By Hb Singh | OPINION |
“What has happened to Sikhs today?” my friend lamented as we sat for Guru Ka Langgar. “In those days, they were so full of valour and love.”
“We had people like Banda Singh Bahadur – warrior, saint, strategist, all in one. Our Sikh mothers endured unimaginable pain. We had Sikhs who were cut limb by limb, yet stayed true to Sikhi.”
For the uninitiated, the ‘cut limb by limb’ is a reflection from the standard version of the Sikhs Ardas or supplication as contained in the Sikh Rehat Maryada (SRM) document.
I could sense where the conversation was headed. It’s unlikely to be jovial, cheerful or upbeat. He is digging into Sikh history. Our history is replete with torture and sacrifices. At some point of our short history, our forefathers had endured what ISIS did in the recent past. But seen from another light, it is also one full of inspiration and hope.
“Where are those Sikhs today?” he said in a sombre voice.
I turned to him, my eyebrows coming close together. Now, that’s a sure sign something is about to come.
I decided to cheer him up a little. But not so fast. As much as he was feeling melancholy, I decided to give him a dose of my reality check.
“So, whoever told you that all Sikhs were fine and dandy in those days?” I began.
“What you shared are examples of fine and beautiful people over a period of time. But in that same period, I bet you we had problematic people.
“I’m sure there was a fair share of Sikhs who were all nutty and messed up. It’s just that we don’t read or think about them today.”
I was driving home a simple point. We tend so amplify the good or the bad, and downplay the other, depending on the case we intend to drive home. In this conversation, he amplified the good, and ignored the bad apples amongst the Sikhs of the past. As a result, Sikhs today look rather bad.
We are prone to nostalgia. We say things like how things were better back then, how people were more honest back then, how stuff was simpler once upon time.
Really? Are we not making the past look better simply by dismissing, by design, the reality? Not everything was better back then!
Enough about the past. What about the present? I went on to argue that Sikhs are alive and kicking all over the world.
“Look at where we are seated,” I began to argue my case for Sikhs today. “We are in a gurdwara just about a mile away from the Malaysian parliament house, the national police headquarters and the country’s central bank. We are in a Muslim-majority nation. And this is a fully-functioning gurdwara.”
In Malaysia, Sikhs are doing decently well. Of course, we have our challenges. Naturally, we have Sikhs who are struggling economically and on other fronts. But that’s the story of about every other community, as well.
Next point, the food before me.
“We are having Langgar here today, some 550 years after the birth of Guru Nanak. The Langgar institution that our Gurus started has endured the test of time,” I pressed forward, tucking in another bite of the sumptuous mixture of rice and curry, with a dash of santan (coconut milk).
Langgar is food cooked and distributed at gurdwaras and Sikh religious functions. Its largely vegetarian, allowing most people can consume it. A practice started by the Sikh Gurus, it is free, open to one and all. Everyone – beggar or billionaire, peasant or prime minister – sit together in what is called the Panggat.
Guru Ka Langgar still exists as an integral Sikh practice.
But it gets better. Guru Ka Langgar has taken on new wings in many places. Just look at numerous occasions where Sikhs have run Guru Ka Langgar to feed victims of humanitarian disasters.
In 2016, a group of American Sikhs teamed up with Latin Americans and the US Vets to serve healthy vegetarian meals through its Free Meal Service.The SevaTruck serves piping hot meals, freshly prepared in the mobile kitchen. And there are numerous such examples in the UK, Australia, Malaysia and India.
“That’s Guru Nanak at work today,” I pressed my point.
Next, my final point for the day. I’ve almost finished the food before me.
“Is the Sikhi spirit lost on Sikhs today? I just read about this Sikh farmer in the Us who has offered to pay the rent for US Federal workers if they are affected by the partial shutdown of the nation’s government,” I said.
Mike Sandhu is a farmer and landowner in Tracy, the second most populated city in San Joaquin County, California.
“I see the spirit of Guru Nanak alive and kicking in him. And this is a Sikh living and breathing today.”
Hb Singh is a Kuala Lumpur-based journalist with some experience in dealing with Sikh organisations, both from within and outside.
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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