Guest blogged by Harleen Kaur
Sangat: a concept that has been emphasized to me, and thus I have reiterated to others, for as long as I can remember. My mom telling me to be aware of the friends I was keeping at school, my camp counselors telling me that I should strive for sadh sangat, or people who will push me to be better in every moment.
As a young Sikh girl growing up in Wisconsin, sangat was something that was redefined for me every day. Although I found it in my peers on my softball team to my friends in the school musical, the sangat I truly desired was the one I found at gurdwara and at the local Sikh youth camp. With such a small Sikh community in Wisconsin, however, it was not something that was easily found. Sangat came in moments few and far between, and it was often something that I desired more than what I received.
Twice a year, every Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekend to be exact, I would attend Camp Fateh, now Camp Sikh Virsa. The sangat there is still one that I cherish and value as people who made me who I am today, and I remember often wishing that Camp was every day and not just twice a year. I remember exchanging emails and AIM usernames with my counselors, trying to reach them throughout the year whenever I needed the advice. The female counselors there became my role models, and my stand-in older sisters. I looked to them to understand how to be a strong Singhni in a modern world, but I did not understand the extent to which they would become my voices of reason and guidance until many years down the road.
But unfortunately, sangat became something that I only had in very particular moments. Seeing a sardar – other than my father – happened on Sunday, and the rest of the week I was left to my own devices to fend for myself as the only Sikh girl in my school of 700. The number of times I could’ve used the guiding hand of an older sister are innumerable: when my teammates started shaving, the first time parties started to have alcohol, the time when I had to talk to my choir teachers about how I couldn’t wear sleeveless dresses, the impossible task of finding shirts and dresses with sleeves, etc. I remember hopelessly Google searching in my room, hoping to find some sort of resource to help me. Alas, I was alone, stumbling through the dark and praying to come out on the other side, whatever it may have been.
Looking back on those years, and even many of my struggles now as a young Sikh woman, I know I would be nowhere without my Sikh sisters, and brothers. However, even still, it was with the help of technology that I could stay in touch with all my sangat members that I met at various camps. Without them, I still would have no one to call when I was uncertain about how to balance staying up until 2 AM almost nightly in undergrad and still being able to wake up for amrit vela. This sangat, near and far, is what allows me to keep going every day, and brings me closer to my Guru.
I recently was asked to contribute to a new endeavor: KaurLife.org, an online magazine for young Sikh girls. I hope this can serve as the guiding hand of an older sister for all those Kaurs who need a little support. I know I wish it were around when I was growing up. As Kaur Life starts its journey, I hope it becomes a place for young Kaurs to find their sangat. A place that they can come to ask questions, find answers, and seek support and strength in their everyday endeavors. I hope that it will create a community of support and love, rather than judgment, nor challenging or competing against one another and the ways that we choose to live out our Sikhi. Through Kaur Life, I hope to see a diverse array of voices, passions, dreams, and visions for our Khalsa Panth. I hope to see ownership over our community, our futures, and our voices. Kaur Life will be a space for women of all walks of life to talk about their love for Sikhi, and allow it to take equal footing with all other narratives. Most of all, I hope that Kaur Life becomes a place where young girls can truly see that they are queens and lionesses, and build the confidence they need to rule the world.