There was now time to rummage through our store room and find things buried for ages. I’m observing self-forced isolation, observing social distancing as advised by experts in these current heightened and sensitive times. Stocked up some food and medicine just in case there’s a lockdown due to the coronavirus situation.
We turned to the social media to gauge how others around us are reacting. My wife and I buried our noses into our mobile devices in the later parts of the day, trying to assess if we were panicking over our own paranoia or being sensibly proactive and careful, compared to our neighbors and friends who update regularly on social media. We still can’t decide and fell back to trusting our own instincts. Fear of the unknown can drive many unnecessary behaviors but we just didn’t want to take any chances.
It was a breath of fresh air when we saw the video from the SikhInside team announcing that they would be livestreaming prayers and kirtan through social media platforms. Their spokesperson and my personal friend, Serjit Singh Rawang, said that daily programme kicked off on 15 March.
A wonderful idea as respite for those of us that enjoy some gurdwara time with the family but cannot because of self-isolation and social distancing. We get to enjoy some good kirtan and stay home.
If you know me, you already know that I’m not much of a gurdwara frequenter. In fact, you can only spot me during smaller family occasions rather than the grand kirtan darbars lined up year long. Nevertheless, the need for Sadhsang, for soothing kirtan shabads praising the One, for daily chanting of prayers and for meditation, will always be there. More so in these trying times. Watching and following the virtual praying sessions in the comfort of our living rooms, with the right ambiance created, is very much welcomed, indeed.
The experience isn’t something new. SikhInside has been livestreaming kirtan darbar occasions from various gurdwaras in many cities from around the world. The quality of these livestreams are as good or even better than the traditional broadcasting of the daily prayers from the larger established gurudwaras in India over their satellite channels like D2H. The major difference is that you can view and enjoy these online occasions from any mobile device connected to some data connectivity, whereas the satellite broadcasting can only be viewed via a decoder plugged into a telescreen, normally by paying a monthly subscription.
The SikhInside team has been providing this service for a decade now. Founding member Ajit Singh tells me that they started off as a group of young energetic Sikhs wanting to organise events like the ‘Grand Keertan Darbars’ in their own hometowns. They had dreams of having events that attracted youth of their age, and having well known kirtanis coming in. A couple of years of successful events, and being at the forefront of social media because of the age they were in, they then ventured into livestreaming as a necessity. The response form the youth overwhelmed them. These youths wanted to watch it on their Facebook accounts, on their iPads or Android phones or laptops, in the comforts of their college dorms or apartment rooms in another country. Little did they know this was going to be a game changer for the Sikh diaspora community.
Soon, SikhInside were invited by other organisers of kirtan events around the world, to help share the joys of keertan from cities around the world. The demand was overwhelming but the team grew with younger members joining in, eager to be part of seva (selfless service), but also eager to learn a little bit about the technology involved.
What isn’t obvious to the Sikh diaspora and community at large, is that SikhInside and their livestreaming has created their own community that embraces kirtan and parchaar (preaching) to be enjoyed in the virtual space. Their following on social media is proof of this. They now have a ready stream of followers or community that will eagerly embrace Sikh teachings through these online events.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Nothing beats being in the present, face to face, with the sadhsangat within the confines of the Darbar Sahib walls, in the presence of the Guru. Nothing. Period.
But nothing should stop the Word or the Teachings of our Guru to be transported bits and bytes over the internet to our ears, our eyes and our beings. It’s another option, especially in such times are today.
But with great power comes great responsibility. SikhInside aren’t superheroes but the platform they’ve built, with the followers and community that comes with the platform, is powerful. As influencers, SikhInside wields the responsibility to make sure that their messages through their content are true to their beliefs and the beliefs of their community. Divergent thoughts and ideas are natural for any organic community, such is the democratic nature of the Sikh Diaspora.
Unfortunately, this includes extremism, to the right or to the left. The community or the Sangat of SikhInside’s platform can and will choose wisely, I’m confident. But, misinformation or disinformation will be hard to control, and my cause damage. As SikhInside matures, they’ll need to figure out how to balance this power and the responsibility that comes with it.
Meanwhile, it’s time to appreciate their Seva, and appreciate by being part of this community. Especially when they’ve provided such a beautiful avenue to be with the Sadhsanggat virtually during these tough times.
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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