9-11 A Sikh Thought
If any single thing changed the face of the USA it is 9-11. It has changed our thoughts, and in some ways, the way we lead our lives. The world seems a different place post 9-11.
It changed my life too. I am a patriotic American, but I’m different than the majority. I am a Sikh. I have brown skin. I am easily identified by my turban. I belong to a different religion. I come from a different country. Yet I am an American.
I loved India when I lived there. I never wanted to come to America. But my family had immigrated to this country, and I loved my parents and wanted to be with them. Perhaps I had no choice. Now, America just feels like home.
Dhan Guru Gobind Singh ji says:
ਸਵਾ ਲਾਖ ਸੇ ਏਕ ਲੜਾਊਂ
(I will) make the one combat a hundred and twenty-five thousand.
ਚੜ੍ਹੈ ਸਿੰਘ ਤਿਸ ਮੁਕਤ ਕਰਾਊਂ। (59)
The Sikh proceeding thus will be liberated. (59)
This is the saying we have all heard since our childhood. Let every Sikh participate in all events they wish and be recognized. Let us be the pride in Olympic Games, in politics, on television, in the media, etc.
Yet sometimes, I feel we are all sleeping, and Guru ji has lost his hope in us. Every now and then I hear about a Sikh who, after great struggle, makes it to the top. Yet it is only our own community who, instead of being supportive and proud, smother mud on him.
9-11 changed my life. I prayed for Guru Ji to allow me to do something for the community. The first victim of the backlash after 9-11 was a Sikh, Balbir Singh Sodhi. This was the first of several cases across the USA that were reported to the police as supposed acts of retaliation for the attacks.”
When I was in India, I worked at a print shop. At that time, I was studying Medicine and Journalism. My education was cut off when I came to this country. For a long time, I did not write much. After 9-11 some of the Sikh community thought to donate some books about Sikhs to the Library. We also did a few programs to inform the community. As I was standing in the library, I said to myself, “Why shouldn’t we have magazines displayed on the shelves?”
I began to learn offset printing. With little savings, I invested in a small printing press. The magazine I founded is titled “India-USA-Connecting Communities.” We are both in print and online. Our readership is the adult, professional group of people of Indian origin. However, due to literary content including poetry written in English, we are achieving our goal of connecting communities. The magazine is distributed for free. We distribute it at Indian business outlets and other community gathering areas. This magazine is available through King County Library System, WA State Library, Whatcom County Library, Georgia Library, and others. We are working with the libraries to shelf it with the English periodicals and it now lies on that magazine rack alongside the “Times” and other famous periodicals.
Years later, I think I am far from reaching my goal. It is a hard world out there. But it gives me complete satisfaction to be trying, to be serving, to be contributing. What can I say for others? My own Sikh family has hurt me. It is okay to criticize and give feedback when it is done with love and grace. But it hurts when comes as a personal attack. What should have been a community project ended up being only my project. The Sikh community is plagued with jealousy and hatred. I am moving along. A lot of people outside the Sikh community have helped me otherwise I may not have been able to produce the magazine. Guru’s kirpaa.
No one could have imagined that anyone could even think to open gunfire in the Gurudwara Sahib. We here in the Northwest have also faced lot of hate crimes. All along, I felt, down in my gut, that this violence might happen.
Let us understand, what have we done to serve our communities? With the weakening economy, if we are not known for our service, people are going to see us as aliens taking away their jobs. They do not realize that diversity can be a strength. We stand out; we are very visible, yet we haven’t projected who we are and what we stand for. We owe it to all the innocent Sikhs who have been killed as we work toward such goals.
ਜਿਸ ਕੇ ਜੀਅ ਪਰਾਣ ਹਹਿ ਕਿਉ ਸਾਹਿਬੁ ਮਨਹੁ ਵਿਸਾਰੀਐ
He who owns our soul, and our very breath of life - why should we forget that Lord and Master from our minds?
ਆਪਣ ਹਥੀ ਆਪਣਾ ਆਪੇ ਹੀ ਕਾਜੁ ਸਵਾਰੀਐ
With our own hands, let us resolve our own affairs.
Printing is quite cheap. If you go to the libraries, Magazines are displayed to show their covers rather than being piled on a shelf. Every month or two a new edition comes out. Information on businessmen and businesses are printed in the magazines.
Our wealth lies in Gurbani. Let us live and share Gurbani. I have been able to reach some Libraries. We can reach far more community outlets. You go to the Library and you see Christians promoting Christianity. They even have Christian books printed in Punjabi. I do not know why we are not looking at what other leading magazines or other communities have done that has met with success. Perhaps this is part of the reason we are still dealing with hate crimes.
I feel myself becoming frustrated. I wish I could do more. I want to request every Sikh to start working toward similar goals, to be recognized in “Sawah Laakh” Only then can we, together, stop such violence.
I have been helped by lot of Sikhs as well as non-Sikh members of the community. Lot of Sikhs and non-Sikhs have contributed articles and poetry to the magazine. I have sung Christian hymns, Hindu Bhajans, and Sikh hymns on the Harmonium.
Every time, someone is hurt my heart cries out, “Why are we indifferent towards each other? Why is there so much hatred in this world? What can we do to educate young people? Why is there so much ignorance? Education should lead us to light. Why are we still not only hurting others, but ourselves as well? Why?
Today the world is so close together.
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
Is 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 as it did in my country.
The stars twinkle just the same.
Seasons come and go as they did in my country.
And now, it feels like 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 people are being destructive.
For God's sake,
Let us all join each other
In Friendship. In Love. And in Peace.