Last week I went to New York to attend Camp Chardi Kala. When I arrived at Heathrow Airport I was standing in the United Airlines queue for checking-in my luggage and noticed some people looking at me. I thought they must be Americans and looking at my clothes and Dastaar as they have probably never seen a Sikh before.
One white American man slowly walked pass me in the next queue. He smiled and pointed towards my Khanda that I had on my dastaar, and said, "Hey, I just wanted to say it looks amazing. You look wonderful sir." Vaheguru. I was very humbled by the compliment and said, "Thank you." How amazing is Guru Gobind Singh Jee that he has blessed his Khalsa with such a distinct and beautiful appearance.
A minute or so later, the lady in front of me, turned around and said, "I just heard that guy give you a compliment about your appearance and badge... hope you don't mind me calling it a badge... I just wanted to say that I wanted to say the same thing." The lady was born in the Philippines and had a young daughter with her. She went on to ask me, "Can you please explain what your badge means?" I replied, "This is the sign of the Sikh religion. The double-edged sword in the middle represents that there is One God. The the circle (chakr) in the middle represents that God alone is eternal and timeless. The two swords on each of the sides reminds a Sikh that they are a Saint-Warrior. One sword represents to fight spiritually with your mind and vices to become a beautiful person and radiate God's glory. The second sword represents fighting for society and humanity and recognizing ones duty to stand up for others and help to make the world a better place for me and you. A Sikh's mission given by God is to serve humanity and spread goodness in the world, as God's spark is contained in all and to serve God is to serve His creation."
The lady had a huge smile on her face, and said, "That is wonderful." I asked her, "Have you seen many Sikhs before?" She said, "No." I was surprised as she lived and worked in San Francisco. She explained that she had not heard of the Sikh religion and explained that she was from a Christian Catholic background but she doesn't believe her religion is good because all she remembers from going to church is the over-emphasis on sin and fearing the hell fire and constantly be told about sins. She said, "There must be something more to religion." I replied, "My Guru says that the Path to God is through love. My Guru teaches me to love all and to love God." I just left it at that. I didn't want to talk too much as I didn't want to overwhelm her.
The lady went on, "I am surprised I have not come across your religion. I love researching different religions." I replied, "The Sikh religion is a revealed religion that worships and follows one God. The Sikh religion originates from northern Indian and was revealed through Guru Nanak just over 500 years ago. We believe that God's spark is within all and the Guru helps us to experience God. We are Saint-Warriors and dedicated to serve God and humanity and keep spiritual discipline. We do not drink, smoke, or eat meat and follow a simple, healthy and God-orientated diet and way of life. We believe in the soul evolves through the cycle of reincarnation and that in the human body we can experience and unite with the Creator. The key principles are to always remember and meditate upon God, to live and work honestly, and to share with others." She smiled and said, "That's really nice." They then went on to talk about their family and their trip to London. Before I left, the lady and her daughter smiled and said "Good bye" to me.
I must say that I was expecting Americans travelling to New York to be very ignorant and react negatively to me wearing a Dastaar (especially with a Khanda on it) and wearing Bana (Khalsa dress) because of 9/11 and a lack of knowledge of who Sikhs are. However it was quite the opposite. When I arrived at the airport in USA, the staff were really friendly and I had no problems. I have learnt over time that if you project positivity that others will respond back with positivity. I had so many people at the airport take the effort to smile at me and give a welcoming look.
When I got out of the airport, I couldn't find Bhai Sahib who was supposed to pick me up and my phone didn't work so I decided to sit on the bench and read Japji Sahib. It was amazing that I spotted a Singh taxi driver. An elderly Singh with a flowing beard and white dastaar, wearing a kurta pyjama, was sitting in the car. I thought he may have come for me but I realised he waiting for a South Indian family. He very kindly helped offer to drive me to the Gurdwara Sahib and rang Bhai Sahib who was supposed to pick me up. Bhai Sahib was at the airport but was on the upper-level and very shortly I got picked up. It was nice that wherever a Sikh goes in the world Guru helps to find another Sikh. Vaheguru.
To be continued...