During the recent trip to Australia, I was at Adelaide Airport, returning back to Melbourne. I went through the security gate and a Panjabi guy who works as a security officer very briefly searched me as part of the procedure. He was very friendly and spoke to me in Panjabi. I asked him how long he's been working there etc.
There was a lady at the end of the security area who was doing swab tests (I think it is a test for explosives and drugs). She smiled and pulled me across and pointing at the Khanda on my Dastaar said, "Can you kindly tell me what your badge is. I have not not seen it before." I explained, "I am a Sikh. It is the emblem of the Sikh religion." She asked me to walk around and stand next to the desk where she was standing and decided to take a swab of my bag. It felt as if she wanted an excuse for me to stop so she could ask me more questions.
She continued, "So you are a Sikh, as supposed to a Panjabi." I got the feeling that she identifies the word 'Sikh' to a Gursikh and identifies those from Sikh heritage but with cut hair etc are 'Panjabis'. This was quite impressive as most often you have non-Sikhs confused that why some 'Sikhs' keep their hair and wear Dastaars, whilst others cut their hair, or why some 'Sikhs' drink alcohol etc. Similarly, last month an elderly white gentleman who visits prisons asked me, "How many Sikhs are there in this prison?" I replied, "Around twenty." He looked shocked and confused and said, "I have visited and walked around the prison and not seen that many Sikhs. I have only seen one Sikh!... Where are the twenty Sikhs?" I replied, "Sorry, there is only one turbaned Sikh man who has a flowing beard." He then interrupted me and said, "So there are not twenty Sikhs in this prison. There is one Sikh in the prison and there are nineteen people who 'cultural Sikhs' but not actually Sikhs." I said, "Yes they are of Sikh heritage." He smiled and said, "Thought so." Vaheguru. It was quite embarrassing and was a lesson for me how to explain things in the future to someone.
She then asked, "What does the emblem symbolise?... It looks very beautiful." I explained, "The double-edged sword in the middle symbolises that there is one God, the Creator. If there is one God, we are all his children. We believe that the spark of God is within all creation and therefore it is important to treat all humans with dignity and respect." She smiled and said, "You are right. That's what I believe." I continued, "The circle in the middle (the chakkar), symbolises that God is eternal, timeless, and never-ending, and therefore we should connect to Him. The two swords on each side represent that we have responsibility and duty to struggle within us with lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego and how we should strive to struggle and conquer our mind. The other sword, represents the outer struggle for defending humanity and social justice... As Sikhs we are Saint-Warriors. We have been given a mission by God to serve humanity and live a life of higher consciousness."
Hearing this lady said, "I really like your religion. I love learning about different cultures and people. All the Sikhs I have ever met are so lovely people. You are very peaceful and nice. I glad we met." In mind I thought it would have been good if I had one of the Basics of Sikhi leaflets with the three facts and given it to her to read.
She was a fairly old lady and she smiled and said, "Do you mind if I shake your hand? Is that allowed in your religion?" I said, "Yes, it's okay. In our religion we treat all other women as our sisters and mothers. You are shaking my hand as my sister." She got really happy hearing this and shook my hand and said good bye to me.
It was a really nice experience. I generally found Australia people to be very friendly and open-minded. They seem to have a very good impression of Sikhs, which was really good to see and experience.
Dhan Hai Guru! Dhan Hai Teree Sikhee!