Thursday, 21 March 2013

My fate was set before I was born.....

On the 24th of November 1675 my fate was set. Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji laid down his life for the Hindu faith and was beheaded due to his belief that each individual should be able to practise a religion of their choice and not be forced to convert or give up their views.

ਤਿਲਕ ਜੰਵੂ ਰਾਖਾ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਤਾ ਕਾ ॥ ਕੀਨੋ ਬਡੋ ਕਲੂ ਮਹਿ ਸਾਕਾ ॥

ਸਾਧਨ ਹੇਤਿ ਇਤੀ ਜਿਨਿ ਕਰੀ ॥ ਸੀਸ ਦੀਆ ਪਰ ਸੀ ਨ ਉਚਰੀ ॥੧੩॥

He protected the janeu and tilak of the Hindus, It was a great event in the modern ages. For the sake of humankind, he sacrificed himself. He laid down his head but not his creed
----- Bachittar Natak

250 years later in 1925 in Rawalpindi when Jeevan Das, a Hindu businessman, was told his first child was a son he declared 'to repay the debt to Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, my son will grow up as a Sikh and I name him Ram Singh.' Throughout Ram Singhs life he had 6 brothers and 6 sisters who were all brought up as Hindus but Ram Singh was not. He wore a dastar, was taken to the Gurdwara and was taught about the courage and the respect of Sikhs and what they stand for.

During the India Pakistan partition in 1946 Ram Singh was given the responsibility of taking his family across the border into India and was to look after them until his father returned. Unfortunately his father didn't return and Ram Singh was left to man the house.

Ram Singh came to England with his family and grew up as a Sikh in 1960s England. Unlike his friends, he didn’t remove his dastar and cut his hair to try and fit in and get employed. He was taught his dastar was his crown and should be worn with pride and with his head held high. Ram Singh struggled to be accepted as Sikhs wearing turbans weren’t a ‘normal’ sight for English folk in the 1960s. He had two sons and three daughters. He brought his children up to be proud of their identity and taught the boys to wear their dastar with pride. In turn his children had children and the teachings and lessons of being proud to be a Sikh were passed on to Ram Singhs grandchildren. I am one of those grandchildren.

I have been asked on many occasions what made you become a Sikh? Why did you decide to wear a dastar? The only answer I have: because of the sacrifice of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji I am a Sikh today and for that I am so grateful. If it wasn’t for Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji giving his life for the Hindu faith so they had the freedom to live as Hindus, my great-grandfather would not have brought my grandfather up as a Sikh and in turn my Father would not have been a Sikh.

Each and every day, I look in the mirror as I tie my Dastar and I thank Guru Tegh Bahadur for his sacrifice, as being a Sikh has helped me so much in my life. Not only have I learnt compassion, humility, determination and working hard, but I have a family that will be with me in good times and bad, a family that will support me and help me - the sangat of Gursikhs.

Thank you maharaj!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Womens Day 2013 - people who inspired me.....

So many of us will now have realized that today is International Womens Day and its a day to celebrate the progress made towards equality but also a day to remember all the women in the world who have fought the 'norm' and stood strong to say they are worth it.

Personally, I have two kinds of people who are inspiring at the moment; one one side I have mathematicians, mainly because of their determination, their strength to continue with an idea even though it sounded bonkers and of course the result, and on the other side I have Sikhs, being a Sikh myself and as the Khalsa panth (brotherhood of Sikhs) is my family, its only natural to look to them for inspiration but the struggle, the motivation and the steadfast attitude is something I aspire to have one day.

Lets look at just one person from each category that have inspired me lately:

Emmy Noether

I was introduced to Emmy Noether a few weeks ago, to be honest, by one of my lecturers and doing some background reading I realized the struggle she went through before actually being appreciated for her ability and her ideas.

Originally she was from a Jewish family and studies Mathematics at University of Erlangen instead of following her plan to teach French and English. Now it a typical for women to teach in the 1900s. Noether wasn't able to register as a class officially but since her father was apart of the University faculty she was able to 'audit' the classes and sit in - so in essence she sat through the degree progamme without actually enrolling. In the end the faculty allowed her to sit he final exam and she passed and was finally granted her Bachelors degree. She then worked for a Mathematical Institute for many years (can't remember how many exactly) without pay since women weren't recognized in the mathematics field at that point. She was then invited to join a mathematics department in Gottingen where she has to lecture under a male professors name and the position here was again unpaid.

In 1922, Noether finally given the chance to begin her paid academic profession.

Now here I've omitted all the maths, some people may be happy with this, but for the geeks out there (like me) who are interested in the maths - watching the GoogleTechTalk on Emmy Noether is a great place to start. :)

Mata Gujri Ji

Mata Gujri Ji is an inspiration from the Sikh aspect of my life. Mata Ji was the wife of Guru Tegh Bahadar Ji, the mother of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and the grandmother of the Sahibzadey - Baba Ajit Singh, Baba Jujar Singh, Baba Zorowar Singh and Baba Fateh Singh.

What really inspired me is how Mata Ji stood by Guru Tegh Badahur Ji during his years of mediation (I believe it was 17 years?) and supported Guru Sahib in his shaheedi (martydom). Mata Ji didn't complain or say that she would prefer her husband to stay at home and not give up his life for others. Mata Ji was 100% supported.

Further to this, Mata Ji brought up Guru Gobind Singh Ji with the same traits as his father and the traits a Gursikh should have. Mata Ji instilled the morals of truth, love, respect, justice, standing strong and never giving up on Sikhi inside Guru Gobind Singh Ji that when Guru Gobind Singh Ji became Guru, Guru Sahib was able to instill these morals within the Khalsa Panth! Of course, Guru Gobind Singh Ji was young when he became Guru so Mata Ji had to continue guiding Guru Sahib.

Lastly, Mata Ji instilled these same traits in her grandchildren - the Sahibzadey. The elder two Sahibzadey, Baba Ajit Singh and Baba Jujar Singh, gave up their lives fighting in battle for truth and justice where the smaller Sahibzadey, Baba Zorowar Singh and Baba Fateh Singh, were bricked alive because they would not give up on their Sikhi and they would not conform to another way of living.

A great post about Mata Ji is written on the Kaurs Corner website and a great video was given by Bhai Jagjit Singh

So with is being Women's Day -- these two women have reminded me that life is hard but we as women are strong enough to fight the norm and stand strong. (I should say - this doesn't mean that we are always right.... just that we should be given the same chance to shine!).

Everything written here are my personal views and if I have said something wrong, please forgive me but also point it out.