Monday, January 08, 2007

"Strangers Who Changed My Life..."

A Devout Sikh
By Ron Chaplin

The time: It was the mid-1970's, in the wee small hours of a Saturday night/Sunday morning..

The place: Yonge Street in downtown Toronto, as I was walking home, alone, after an evening with friends at a house party. The street was all but deserted, with only a few cars and pedestrians visible.

Suddenly, a shout which I had learned to dread pierced the calm of the night. "FAGGOT!" I glanced over my shoulder to see a half- dozen young men advancing upon me rapidly.

My adrenalin started pumping immediately. I quickly assessed my options. I had to reach a safe place, and quickly. There were no late-night shops in sight. Although I was barely six short blocks from home, I realized I could not likely outrun the pack of young men.

Hoping against hope, I turned, facing the group, and saw a taxicab approaching. I stood and raised my arm to flag the cab, praying the driver would stop.

To my alarm, as the cab approached, it seemed to accelerate. I thought I was a goner. Then, the cab moved to the curb, and I saw the driver reach across to open the passenger door, motioning to me to jump in.

As soon as I did so, the cab driver hit the accelerator hard, just as the young men were lunging at the still open passenger door.

My heart pounding wildly in my chest, the cab driver and I exchanged no words. But as I glanced in his direction, I was surprised to see that he wore the turban and neatly coiffed, uncut beard of a devout Sikh.

As we pulled up before the door of my apartment building, I noticed for the first time that the cab's meter was not running. I reached into my billfold, and pulled out all my cash, about $30, to hand it to the driver.

"No," he said in his gentle Punjabi accent. "I cannot accept your money. You were in danger. It was my duty to assist you."

"Then, please," I responded, "accept this money as a gift to your favourite charity or your temple." With these words, he demurred, and accepted the cash offered.

I sat up late that night, alone in my apartment, in wonder at what I had just experienced. I was humbled by the heroism of the turbaned cab driver. At that time in Toronto, Sikhs, as the most visible members of the most recent group of immigrants, were often the targets of random acts of violence. Had those young men managed to reach the taxicab before we sped away, that cab driver would also have been in mortal danger.

And I could not help but reach for my Bible to read again Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan, as recounted in St. Luke's version of the Gospel. This Sikh cab driver was, in a very real and tangible way, my own good "Samaritan". He was a member of an oft- despised minority, of different ethnicity and a different faith. And yet he acted with Christ-like compassion.

I do not know the cab driver's name, but he taught me, in the most visceral way imaginable, to cast aside prejudice and fear, to make no assumptions about people based on skin colour, ethnicity, apparel, nor their particular religious faith.

It was a life-changing experience.

Ron Chaplin
Parish of St. John the Evangelist
Ottawa, Canada


ਸਚਹੁ ਓਰੈ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਉਪਰਿ ਸਚੁ ਆਚਾਰੁ ॥੫॥
sachahu orai sabh ko upar sach aachaar. ||5||
Truth is higher than everything; but higher still is truthful living. ||5||
(Ang 62)

We often fall in the trap of trying to CHANGE people merely through ARGUING or IMPOSING our ideas. We often forget that EXAMPLE is the greatest teacher and most impressive.

ਨਾਨਕ ਸਚੀ ਰੀਤਿ ਸਾਂਈ ਸੇਤੀ ਰਤਿਆ ॥੨॥
naanak sachee reet saaN-ee saytee rati-aa. ||2||
O Nanak, that way of life is true, which inspires love of Vaheguru. ||2||
(Ang 706)

Bhul Chuk Maaf Karnee jee


Anonymous said...

its comical that the guy was a christian and was called a faggot considering how much the christians are protesting in the uk at the moment about the gay rights laws going through parliament

Confused Khalsa said...

Manvir Singh Khalsa said...

Anymous jee - Doesn't "faggot" mean 'boring person' or used as an insult for someone? Perhaps the meanings are different in UK and Canada.

Khalsa jee - Thanks for link. May Vaheguru bless Bhai Tejinderpal Singh jee (aka Dulla Veerji) with Tundrustee and may he recover soon. Sad to hear about Bhai Sahib's wife passing away.

SikhSpeak.Com said...

Thanks for this a nice and inspiring story!

Anonymous said...

lol the meaning of faggot is a gay person, its a slang word that originates from america.

Oh yeh keep up the good work on the blog

Novtej said...

that post was very warming.

rsingh said...

Vaaheguru ji Ka Khalsa!! Vaaheguru ji Ke Fateh!!

With the Grace of Waheguru, there will be Rainsbai Keertan, organised by

Akhand Kirtani Jatha UK,
to commemorate the GurPurab of Siri Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

An Ardas will be done at the end of the Rainsbhai for Bibi Jasbir kaur, the wife of Veer Tejinderpal Singh Dulla, who tragically passed away yesterday in a car accident. The ardas will be for Bibi ji and the chardi kala of the whole family.

It will be held on Saturday 13th January from 7 PM to 5 AM at:

Singh Sabha Gurdwara,
Princes Street,
DE23 8NT

For further details, contact Bhai Baljit Singh on mobile 07795545475 or Bhai Satnam Singh on 07852252462

Coach transport will be leaving Southall at 5.30pm and Slough at 6.30pm. To book your place please contact Bhai Satnam Singh on 07956 519256


Singhu said...