Updated on 21 Nov 2021, 1:35 pm
Representational Image (PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons)
Just can't recollect when I got first acquainted with the community named Sikhs! Was it through the text book of primary class or by virtue of physical sight?
But certainly do I remember that right from childhood; I used to feel attracted towards any Sikh gentleman perhaps because of his typical appearance with turban and beard!
Though I had no Sikh classmate or neighbour, I got introduced to the community members in my very early age through the saintly face of Guru Nanak in the history book and by the selfless fearless heroics and sacrifice of Bhagat Singh read in the then highly popular Amar Chitra Katha series.
And of course Rabindranath Tagore's series of poems portraying the courageous fight of Sikh warriors against the Mughals. Not to forget the pride which I felt for Tagore on coming to know that he renounced the D Litt to protest against the Jallianwala Bagh massacre annihilating innumerable lives of innocent Sikhs and thereby earning the wrath of the British.
After my introduction to the game of cricket, Maninder Singh and Balwinder Singh Sandhu were the first two Sikhs I got to know donning the national colours during India's Pakistan tour of 1982-83. And when Sandhu bowled dangerous Gordon Greenidge in the 1983 World Cup final in Lords to start the collapse of the mighty Caribbeans; my joy turned more special! Again I found it thrilling to note the presence of 4 Sikhs in the squad during the 1983 Ahmedabad Test against West Indies --- Navjot Singh Sidhu, Gurusharan Singh along with Maninder and Sandhu. Though Gurusharan was not included in the first eleven; but he played as a substitute fielder and came up with 4 catches in one innings!
In the Bangla entertainment world I got acquainted with Amrik Singh Arora! A Kolkata-based Sikh specialising in Bangla devotional and folk songs was indeed a nice spectacle. Also got thrilled to hear how Arora(despite not being born and brought up in Bengal) wished that in next birth, he be born as a Bengali! This is the essence of being true Indian -- respecting the culture of the state which serves as home despite retaining the culture of forefathers!
The first news of negativity, anything associated with Sikhs, which I encountered was the Khalistan movement! Of course that did not make all Sikhs "militants" or "separatists"; yet used to feel sorry for the news of blood coming from Punjab! Operation Blue Star, Indira Gandhi assassination and thereafter the horror show of mass killing of absolutely innocent Sikhs who had no role to play behind anything Khalistan!
And after attaining adulthood; it was Khushwant Singh. Apart from his literary gems, I used to relish his jokes very much. He had an impeccable sense of humour often at his own expense! Though I do not agree with many of his comments; but (love him or hate him), one can never ignore Khushwant Singh!
Manmohan Singh. Though I do not like him as the ex-Finance Minister/Prime Minister for his policy of "economic liberalisation" which has widened the rich-poor gap to a dreadful extent and dealt a fatal blow upon the poor and lower middle class; but as far as civility honesty dignity humility are concerned, Singh is almost unparalleled and what a contrast to the leaders proclaiming "Good Days"!
But my greatest love for Sikhs gets registered in my consciousness when I hear humanitarian stories revolving around the community.
No praise will be enough for the Sikh community of New Zealand for transcending narrow barriers of religion and nationality and responding to the call of humanity by not only opening up free kitchen following the March 2019 massacre by a terrorist targeting the Muslims in a mosque; but also coming forward to move the bodies to the cemetery, washing them and readying them for burial! Indeed a highly courageous piece of compassion and brotherhood.
It must be remembered that along with the Bengalis of erstwhile East Bengal, the Sikhs of erstwhile West Punjab also had got uprooted from their own soil and faced merciless torture and murder in that communally-charged Partition days. Even today, the Sikh citizens in Pakistan and Afghanistan get persecuted there and many of them lead a life of refugees in India.
Still the Sikhs have not demeaned their mindset and branded persons affiliated to a particular religion as "terrorists" or "intolerant". It is the person who turns bad; no religion or nation can be certified as "rogue".
By drawing inspiration from such an enlightened spirit, the Sikh community had also extended its warm heart and affectionate hand towards the hapless Rohingya refugees. In late 2017, when the Rohingya crisis was at its peak; many Sikh organisations and individuals went to the camps in Bangladesh to provide food and medical relief to the hapless displaced refugees.
Few days ago the Sikh community opened the gates of a Gurgaon gurdwara for Muslims to offer Friday prayers as the latter are often forced to offer their prayers in the open due to the lack of mosques in the area and thereby inviting wrath of the Hindutva muscle-flexers. And heartiest salute to the broad heart and mind of Sherdil Singh Sidhu --- President of the Shri Guru Singh Sabha --- which has prompted him to utter such sane words --- "Gurdwaras are the abode of the Guru(Granth Sahib) and all are welcome here. Hindus Muslims, Sikhs and Christians have all made sacrifices for our country and no one should feel that they don't have a place". Guru Nanak Sahib had preached "There is one God who dwells in every one of God's creations and constitutes the eternal truth" and "Those who have loved are those that have found God". Right through their humanitarian all-embracing action, the Sikhs have proved that they do not offer mere lip service to the Almighty or Guru Nanak Sahib. Rather they translate the reverend Guru's preaching into practice and offer a hand of cooperation and a heart full of love towards Muslims who are also creations of the same God . Indeed the Sikhs of Gurgaon have found God and also perceived the eternal truth i.e. our ultimate reality of humanity.
All people and countries of the world should learn its humanity from the gallant example set by the Sikhs. After all humanity stands supreme, much much above petty barriers of racial religious national identity.
Special Contributor, KOLKATA, West Bengal