to face. Its good that we celebrate the greats deeds of our storied past, rather than merely celebrate we ought to be a reflection of that in our present, and build upon that foundation laid so long ago rather than merely admire it.
When I die, my descendants will burn my body and cast the ashes into a river to be carried away. To them, only in death was I ever there. Yet it was not true. From my first breath to the last I was already there. The world and all within it being not unlike the river bed. The rushing current being the passage of time, how it brought new things from upstream, and how it eroded and decayed the old till it was to carried away, to either settle elsewhere or to float to the unknown.
Something thats been on my mind recently and its been bothering me, is the amount of people that talk shit about Brampton. Yeah its not perfect, but is home. The 19 year old me, being young and rebellious also hated it, fuck this place, was my attitude towards Brampton.. So I left for another city. I went to study criminology and then human rights, but what I feel in the 5 years there, the most important thing learned was what separates a place from a home. A place is defined by location, buildings, tangible things that can be measured. A home however is not defined by those things, rather its by feelings and memories, things that cannot be measured, yet real all the same. To me in the end, Brantford became merely a place, Brampton was Home. And it how it could not be? First friends, first love, first jobs, first achievements all happened here, from here. Its not just me, but for a lot of people who grew up up in this city. It is home. This city has a lot of newcomers, filled with hopes and dreams. For some that is a problem, to hell with them. For the immigrants too Brampton, it too will become home, filled with memories and feelings not to unlike us. Many generations from now when places like Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Hoshiarpur or Amritsar have long since faded from memory, when people ask our descendents where there their families are from, perhaps they will say Brampton. For them too it was a home. I mean if anyone talks shit about Brampton being in it, its because they see it as a place, not a home.
While the gurudwara committees continue to criticize the youth for getting high on drugs,they ought to glance in a mirror for they are no different, they continue to get high on their own false pride and hubris, in their drunken delusion they believe their age and position begets respect and not wisdom, that any stupidity on their part that is unbecoming of their age is above legitimate criticism. Fighting in a religious place over politics? How is that no different than a drunk fighting in a bar? Except the drunks bottle only harms himself, whereas the the committees intoxicant harms the whole community. The danger lies not in the intoxication of drugs and alcohol, but in the intoxication of power and pride of the committees abuse frequently, they are like a rotten cancer, unseen and unchecked they will destroy everything from the inside out, and like a rotten cancer they serve no purpose and should be removed upon detection.
So I have been perusing facebook recently, I have seen people parading this around like Sikhism has achieved something, like this is something to be proud of.It is not. What I have seen here is not the promotion of our faith, but the prostitution of it. This woman Harmeet Kaur Dhillon has saw fit to whore out our beliefs, whore out words to raise her own profile all for a party.Faith and politics ought to remain separate for the sake religious tolerance.But since she already gone there. I feel it is only right to address the unsuitability of her actions. Our faith has always opposed the tyrant, not crawled into bed with them. She used the words of a faith whose Guru believed it was better to lose his own head than to allow followers of another faith face persecution, and whose son then preceded to wage war on the empire that pursued such police, for the party believes that all Muslims must subject to special restrictions. She used our words for a party that does not believe that women have the ability to control their bodies and supports a leader who has time and time again disparaged women. How can standby when our founder way back 1400’s raised the status of women by saying “from her kings are born”. How dare she claim our ardass for a party that fails to recognize the barbarity and savagery in not allowing free healthcare , to sentence people to death for the crime of not being able to pay. To not allow cheaper education or higher wages so people can lift themselves out of poverty. How exactly is the concept “sarbat the bala” pursued by them? Our gurus opened the 4 doors our of holiest shrines so that all may enter, gave food free of charge so that may none face hunger, broke the caste system so that allow may live free of judgement. We broke barriers between people while the republicans fight to raise them. We bled and died fighting tyranny while they gather to inflict it upon others. This women has made a mockery of Sikhism, and this is not praiseworthy,
Normally I have a pretty liberal attitude with how I believe people should worship and stuff, but there is something that has been bothering me of late. What I don’t like these days is the practice of bringing of catering to the Gurudwara or doing special arrangements. I find the practice abhorrent and in congruent with the principles of our faith. Sure it is your big day and everyone wants it to be perfect, but that doesn’t trump the principles of equality we have espoused through out the ages. It is guru ka langar not village of india langar or brar’s langar. It is supposed to be simple food that its very core, an act of bring people of different backgrounds to sit on the floor together as equals, It was Guru Amar Das that made the great Mughal King Abkar sit, before granting him an audience, regarding king and beggar alike. So who are we to challenge that institution when the emperor of India could not. Yeah in the age of social media, with Facebook, Instagram etc. In Brampton especially among Punjabis its become a dumb hedonistic and materialistic competition to one up each other with extravagant weddings all for likes, go ahead do it at the engagement, do it at the reception. But that attitude of one man upmanship has no place in the Gurudwara, and that should be respected.
So today is the birthday of a great personal hero of mine, The late Bhagat Puran Singh. The picture below exemplifies the rare quality in the man I have come to admire. In that even the dying for whom life has begun abandoned, are not beneath compassion or care. That human life no matter the condition is worth caring for, worth loving and nurturing. That a man no matter how difficult the odds must continue do what he feels is right. That is a bravery not written books or shown in movies very often. Yet a bravery that is very necessary in this world. The man though poor and with a grade 10 education, would in the eyes of many be regarded as a failure, yet he is not, for the man who through his actions has taught the true meaning of humanity something many schools and philosophers have broached yet few demonstrate, for it is not who is a person that defines their worth in this world, rather the what they do the life given that is.
“Freedom is not an achievement but an opportunity.” – Bhagat Puran Singh