348.The Man in Blue – Not Being Well …

I have come to the end of a busy period which lasted from the end of September till the ‘Faiths & Beliefs in Further Education’ (fbf) London Region Forum of the 25th of November. I was involved in work for fbfe, my main client, for what is now the Slough Equalities Commission and did prachár in Bristol, St Truiden en Hounslow.

My work is a mix of voluntary and paid for activities, and everything I do fits in with my vision of ‘doing Sikhí’. This does not mean that all is up to Guru’s high standards, I am human and therefore likely to make mistakes. 

As I wrote before and hopefully will write again : I am sixty-one, I have never been happier, and have never been more successful in making a  positive contribution to Sikhí and to the wider society while  earning enough money to finance my simple way of life, and even save quite a bit.

And then I got ill, and made it worse by going to a morning meeting in Uxbridge while I knew that I had a temperature and made matters worse by trekking to Guildford for a meeting that evening while knowing that my temperature had gone up.

Wednesday night I got home at about 10.30 pm, having the hots and colds and feeling knackered. I stayed in bed for most of Thursday feeling miserable, on Friday there was only a slight improvement, and on Saturday I felt I was on the mend. The cold and damp weather did not help of course, and even going to bed wearing kacchera, long john (!), thick sweat shirt and sweater still did not really make me feel comfortable.

So there you are, the very picture of human frailty. I worked hard, achieved most of my targets, and I thought that I was on top of the world. But of course I had been overdoing things, I was tired and vulnerable and a horrible beasty called the common cold virus jumped in and got hold of me.

I am still tired but my nose is almost clear, I have done hardly any coughing today, and I reckon the temperature has come to the conclusion that it is time to pack its bags. Everything is under control, I know how to deal with these bouts of ‘flu’.

A math teacher I know took early retirement and started teaching at a Christian institute in Africa. She is a good Christian, a true sevadar, but that did not save her from being hit by a stroke that affected her speech and general mobility. She was lucky, she could still communicate, could get about again, but was not able to go back to teaching in her beloved Africa.


I might live many more years, I might be dead next week. But a balance between work and rest is part of being in spiritual balance.

Published in: on November 30, 2008 at 5:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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347.The Man in Blue – No Translations of Gurbani ?

Recently I met Navraj Singh, one of the younger members of the new Southall Committee, and we had a short conversation about translations of the Guru Granth Sahib. We disagreed drastically on the subject but I am very grateful to Navraj Singh as he managed to disagree in friendship.


His point, made in haste as he was on his way to a meeting, was that he did not want any translations of the Guru Granth. I did not get the chance to fully find out his motives but there are some obvious ones that are always trotted out. There is no doubt that it is impossible to do a translation that is an exact copy of the original text in whatever language you translate to.


It is easier to stay near to the original when translating from Dutch to German or from Panjabi to Urdu (as these are closely related languages) than from Guru’s word to a western European language. The additional problem is that we are dealing with poetry. I have seen a rhyming translation done by some Hindu baba and it was awful, as he had to use words because they rhymed, not because they were the best translation.


The Guru Granth is God’s word written down by spiritual giants like our Gurus and the Bhagats. God does not speak in any human language; therefore I think that the words written down are a human translation of the Divine Word spoken in God’s language. God gave the meanings for which Guru found the fitting human words.


This is my understanding, which is neither based on Gurbani nor denied by it. But it is what leads me to my thoughts on translations of the Guru Granth. It is of vital importance that the translator loves God, feels God’s love for us and loves our eternal Guru. The translator should stick to the original text as closely as possible, but her/his motivation should be to transmit the meaning behind the words.


The Rehat Maryada tells us that all Sikhs should study the language of the Guru Granth. I agree and it is what I am doing. But if it was not for the existing (not so wonderful) translations I would never found the motivation to learn more. Manmohan Singh was a poor translator, but he was a good Sikh whose love for Guru can be experienced by the reader. 


We need more translations, not less. We need translations that are correct linguistically and that also reflect Guru’s love for God and God’s love for us. We need translations that tackle the fact that God is both male and female. We need translations that reflect the beautiful poetic imagery used by Guru.


We need classes in understanding the Guru Granth more than classes on correct pronunciation. We need classes in Guru’s language more than classes in modern Panjabi. Without the Guru Granth you cannot be a Sikh.                

Published in: on November 23, 2008 at 9:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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346.The Man in Blue – Belgium

Belgium (België, La Belgique) has a population of about 10 million, of which 60% speaks Dutch and 40% French. Less than one percent speaks German or Letzeburgisch (German dialect of Luxemburg).


Dutch is spoken in Limburg, Antwerpen, Vlaams Brabant, Oost Vlaanderen en West Vlaanderen. French is spoken in Liège, Luxembourg, Namur Hainaut, Brabant Wallon. German is spoken in a small area of Liège along the German border and Letzenburgisch in a small area along the border between the province of Luxemburg and the country of that same name. 


Belgium is part of the low lands (the netherlands) which consisted of all of the present Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg and good chunk of northern France. France gradually conquered some of the southern parts of the netherlands, while the religious wars of the 16th and 17th century caused the division between ‘Nederland’ and ‘België’.


After the separation between north and south what is now Belgium was ruled by the Austrian branch of the Habsburg royal family. From 1815 the newly formed Kingdom of the Netherlands included all of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg, but this fell apart in 1830 when after an uprising of the French speaking bourgeoisie Belgium became a kingdom ruled by Leopold von Sachsen-Coburg.   


The French speaking bourgeoisie that rebelled in 1830 did not just come from the French speaking provinces but also from the Dutch speaking part. Even in my Dutch province of Limburg many middle and upper class people used to speak French. Dutch or Flemish was considered to be an inferior dialect only spoken by a bunch of ignorant peasants.


It was in the French speaking provinces of Liège, Luxembourg and Hainaut that the early industrialisation took place. The central government, based in Brussel, originally a Dutch speaking city, spoke French, the officers in the army spoke French and Bishops and other church ‘princes’ spoke French.


A lot has changed since those days. Now the Dutch speaking part of the country is the most affluent and most of the early industries of the French speaking part are closed. Belgium is a federal state, and Belgium could be a peaceful country, or two separate countries that would live peacefully together with the Netherlands and Luxemburg if it was not for Brussel.


Brussel was a Dutch speaking city, now it is an ever expanding French speaking area overwhelming the Dutch speakers left inside its borders and the Dutch speaking towns around it. Iskander (Alexander) sorted out the Gordian knot with his sword, Belgium needs a modern Iskander who will peacefully solve the Brussel conundrum.

Published in: on November 15, 2008 at 8:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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345.Southall Singh Sabha & the Sikh School

As a member of the Southall Singh Sabha I received a letter about the Khalsa School under construction in the grounds of the Norwood Hall in Southall, in the London Borough of Ealing.


Here follows the text of the English version of the letter :

Respected Sadh Sangat Ji,


Vahiguru Ji Ka Khalsa  Vahiguru Ji Ki Fateh


A new primary school ‘Sri Guru Singh Sabha Khalsa Primary School’ is under construction. The co-operation of all the Sikh Sangat is crucial. Learned scholars have stated that to expand a religion, it is very important encourage its language and culture. For these reasons the development of Khalsa Primary School was deemed necessary and has begun. In this institution, in addition to the standard school syllabus, religious education will be incorporated. Although we have received a governmental grant, contributions from the community are required to maximise the potential of this project. The administration would be extremely obliged to you for your co-operation if you would make your one tenth contribution towards the school building. If every Gursikh family contributes £ 5 a month, it generates £60 a year. 1,000 families making such donations will contribute £60,000 and 10,000 families will contribute £600,000. Let us get together and provide our next generations an excellent opportunity for a glorious future and a wonderful educational institution.


A direct debit form is provided. Please complete it to Sri Guru Singh Sabha office by post or deliver it the Sabha’s office.


Humble request by Sri Guru Singh Sabha sevadars


I like the letter, it is more ‘Sikh’ to raise small amounts of money from many than raising huge amounts from few (and then put their names on the wall). I also like the fact that the letter is not signed by the pradhan or general secretary, but by the team.


I do not like direct debit very much, I prefer to be in control, but I will make a contribution equivalent to £ 5 a month.


You will not be surprised, me being an awkward sort of person, that there are some questions that bother me. Can the humble sevadars please explain to me what they mean by ‘its language and culture’ ?    


I also hope/expect that the Prabandhak Committee will set up a governing body for the school which is controlled by parents, not by the Gurdwara.

Published in: on November 7, 2008 at 6:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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344.Sikh Lobby Day on 1984 Delhi Pogroms

Some of you might think that we should by now give up dragging up these old stories from 24 years ago. India is shining, India is booming and the bad old days should be forgotten.

There were some young people at the 30 October meeting in the Jubilee Room of the Houses of Parliament who wanted to keep the issue alive, but who were asking why it was that nothing had been achieved, that nobody was punished in spite of 24 years of campaigning.

India is indeed shining, although the wide gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening even further. Real shine will depend on all sharing in the new found wealth, and on real democracy and real justice for all.

Real democracy requires people with a democratic mindset, and those are very rare in the Union of India. Real justice is still not happening in India, you do not have to dig very deep to find the serious flaws in the system. Justice in India comes, if at all, agonisingly slow. Justice in India is for sale.

A friend of mine intervened in a village dispute, arranged a settlement that everybody seemed to agree to, but then behind his back one of the parties involved bribed the police, had the settlement overturned and managed to hold my friend here in Southall as the Indian authorities revoked his perfectly valid visa.  

Another more recent example was the peaceful meeting arranged in Amritsar between Kashmiri and Sikh activists, when the authorities prevented the Kashmiris from travelling within their own country. Anybody in India who wants to campaign peacefully for autonomy or independence for her/his part of the Union will be thrown into prison repeatedly, and more than like be beaten up (or worse) in the process.

Back to the 1984 Pogrom in Delhi and in other cities in Congress ruled states. There are leading Congress politicians who were present at these events, who encouraged and led the attacks on the Sikhs and who have still not been prosecuted.

If India really wants to become a ‘shining’ country, these people should be punished. If this does not happen we can try to have them prosecuted when they come to visit the UK, or have them banned from visiting the UK.

No doubt the Sikh Federation will publish a report on the meeting, which I will post on this blog. But what we are talking about is cooperation between Human Rights activists in India, the Sikhs in the UK and in other European countries and British and international Human Rights organisations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Redress.

Published in: on November 1, 2008 at 8:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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