My Summer 2014 UK Trip
Itinerary: 7/14/14 - 8/5/14
Map (121K)
  1. London
  2. Birmingham
  3. Royal Leamington Spa
  4. Leeds
  5. Bradford
  6. Newcastle Upon Tyne
  7. London

I had the blessing this summer of spending over three weeks traveling and teaching in the United Kingdom. Here are some of the incidents from my travel that stick in my mind as I sit down to write this.

Khalsa Secondary Academy - This is a new school located in the rather posh London suburb of Stoke-Poges. The school has over 200 12-14 year old Sikh kids, Muslim kids and Christian kids all learning and sharing side by side. I remember the 13 year old girl who was going to India for her school holiday and wanted to shave her legs because she was self-conscious about wearing shorts. “Nowadays everyone is doing it; my friends and even on TV.” Discussing her relationship with her own body now and into the future. These kids opened up to share their deepest questions of life within a day of my arrival there. I spent three days at Khalsa Secondary Academy. You can see and learn a bit more about the school in this video:

GS (67K)
Youngsters (101K)

Khalsa Primary School, Slough - Over 400 kids. Not one understood the meaning of the kara. “Why do we wear it? Where did it come from?” “To show respect.” “Respect to what?” no replies. The light dawning in their eyes as they realized the true history and meaning of their Guru’s gift.

YoungOnes (52K)
HotSocks (90K)

Woman to Woman class in London - Two thirds of the class raising their hands when I asked “Who here has been a victim of physical, emotional or sexual abuse at the hands of a man?” The women who came forward to share their own stories of years abuse at the hand of their own husband and their husband’s family. The tears and hugs. The vow to meet regularly together to share resources and support each other as sisters.

Amrit Vela Simran at Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, Park Avenue, Southall - Amrit Vela Parkash and ambrosial simran with Navleen Kaur. In the bliss! The sevadar urgently whispering in my ear “Socks! Socks! You must take off your socks! No ‘hot socks’ allowed in the Gurdwara” as we sang our hearts out deep into the flow on the Naam. Wondering why the Sangat was fixated on my socks at 4am rather than meditating on the Naam and how they even noticed if their eyes were closed ;)

The KDP Kirtan (video here) - Walking along the street in Southall with SikhNet supporter Kuldip Singh who had driven down from Leamington Spa and passing a young Sikh boy of about 17 wearing a patka who was walking along the street. Seeing him do a double-take as he walked by and then running back to us and asking me “aren’t you that guy on YouTube?” to which I replied “What guy on YouTube? There are a lot of guys on YouTube.” “No, no… it’s you. My beard had just started to come in and all my friends had begun to shave. I watched that video you did on the value of hair and I decided to keep my beard.” “God bless you for that” I said. “Where are you going?” he asked. “To the the KDP kirtan at the Guru Amar Das Hall two blocks down. Come along and join me.” He was carrying two white plastic bags of takeaway food. He said “let me drop these off and I will come.” “OK see you there!” Back in the Darbar Hall, I did not see him. After a while I descended the stairs to the lobby and saw him standing there, his posture stiff and frozen. I went up to him and said “Great, you’re here. Take off your shoes, wash your hands and come upstairs with me.” “I can’t” He replied. “Why?” I asked. “Because I don’t understand anything! I don’t know anything. I can’t understand a word.” “That’s fine” I said. “No problem. Do you have two ears?” “Yes.” “Do you have a heart?” “Yes.” “Okay, you have everything you need. Come upstairs.” What I learned in that moment is that we have kids who are afraid of the Gurdwara. They are afraid to even enter it. No one has made them welcome. Many have told them everything they are doing wrong. No one has shown kindness or compassion to help make their hearts soft to receive the Gurbani. No one has helped them to have their own personal relationship with their Guru. They don’t even believe that it’s possible. We have a lot of work to do.

The Summer Camp held in Newcastle Upon Tyne was the first of its kind in Newcastle. It ran for six days (Monday - Saturday) and had 285 children ranging in Age from 3-28 attending! We had about 15 sevadars and some parents (including the wonderful bibian in the Langar Kitchen) to do the day-to-day work of running the camp. The campers were divided into age groups: 3-5 years (Love,) 6-7 years (Truth,) 8-9 years (Faith,) 10-11 years (Discipline,) 12-14 years (Humility,) 15-28 years (Contentment,) and lastly the adult parents (Compassion) for whom we held workshops in parenting and child raising. Camp ran from 9am till 6pm each day and the schedule was jam packed. 

Here's a cool 5 minute video of the camp:

You can see photos from the camp at as well as on my Facebook Page 

I have so many memories from the camp, mostly of the children themselves. Their innocence and their emerging leadership is inspiring. I can easily see these kids coming back in the future to serve as camp sevadars.

I’ll share a couple of impactful memories from the camp. There were about 30 kids in the 6-7 year old group and I taught them a yoga class on Tuesday. On Thursday I was assigned the same age group. I asked them, “So, you remember we did yoga together before?” “Yes, yes!” “OK what do you remember from last time? Lots of hands waved in the air. I called on them one by one. Each child remembered an exercise we had done before. “OK” I said, “You guys teach the class and I’ll sit by to give you a hand if you need it. Seven children came up on the stage. I confirmed with each one what they wanted to teach. For the next 45 minutes, the children taught the class. Their faces glowed. The class was happy. The young teachers showed me what they could do. Mostly adults underestimate what children can do and are constantly telling them what to do. All we have to do is acknowledge their abilities and show them respect. They are not the so-called “leaders of tomorrow.” They are already leaders. All they need is for us to invite them to lead.

Leaders (75K)

At one of our evening sevadar team meetings we decided that all the campers who wished to do so should be able to do a personal ardas and receive a personal hukamnama from the Guru. The response was tremendous. Each camper could write down their question or choose to ask it silently. All were extremely respectful. Each washed his or her hands and then bowed and stood before the Guru to do their own ardas. Each got to sit behind the Guru with a sevadar and privately receive a hukamnama after which another sevadar would sit with them and do katha on that hukam and answer any questions that camper might have about what the Guru had told them. The hukamnamas were then printed (using the SikhNet Shabad Printer) enclosed in individual glassine envelopes and given to the children to take home along with instructions for respecting the Gurbani printouts. As I did katha for each camper on the hukam he or she had just received, many eyes welled up with tears. The children were visibly moved. Most of them had never even seen the Guru! They had only sat in the Sangat alongside their parents, who were busy telling them what to do. Most of them had no personal relationship with the Guru whatsoever. To see them experience the power of the Gurbani and actually understand that the Guru was speaking to each of them personally was very moving and inspiring to me.

Attendees (97K)

One incident particularly touched my heart. There was a young girl who went to receive Guru Ji’s hukamnama and a gyani at the Gurdwara accosted her and ordered her out of the Darbar saying, “You cannot do this. It is an insult to the Guru. You cannot wear tights in here.” I saw this girl crying in the hall and asked her what was wrong. She was dressed gracefully in a modest top, black tights and a chunni. She told me what had happened and I said to her, “Come with me and you will receive Guru Ji’s hukam.” She dried her tears and washed her hands and face. I accompanied her to the Darbar where she humbly did her mathe tek and her ardas. We went behind the Guru and I showed her how to receive the Guru’s hukam, which she did very reverently. I had her write down the Ang and the Shabd and, since I was late to teach a class, told her I would meet her after the class and we would do katha on the hukam she had received. After class I saw her in the hall and she was crying again. She told me, “That gyani in the yellow turban saw us in the hall and he grabbed me and yelled at me again telling me that I had insulted my Guru. That I had committed the greatest paap of my life. That I must go before the Guru and apologize. He yelled and yelled at me.” I asked her, “What did you do?” “I apologized to him.” she said. “I felt so embarrassed.” I said to her, “You did nothing wrong. His outburst says much about him, not about you. Do not feel bad. There is no problem. He was wrong to do that to you. This is between you and your Guru.” This girl was teetering between wanting to fit in with and please her school chums and realizing that she really wanted to be in the Sadhsangat. Her hukamnama said, in part, “Listening to the Guru's Words, my pollution has been washed away. I have become totally pure, and I now walk in peace. By great good fortune, I found the Sadhsangat and I have fallen in love with the Supreme Lord God. …”

I thought, how could this man, who is in a position of authority stomp his boot on the tender sprout of Sikhi growing in a young girl’s heart?

The time of power and control is ending. Our Guru has shown how every Sikh has a direct connection to God and Guru without the need for any middle man. Being present with the awakening souls of these children was a privilege and a blessing for me.


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