Corona Maha-mari: A period of transformation?

It is a time for reflection. It is a time for transformation. It is a time for a reality check.

Happy Vesakhi!

Hovay Janam sohela… .

In Panjab and Panjabi, this pandemic is called ‘maha-mari’. I was bemused, hearing this word for the first time because as a Malaysian (born) Sikh, and in Malay/Punjabi it means ‘The Grand Coming’! Perhaps the transformation that we have yearned for in our lives or as Christians would say – ‘The Second Coming’?

Most fellow humans are treating this transformational period with doom and gloom.  Tensions are rising in families having to spend days, weeks and months in each other’s company, concern over financial strife, of food shortage (panic buying and hoarding), of disease and even death, prisoners in their own homes and generally feeling negative and fearful. In Australia there was frenzied bulk buying of toilet rolls and hand sanitizers! This period is also referred to as the ‘F-Pandemic’ (the Fear Pandemic!)

Family members are used to getting away from each other at least during the day working, or in outdoor leisure activities or as some of my friends do – spending time in clubs, pubs, golf courses (more importantly at the 19th. hole) or shopping centres, or at Mama (tea) stalls! (I am focusing more on the Malaysian scene.)

May I suggest that we turn this around and use this amazing period to better ourselves. First let us look at the bright side.

The air outside is becoming cleaner. Streets are empty. No traffic noise. The animals are coming out. I see video clips of even wild animals coming out into urban streets – different species of deer in Indian towns; foxes; squirrels, one can hear birds chirping. From Old Delhi, a friend says that for the first time in over 40 years he can see the stars in the sky and of course monkeys walking the streets. Street lights are standing idle. He says he can actually breathe deeply! There is silence. This same friend says that during the first three or four days they had trouble sleeping… because it was unusually silent. They are used to sleeping in noise and getting up in noise!

Wherever you are, start looking at the bright side. An opportunity has been given to improve ourselves spiritually and even stir the latent talents within. Pick up the instrument you always wanted to play. Pick up the pencil or brush and start drawing. Practice your cooking skills. Teach your kids how to cook. Do repairs around the house you always wanted to do – chores you always get the Chinese ‘apay’ or the Tamil ‘thambi’ to come and do (Malaysian scene.) Grow some exotic plants or in our case in Australia - ginger! It is now about $50 AUD a kilo. Not joking! Start writing the book you always wanted to. Start the Sehaj Paath you always wanted to. Read the books which you have, but never got around to reading, AND get your family members to similarly become productive or creative too. Each member needs to plan the day and be accountable at the end of the day. If you do not already do so, fall into a routine of at least doing JapJi Sahib, Rehras and Sohila.

This is a golden opportunity to turn your life around or if you already have, to enhance it further!

This is the true ‘hovay janam sohela!’

I am very proud of how my ‘family’ has responded. I accept that we are in a healthy financial position – just healthy, not loaded! We can last up to a year. Yes, we are very lucky. You too, if you are well off, do not think of how much this sets you back financially, materially, but be happy that you can last a prolonged period. This life is not for the purpose of making money but… ‘bheyi prapat manukh dehoria, Gobind milan ki eh teri beria.’ (Time to become one with Waheguru.)

A great number of friends who keep in touch have now started believing this and are transforming their lives for the better accordingly. YOU can too.

As a family we live in three households (three daughters and we, mum and dad or Nana and Nani, live in an ‘add-on’ to the oldest daughter Jamel’s home. We link up daily through skype at least twice. The kids interact - do painting, some school studies, play interlinked games, bhangra, singing and even cooking! I even teach them a few words of Punjabi each day and read a ‘Guru-itihas’ story to them. In the evening (around 6 pm) we link up and Nana does Rehiras before all have their dinner. (We even put it online sometimes so that other friends and relatives can join in.) We cannot hug each other but have never been closer – thank you Guru Ji!

I am doing some kirtan programs and light dialogue online from our Baba Ji’s room and also started reading my book which is being livecast under the auspices of Sikhnet.com.

At almost 70, I am run off my feet compared to the last five odd years. It is like a new lease on my life - to be of service. 

My daughters are discovering new talents and perhaps how their lives will be different, more productive and more fulfilling when this amazing period is over. 

My wife Jessiee has expended her interfaith network to a global level and is actively engaged in raising money for charity and lobbying our government to relocate at least some of the Afghan Sikhs who survived a massacre at the hands of ISIS a couple of weeks ago. (Twenty-one died.) That is her passion. She has never been busier!

Under almost any circumstance, unless you are starving, uncertain about the roof over your head, or not being able to clothe yourself, you too can transform your life. If you are under a heavy mortgage, then you have probably overreached yourself financially to keep up with the Joneses or for status (pangkat.) Maybe you should be in a more modest home. Maybe your vehicle is actually out of your (financial) reach. Change to a cheaper station wagon from the expensive people-mover or unnecessary four-wheel drive, or less expensive smaller car or even downsize to a motor-cycle.

Our tendency of better or more expensive material well-being is sometimes our greatest downfall.

It is a time for reflection. It is a time for transformation. It is a time for a reality check. In short, it is a time of taking stock of our life and working out ways to change it for the better, not materially, but spiritually.

As Vesakhi comes up, you need not partake of ‘amrit,’ if you have not already, because such gatherings are probably illegal in your country in this period, but you can certainly transform your life. 

Remember this Vesakhi as the one where you changed your life for the better. So, ‘hovay janam sohela’ – do your own Ardaas, even your own small ceremony, and request Guru Gobind Singh Ji to accept you as His son or daughter. You know what to do.

I believe that ‘amrit,’ as we know it, has too narrow a scope. It is far beyond just keeping five kekars, being vegetarian and doing copious ‘banis’ as Nitnem and spending long periods in gurdwaras. It is about completely transforming your life – to become god-like. To be humble. To be of service and to help change lives. To be the change. 

By the way, I turn 70 on Vesakhi Day. Please say a prayer for this sinner too!

Best of luck and Guru Ji be with you.

Chardhi Kala. … and HAPPY VESAKHI.   

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