Never Again

Never Again: Walking on the Cold Marble

As I began to sing I watched as his head bent down and soon his eyes were tearing....

Guru Dass Singh 
May 29, 2014
Never Again: Walking on the Cold Marble… 
A song of homage to the victims of June 6, 1984
Like Sikhs all over the world, the news of the attack on the Harimandir Sahib in June 1984 hit me very hard. 
I have been visiting the Golden Temple since my first time in India in 1974. I received Amrit Parchar at the original Akal Takht and did kar seva in the Amrit Vela many a times. In that first trip to the Harimandir, together with a group of Western-born Sikhs, I was blessed to do kirtan in front of the gateway to the temple on various evenings. This House of the Guru is a place where my deepest sense of love and devotion to the Divine were awakened. 
I remember being just 20 years old then, and coming for the first time at midnight to enter the inner temple with a group of devotees in order to prepare the temple for the sangat to enter. The feeling of excitement and emotion was overwhelming. In those years there weren’t as many pilgrims coming as nowadays, so one could easily find a corner in the main level, next to the palki sahib to sit and listen to the kirtan. We did that everyday for almost 2 months, immersing ourselves in the vibrations of Gurbani. I always imagined it as it must’ve been in the very early days when Guru Arjun Dev himself would sit in the palki as ragis, all Sikhs, Sufis and Hindus then, would do kirtan in praise of the One Supreme Being. I felt blessed and cleansed by the love and devotion that filled the atmosphere of the Harimandir Sahib. 
So when the news came to me of the attack, a deep feeling of sadness and impotency overtook me for weeks. I was living in Spain in those days, and in September of that year went to the city of Valencia teaching a course. As I drove back to my home in Barcelona that Sunday, I began thinking of the news reports on the attack and the imposed Presidental Law. Punjab had been isolated from the rest of India and the world; no one was allowed to go in or out. The foreign press was not allowed to enter either. Yet reports leaked out that spoke of a couple thousand people dead during the assault of the Harimandir Sahib; of thousands being arrested in villages all over Punjab. Reports of deaths, torture, disappearances. What the Indian authorities justified to the world as an attempt to quell down a small group of radical separatists had become a major operation to annihilate the Sikh nation, which had sacrificed and fought for India’s independence and whose history as a spiritual community was one of service and sacrifice. Now it was being mistreated and repressed in the most inhumane fashion, what some journalists even equated to the Holocaust during World War II. 
As I thought of this incomprehensible and painful situation, I began to remember the feelings of what it was like being there: listening to the strains of Gurbani as they filled the air, walking on the cold marble in the early morning, doing ishan in the Sarovar, seeing the love and devotion with which the Guru Granth was adorned with flowers each morning. A profound feeling of longing welled in my heart and the these words came: 
"When will I walk on the cold marble again 
When will I feel the golden light in my eyes 
Bathe in the holy waters 
Dress your altar with flowers 
When will I walk on the cold marble… again" 
I kept singing this over and over during the whole drive back to Barcelona. As soon as I reached my home I took my guitar and the rest of the song poured out as if it the story was waiting to be sung. 
Initially it had only 2 verses and the chorus: 
"When will I walk on the cold marble again 
When will I feel the golden light in my eyes 
Bathe in the holy waters
Dress your altar with flowers 
When will I walk on the cold marble…again 
The silence of death has killed the song so ageless 
The turning of the pages 
The prayers of the poor 
The water’s turned red 
The sky above has darkened 
And amidst these walls of silence 
Our prayers can be heard 
The earth cries in pain 
It’s heart has been broken 
Her sons have been stolen, imprisoned and slain 
Yet those who remain their spirit grows stronger 
They suffer no longer, sheltered in the Name"
A few months afterwards, Yogi Bhajan Ji was visiting the 3HO ashram in Hamburg, Germany and, as I always did when he came to Europe, I went to meet him there. We had a Gurdwara ceremony to celebrate his visit and I sang the new song for him. As I began to sing I watched as his head bent down and soon his eyes were tearing. His pain was greater than I could imagine, the Harimandir being the place where his love and devotion to Guru Ram Das had finally lead him to become the spiritual leader and teacher he was now. As we walked out of the Gurdwara after the ceremony ended, he placed his hand on my shoulder and simply said: “Thank you, Guru Dass. You don’t know how indebted I am to you.” Those words, which I never really understood, have stayed with me since then, reminding me of the deep love and gratitude I felt to him as a teacher and mentor. 
The next morning Yogiji and a group of his students were sitting in the kitchen of the ashram having breakfast. As always we sat with the eagerness of a child to listen to his wisdom and his great sense of humor. As he got up to go back to his quarters he called me aside and said: “The song is beautiful, but it needs another verse. One that inspires hope and victory in people’s hearts.” 
So I immediately went to the sadhana room with my guitar and in no time the last verse came: 
"We shall rise again 
In grace and strength together 
We’ll sing our songs forever 
And righteousness will rain 
The banner of the Name 
Will wave in skies of glory 
As time will tell our story 
We say 'never again'"
That afternoon I sang it for him, now the complete song. He cried again and afterwards said: “It is done, now sing for to the world to hear”. 
As we commemorate 30 years of this painful episode in our history I offer this song to remind everyone of the spirit of love, devotion, sacrifice and perseverance with which the Sikh nation has endured this and many other dark chapters of our history. It is the spirit of Nanak Naam Cherdi Kala Tere Bane Sarbat Da Baala - always looking up and forward, as the light of the Naam shines through one. It reminds us that Karta Purkh is the Doer of All, that behind the illusion of pain and suffering is the hand of the Divine moving the pieces of the inexplainable game of life. It is by Gurprasad that we live and prosper, and are blessed to live as Sikhs (disciples of Truth). It is by Grace that we walk on the cold marble… again.

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