Thursday, October 19, 2006

Gobind's Shorn Flock

Date: 10/18/2006
News Source:
    By Chander Suta Dogra, Outlook India

    One is often told that a Sikh without his flowing hair and turban is like a king without a crown. But, across Punjab, and more so in the countryside, young members of the community are giving up the most visible religious symbol of Sikh identity—long hair and the turban. The trend, which has been growing in the last four to five years, has reached "epidemic" proportions and now has the Sikh religious leadership worried. So much so that desperate campaigns have been launched to revive the use of the turban.

    When Outlook began examining this trend, Sikh organizations engaged in saving the turban estimated that about 80 per cent of the Sikh youth in rural Punjab have cut their hair and discarded their headgear. An exaggeration, one thought. But president of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), the highest decision-making body for the Sikhs, Avtar Singh Makkar, confirms this trend.

    "With a turban on his head, a Sikh will feel guilty of breaching his faith. Its absence frees him from such qualms." Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti

    He told Outlook: "Yes, it's true that in many places about 80 per cent of Sikh youth have indeed cut their hair. Sadly the 'dastaar bandhi samaagam' (a turban-tying ceremony for young boys), too, has become rare in villages because very few boys of 13 or 14 years of age have long hair."

    A young Sikh boy gets his hair cut at the local barber in a village near Beas - T. Narayan

    Does this mean that the day is not far when a Sikh village in Punjab won't have a single turbaned male to show? This is not just in the realm of possibility but an inescapable reality according to a dismayed and rather helpless Sikh leadership.

    But why are Sikhs, otherwise very dedicated to their religion, saying goodbye to turbans and going in for haircuts? Scholars say it is a combination of various factors, both social and economic, at play. The most common reason cited is the convenience of not having to go through the elaborate rigmarole of maintaining a beard and tying a turban. Says Baldev Singh, the patriarch of a large family in Adliwal near Amritsar, "Except I and my two brothers, all our sons and grandsons have shorn their hair.

    It does pain me to see my family like this but no one listens to us nowadays." His daughter-in-law Roominder Kaur is quite happy with a clean-shaven son as she doesn't have to go through the tedium of combing and tying his hair each morning.

    "The SGPC has given up its traditional role of preserving Sikh values and heritage and is more embroiled in politics."

    Everyone agrees that the turban problem is acute in the villages where the land-owning Jat peasantry resides. One reason, perhaps, is the rural Punjabi youth's overriding desire to go West. Sikh scholars feel that in the aftermath of 9/11, when Sikhs are being mistaken for Muslims and attacked for sporting a beard and turban, there is a tendency among members of the community to adopt a more assimilative appearance so that they "look like others". It becomes easier to get past immigration.

    It is common knowledge that drug abuse and liquor consumption in Punjab has reached unprecedented levels. Sixty per cent of the youth in the 14-25 year age group are estimated to be drug users. Sikh intellectuals link this with the trend to shed turbans. This is because Sikhism prohibits smoking and use of intoxicants. Points out the Akal Takht jathedar, Joginder Singh Vedanti: "Smoking or taking drugs with a turban on one's head makes a Sikh feel more guilty of breaching his faith. The absence of his kesh (long hair) and turban frees him from such qualms."

    The politicization of the Sikh clergy, which is not doing enough to spread religious awareness in the younger generation, is another oft-cited reason. It is alleged that in recent years the Sikh clergy has become a handmaiden of the Akali Dal and has neglected its role as protector and preserver of Sikh religious traditions. Notes Dr Kharag Singh of the Chandigarh-based Institute of Sikh Studies: "The Sikh religious symbols like 'kesh' represent certain values. If a person holds these dear to himself, then he will never shed them, but unfortunately there is no one nowadays to teach the youth all this. "

    Youngsters learning how to tie a turban

    Ironically, the trend of clean-shaven Sikhs has picked up in Punjab at a time when the community is engaged in an international campaign to create awareness about the Sikh identity and the importance of wearing religious symbols like the turban and kirpan. Following the ban on wearing turbans in French schools in 2004, and also several cases of hate crimes against Sikhs after 9/11, Sikh organisations began a drive to create awareness about the Sikh faith in Europe, US and Australia.

    When the French ban was announced, Sikh organisations—political, social and religious—in India and abroad protested. On the urging of the SGPC, PM Manmohan Singh, too, took up the issue with the French government. But as Jaswinder Singh, an SGPC member and president of the Akal Purakh Ki Fauj (an organisation engaged in popularising turbans and long hair in Punjab), points out, "If the French government comes to know of the situation in Punjab now, it will be embarrassing for us. How can we fight for the right to wear long hair and turbans abroad when people are abandoning the same in the home of Sikhism?"

    Is a Sikh without his 'kesh' or long hair a lesser Sikh? In popular parlance, a clean-shaven Sikh is a 'patit' or an apostate. Says Professor Sher Singh of the Institute of Sikh Studies, "Of all the five Ks—'kesh, kada, kirpan, kangha and kachh'—which Guru Gobind Singh had made mandatory for all Sikhs to wear, the 'kesh' comes first and is foremost and indispensable to a Sikh's identity. Without the 'kesh', the other symbols are meaningless."

    In recent years, several organisations have sprung up in Punjab to revive the tradition of keeping long hair and wearing turbans. The 'Kesh Sambhal Prachaar Sanstha' is one such outfit which, among other things, runs two turban-tying schools in Jalandhar and Amritsar, where young Sikhs are taught how to tie a turban. Says the Sanstha secretary, Sukhdev Singh Sandhawalia, "The most common excuse boys give for cutting their hair is that they don't know how to tie a turban."

    Another organisation holds a popular competition to select 'Mr Singh International' which is open only for turbaned Sikhs. Among other things, the contestants have to participate in a round called 'Meri Dastaar, Meri Shaan, Meri Pehchaan' (My turban, my pride, my identity) where they are judged on how well their turbans are tied. The latest champion of the turban and long hair in Punjab is former cricketer and the BJP's Lok Sabha MP from Amritsar, Navjot Singh Sidhu, who held a procession in Amritsar to revive the use of turbans and instil a sense of pride in Punjabi youth in wearing one. Ironically, Sidhu is under flak for trimming his beard and allowing his son to cut his hair.

    A typical rural scenario—the patriarch of a large family (in turban) with his sons and grandsons who got their hair cut in Adliwal village near Amritsar

    Why and how did things come to such a pass? Many feel the custodians of the Sikh heritage like the SGPC cannot escape criticism. Says G.S. Lamba, Sikh scholar and editor of Sant Sipahi, a popular Sikh community journal: "The SGPC has abandoned its traditional role of preserving Sikh values and heritage and is more embroiled in politics. When the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) abdicated its role as a religious party and adopted a secular garb, the SGPC should have taken its religious duties seriously, But unfortunately it's the other way around. The SGPC has become an organ of the SAD, and has neglected preaching in villages. It's also shameful that the two are projecting a 'patit' like Navjot Singh Sidhu as a role model for the Sikh youth for the coming elections."

    He points to the recent controversy over Harbhajan Singh appearing in an advertisement with his hair open as an example. "This shows the SGPC's double standards. They are picking on Harbhajan Singh just to get some good publicity with the Sikh masses. If they are serious about the issue, they should start by taking action against the families of the SGPC members who have shorn hair and also the clean-shaven cadres of the SAD."

    Though Harbhajan Singh apologized to the Sikh clergy for the offending representation in the advertisement, his comment on the matter is telling. "I apologize if I have hurt the feelings of my people, but why should the SGPC compare me with Monty Panesar (English cricketer of Sikh origin who sports a turban and beard) and not Yuvraj Singh and singer Gurdas Mann both of whom have cut their hair?"

    Clearly, the situation has gone beyond hair-splitting as rural Punjab's tryst with the barber keeps growing. The land-owning Jat Sikhs have all but shed the turban, whereas the more conservative trading 'Khatri Sikhs' in urban areas are less inclined towards the new trend. One reason is that most of the Sikh gurus were 'Khatris' or from the trading community which is why this section of Sikhs are more staunch believers.

    But go to rural Punjab and there are some tell-tale indicators of change. Where earlier, the sole barber in a village had to supplement his income by selling sweetmeats, now; most villages have three to four barbers. The feisty land-owning Punjabi Jat farmer has always been known for his enterprise and desire to try new things. True to form, it is he who is leading the 'no turban' trend even though it makes him an apostate in the eyes of his religion.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fly Punjabi style with Air Slovakia

Amritsar: An NRI from Punjab is promising a whole new flying experience to Punjabis living abroad.

“We want to bring Punjabis back home and give them an experience, which makes them feel they are coming to Punjab,” says Director, Air Slovakia, Riqbal Singh Sidhu.

Harjinder Singh Sidhu, an entrepreneur from London has bought the international airlines Air Slovakia. The inaugural flight of the newly fashioned airlines with Punjabi tastes landed in Amritsar on Saturday.

The aircraft has Slovakian airhostesses who speak fluent Punjabi and food served on the flight is Punjabi as well.

As for the passengers, they couldn't have asked for more.

“We had a good time because the food was typical Indian and the Cabin crew was very friendly,” a passenger Kristina said.

Harjinder, who owns a chartered airlines company in partnership in London, clinched the Air Slovakia deal last week. To him, buying the airlines and moulding it according to Punjabi tastes, was nothing short of a miracle.

“It's a god's gift to me,” Harjinder said.

Air Slovakia is the only one in business that connects European cities to Amritsar. And Harjinder says flights from London, Barcelona, Athens, Amsterdam and Glasgow to Amritsar will start soon. By 2007 the company plans to increase its fleet to nine planes from the three it has now.

So with the just taken over of Air Slovakia, Punjabis are spreading their wings literally. The Airline, which aims to increase connectivity between many European countries plans to give people a Punjabi flavour.

Veiw the Video clip here



Friday, October 06, 2006


I dreamed I had an interview with God.

“So you would like to interview me?” God asked.

“If you have the time” I said.

God smiled. “My time is eternity.”
“What questions do you have in mind for me?”

“What surprises you most about humankind?”

God answered...
“That they get bored with childhood,
they rush to grow up, and then
long to be children again.”

“That they lose their health to make money...
and then lose their money to restore their health.”

“That by thinking anxiously about the future,
they forget the present,
such that they live in neither
the present nor the future.”

"That they live as if they will never die,
and die as though they had never lived.”

God’s hand took mine
and we were silent for a while.

And then I asked...
“As a parent, what are some of life’s lessons
you want your children to learn?”

“To learn they cannot make anyone
love them. All they can do
is let themselves be loved.”

“To learn that it is not good
to compare themselves to others.”

“To learn to forgive
by practicing forgiveness.”

“To learn that it only takes a few seconds
to open profound wounds in those they love,
and it can take many years to heal them.”

“To learn that a rich person
is not one who has the most,
but is one who needs the least.”

“To learn that there are people
who love them dearly,
but simply have not yet learned
how to express or show their feelings.”

“To learn that two people can
look at the same thing
and see it differently.”

“To learn that it is not enough that they
forgive one another, but they must also forgive themselves.”

"Thank you for your time," I said humbly.

"Is there anything else
you would like your children to know?"

God smiled and said,
“Just know that I am here... always.”

-author unknown


Sikhs and You'll Never Walk Alone

You'll Never Walk ALONE

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Tho' your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart and you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart and you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone

"In a Sikh point on View, Guru ji Say YOU take 1 step towards me and i will take 10000 steps towards you and You'll never walk alone "

FlashBack 2005 London NEVER FORGET '84

Touching Song "MAA"

Mr.Singh International

We look great I am Proud to be SIKH