Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Story of Bhenji Rajbinder Kaur...


Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh

The journey that Guru Sahib placed me on was a long treacherous one; treacherous because of my own faults and wrong doings, making the wrong decisions in life and pushing Sikhi principles away as far as I could in pursuit of worldly happiness.

Thinking back now, the main memories of 'Sikhi' I have as a child was going to the Gurdwara on a regular basis with my mother. I remember an elder Gursikh, who used to come to the Gurdwara, and all the kids knew him as the baba who gave all the children a pencil and paper to take and doodle on. We didn't used to have iPhones or any kind of gadgets in those days, so pencils and paper were a luxury. All the kids used to flock to him and it's funny how that's now one of the few childhood memories I have. As I grew older, my Gurdwara visits became few and far between. I only used to go for weddings etc and only if I was forced. I remember skipping Anand Karaj's (weddings), as I felt they were 'boring' and I used to only go to the reception after, as I felt this was the main part of the wedding!

I started removing my hair as early as I could. I remember feeling a lot of pressure from my school friends to fit in, in this way. I first removed leg hair, arm hair, and then started removing facial hair and started to regularly visit the hair dresser, because I wanted to feel beautiful and wanted to fit in with the crowd. I wanted to become more attractive to others. I won't go in to details, but I rebelled against my parents wishes as much as I possibly could. I would lie to them, sneak out and got in to bad company and didn't care who I was hurting along the way. I used to drink alcohol and stayed out late at night, and just wanted to be a free spirit, I wanted to do what I wanted to do and that was it. I didn't care about my parents worrying at home, or the consequences of someone seeing me while out "doing my thing" and the word getting back to my parents.

When I reached my mid 20s I met my now husband. We were monay (had shorn hair) and based our relationship on mutual attraction. Funnily enough, we first spoke about Sikhi, even though I knew absolutely nothing, and still don't. Within two weeks of meeting, I knew I was going to marry him. I'm not sure how, but call it woman's intuition. There was a long battle between my parents and I about caste as my parents were typically culturally inclined. However my father was first to come round, as I was always a daddy's girl and something pulled at his heart strings and he agreed to the marriage. Mum was a bit harder to convince. During our engagement period, my fiancé was coming more and more in to Sikhi. He started doing sangat with Gursikhs and I remember one time, we met, and he said "I want to take Amrit". I didn't have a clue what Amrit was or what living as a Gursikh involved. I was shocked and emotional and said to him please don't change yet. We were weeks away from our marriage and I wanted all my family to see my husband in the image that I had met him in. We agreed to compromise. The compromise was that he would wait for me and that I would look in to becoming Amritdhari after marriage.

We got married and my husband kept wanting to keep his kesh, but I stubbornly didn't want him to. His love for Sikhi kept growing and growing, and I honestly resented it. I didn't want him to change the way he looked. I loved the way he looked when we first met, and felt so attached to that image. I used to force him to go to the hairdressers. I wouldn't talk to him until he had tidied himself up, as he looked messy with a beard and unshorn hair. I fought his want to change to the point that I would cut his hair for him, as he started to refuse going to the hairdressers. I used to turn off paath or Kirtan he used to play in the car as I wanted his attention.

During the first couple of years of marriage a few elders in the family passed away. This hit me hard and I started to question what happens when we die. At my grandmothers funeral, when everyone recited Sohila Sahib, I couldn't do it as I didn't know it. So I promised myself I would learn this paath. This was the first I had learnt in my then 28 years of life. 28 years.

My sadness about death didn't change the fact that I didn't want my husband to change his appearance. He would go to programs alone and, even though he still cut his hair he used to tie a Dastar. He felt he couldn't go in to sangat without a dastaar on. When he came home from programs I would resent his change and tell him to take his dastaar off. Such was my hate for his change. He used to invite Gursikh to our house to do veechaar with us. But I still didn't want to move towards Sikhi.

It was only until I fell pregnant in 2007, that I really started to change. We were told that I had a high risk pregnancy for Downs syndrome baby. My heart broke. As a mother, your instinct is to want your children to be healthy and happy. My husbands first reaction was to of course turn to Guru Sahib. We started to do Ardaas every day asking Guru Sahib to make sure the baby would be okay. I cried so many times during the Ardaas. I started to listen to JapJi Sahib every day, and would play it on my phone every morning and as my bump grew I would balance the phone on my belly so baby would hear too. I started to read Chaupai Sahib too in English first, as I wanted to understand it.

We attended Khalsa Camp for 2 days in 2007 when I was 4 months pregnant. It was mind blowing. Although we only stayed there a short while, we felt a pull from being in that sangat. We bought DVDs from previous Khalsa Camps and when we got home we watched them on repeat for months. We didn't watch anything else as we just wanted to be in that sangat again.

My husbands last hair cut was at his usual barbers. He had a deep conversation with the white hairdresser about Sikhi after she noticed his Kara. Ironically he spoke about kesh (hair) and its importance. At the end of the appointment, she said to him "I don't expect to see you here again". He came home and told me about his conversation and her last words and we felt that Guru Sahib had spoken and that was his command.

My husband was starting a new job and he wanted to go to his new work as a Singh. We agreed, knowing that this would be it, he would remain a Singh from now onwards.

It was only when our baby was finally born in January 2008 that we came to know that she was a normal healthy baby. We cannot put that down to anything but Kirpa from Guru Sahib.

In the first year after our baby was born I started to physically change. Two things really stick in my mind when it came to deciding to make the change in my appearance and follow Sikhi: It was through sangat of other bibian that I found the strength to keep Kesh. I felt if they can do it and look so beautiful then so can I. I started to keep my eyebrows, started to tie my hair back and stopped dying it. It wasn't easy to do this though. I fell a few times, but just kept trying. I think I felt that I owed Guru Sahib something in return for listening to our Ardaasa. Secondly, when our baby was born, when I saw just how perfect Guru Sahib had made her, I thought to myself, I would never want to change her from her perfect natural form, so I had to lead by example. I couldn't be a hypocrite.

My friends and family were very supportive of my change. I didn't get any negative comments from anyone. When my eyebrows were fully grown out and my facial hair had returned to its equilibrium I somehow still didn't feel complete. It was only when sangat came round or we went to Gursikhs houses and bibian showed me how to tie a dastaar, that I felt that I could look in the mirror and everything then seemed to fit in to place. That's what was missing.

Living away from family, and meeting them with my crown on and seeing their reaction was something that I struggled with and was the next hurdle I had to get over. Humans, especially women, especially in the western world, are sensitive beings. We take in too much of what society thinks and says and this is why I struggled. My husband would take pictures of me when I practised tying my dastaar at home and sent pictures to my sisters phones. Their reaction was very positive. So when they did actually see me with my dastaar on they were fine with it, as it was already familiar to them.

By this time, in 2009, my husband was so desperate to give his head to Guru Sahib. He had waited patiently for years now, and he so wanted to take Amrit. For the past year or so since I started to change I kept putting him off, saying I wasn't quite ready. He would get Gursikhs to do Ardaas (pray) for us, so that we could walk on the path together.

I remember after a Kirtan program, on the way home, a Gursikh had travelled with us. He did a little veechaar (Sikhi chat) with me in the car. He knew how desperately my husband wanted to take Amrit as a family, and how long he had waited. The Gursikh said something like "YOU hold the key". It was then that I thought I can’t hold my husband back any more.

Finally, in December 2009, we were blessed with Amrit. It was a wonderful experience. My only regret is that I didn't ask Guru Sahib for Amrit earlier, as this was only the beginning of our journey. I wasted so many years in pursuit of worldly happiness. What I thought was making me happy was the very thing that was pulling me away from Guru Sahib. Of the few things I've learned over the years, one of the key lessons is that as a Gursikh, even the smallest gestures can inspire Sikhi in the most unlikely characters.

Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh

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Note: Thank you to Bhenji Rajbinder Kaur for writing her personal story and sharing it with the Sangat.

Bhenji was inspired by Gursikh bibiaa, they guided her towards Sikhi. Bhenji has now been blessed with the Seva of guiding other females towards the blessed path of Sikhi. Guru Sahib ji has blessed bhenji to form and run the "Kaur's Corner" organisation alongside a team of sisters. The Seva they are doing is awesome and has transformed the life's of many!!  

Vaheguroo!

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