I know several ‘Pammies’ and even more people called Bains, and this column does not target any of them. Most of my Sikh friends will not call themselves Mrs or Mr Sidhu, Bains, Sandhu or Grewal or whatever, and will also use their full given name, not Pammie Bains but Parminder Kaur.
Not that it is just women who use nick names or abbreviations instead of the name given by Guru through a hukamnama. There is a whole ‘Sikh’ world out there where to be too much of a Sikh is seen as eccentric, maybe even provocative to non-Sikhs or to people who are just of Sikh background.
I went to a consultation about the effects of the Heathrow expansion on the communities in Hounslow. A Sikh woman and man represented a local Gurdwara. They did not introduce themselves as ‘Something’ Kaur and ‘Something’ Singh but as ‘mrs Sidhu’ and ‘mr Bains’ (not their real names).
To me consultations like this are good occasions to project my Sikh identity, and not to hide it by trying to conform to UK customs. I can make a contribution to society and keep my Sikh identity. And most of the time when I attend meetings at government departments, the police or local authorities I get respect for knowing my subject, and for looking like a Sikh, trying to defend Sikh rights and working for the welfare of all.
Of course everybody must make their own decisions in life, but if you want to be a Sikh, if you want to play even a modest leading role in the Gurdwara, you should follow the teachings of Guru. It does not do you any harm not using your last name and it does contribute to the ideal of making us all equals, regardless of caste.
I often hear young people say that keeping 5 Ks, wearing a dastár and using your full Sikh name is too difficult, and they claim that they can be good people without it. Of course wearing the 5 Ks and a dastár is no guarantee for Sikh behaviour, but do not think that living the Sikh way of life is in any way easy. Guru requires from us not just to give up ‘sins’, we should be above them, we should not need them and not want them.
If you cannot keep your hair (no effort is required !), wear the 5 Ks, wear a dastár regardless of your gender, and use your full given name followed by Kaur or Singh, how will you face the challenge of living a Sikh way of life. I am not at all in favour to people rushing into taking amrit, but f you are seriously about trying to follow the teachings of the Guru Granth, you should work in that direction.
Guru Nanak told us that if we want to play the game of love (God’s love) we should carry our heads on the palm of our hand. Giving your head, without reluctance, is far more difficult than calling yourself Harjinder Singh.