The Story of a White-American falling in love with Sikhi...
(Part 2 of 2)
(Part 2 of 2)
Now at the age of 38, I had been involved in a happy and monogamous relationship with a very open and also spiritual woman. She had come from a different country and had a difficult upbringing herself. Raised a Catholic like my parents, she too knew that God was so near, yet ideologically too far to reach. We spent a great deal of time traveling throughout the country, admiring God glorious landscapes. We become a strong and mutually inspiring couple.
Though a series of events, we had been illegally evicted from our apartment in New York City. During this time, a friend of ours had opened her door to us. This friend allowed us to occupy her apartment for nearly 3 weeks while we fixed our situation. This friend also had a very spiritual nature about her. Her apartment was adorned with many religious articles of many different faiths.
One item that caught my particular attention was a picture depciting a Sikh Guru hanging upon her wall. Knowing nothing about Sikhi at the time, I simply gazed at the picture, and began to see myself. My beard had gotten quite long, and although it had been a trendy thing in recent times to grow a beard, I was not growing it to find popularity. In fact many people seemed to dislike my untrimmed beard and would occasionally make nasty comments. This spiritual leader that I saw upon my friends wall gave me a certain hope and a clue that I was following the right path. We also happened to discover a CD recording of Gurmantar and Simran. I was mostly intrguiged by the image of an Amritdhari child on the cover. We began listening to this Naam Simran CD everyday. Although I didn't understand the word to the accompanying Mool Mantar, the thought of learning to recite the words gave me a great sense of excitement and bliss. Not surprisingly, the words were accompanied by the familiar sound of the tabla!
What began slowly, turned to a rushing toward the study of Sikhi. The friend gave us the CD when we reurned back to our apartment after solving the rent issue.
We have both been immersed in simran ever since. The kesh (hair) have continued to flow. The Kara (iron bangle) on my right arm is a tireless employee working day and night to clam my anger and encourage me to think before acting with emotion. I prefer to wear a patka (bandana style head covering) over my kesh, but I know that eventually I will accept the cloth of dastaar (turban) with great enthusiasm.
With all these exciting discoveries and revelations, how could anything possibly bring me down?!
The battle continues in a different form. Many people in my home country do not understand Sikhi. Many people are beaten and abused because of ignorance and hatred.
I have seen many stories of Sikh brothers having their beards cut off, and being beaten or killed because ignorant people have associated them with terrorists. As I walk in the land in which I was born, with an untrimmed beard, head covering, and gutka (Sikh prayer book) in hand, I am being subjected to similar abusive behaviors. Most people just don't know how to deal with me in their minds. Here is me with light skin and light eyes looking like my Guru. Some people may make nasty comments, and some people may smile. Some people may spit, and some people may look away. It is all Vaheguru, and this may be the only thing I knows for sure.
Vaheguru Vaheguru Vaheguru.
Ghar Sukh Vaseyaa, Baahar Sukh Paaeyaa.
Ghar Sukh Vaseyaa, Baahar Sukh Paaeyaa.
Although my transition towards Sikhi has been a true blessing in my life, I have had to make some changes in my career path as well. Most food establishments in my industry frown upon long beards. I have since left food service to seek alternative employment. I have done some part time truck driving, and currently working part time in a canine boarding kennel. I am steadily looking for a Sikh owned or operated company within New York City that may offer employment.
My situation is unique in that I am sometimes perceived as being stuck between two cultures. Both Americans and Punjabi citizens are either struck with awe when their eyes connect; sometimes a smile, and sometimes an offensive comment. Some may say that I have abandoned my culture for another. When presented with that idea, I must confirm what is "my culture". I am 7 generations into the United States. I have no connection to my supposed homelands. My culture is only that of "American" culture, which from my perspective consists mostly of the freedom to indulge in the many evil vices available such as drinking, smoking, gambling, even prostitution. I find these so-called freedoms to go against everything that I am trying to achieve in this life. The only thing I can support in my country seems to be the freedom to religious expression; something that meant nothing to me as a youth, but has become important to me in recent times. I have only been immersed in the study of Sikhi for six months, but it has already taken my consciousness further than I had ever thought was possible. I would like to state that I am not trying to "be Punjabi". I am not stealing another culture. Sikhi is for every human. I discovered deep love for the teaching of Guru Nanak Dev Ji at even the most cursory glance, and the love continues to blossom while deepening my studies.
The next step in my quest is to find my sangat. I plan to visit the Gurdwara in New York City soon, although I maintain some apprehension because a lot of what I've read about the strife amongst the Punjabi Sikh community. I am studying Gurmukhi script from children's workbooks that I obtained online. I rise for Amritvela, and read Japji Sahib and Jaap Sahib each day from my transliterated gutka. I am seeking my sangat, and friends in Sikh community. I am looking to do seva (selfless service), any seva, but langar work in particular. I would like to find Gurmukhi classes that are free or affordable. My lady friend would also like to join in seva and study.
We praise Dhan Dhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji every day in the privacy of our home, but would very much like to join with community for kirtan, simran, etc.
This story has been complied by with the Guru's grace and utmost humility.
Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh!
If any Gursikh reading this is local to New York, and is happy to assist Veer Ji and his friend in linking up to the Gurdwara Sahib and local Sangat, then please write to them at firstname.lastname@example.org.