Sikh members and others attend a Peace Rally at a Church in Kent, WA
Today the world is so close together.
The news travels so fast,
I know more about you and the world around me
I have traveled miles to be part of this country,
To this neighborhood, I call home.
What am I looking for;
Peace, Love, and Friendship.
Peace in this world and
Peace within myself.
The earth is the same. The sky is the same.
The sun rises and sets the same way.
The stars twinkle just the same.
Seasons come and go as they did in my country.
And now, it feels as my own home.
Alas! As much as I know you
We are all tattered apart.
War drums sound at a distance
We are all being driven into fragments.
Life is so fragile
And it is being destructive.
For God's sake,
Let us all join each other
In Friendship. In Love. And in Peace.
“Nak nath khasam hath kirat dhake de
Jahan dane tahan khane nanak sach hai”
There is a beautiful saying in Sikh religion that broadly means: “Your destiny is not in your hand. God himself takes you where you are destined to be.” I may have been very happy in India. It is the most desirable weather. Its beauty is unparalleled. India is famous for herbs and spices. For peace and tranquility. It is said that Adam first appeared somewhere in India and he grabbed spices and herbs from God’s Kingdom when God pushed him away. Why are Sikhs in the USA? In 1984 there was a political turmoil in India. Congress lead by Mrs. Indira Gandhi led an attack on the holiest of Sikh shrine the “Golden Temple.” This hurt the sentiments of the Sikhs. Sikhs are very adaptable. They were first brought to England and Canada by the British Government. They formed an integral part of the British Military because the Anglo Sikh war was the last battle the British won when they ruled India.
The Face of Hate in USA
Today, a few blocks away from my home, one of my own has been shot at in his driveway while he was working on his car. Deep Singh Rai. Deep means light in Indian language and Rai is an honor. I probably know him by face. Who can’t relate to this? We all have worked on our car; added oil or filled the washer in our driveway. But this is the neighborhood we live in today. This could happen to anyone. My cousin who lives out of state called to see if it was not me after he heard the news since the name of the victim had not been given out. Yesterday police issued a statement. They are seeking help to identify the suspect. He is “described as a white male, 6 feet tall, with a medium build, dark hoodie, dark clothing, and a mask covering the lower part of his face.” Deep Rai told police he was working on his vehicle in the driveway of a Kent home at about 8 p.m. Friday when a 6-foot-tall, stocky white man approached wearing a mask on the lower half of his face. The suspect was well prepared. The chance of finding him is rare. This means he is still living amongst us and may strike again.
I fear. I have stopped going for a walk on the road, but choose instead to walk in my backyard. How can you distinguish the bad person? See the picture of Timothy McVeigh who blew the Federal Building in Oklahoma. Check out the pictures of those who brought down planes on 9/11. Those who want to commit such crimes will make sure they mingle in the crowd so that you can’t identify them. See the pictures of Boston Marathon bombing suspects. They actually mingled with the crowds and watched the marathon after planting the bombs. I am bringing this up because we need to realize that this is the menace we are facing today. Ignorance. My color is fair. I have green eyes. Lot of people think I have some British genes. I do not know. Lot of Indians think I am American Sikh because I often wear a white turban. I was educated in a Christian Missionary School in India. My English is fairly good too. How can one identify in today’s world? I see lot of people marry inter-caste. Even I have to ask quite a few if they are from India; to which they reply others have asked them the same question too.
The Presidential campaign that was mostly based on hate has proved the thoughts of the majority of the voters in this country. While the Pundits and the media were swaying towards Hillary Clinton, I had a feeling that Mr. Trump was going to win. And to be sure, as he bans entry from other countries or builds walls, it should be no surprise that hate surfaces again and again.
Let’s look at it. What have we done to promote Sikh thought? Our life is buried, in buried in dirty Indian politics and in Punjab. As I walk through the Gurudwara Sahib people didn’t care or know about the hate crime. They were all talking about Punjab. We should have been talking about the hate crime here and being concerned about it. Maybe it is too early. A lot of them do not know about it yet. You can go to any wedding and perhaps it is jealousy; people want to divert their attention and talk about politics. You can attend any funeral. After the initial five minutes of mourning; the talks shift towards Punjab. I am sure whoever visits the victim, after a few minutes of conversation with him they will start talking about Indian politics. One person got sick and was admitted to the hospital. Every day the program was set early in the morning as to what time we were going. The visitor room in the hospital had become a gathering place to discuss Punjab. Finally the staff told the family not to disturb the patient. When her husband called to abstain from visiting it was like our whole program had been disturbed.
People are happier in Punjab and India than in the U.S.A. A person invited his parents. He convinced them to get a green card. He thought once they have a green card and food stamps and little paycheck they will be happy. The father was so frustrated. He sat on a bus and told the driver to drive him to the airport. Seeing a Sikh, the bus driver drove him to the taxi stand where he thought some one will recognize him and take him home. He told me as soon as he lands in India he will burn his green card in the fire pit. I once went to a Gurudwara in Canada. I saw some old people talking in a group. I asked a gentleman if there was a meeting going on? He told me that these old people sit here to talk how they got treated by their family over the weekend.
What is our life here? Anyone can get a rickshaw or a taxi and go to the Gurudwara or store any time in India. Here we are all stressed out and running after our jobs, trying to provide the best education to our children. Who knows what they will turn out to be? Today one wonders if you are actually giving a good education to them. The wife usually works during the day while the husband works at night. Unless your alarms are going off at the same time and you have a competition to rush out the door with ready made lunch or “cup of noodle.” You better get used to eating milk and cereal or bread.
Compare it to a beautiful life in India. No one goes to bed hungry. They drink the best whiskey thanks to you who pack one or two bottles as gifts. Yet we talk about Punjab. Come on!
Why am I talking about Punjab politics? Because we are far from US Politics. Some people think advertising on TV during Super Bowll games will promote us, as viewers munch on chicken wings during Super Bowl halftime break.
Guru ji has said:
ਬਿਨੁ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦ ਨ ਛੂਟੀਐ ਦੇਖਹੁ ਵੀਚਾਰਾ ॥
Without the Word of the Guru's Shabad, no one is emancipated. See this, and reflect upon it.
ਜੇ ਲਖ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਵਹੀ ਬਿਨੁ ਗੁਰ ਅੰਧਿਆਰਾ ॥1॥ ਰਹਾਉ॥
Even though you may perform hundreds of thousands of rituals, without the Guru, there is only darkness.
We have wealth in religion. Yet kirtan and paath have disappeared from our homes. Christianity has made their religion recognized through Bible and literature. This is what we need to do. What have we done other than offer one lunch a week? Churches have opened their doors to resources; some even offer divorce and family counseling. This is what we need to do. We only try to pull a person down.
Since 2005 I have been printing a small magazine from Kent. I have faced so many challenges and technical issues. It hurts when one of your own calls you and threatens you on the phone. That he will throw the magazines in the garbage just because he did not like something. He picked a quarrel with me in the parking lot. One gentleman stopped the fight. At one time I placed the magazines in the langar hall. I went up to seek the blessings and thank Waheguru Ji. When I came down the magazines had disappeared. I kept on thinking positive. People are reading … We have printed close to 200 poems and articles by non-Sikhs. I could have done better. But our religion is filled with discouragement and jealousy. People don’t want to do anything but they will gladly pull you down.
Our thoughts have to change. Our life has to change. Otherwise, for the next four years or eight years or the future trend, our life will be same. I am sad for another hate crime. But not SORRY! Yesterday I attended a peace gathering at a Church. Reminds me of candle light vigil we did for the hate crime in 2007. Guru ji has rightly said:
ਆਪਣ ਹਥੀ ਆਪਣਾ ਆਪੇ ਹੀ ਕਾਜੁ ਸਵਾਰੀਐ ॥20॥
With our own hands, let us resolve our own affairs.
John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961: “…symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning — signifying renewal, as well as change…. The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
Sarab Singh is the Editor of India-USA “Connecting Communities” a quarterly Punjabi English Magazine published from Kent, WA USA. The magazine is distributed free in the Greater Seattle area. The yearly subscription is $20 which usually covers postage. The magazine is available through King County Library System, Washington State Library, Whatcom County Library and others. Please request your local library to subscribe to the magazine so that we can reach more community. Please email me at [email protected] if I may be of any help. Thank you.