511.The Man in Blue – I am a Sikh

The ‘I’ mentioned underneath is not Harjinder Singh – man in blue. The ‘I’ represents Guru’s teachings, which I am trying to follow in my daily life.

I am human, I make mistakes, but in spite of my foolishness I receive many blessings.

I am not a gora (white) Sikh or a kala (black) Sikh
–    I am a Sikh

I am not a mazbi Sikh, a jat Sikh or a ramgharia Sikh
–    I am a Sikh

I am not a doaba Sikh or a malwa Sikh
–    I am a Sikh

I am not an AKJ Sikh or a Taksali Sikh
–    I am a Sikh

My Guru is the Guru Granth Sahib, not the Námdhari satguru, not the yogi who called himself the leader of the Sikhs in the western hemisphere, not the Soho Road (Birmingham) spiritual leader of the Sikhs in the UK, nor any other self-appointed holy man, pardhan or jathedar
–    I am a Sikh

I try to see God in all, regardless of race, faith, nationality or caste/social class
–    I am a Sikh

I am an initiated (amritdhari) Sikh, but I do not look down on those who are not
–    I am a Sikh

I wear a turban and keep the 5 Ks, but I do not look down on those who do not
–    I am a Sikh

I do not drink alcohol, do not smoke tobacco, do not use recreational drugs
–    I am a Sikh

I do not eat meat, fish, poultry or eggs, but do not condemn those who do
–    I am a Sikh

I wear ‘bana’, traditional clothes associated with Guru Gobind Singh’s Khalsa, but I know that I will be judged on my behaviour, not on my clothes
–    I am a Sikh

I do not cut my hair or shave, I wear a kirpan, kachhera, kara and kangha, but do not think that those who do not are bad people
–    I am a Sikh

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Published in: on April 30, 2012 at 5:56 am  Comments (3)  
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510.The Man in Blue – Twelve on death row in Panjab

Recently I posted an article from the Tribune (Chandigarh) on my blog that highlighted the fact that a lot of noise was made about Balwant Singh Rajoana, but that apart from him there are eleven more prisoners in similar situations.

“The convicts sentenced to death and languishing in the [Panjab] jails are Vikram Singh, Jasbir Singh, Balwant Singh Rajoana, Mohinder Singh, Suraj Ahluwalia, Resham Singh, Gurnayab Singh, Kulbir Singh, Gurmukh Singh, Saleem, Judge Singh and Gurwail Singh. While some were given the sentence in 2005 and 2006, others were awarded the penalty in 2007, 2011 and 2012.”
From an article by Aman Sood, Tribune News Service, April 3.

This list does not include Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, as he is not in a Panjabi jail.

What is needed is that groups concerned with Human Rights in Panjab come together, investigate these cases and decide on a strategy.

Whatever these convicts have been up to, whatever their crimes, nobody deserves to be condemned to death and then live for years between hope of life and fear of death. And I hope that most Sikhs will agree with me that the death penalty should be abolished altogether.

I think that we should make an inventory of those that are still in prison as a result of (alleged) crimes committed during the period from the late seventies till the early nineties, some of whom might never have been convicted of any crime.

It was good that we were present in Leuven (near Brussel) when Kamal Nath addressed a conference there. But also in this type of situations we run from incident to incident, there is no strategy.

We have been told that the Indian central government has passed an amendment of the Anand Marriage Act which would allow Sikhs to marry without having to register under the Hindu Marriage Act.

In most European countries Sikhs have no problem marrying according to the Anand Karaj ceremony as set out in the Sikh Rehat Maryada, while registering their marriage under a neutral general act.

This is not a feasible option in India as long as article 25 of the constitution throws Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs together on one messy heap !

We have to constantly hammer this point, not by denying the common roots of the four Dharmic religions, but by insisting that within that context all four have their own particular tradition.

Let us all stop saying that spiritual verses of Muslims and Hindus are included in the Guru Granth Sahib, but be specific and say that verses of Sufi Muslims and Bhakti Hindus are to be found in our Eternal Guru. That might also do away with this strange idea that Guru’s Sikhí is a cocktail of Islam and Hinduism.

509.The Man in Blue – Big decisions !

Life ain’t easy ! Those that know me and those of you who read column 503 and 504, know that I want to go back to Southall.

Although Belgian Limburg is not a bad part of the world, and although I love the walking and cycling, I do miss the big sangat and the many Gurdwaré of London. I miss the big city atmosphere and all the buses, trams, undergrounds and trains. I miss meeting with people of many cultures and religions, I miss working together with people of all different backgrounds.

And in this first generation community you do not have the diversity of sangat that you have amongst the well-established Sikhs in the UK.

Two weeks ago in the Gurdwara, after the Sunday divan, I was called into the room where committee members and some others active in the community sat together. They promised me to support me financially if that was needed to keep me one more year in Sint-Truiden. This came not just from committee members but also from ordinary members of the sangat.

I am in a difficult position. I badly want to go back to the UK (see above), but here I helped start various projects in education that are not easy to leave.

I recently discovered that the two UK organisations that have been my main sources of income over the ten years that I lived in West London do have work for me, but no money to pay me. Although I think that in the UK I will be able to earn some money to top up my pension (I’ll be 65 on the 6th of May), there is the added problem of currency conversion.

I will receive three bits of pension, and two of these are in Euros. With Spain causing new unrest and the conversion rate between sterling and the Euro already down to about 80 pence this will add to the uncertainty.

Sorry to bore you with my personal financial affairs, but these are important issues. I am sure that there are many people who have lived both in the UK and in the Euro-zone and who face similar problems.

And trusting in God does not mean that one should not look at all sides of a question like the above. To cut a long story short, I have decided to stay here one more year till June 2013.

My Dutch pension will just about cover my expenses here, and if I can earn some more money doing tuition and by charging for some of the things that I have done  for free so far, I might be able to recoup part of the 8000 Euros that I spent here the last two year.

Please UK friends and relatives come and visit us here in Belgian Limburg. Eurostar still offers tickets to any Belgian station, and although the Brussels area is famous for its overcrowded motorways, driving from Calais to Sint-Truiden is not too bad.

And next year is going to be exiting as we might be able to lift the ban on the wearing of patka, turban and híjáb in secondary schools this country !

508.The Man in Blue – Stephen Dedalus and I

The Irish writer James Joyce (1882–1941) is world famous because of a book that few people have read and understood : Ulysses. It describes a day in the life of Dublin through the wanderings and musings of a number of main actors.

In Ulysses actual events are followed by things that happen in the minds of the characters without this being made clear. The many quotes in foreign languages, including Latin and Greek further complicate matters. Because I know Dublin well it was easier for me to separate reality from fantasy.

James Joyce also wrote Finnegan’s wake, which like Ulysses is a difficult book, but his collection of short stories Dubliners is a much easier read. The book I recently reread, A Portrait of the Artist as a young man, is more challenging than Dubliners but if you have the annotated version it should be manageable for most.

A Portrait of the Artist as a young man shows what a brilliant writer Joyce is. His mastery of the English language is amazing and so is his ability to take you with him on his journeys through Dublin and through life.

The young man in the book is Stephen Dedalus and through the life of Stephen Joyce describes how he became the man whose main subject was Dublin, but who spent most of his adult life outside Ireland.

There is a particular section in the book that appealed to me more this time than it did during my first read of the book, many years ago. It is when Stephen goes to a Jesuit secondary school. The Jesuits are a Roman Catholic order with a long record of intellectual excellence.

Stephen has gone through a period where he lost the proper Roman Catholic way and visited prostitutes. The school organises
a retreat and the book gives long sections of the sermon by the Jesuit priest who leads the retreat.

The sermon is powerful, explaining exactly what happens to you, according to the Roman Catholic understanding, when you
leave the narrow path. Mostly Sikhs and Roman Catholics agree on what are sins and what not, but the Roman Catholics ‘know’ in full detail what God will do to you when you commit certain sins and do not confess your sins and change your ways.

I do not believe in a hell where the lost souls burn eternally or a ‘purgatory’ where others souls go to undergo punishment before being allowed into heaven.

But both the sermon and Stephen’s reaction to it did work on my soul. But because Stephen was struggling with who he was and where he came from, I got a vision of a Harjinder Singh who was totally liberated from useless habits, who was not bound to the culture he comes from, in short who is liberated in this life.

Do not worry, I am not suffering from delusions. I am still very much a human being who, as is our nature, makes many mistakes. But I am a Sikh, a learner, and do make progress, although it is often ‘two steps forward and one step backward’.