408.The Man in Blue – Walking in Liverpool

On Monday 1 February I had to address a group of students in a Merseyside college, and I decided to travel to Liverpool the day before and spend a night in a hotel near Lime Street Station.

I arrived at Lime Street Station at 15.20, walked to the hotel, checked in, brought my luggage to my room and was out on the streets of Liverpool by about 15.45.

I first went to visit the two Cathedrals of Liverpool, the ultra modern Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, and the more traditional Anglican Cathedral, which was also built in the 20th century.

From the hotel I walked up Brownlow Hill, where very few old buildings are left, to the RC Cathedral. The Cathedral is nick-named Paddy’s Wigwam, Paddy (Patrick) because so many of the Liverpool Roman Catholics are Irish and Wigwam because the building does indeed look a bit like a traditional American Indian Teepee.

Many people think that it is too modern, that it is ugly, but I rather like it. The cathedral is called Christ the King and the shape of the building reminds me of a crown. Inside the cathedral is beautiful, and I was very lucky because when I entered I heard some beautiful singing, and was able to listen to the last 15 minutes of a service.

From the RC Cathedral I walked down Hope Street and past one of the most famous English pubs (the Philharmonic) to the Anglican Cathedral.

This Cathedral is huge and it is like an enormous rock sitting in a little park next to Hope Street. Westminster Cathedral and for instance the Notre Dame in Paris are also big churches, but they seem to be ‘lighter’, more elegant and not as solid as this Cathedral in Liverpool.

When I went inside I found an exhibition of modern art, not just on the walls but also in the main body of the church, which made it look like an art gallery instead of a place of worship. That did not stop me from noticing that the cathedral’s interior is more beautiful than the exterior.

From here I walked via Duke Street to the new local bus station and the Strand to have a look at the Mersey and the Liver Birds. Duke Street has changed less than the central part of Brownlow Hill, but there are a good few boarded up building that look as if they are badly maintained but structurally sound, but are probably up for development (=demolition).

I went along Salthouse Dock and Canning Dock to Canada Boulevard. The Mersey is a modest little river for most of its course, but Liverpool is on its very wide estuary, wider than the Sutlej after joining with the Beas near Harike.

The day of my walk was the 31st of January, and although it was a sunny day it was not very bright at around 5 pm. The water was a greyish-brown and there was a ‘bit of wind’ that blew right through my pajamas and long johns. But I did enjoy my ten minutes on the banks of the Mersey.

On Canada Boulevard is the Liver Building, with two huge metal birds on top. I think that the Liver Building was, and maybe still is, something to do with insurance. The interesting items are the two big metal ‘Liver Birds’ on top of the building.

The Liver Bird is the symbol of the City of Liverpool. The two on the Liver Building are 18 feet in height, and are supposed to represent eagles, although others think they are cormorants. I think they are Liver Birds and that they look like Liver Birds, big and not very beautiful and certainly not elegant. But whenever I am in Liverpool I go to have a look at them and to do a bit of gazing across the Mersey.

Central Liverpool has a small underground system. The Wirral line from Chester, Ellesmore Port, West Kirby and New Brighton crosses the Mersey in a tunnel and then continues underground via James Street, Moorfields, Lime Street and Central back to James Street and the Wirral.

The Northern Line from Hunts Cross and Liverpool Airport goes underground from Central to Moorfields and comes back to the surface after Leeds Street and continuous to Southport and Ormskirk.

Both lines are part of the Merseyrail regional transport system.

Liverpool is of course know worldwide (apart from in the sub-continent) because of the Mersey Beat, with the Beatles as the main representatives. And the Beatles used to play in the Cavern. The original Cavern does not exist anymore but in the area around Mathew Street there are various places that claim to be the Cavern or to have connections with John, Paul, George and Ringo.

And as I am a baby-boomer who grew up in the sixties I had to walk through the area on my way back to the Hotel. My advise it not to go there, unless you have some sentimental connections to the area like I have.

I took a bad picture of the hotel I stayed in, but it does show the wonderful old fashioned style of the place, and several wonderful pictures of Lime Street station which is being made more beautiful.

As there are not enough Sikhs in Liverpool and as Liverpool is a nice place, although rather windy and wet, I would encourage more Sikhs to settle there !

407.The Man in Blue – The Sikh Dharam

Sikhí is a Dharm, a way of life, Sikhí is not a doctrinal system. Guru writes about hell and heaven and about the cycle of birth and death, Guru uses ‘Hindu’ language and ‘Muslim’ language without any compunction.

Guru does not say : There is no Hindu, no Musulman, become a Sikh. Guru says be a good Hindu, be a good Muslim. The Guru wants all to be sikhs with a small s, students of God. Guru wants all to follow the path of righteousness, the path of honesty, compassion, of seeing God in all, of serving all. Guru wants us to discover God’s never ending love for all creation, and to develop our love for Him/Her.

This makes the various debates going on at the moment so unreal. Calendars are not good or bad because they are Christian, Hindu or Sikh, a calendar should be a correct and useful tool to tell days, weeks, months, seasons and years apart.

We should serve God and God’s creation every day of every calendar. I think that the Nanakshahi calendar is a useful tool and I think that following the Vikramí calendar serves no useful purpose. But it is not a matter of life and death for the Sikh community.

You can follow Guru’s way of righteousness while using the Jewish, the Muslim, the Christian, the Nanakshahi, the Vikramí or any other calendar.

The other issue, the discussion about the Dasam Granth, makes even less sense. Guru Gobind Singh clearly told us to follow the Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh made no attempt either at Talwandi Sabo (Damdama Taksal) or in Hazur Sahib to put together another Granth.

All this does not mean that I pretend to know who was/were the author(s) of the Dasam Granth. Even if there was no doubt whatsoever that all of the Dasam Granth was written by Guru Gobind Singh, the above would apply, by the hukam of Guru Gobind Singh himself.

We are a liberal tradition, we can read any book, whether from the Sikh tradition or from any other faith. But the Guru Granth is our Guru and we should ‘measure’ all other books against the teachings of our Granth.

I am not against further research into the Dasam Granth and its author(s) as long as this does not stop us from reading and understanding the Guru Granth Sahib.

Finally, threatening people with violence because they disagree with you is despicable by anybody’s standard. Those that threaten violence or use violence against Sikhs because of disagreements clearly go against Gurmat. 

406.The Man in Blue – SGGS Southall’s Constitution

This Sunday 7 February at 3 pm Park Avenue, there is an extremely important meeting, regarding the constitution of the Sabha, important changes are being brought forward, like every member should have ‘Singh’ or ‘Kaur’ in their name, this is to help control our Gurdwara from external influences. Opposition are going against such panthic changes, only you with Guru’s kirpa can help safeguard the constitution, so benti for all to attend, and pass this benti on ! Navraj Singh (Prabandhak member).

I am not going to be nasty about the above text sent to me by Navraj Singh of the Southall Singh Sabha, but I will raise some points, as is my habit.

The first time I joined the Sabha the sevadar who dealt with me got confused over my name. I had already added Harjinder Singh to my name, but my passport still had only my old first and last name. I looked like a Sikh and regularly visited the Gurdwara, but I might not have been accepted as a member of the Sabha if it wasn’t for the intervention of Himmat Singh Sohi.

While I was there some other people who did not look like Sikhs, who had Hindu first and last names and who I had never seen in the sangat were made members without being asked any questions.

I think these examples show the dilemmas that any Gurdwara with a membership system for the purpose of election faces. The move by the Gurdwara to request all potential members to have Singh and Kaur as part of their name seems sensible.

The first point I want to raise is that people like me who are not of Sikh background and who are not from the UK, where changing your name is easy, might be caught out by this.

Secondly, I know many people with Singh and Kaur as part of their name who are not Sikhs at all, they might even look like Sikhs, but they have not a trace of Sikh behaviour.

I did meet people, both in the Panjab and in the UK, who were not Sikhs in any formal way but who regularly visited the Gurdwara, who made an honest living, shared with others and kept God in mind with everything they did. Should these be excluded from membership ?

One of the problems is that the Southall Singh Sabha is not just a local Gurdwara serving Southall, but attracts people from all over West London and surrounding areas. In a local Gurdwara, serving a neighbourhood or a town, it is much easier to know who are regularly part of the sangat and who try to live a Sikh way of life. Local Gurdwaras can base their membership on those criteria, and avoid including undesirables.

Published in: on February 8, 2010 at 3:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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