A rather strange sound assaulted my ears early this morning as I walked along the railway platform on my way to work. I turned around to find a middle-aged Sikh gentleman walking with bright red earphones, bobbing his turbaned head and singing a folksy-sounding Punjabi song. He was all-dressed up in his white crisp kurta pyjama complete with a kirpan that never fails to unnerve me, slung around his shoulders .
I slowed down to follow him with a faint hope to catch a whiff of what he was singing about with my sparse and fast-depleting knowledge of Punjabi. All I did pick up was his infectious level of energy. He looked as happy as a clam and I found myself wondering about the reason for his rather vocal joy. (Your guess is as good as mine)
I am Half Sikh too. Technically speaking, that means my mother was a practising Sikh till she met my Tamilian father and they eloped to get married. Practically speaking, it means that I have inside access to one of the most fascinating and comic community (Read: Sardar jokes)
Loud, vivacious and larger than life. These are the stereotypical images that come to mind with this community and more often than not, these stereotypes are true. But there is a lot more to these adorable community than meets the eye.
Apart from my Sikh gene, I have also serendipitously managed to find myself an apartment in a Sikh housing colony complete with a Gurudwara within the society. ( I also just remembered that the last book I was reading was also authored by a Sikh: Khushwant Singh. Read the review here. I think I am having a Sikh phase.) Majority of the residents are Sikhs as I often find men with Turbans and women with uncut hair that grazes their hips , the shiny kada around their wrists glinting at all times. The kada is one of the five Ks of Sikhism that form the external identity of the devotees of this faith. The Five Ks are: Kesh (uncut long hair), a Kangha (small wooden comb), a Kara (steel or iron bracelet), a Kacchera (undergarment) and a Kirpan (short dagger).
Sometimes I also see newly married women wearing Chooda, the beautiful red and white bangles that announce their recent union:
There are so many of these charming traditions followed by the Sikhs that continue to engage me. My memories of school summer vacations spent at my maternal grandparents are interspersed with learning about and experiencing Sikhism. My maternal aunts would take me along with the to the Gurudwara often and I would go out of greed for the hot steaming sweet kada prasad that we would get at the end of prayer.
Or I would go to eat the unfailingly delicious Langar on special Occasions like Guru Nanak Jayanti. We would wait for hours in the sun and crowd waiting to get in and sit in a line on the floor waiting to savour the delicious food. I often wonder whether the anticipation and the struggle to get to Langar added to the food’s unforgettable flavour and the divine satisfaction that followed. Everyone ate as equals and the people who cooked and served with smiles never leaving their sweaty faces, were also devotees volunteering their services or ‘Seva’. The most unforgettable Langar I had was at the Golden Temple, Amritsar where an average of 75,00 devotees partake the free meals daily.
The last couple of days, the buildings in our Colony have been decorated with fairy lights for the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti or ‘Gurparab’ though my heart winces at the gross wastage of energy and subsequently money. At all hours of the day I can look out of my window and be miserably disoriented about it being day or night with the brightness that assaults our eyes.
Each time I return home after work, I am reminded of the festivities and of that tiny part of me that will always remain a proud Sikh.