As a Sikh starting University…
During the summer holidays before I started university, I was looking forward to starting university. I had been brought up and lived in an English area and not been exposed to a large Sikh community or presence, therefore I was excited to go to King’s College London because it was known for having a large number of Sikh students and had the largest Sikh Society in England. I heard people call it SINGH'S COLLEGE’.
The days get closer and closer and soon I was to move to Halls of Residence and start university. The day, which I had to move into Halls of Residence, my family had a wedding to attend to. So we decided to drop my belongings at the accommodation on Saturday and move in properly on Sunday after the wedding. My brother was going to drop me off in London.
On the Sunday going back to Halls of Residence I didn’t know what to accept. The day before, I didn’t see many people or really get a feel of what it would be like. So I wondered how many Singhs I would be living with at Halls or how many Sikhs I would get to know on the first day.
My brother and I arrived in London in the evening. He dropped me off and came inside with me. No one was around and I wondered where everyone had gone. The place looked DEAD. My brother suggested that we should go to the student union bar or something similar to get to know people. I felt NERVOUS, as I was not used to going to bars, clubs or pubs.
Across the road from the Halls of Residence was the King’s College Waterloo Campus. We decided to see what was happening there. At the Student Union Bar everyone from the Halls of Residence had got together as an opportunity to socialise. I felt OUT OF PLACE and struggling not to BREATHE in cigarette smoke from some people standing around me.
I couldn't see any Sikh, anyone wearing a Pagh (turban) nor any Panjabis. I thought ‘Waheguru, where am I?’ This wasn’t what I was expecting. Trying to mingle with people and introducing myself, I felt out of place and not comfortable in the smoking and drinking environment. My brother left a little while after. I was thankful for him that he at least helped me by coming with me to the Student Union, by myself I don’t know how I would have coped.
I got to know some people. But I didn’t get to meet any Panjabis. The next day I got to know all my flatmates. All of them were nice and easy to talk to. During the week I felt bit let down and shocked that I didn’t see any Panjabi or Sikh. Was this ‘SINGH'S COLLEGE’? I was the only visible Sikh in the whole Halls of Residence.
One of the people who I was sharing a flat with asked me to go to a student Club Night. She said that all of the people from our flat were going and perhaps it would be a nice place to meet people. "You don’t have to drink and perhaps you might see some Sikhs there", she said. Feeling bit low and lonely, I thought that I might as well go clubbing, despite not feeling comfortable with the idea considering I have never been before and that don’t like a smoky environment.
I bought a ticket for the student Club Night from a boy selling tickets at the Hall’s reception area. Getting the ticket I walked back to my room, I opened my door and I looked straight at Shaheed Baba Jarnail Singh Jee Bhindranwale’s photo, which I had in my windowsill. It dawned to me, WHY am I doing this? Why am I doing something, which I am not comfortable with? Why don’t I have FAITH in Vaheguru? Vaheguru will make me meet up with Gurmukhs and Saadh Sangat when He wishes to do so. I felt GUILTY for buying a ticket. I walked back to the reception and asked the boy whether I could get a refund. He said that he usually doesn’t do refunds however he said he would make an exception for me. I thanked him.
ਹਰਿ ਬਿਨੁ ਜੀਉ ਜਲਿ ਬਲਿ ਜਾਉ ॥
har bin jee-o jal bal jaa-o.
Without the Lord, my soul is scorched and burnt.
ਮੈ ਆਪਣਾ ਗੁਰੁ ਪੂਛਿ ਦੇਖਿਆ ਅਵਰੁ ਨਾਹੀ ਥਾਉ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
mai aapNaa gur poochh dekhi-aa avar naahee thaa-o. ||1||rahaa-o||
I consulted my Guru, and now I see that there is no other place at all. ||1||Pause||
That night, it felt as if everyone had gone either clubbing or to the Student Union bar. The Halls or Residence was DEAD SILENT. I didn’t know where to go or who to meet up with, without having to go to place where there is ALCOHOL or people SMOKING. I got out my vaaja (harmonium) and did simran and sang some Gurbaani Shabads that night.
I thought and meditated on Guru Gobind Singh jee’s shabad:
ਖਿਆਲ ਪ: ੧੦ ॥
khiaal paatishaahee dasvee
Shabad composed by the Tenth Master.
ਮਿਤ੍ਰ ਪਿਆਰੇ ਨੂੰ ਹਾਲ ਮੁਰੀਦਾ ਦਾ ਕਿਹਣਾ ॥
mitr pyaare noo, haal mareedaan da kehNaa.
Please tell the dear friend - the Lord - the plight of his disciples.
ਤੁਧੁ ਬਿਨੁ ਰੋਗੁ ਰਜਾਈਆ ਦਾ ਓਢਣ ਨਾਗ ਨਿਵਾਸਾ ਦੇ ਹਿਹਣਾ ॥
tuDh bin rog rajaaeeaan da odhaN, naag nivaasaaan da rehNaa.
Without you the use of rich blankets is like a disease for us and the comfort of the house is like living with snakes.
ਸੂਲ ਸੁਰਾਹੀ ਖੰਜਰ ਪਿਆਲਾ ਬਿੰਗ ਕਸਾਈਆਂ ਦਾ ਸਿਹਣਾ ॥
sool saraahee kanjar pyaala, bing kasayeeaan da sehNaa.
Our water pitchers are like stakes of torture and our cups have edges like daggers. Your neglect is like the suffering of animals at the hands of butchers.
ਯਾਰੜੇ ਦਾ ਸਾਨੂੰ ਸੱਥਰੁ ਚੰਗਾ ਭਠ ਖੇੜਿਆ ਦਾ ਰਿਹਣਾ ॥
yaarRe da saanu sathar changa, bhath kheRiaan da rehNaa
Our Beloved Lord's straw bed is more pleasing to us than living in costly furnace-like mansions.
(Shabad Hazaare Paatishaahee Dasvee)
Our Father, Guru Gobind Singh Jee, has written this beautiful shabad. He composed this Divine shabad, at a time when he had lost his wife, children, family, home, wealth and disciples. Walking BAREFOOTED in the jungle of MaacheewaRa, with THORNS pricking Guru Jee’s feet, NO PILLOW to rest on, and no four walls to give him shelter, Guru Jee composed this UPLIFTING hymn.
Thinking about Guru Gobind Singh Jee and this shabad, something dawned upon me. Looking around I realised that I was blessed with four walls and a roof around me to give me shelter. I was blessed with a bed, pillow and a nice place to live. I was blessed with an opportunity to go to university. The realisation was that I was blessed and that I should be GRATEFUL about all I had and not feeling sad or disappointed.
With the grace of Waheguru, I met with Sikhs through SIKH SOCIETY. It was great. The people I met at Sikh Society were like a family to me. I met so many people. I then became familiar where Shepard’s Bush Gurdwara was and found out the way to get to Southall Gurdwara. Once or twice a week I would go to the Gurdwara. I felt so HAPPY. I had made friends in the Saadh Sangat (the company of the holy), I had made friends with people whom I could share Gurmat (the Guru’s teachings) with and I could relate to. This is not to say that I wasn’t friends with the people that I lived with or with the people who were on my degree course. However, I had never had Panjabi or Sikh friends at school or Sixth Form, it was great to be able to socialise and do things with friends who could APPRECIATE Gurmat and do Saadh Sangat with them.
Sometimes I would see people around university and Halls, "COME OUT TONIGHT WITH US". However I would smile and kindly say "NO THANKS" and that I had other plans. I was conscious to make sure that no one thought I was being judgemental about people going clubbing or looking down at them, because I wasn’t. However, I didn’t personally feel comfortable being a Sikh of the Guru and going clubbing or sitting at the bar.
ਕਬੀਰ ਮਾਰੀ ਮਰਉ ਕੁਸੰਗ ਕੀ ਕੇਲੇ ਨਿਕਟਿ ਜੁ ਬੇਰਿ ॥
kabeer maaree mar-o kusang kee kele nikatt jo ber.
O Kabeer! (If you abandon praising Vahguru, and have company with those who are broken from Vaheguru; then look) never have company with those broken from Vaheguru. I have been ruined and destroyed by bad company, like the banana plant near the thorn bush.
ਉਹ ਝੂਲੈ ਉਹ ਚੀਰੀਐ ਸਾਕਤ ਸੰਗੁ ਨ ਹੇਰਿ ॥੮੮॥
ouh jhoolai ouh cheeree-ai saakat sang na her. ||88||
If a thorn bush grows near a banana plant, the thorn bush will wave in the wind, and pierces the banana plant (with it's thorns); Similarly (O Kabeer!) sitting in a negative environment under the affect of corruption and sin your soul will die at the hands of spiritual death. ||88|| Note: Singing Vaheguru's Praise no limit can be achieved, but through it's blessings one is saved from bad company and the soul is spared from spiritual death.
Some people would ask me, "Do you think going out clubbing is wrong?" I would answer them:
“Whatever you do in life, imagine Guru Gobind Singh Jee is WATCHING YOU and is with you. If the Panj Piyaare who gave you Khande-Pahul Da Amrit saw a CCTV video of you being somewhere, and the same video was shown to the Saadh Sangat in the presence of Guru Sahib, you must ask yourself, would you feel EMBARRASSED or COMFORTABLE with that idea? If you would feel comfortable with Guru Jee, the Panj Piyaare and the Guru Piyaaree Saadh Sangat knowing where you have been socialising and hanging out then all the best to you and may Waheguru bless you. However, if you would feel embarrassed, even the SLIGHTEST, then you must ask yourself, "Why are you at that place and is it WORTH BEING THERE?" Who I am to tell someone not to clubbing or to clubbing? What does you AATMA (soul) say?”
ਧਰਮ ਰਾਇ ਜਬ ਲੇਖਾ ਮਾਗੈ ਕਿਆ ਮੁਖੁ ਲੈ ਕੈ ਜਾਹਿਗਾ ॥
Dharam raa-e jab lekhaa maagai ki-aa mukh lai kai jaahigaa.
O mind! When the Righteous Judge of Dharma calls for your account (of your actions in life), what face will you show Him then?
ਕਹਤੁ ਕਬੀਰੁ ਸੁਨਹੁ ਰੇ ਸੰਤਹੁ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਤਰਿ ਜਾਂਹਿਗਾ ॥੩॥੧॥
kehat kabeer sunhu re santahu saaDhsangat tar jaa(n)higaa. ||3||1||
Says Kabeer, O Saints! Listen: In the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy, you shall be saved (from the world-ocean). ||3||1||
I enjoyed university so much. The Sangat, going to the Gurdwara Sahib, meeting knew people, making friends, the Sikhi events across London and the various universities and the pyaar which people have one another as Sikh brothers and sisters.
To be continued...