Remembering Hari Singh Everest

everest.jpgGuestblogged by Mewa Singh.

A young and vibrant community in the diaspora, it is incumbent upon us to remember our trailblazers. Hari Singh Everest was one such person. I remember reading his name during my undergraduate days. Stumbling across the ‘Sikh Review’, when I should have been completing other studies, it was the first time I had read a literate Sikh journal in English. Skimming the names of editors and contributors on the back, I noticed one from my very own California – Yuba City to be exact. Hari Singh Everest. I didn’t know him, but the unusual last name stuck in my head.

It would be years later when I finally met him. Some years ago the Jakara Movement decided to sponsor the efforts of all the collegitate Californian Sikh Students Associations (SSAs) in building a unity float. Since then, the float at the Yuba City Nagar Kirtan has become an annual affair.. The Everest Family graciously opened their home and it was on one such opportunity that I got to sit down with Hari Singh and speak to him. I mentioned that I had read his name on that Sikh Review issue years ago and he smiled. He talked about his experiences in the Sikh community and as being a sort of ambassador during those early years. It is a conversation I cherish.

His life in the United States stretches back to the 1950s (before the ‘Great Society’ immigration policy of LBJ) and his life in Yuba City goes back to 1961.

Continue Reading »


Breaking News from Punjab – 5 Saroops of the Guru Granth Sahib Thrown in a Well

UPDATES 8/20/11 as of 12:30pm

The pardhan of the pind Gurdwara tries to state that the whole village apologizes, without giving any specificity as to the culprits or accountability for the action. One Singh in attendance will not stand for it:

YouTube Preview Image

Yesterday, Punjabi Radio USA spent an entire show on the issue, interviewing a member of the SGPC as well as some people that have traveled to the village and give their eye-witness testimonials

YouTube Preview Image

Still no news on the Tribune India (English) page. There is news on their Punjabi page as well as that of the Ajit and other Punjabi news outlets.

—————————————————-

Continue Reading »


Saanjh 2011: Bay Area Sikh Retreat

logo.pngIf you were looking to attend a Sikh retreat a decade ago, you may have had a difficult time finding one. Thankfully, this is no longer the case. We are now fortunate enough to have a plethora of retreats and conferences to participate in. These retreats offer Sikhs an opportunity to cultivate our spirituality in hopes of moving us forward on our journey, whatever stage we may be at.

For the past several Septembers, I’ve packed up my things and traveled to Santa Cruz to attend Saanjh. Each year, i come back feeling fulfilled and rejuvinated. This year’s Saanjh will be particularly special – the organizers will be offering Amrit Sanchaarfor those individuals who are ready to make this commitment. A note from the organizers states:

pahul.jpg

Photo Credit: Gurumustuk Singh

We are proud to announce that there will be a Khandey Baatey di Paul/ Amrit Sanchaar at Saanjh this year. Khande di Pahul or Amrit is the most spiritually significant event in a Sikhs life. When one decides to partake in Amrit, she or he makes a commitment to walk the Sikh spiritual path. Amrit is the beginning of a journey, not the end–its akin to admission into a school to study a subject matter seriously, not graduation. For those of you who are looking to make the commitment, may we offer Saanjh as the venue for your commitment ceremony.

The retreat will bring together young Sikhs from across North America (and sometimes beyond!) to participate and engage in Sikhi. Whether or not we are ready to take Amrit – Saanjh offers us a unique opportunity to observe and learn about this very special ceremony. The retreat is a venue where we can learn about these significant and important aspects of Sikhi and feel supported as we embrace our individual journeys. The sessions are dynamic and promise to inspire participants. This year’s breakout sessions will include, “Guru and I, Poetry is Not a Luxury, Vaisakhi of 1699, 2084: Looking Back, Looking Forward, and Gendered Violence and Spirited Sikh Resistance.

Saanjh is open to all above 18 years of age and will be held this year from September 8th to 11th 2011. Please see the website for more information and register before prices increase! See you there Langarites!


NYC Passes Law to Ban Workplace Religious Discrimination

NYC Sikhs speak out against the Transit Authority's religious discrimination in 2009

This morning, the New York City Council voted unanimously to pass the Workplace Religious Freedom Act (Int. 632-A), a bill that will strengthen the city’s human rights law that protects employees from religious discrimination at their jobs.

According to the City Council,

This law will provide greater protection to workers by strengthening the law that requires employers to provide employees with reasonable accommodations for religious observance.

Employers that are found to have engaged in unlawful discriminatory practices against its workers may be liable for a civil penalty of as much as $125,000 and/or be required to pay compensatory damages, award back pay, reinstate employees and extend full and equal accommodations to employees.

The law is of particular significance to turban-wearing Sikhs and hijab-wearing Muslims who have faced a great deal of discrimination in their workplaces in NYC, particularly since 9/11. Advocates including the Sikh Coalition (who played a lead role in pushing for the legislation) hope that the law will make it much harder for employers in both the public and private sectors to discriminate against potential or current Sikh employees. Notably, the New York Police Department still does not allow turban-wearing Sikhs to serve as officers. (There was a case years back involving a Sikh traffic cop, however, who ended up winning and serves with his turban).

Continue Reading »


The Sacred Thread: Its All In the Head

Guest blogged by Gurchit Singh. Gurchit is a 16-year-old aspiring activist (in his own words) who submitted this piece (his first) to The Langar Hall. Raksha Bandan was last Saturday, August 13th.

Oh the joys of Raksha Bandan! The air is filled with love, family members are conversing and munching on a plethora of sweets, hugs and kisses are being ecstatically extended to any and all family members the overemotional-mother can seem to get her loving arms around, and the overall mood in the home is one which many families can only dream of experiencing on a daily basis. Unfortunately, these loving moments only further promote a holiday which demotes women and opposes aspects of Sikhism itself.

While occupying myself with Facebook and sipping warm milk on the morning of Raksha Bandan, I was going through my daily routine of checking any notifications I may have received from the prior night. After reading many generic Raksha Bandan-related salutations, I finally came across one that actually defined what it was actually aimed at achieving: Raksha Bandhan is a festival which celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters. The ceremony involves the tying of a rakhi (sacred thread) by a sister on her brother’s wrist. This symbolizes the sister’s love and prayers for her brother’s well-being, and the brother’s lifelong vow to protect her. While reading this definition, the two phrases that IMMEDIATELY jumped out at me were sacred thread, which conjured an instant connection to one of Guru Nanak Dev Jis earliest forms of rebellion against what he believed aimless and biased: the Janeu ( the full Sakhi can be referenced here), and brothers lifelong vow to protect her, which called forth an image of a frail young woman constantly relying on her brother for protection from external occurrences.

Continue Reading »


Shaheedi & Justice

We have many songs that remind us of Shaheeds; we acknowledge them in our Ardas; and they are an integral part of our Sikh history. It is a powerful experience to hear how an integral concept in Sikhi manifests in other communities. Specifically the Muslim community, which also adheres to a concept of Shaheedi.

Often times in the media, the concept of Shaheedi has been presented as a form of brainwashing done by religious and political leaders to condone terrorism and violence for their own self-interests. However, a recent NPR report highlights how two devote Muslim men from America became Shaheeds out of their own strong will to bring justice back to their home country of Libya.

zawiya_wide.jpg

Mabruk Eshnuk (left) and his son Malik (right) left their home in Pittsburgh to volunteer and fight with rebels in western Libya's Nafusa Mountains.

A father and son left their home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (USA) to participate in the Libyan revolution. Mabruk Eshnuk and his 21-year old middle son, Malik Eshnuk, died fighting the forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi in western Libya.

Mabruk, a devoute Muslim had immigrated from Libya as a teenager. He taught Islam to convicts in the Pennsylvania state penitentiary system. In 2006, he housed the family of a young Iraqi boy who was getting lifesaving treatment in the United States. He said, “Everything that we do and work and help, it’s based on the Quran. Outraged over what was happening in Libya, he took his middle son to fight in the Western mountains of Libya.

Continue Reading »


Some Notes and Random Musings

295225_10150292952132958_501602957_7814496_8072444_n.jpgGuestblogged byMewa Singh.

Here are some general musings and broader notes/reflections that were sparked by my participation in the camp:

On Parenting One thing I found quite interesting was changes in parenting styles. I dont remember having had many choices as a child, when my parents were going to put their foot down, and it seems my own parents confirm this. With the camp, I noticed we had so many parents expressed their desire for their sons to attend, only to begin avoiding our calls as the date approached and telling us our son doesnt want to go. Many of the same parents often complained our son doesnt listen to us and just watches TV all day. I was left wondering, how do these children have the choice? A parent has the ability to parent and limit the childs television viewing, if they so desire. A parent is not helpless to say our child doesnt listen so we must accept the status quo. Many parents desire to be the friend of their child, or be the good guy/gal and never say no. With so many of my friends young parents, I wonder how they will be setting boundaries.

On Consumerism Now members of our community are part of the broader society and one would hardly expect larger sociological issues such as consumerism to not affect us. Still the degrees seem far more now than in my youth. I remember kids having and even getting beat up and their shoes stolen if they had the latest Jordans. With 13-year olds having iPhones, 16-year olds getting BMWs for their birthdays (Jodha had a reflection on this some time ago), and wardrobe prices that went far beyond our $15 jeans from Marshalls, I wonder what are we teaching our children? Ask parents to send their children to a Sikh workshop or even Punjabi/Khalsa school at their Gurdwara and parents will begin about fees being far too high. What do we actually value and what do we wish to teach our children to value?

Continue Reading »


Reflections on Bhujangi 2011

Bhujangi_Jakara___Tshirt.JPGGuest-blogged by Mewa Singh. Mewa Singh is a sevadar with the Jakara Movement.

The term bhujang has a Sanskritic base and is used to refer to a small snake. The Mughals and Afghans of the 18th century employed the term as a pejorative to refer to the Sikhs as bhujangs. Try as they might, they could never completely eradicate from the garden these bhujangs. In the eternal optimism that defines the spirit of chardikala, the Singhs and Kaurs of the period appropriated the term and endorsed it to give it a new connotation. Their young were in fact bhujangs that would bite the feet of Mughals, Afghans, and other imperial powers. Today the term is still widely used by Nihang Sikhs in reference to their offspring. A young Sikh boy is called a bhujangi and a young Sikh girl a bhujangan.

Reviving and reinterpreting our historic terminology were part of the naming process of this unique camp.

With the Gurus Grace, from August 1-10, I had the opportunity to be a sevadar for the Jakara Movements first annual Bhujangi Youth Academy. Unlike anything else in our community before, the academy specifically served the needs of at-risk young Punjabi Sikh males.

Continue Reading »


Young and Invincible: Introducing Raveena Aurora

I recently learned about an up and coming young Sikh American musician and songwriter named Raveena Aurora, who just released a four-song demo entitled “Fools” this week. Listening to her original music and her vocal stylings, it’s hard to believe she just graduated high school this past spring.

Here at The Langar Hall we’re always excited to learn about Sikh musicians and performers in the diaspora expressing themselves creatively and breaking new ground for out community. A musician myself, I was particularly excited to talk with Raveena to learn more about her story and share it with you all.

Brooklynwala: How do you describe your sound to people?

Raveena: For now, feel good folky pop music with a dark underbelly.

BW: When did you start playing music and singing? How did you get your start?

RA: I’ve been writing poetry since a very young age, but I started singing around the age of eleven when I entered a talent show in the 6th grade and gave a heart wrenching performance of “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas. Much to my parent’s dismay, I became obsessed. I was very involved with musical theatre throughout middle school and early high school and in the middle of high school, I started writing original music.

Continue Reading »


Why I Love our Commenters

Yes, we disagree. Yes, most of you even fight amongst yourselves. Our voices and opinions are as diverse as the people in our community. So be it. This is how we learn from one another.

Sometimes you challenge us (the bloggers). Most of the time you challenge each other (the commenters). Do I wish the level of discussion with each other could be raised? At times, yes. Do I appreciate that you take the time to engage? ABSOLUTELY! Why? Because you care enough about the community, about Gurbani, about our collective future to engage.

Continue Reading »


Unifying Sikhs: A Riot Story

Guest blogged by Naujawani Sardar

When the riots began in London last Saturday, we all thought they were a one-off incident and the world would be back to normal by Monday. Instead we awoke to find that more shops had been looted, buildings were still being set ablaze and that the rioters were now widening their search for new canvases to destruct. The thought was certainlythere in the back of my mind, throughout my working day on Monday, but I think I purposely ignored it, hoping that it just would not happen: could a gurdwara be targeted?

IMG00057_20110809_1846.jpgA small number of Sikhs however did not let the thought fall out of sight and continued to monitor the situation. Having realised that a problem may arise, albeit very late at night, they spent the best part of the night driving across London from one Gurdwara to the next to ensure that there was adequate security in place. Where there was not, one man stayed behind or where possible, awoke a local friend to come in. Thus was sewn the seed for a collaborative effort from a number of individuals to coordinate Sikhs that wanted to defend their Gurdware. Throughout Tuesday, Facebook, Twitter and SMS text messages were used to inform and mobilise people into preparing for the night(s) ahead. We at Naujawani also played a small role in coordinating these efforts and garnering support from individuals which personally gave mea greater insight into how things developed over the last 48 hours. It was clear to a few of us that if we were to have any success, people had to be appropriately distributed to different Gurdware. In west London, Southall is naturally the hub and meeting point, but throughout the rioting other Gurdware to the north and east of London were at a higher risk.

Continue Reading »


UK Sikhs Gather to Protect Gurdwaras from Riots

Guest blogged by Naujawani Sardar

article_2024358_0D5EFEA800000578_724_634x312.jpgRiots have hit London and a few other cities in the UK over the last three nights causing mayhem, destroying property and leading to looting. Tonight, hundreds of Sikhs are gathering to defend the Gurdware in these cities should they fall under the eye of the looters. It is bringing together Sikhs of all backgrounds and affiliations;promising a glimmer of hopefrom an otherwise horrible situation.

To find out more about this mobilisation of Sikhs, go to theSikh Riot Awareness UK page.

YouTube Preview Image

The trigger has been widely recognised as the shooting of a 29 year old black man Mark Duggan in the Tottenham area of North London. 48 hours after his shooting, members of his family, friends and the wider community congregated outside Tottenham Police Station to protest at what they saw as the heavy-handed action of the London Metropolitan Police and the unhelpful communication from them about the matter in the following days. At this gathering of about some 300 protestors, a relatively minor confrontation between a teenager and the Police is said to have ignited running battles that ensued well into the night. A double decker bus was set alight and 49 fires were being dealt with by morning. But more importantly, as a sign of things to come, shops selling household goods, sportswear, toiletries and glasses were looted with CCTV images capturing hooded individuals taking away trollies laden with items.

Continue Reading »


Burqa Ban Spreads in Europe

Along with the start of the holy month of Ramadan, the last few weeks have seen an increase in momentum for laws that ban the wearing of the burqa and niqab in European countries. We’ve talked about France before, where the implementation of its law banning Muslim face covering began this past spring. Now Belgium, which passed a similar measure last year, has begun implementing its ban on burqas as of July 23rd, and in Italy, new anti-burqa legislation was just passed by a parliamentary commission this week.

In both countries, like France, a miniscule number of women actually wear the burqa or niqab, begging the question of why an increasing number of European nations feel so threatened by it.

In Belgium, the lawmaker who proposed the bill, Daniel Bacquelaine, “said it was necessary to forbid the wearing of clothes that ‘totally mask and enclose’ the wearer. He described wearing the burqa as ‘not compatible with an open, liberal, tolerant society.’ Peter DeDecker of the Flemish separatist NVA saw the ban as a way of defending ‘our fundamental principles of the enlightenment.’”

Just as in France, what I would argue (and have previously argued) is an attack on religious freedom is being justified with the rhetoric of freedom and liberty (and public safety).

Continue Reading »


Book Review: On the Outside Looking Indian

I love books – but I have a special, and perhaps curious, interest in books by and about Sikhs. Perhaps it’s the fascination to discover how similar or differentour experiencesare. I’m convinced i’m not alone in this. There has beenan establishedinterest in South Asian literature for quite some time, but now – with the growing number of authorscovering the British Sikh or North American Sikh experience – there is piquedenthusiasm in diasporic “Sikh Literature”.I think it’s important to support this type of work – not simply because the author is Sikh or writes about Sikhs – but because until we have enough of this representation in literature, we need to encourage it’s growth.This also means thatauthorswill befaced with higherexpectations from their readers who want authentic stories, sophisticated writing and dymanic story telling – just as we’d expect from any other piece of literature.

rupinder_bookb.jpgI recently read Rupinder Gill’s memoir, On the Outside Looking Indian. The premise and cover of the book attracted me, perhaps because it reminded me of Sathnam Sanghera’s, If You Don’t Know Me By Now – a bookIhighly recommend. Gill’s memoir, similarto Sanghera’s, deals with her personal experience growing up as the child of immigrants.Gill’s story is set in Canada and focuses onher year-long quest, at the age of about 30,to fulfill a list of her childhood dreams learning to swim, going to Disney World, and living in New York etc – activities she didn’t participate in as a child. I found Gill’sdescriptions of her childhood to be well-written, funny and often relatable.

Without a doubt, many of us can relate to childhoods of inactivity – unless activity consisted ofhousework – then no, we really didn’t participate in many activities, especially compared to how busy and structured the lives of children are today. There are obvious exceptions to this, however, this ismost likely a common experience for many. While Gill’s story is framed around a Panjabi Sikh household, it’s clear that her experiences could be those ofmany first-generation children whose parents have emigrated to new lands.

Continue Reading »


Khuli Dhari: My Journey to Beard Liberation

My childhood was full of insecurity and self-doubt, the result of years of harassment, taunts, and jokes about the ball/rag/tomato/towel/etc. on my head as a turban-wearing child. My insecurities, however, began to shift (or expand) as puberty hit.  Let’s call it facial hair anxiety.

At first, having a moustache grow in at a young age wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, I passed as much older than I was, which was nice for a scrawny brown kid like me.

But soon enough, the complex around my dhari (beard) settled in, and no amount of time with a thatha tied tightly around my head was ever enough to totally alleviate my beard insecurities.

Surrounded by peers for whom shaving was a rite of passage into manhood, it’s not surprising that I felt a little left out (though to be clear, the idea of a razor on my face never sounded so pleasant). Further, I was inundated with the voices of young women in my school casually referring to facial hair as gross or unattractive (with no intention to hurt my feelings I’m sure) and their preference for guys who were “clean-shaven.”

CLEAN-shaven. The implication being that facial hair is…dirty?

These are the messages we get from our peers and from the media every day. So naturally I assumed it was highly unlikely that any of my female classmates would ever be interested in dating someone like me. The combination of a dirty face plus a patka was enough to cause a whole lot of anxiety and insecurity for this angsty teenage Singh.

Continue Reading »


Expansion of Sikh Orgs – Job Opening at ENSAAF

ensaaf_logo.gifThe second generation (in N. America) of Sikh organizations are beginning to pool their resources and expand their capabilities. Here I feature 2.

Seva Food Bank – earlier this summer, Seva Food Bank of Canada welcomed Michael Brito as their part-time Operations Manager. We look forward to hearing about the meaning of the expansion and the exciting growth this service Sikh-based organization is undergoing.

ENSAAF – One of the premier human rights organizations working on issues related to the Sikhs is hiring a Case Summary Writerto draft case summaries based on interviews of families whose loved ones were unlawfully killed or disappeared by India’s security forces. The job description reads:

As the case summaries will ultimately be used in a variety of advocacy initiatives and reports, this is an important position that will offer someone a chance to help mobilize international stakeholders on the issue of impunity for mass state crimes in Punjab, India.

We hope a number of Sikhs decide to apply and promote the goals of this extremely important cause. You can get more information on the ENSAAF website, here. Please read the job description and apply! If not, at least circulate, forward, post on Facebook, tweet on Twitter, and get out the word!


Strategies for Raising Multilingual and Bilingual Babies

There have been a few posts on TLH (link) that talk about the merits of having children exposed to other languages, but none that discuss actual strategies. So, I thought Id add my thoughts on the subject.

Over the past month or so, our 18-month-old daughter, Kavya, has started connecting words to concepts and its interesting to see what English and Punjabi words shes picked up. Here are some of the things shes picked up, along with translations:

Paa = Paani (water)
Baba= Banana
Baa = Baar (when she wants to go outside)
Ayyy= Ice
Tootoo= broken (used in conjunction with a look of feigned surprise right after she flings my mobile with all her might and its guts spill onto our hardwood floor).
Choos: Shoes

I would like to say that we are very organized and systematic about how we are teaching Kavya to integrate English with Punjabi and Hindi, but the truth is we are totally winging it.

Initially, we did attempt to use two strategies I read about in an East Coast magazine called Little India. Neither of them worked very well for us, but we did use a hybrid form of them. Here are the original strategies:

Continue Reading »


Sikhs Rally for Bhullar at UN Headquarters on Monday

This Monday, Sikhs for Justice is organizing a rally at the United Nations Headquarters to call for UN intervention stop Indias planned execution of Professor Devenderpal Singh Bhullar. Professor Bhullars brother, Tejinder Singh Bhullar will be addressing the rally.In their appeal to Secretary General Ban Ki moon, Sikhs for Justice is calling upon the U.N. to intervene and free Professor Bhullar based on a UN General Assembly resolution adopted in 2008 known asResolution 62/149which called on all major states to abolish the death penalty. 62/149 is a nonbinding instrument to mark progress on the United Nation’s position that they death penalty undermines human dignity and acknowledges the serious claim that any failure of justice in the implementation of the death penalty is irreversible and irreplaceable.

The death penalty too, runs contrary to Sikh historical positions on capital punishment. The Sarkar-e-Khalsa of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji, followed a no death penalty policy, as M. Gregor in his 1846 History of the Sikhs writes. He notes that, [Ranjit Singh] was the exception ofOriental monarchs, and never wantonly inflicted capital punishment and mutilation. Other authors describe, that Humanity indeed, or rather a tenderness for life, was a trait in the character of Ranjit Singh. There is no instances of him having wantonly imbued his hands in blood. These sentiments that can be seen as consistent Sikh political philosophy captured by the Zafarnama and other documents. Specifically in the Zafarnama, Guru Gobind Singh Ji quotes the Persian poet Firdausi, writing, How nicely the sweet tongued poet Firdausi has said, to act in haste is the work of the devil, referring to Aurungzebs executions of the youngest Sahibzadas Zorawar and Fateh Singh and Mata Gujri in Sirhind as the act of ‘Sheitan.’

Continue Reading »


Brooklyn Singh vs. Walmart

I just got an email from the Working Families Party (a progressive political party in NYC) about the latest developments in mega-corporation Walmart’s latest attempts to set up shop in NYC. One of the biggest real estate development companies in the city called Related is reportedly in discussions with Walmart about building its first NYC store in the Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York. The below video put together by ALIGN, the Alliance for a Greater New York, features a Sikh business owner, Iqbal Chhabra.

YouTube Preview Image

This video warmed my heart for several reasons. It goes without saying that I live in Brooklyn and am concerned with all things Brooklyn. Brooklyn is not exactly known for its large Sikh population. I see the occasional Sikh construction worker or shop owner, but I don’t know of too many other Brooklynwale Singhs or Kaurs. So I was pleasantly surprised to see Mr. Chhabra speaking out about an important Brooklyn-based issue in this video.

Continue Reading »


Cycling Sikhs and Safety

Amritsar, 1946

I’m going to continue on what appears to be our theme of the week here at TLH — Sikhs and sports. I’m not much of an athlete, though I had a good run of Little League baseball when I was a kid in North Carolina. I remember how goofy I felt wearing my team’s baseball cap over my patka and of course a helmet when I was up to bat. Looking back at the photographs, I looked pretty goofy too.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and I find myself in a related dilemma, though hardly an aesthetic one. This time of year in New York City, my favorite (and most efficient) way to get around is on my bike (the kind that requires pedaling). It’s good exercise, it gets me around Brooklyn and other parts of the city often as quick or quicker than public transit, and it leaves no carbon footprint.

As a dastaar-wearing Sikh, I grapple every day with my decision to ride my bike without a helmet — especially in a place like New York City. I’ve had many friends try to convince me to do otherwise, and I’ve tried many experiments of trying to make a helmet work. After talking to many a bike shop employees, my understanding at the moment is that bike helmets and turbans can’t really co-exist effectively. Even if I were to get an extra large helmet and put it over a small dastaar, it would not protect my skull sufficiently because it would sit too high up.

Continue Reading »


Page 12 of 64« First...1011121314...203040...Last »