Monday, February 18, 2013

Story of Veer Arandeep Singh (Southall)...

I was born into a non-religious, liberal Punjabi family. My father, brother and aunt were atheists outright. My paternal grandparents and mother, though they called themselves Sikhs, were not religious at all, and knew next to nothing about the faith which they claimed to be part of. 

As a child I always identified myself as a ‘Jatt Sikh’. The impression that I got from my mother was that ‘Jatts’ or ‘Tarkhans’ or ‘Khatris’ were religious sects within Sikhi. She would tell me over and over again that I’m a Jatt Sikh, and drag me screaming to a Gurdwara full of old men speaking a language I couldn’t understand. I was told next to nothing about the history of my people, and I was not taught Gurmukhi. And yet somehow I took pride in calling myself a Sikh, a label of which I knew nothing about. But that pride didn’t stem from an appreciation of my faith’s history or the subtleties of its scripture. It came from a hideous Jatt mentality, drummed into my head since early childhood, which made me think myself above others. For me being Punjabi, being Jatt and being Sikh were one and the same. 

I would proudly tell everybody I was a Sikh, but when they’d ask me a question about Sikhi, my history, or why I cut my hair, I would have no answer for them. I stayed this way until I was 13. At 13 I chanced upon a book in my mother’s desk. The book’s title was ‘The Ten Sikh Gurus, their lives and teachings’ by K.S Duggal. It changed my life. For the first time I was immersed in the history and teachings of Sikhi. I was captivated by the wondrous stories of the Gurus, and at how much sense their teachings made compared to the ridiculous fairy tales found in other religions. I was amazed at the selflessness and beautiful inclusiveness of Sikhi. But I also questioned myself. I questioned why I had the audacity to parade myself about as a Sikh when I could only name two of the Guru Sahibaan. Why did I remove my sacred Kes when the Sikhs of old had undergone unbearable torture so that future generations of Sikhs could live freely in Rehat and KEEP their Kes? An endless barrage of questions. Calling yourself a Sikh and not knowing the names of the Ten Guru Sahibaan, is like calling yourself a Muslim and not knowing who Muhammad is. But at least I discovered, what it meant to BE a Sikh.

Despite what I’ve said above, guilt was not my reason for entering into Sikhi. Guilt is never a suitable foundation for faith. If you are going to immerse yourself in Sikhi you must do so willingly and happily, else you will resent it.

Anyway, I decided to start keeping rehat, stop cutting my Kes, and to devour everything I could find on Sikhi by way of literature. To my surprise, everyone at school was really supportive. But I had little support from my family. Quite the opposite, I was emotionally blackmailed and bullied. When I tied my first dastaar, my atheist father would tell me how I looked like a freak. My grandparents were especially hurtful when they would tell me that nobody would give me a job or want to marry me if I became a hairy faced Singh. They would with their ridiculous and backward reasoning, deny that Guru Gobind Singh Ji ever said that Sikhs were to leave their hair uncut. But I knew better. My grandparents had never picked up a book on Sikhi in their lives. They knew nothing about it. I’d read the books. I read Gurbani. I knew that I was following the path my Guru had laid out for me. And that gave me strength. 

Although my mother supported my decision to keep Kes she wasn’t so supportive when I tried to follow other aspects of rehat. When I would try to get up at 4:30 during Amrit Vela, she’d go insane, call me a religious zealot. When I would try and do my Nitnem Banis throughout the day, she’d call me a fanatic, saying I was wasting time that could otherwise be spent working. Even now, aged 16, I have to get up at Amrit Vela and do my Nitnem Banis in secret without her finding out, lest she goes ape crazy again. 

Even at the Gurdwara, the place where every Sikh should feel totally at home, I feel awkward and threatened. Although I’m not a shy person, I have always been, for some reason, intimidated by Amritdhari Sikhs. When I was a boy I was scared of these young guys strutting about in neela bana, and dummalas, giving me evils and moving around in gangs. I remember being sent to a Sikhi camp and thinking how self-righteous and unwelcoming Amritdharis were. The Gurdwara had made no provisions for those new to Sikhi, which would help them to truly feel like part of their community. But that didn’t matter, not in the real ways. When the time comes for you to leave this earth, God will be all you have anyway. 

The first two years were quite the struggle. I’ve had to contend with my family (they’ve calmed down a lot now) and I’ve had no Sangat to help me along the way. But nobody said it would be easy. The path of Sikhi is as sharp as the edge of a sword. Amidst all the emotional blackmail, my need for Sikhi kept me going. When I wake up early in the morning during Amrit Vela, or sit down somewhere nice and quiet to do Simran, I just feel happy. That’s why I follow Sikhi. Nothing else on Earth makes me happy like Sikhi does. 


Note: Thank you to Veer Arandeep Singh jee for writing his personal story and sharing it with the Sangat.

Dhan Hai , Dhan Hai Teree Sikhee!


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

true religion is the most beautiful thing in the world... not filth... may Guru Ji bless you with such understanding

Gurpreet kaur said...

Reading this post, i have Tears rolling down my cheeks.So inspiring and deeply touching. May waheguru keep his knipa on all of us in the same way and pray our hunger to Get closer to bani and bana just keeps increasing. Thank you bhai ji for sharing this. Truly inspiring. Wage guru ji!!

Anonymous said...

bhai sahib, why did you allow such an anti-Gurmat comment (the top one) be written?

Manvir Singh said...

Vaheguru. I just read the first comment. I must have press publish whether reading it. I just read it and felt so disgusted with such views. Sorry to sangat who saw the comment. I have deleted it now

harpreet klair said...

Singha!!!! Mere samne hunda tan tenu jaffi pa ke sara din na chad da