Thursday, November 24, 2005

Sikhi Workshop at Gosford Hill School...

On Tuesday I was invited to come to Gosford Hill School's Sixth Form Centre, which is in a small village called Kidlington, near Oxford to participate in leading a workshop/seminar on "Living in a Multi-Faith society". I was basically asked to talk about Sikhs, Sikhi and about Sikhs living in society. I was invited through a veer ji I know, Charandeep Singh, who attends the Sixth Form. I know veer ji from Oxford Gurdwara.

Well, on Monday after handing in my essay, I travelled to Banbury. Got home and felt tired after the long journey plus I had a bit of cold (will I don't know what it is, all I know is that I been sniffing, sneezing and feeling cold for a few weeks!). My mum made some really tastey sholay pureeaa(n). Yum, yum! PLUS mum made Gajrilaa.

Typical Panjabi mentality - I prepared the workshop and presentation, which I was planning to do at the School, on the night before! Mum, dad and my cousin helped out with suggestions and what to include in the PowerPoint presentation. The end result was that I had a PowerPoint with an introduction to Sikhi (very basic intro), loads of photos of different types of Sikhs (i.e. different age-groups, different ethnicities and Sikhs from different parts of the world), a few lines from Gurbaani to illustrate a few fundamental Sikh principles & values, and at the end I prepared workshop topics. There were four topics - (1) Problems a Sikh may possibly find having unshorn hair and wearing a turban in society, (2) How have Sikhs been effected 9/11 and 7/7 and how can society get over misconceptions, (3) How does the banning of religious symbols in France effect Sikhs, and (4) Name some virtues or values of the Sikh faith which can inspire and benefit individuals and society. In groups they had to discuss these topics, offer solutions and ways of solving the various issues.

THE JOURNEY THERE - I got to Banbury station at 7.50am. I had 3 minutes to get the 7.53am train, which was due to arrive in Oxford at 8.15am, where Charandeep Singh was going to pick me up from. Guess what happens? THE TRAIN IS 20 MINUTES LATE! Waheguroo! Then I thought I will get on the train to Bicester North train, and I will phone Charandeep Singh to pick me up from there instead of Oxford. I get on the train as I am trying to phone Charandeep about the change of places. Guess what happens? MY PHONE BATTERY GOES DEAD! Waheguroo! So I panic and think how will he know I am in Bicester!!! Rab Da Shukar that the train doors had not yet locked, I quickly got out and waited 20 minutes for the train to Oxford.

Eventually I get to Oxford at jus over 8.30am. I am about to pass the barrier. I show my ticket to the train guard to let me through. Guess what happens? "SORRY, YOUR TRAIN TICKET IS INVALID!" Waheguroo, Waheguroo! Apparently my ticket was off-peak ticket, and only peak time tickets were valid during the morning. The bloke looked Asian (Bengali or Gujrati) so I thought he might let me pass anway. But then another train guard comes and say I got to pay for another ticket. So he charges me £7!!

Arriving at the School, Charandeep walked me to his Sixth Form Centre. It was in a secondary school. So as I walked through the playground, it was ALL GORE. I could see people STARING at me and people were POINTING and LAUGHING. Waheguroo! Living in London, you get used to being accepted and no-one see's you as odd. However, for these people I was something new, as they had never seen a turbaned Sikh before. I felt bit weird, reminded me of school when people laughed and mocked me for having kesh. I thought "O mind, keep strong, smile back and look HAPPY!" So that’s what I did.

Entering the Sixth Form, the entire year 13 group were sitting down in their assembly. I could feel everyone looking at me. Chalo, Rab Rakha! The Archbishop of Oxford gave an introduction to the multi-faith conference day by stating the importance of multi-faith dialogue and how we are not the same, but equally we all share common values, which we can all learn and share from.

I did four presentations for four different groups. The Sixth Formers were very mature, respectful and were easy to get along and interact with. I went through the PowerPoint, shared experiences and then got them working on the discussion topics. At the end of each presentation (except the first one, because there was a minor problem with the laptop, i.e. the plug was off and no-one realised!) I showed the Desi DNA video, which came on BBC2 about non-Panjabi white Sikhs living in America. They were very impressed and there perceptions of Sikhs, whom most had very little knowledge of, became very positive.

During the break, the invited speakers were invited to the Staff Room for refreshments. The teacher asked me, "Would you like tea or coffee?" I said "tea". Then I looked around and the other people were drinking tea and coffee out of the staff mugs (which don't exactly look hygienic or nice!) So I quickly changed my mind and said, "Actually I will have a cup of water please." I was expecting to get some Paani (water) in a plastic cup! What happens? I GET WATER IN A STAFF MUG. Waheguroo! I felt sick looking at the mug. I don't know WHY I did, but I thought now the poor woman has brought the water, I better drink some. I took one gulp and THATS IT. I couldn't drink any more. The other invited speakers were from Hindu community (who had some weird views - that "true reality is the person, NOT God"... ermmm that makes sense! NOT!!), a Jewish speaker (seemed nice), a Baptist speaker (very friendly chap), a Muslim speaker (friendly down to earth gentleman) and a Humanist (basically an atheist who believes Humans should give values and morals rather than religion). I got NEGATIVE VIBES from the Humanist. Felt sorry for the poor chap because he seemed clueless about life and about things (I suppose he thought the same about me. lol.) The Hindu guy was getting a bit annoying... he kept ranting on about Hindu priests and how the new laws that priests have to speak English will effect Brahman Pandits from India and eventually the caste system will break down and blah blah blah. The Gore were thinking "caste system??" Then Oxford Mail newspaper-man came down and took photos of the different religions representatives.

JOURNEY BACK TO LONDON - Walking back through the School background, when leaving, I felt school kids STARING and some openly pointed and laughed. Again, I tried to keep smiling and portraying positive vibes. Charandeep's sister and kindly dropped me off me to the train station. Now, I got out my "OFF PEAK" train ticket, as now it was 3pm, so I could use it. The bloke was checking my ticket at the barrier, when another train inspector comes and says, "Oih mate, I saw you in the morning! I told you that your ticket was invalid. You come back again, using same ticket!" I said, "Its OFF-PEAK hours now! What's the problem." I was shocked at him saying, "Your ticket is for Chiltern trains only. Chiltern trains don't go from Oxford." I thought A TRAIN IS A TRAIN! I just wanted to get to London!!!! So they charge me AGAIN! This time £10! Waheguroo!! Expensive journey!

So that was my day travelling to Oxford and Kidlington. I went to Southall on way back to London, considering now I had paid like £17 EXTRA on top of my normal return journey ticket. Went to the Gurdwara Sahib and listened to Kirtan. Then I went back to Halls, dropped off my bags and food, which I had brought from home. On the way to halls I popped by to the weekly King's Simran to say 'Fateh' to everyone. Got back to halls at about 5.30pm. Then straightaway I left for Queen Mary University for the Sikhi Week event. So it was BUSY, BUSY, BUSY!

I had bit of headache after all the journey problems. But chalo - Rab De Rang! :)

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