To break the ice, I warmly smiled at the white English-looking couple sitting next to me and said "Good evening." The man asked me, "So did you enjoy the bars, women and night life of Amsterdam." Vaheguru! I replied, "I came to Holland to deliver religious lectures. I am a Sikh. We do not drink alcohol, go to bars and treat all women with the respect and dignity as our own daughter, sister or mother." The guy looked at me and smiled, and said "I was disgusted with what I saw in Amsterdam - alcohol, immorality and drugs. I am glad that you hold the same beliefs as I do."
I went on to ask him what religion he was. He replied, "I am a Catholic." He said that he has once been to a Gurdwara in Coventry where he lives. He said that he was given food and shown so much respect and hospitility. He said he was looking for someone to look at him in a funny way and was wondering why Sikhs are so nice when he is not a Sikh. He was expecting a "catch" but found none. He said "I found Sikhs are genuinely nice people with big hearts. Lovely people. I can never think of anything bad to do with Sikhs." Vaheguru!
Although I was feeling extremely tired, sleepy and was looking for a quick snooze time before I arrive back to England and drive home, the man sitting next to me wanted to keep talking to me. Although feeling sleepy, I thought it was seva to talk to this guy and share the light and beauty of Sikhi.
The person asked me, "Why do you not cut your hair?" I replied, "Why do you cut your hair? For the world?" He shrugged his shoulders with no answer to give. I replied, "I keep my hair for God. It is my love for my Creator, it is my faith and commitment to God which I was born with and will keep till my last breath. We celebrate the creation and live in God's glory and radiance, for God has made humans in His own image - isn't that what the Bible says too?... Even Jesus, the Nazarites and other holy men did not cut their hair." The man smiled, nodded and agreed with me. He said, "You are speaking the truth mate. What you say makes sense."
The person asked me, "So are you allowed to drink alcohol?" I replied, "Alcohol is poison. You cannot even drive a car after you have had a sip of alcohol because it messes with your mind. Alcohol destroys our body, damages our brain, destroys families and society. A Sikh does not consume nor sell alcohol, tobacco or (non-medicinal) drugs. A Sikh is supposed to be an ambassador of life, sharing the light of God's message revealed through Guru Nanak to the world through his or her actions, lifestyle and persona. Alcohol, tobacco, and drugs causes death. Therefore, to consume and sell these would make one a messenger of death." The guy was over the moon hearing this. He said, "I have not drunk alcohol for 16 years. You are so right that alcohol is poison. It destroys lives and homes. I so glad to hear what you said. I work with people who are affected by alcohol. It is heart-breaking how alcohol destroys lives. It's pure poison..." He turned to his wife (who was drinking wine) and said, "You heard what that man has got to say - alcohol is poison and not good for spirituality." Vaheguru! The wife smiled. I looked bit confused hoping that I will not be the cause for them to argue. But they were both light hearted people.
I asked him a question. "You say alcohol is poison but you are given alcohol in the church. It is part of your Mass. You think alcohol is the blood of Jesus. So do you not drink alcohol in church?" He replied, "I refuse to drink alcohol given in the Church. It is poison. I just take the bread." Vaheguru! I did not pursue this further as I did not wish to hurt his religious sentiments or purposefully undermine any religion. It got the feeling that he seemed to understand that approval of alcohol is a flaw is any religious discipline.
He then asked, "So you are vegetarian? Is that right?" I replied, "Yes. Sikhs do not eat fish, eggs and meat. As Catholic you do not eat meat on Fridays to please God. As Sikhs we do not eat meat throughout the whole week!" He smiled and said, "Yes, we do not eat meat on Fridays." I carried on, "The body is the Temple of God. This is what our Guru tells us and so does your Bible. Would you want to put blood and dead carcasses in the Temple of God?... If a pet animal dies, what would you do?" He replied, "Bury it in a grave." I replied, "Well when you eat meat, you are burying dead carcasses in your body. Do you know that meat stays in the human body for four days or more as it has to slowly rot first in the stomach and then get digested? Doesn't that make the body a grave?... A Sikh's body, or anyone's body for that fact, is not a grave but the Temple of God. Our Guru has instructed us to eat simple, spiritual and healthy food...." He smiled and said, "Simple and healthy - I like that. I am loving this. That is so true." He turns to wife, "This guy is speaking one hundred percent truth. Amazing how God made us sit next to this guy."
I asked, "Do you have keep any spiritual discipline?" He said, "No. I just try to thank God when I can."
To be continued...