Sikh Medicine and How Babay Bhangra Paunday Nay

As you read this, you may want to press play to hear the accompanying music.

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During my elementary years, my dhadhi would always give me a spoonful of a foul-substance that was called ‘sayth’ (health). For years, everyday, I would take a spoonful from the hands of my dhadhi without crying a word. I have no idea what I was taking or if it had any lasting effect, but as a kid I didn’t get sick that often and today I must admit I think I am healthy.

Many of us may have such memories, but no longer know the contents and usages of such desi remedies. Despite most of us being ‘mind-colonized’ by allopathic medicine, homeopathic medicine for preventative and minor ailment medication is being rediscovered by allopathic medical centers.

In 2005, researchers Davinder S. Sandhu and Michael Heinrich from the University of London’s School of Pharmacy published “The Use of Health Foods, Spices and other Botanicals in the Sikh Community in London” in Phytotherapy Research.

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Pardes Hoya Pardes

A recent article carried by Asian News International claims that many Pardesi Punjabis are sending their children back to Punjab for education. Citing Christian evangelism in places such as Canada, a desire to ‘imbibe Punjabi values and tradition,’ and learning the Punjabi language were all reasons why some parents have decided to send their children to school in Punjab.

stamp.jpgOne particular school in Gurusar Sudhar Village (Ludhiana), Jatindera Greenfield School, seems to be catering to the needs of these pardesi Punjabi students. Boasting of a “Western” style curriculum, students are said to engage with computers, crafts, and languages. A preliminary Google search of the school cited a tree plantation camp and a kindergarten clay-modeling contest.

In the past, I remember parents would often threaten to send their children to Punjab if they misbehaved. I can think of a number of children still in Punjab for this very reason. Still others pardesi Punjabis would send their children to India’s most prestigious school as America, Canada, UK, etc. provided them the means to gain access for their children. So my question, would you consider sending your kids to school in Punjab? Why or why not? Is this some misplaced romanticism or is this a real alternative? What would be the positives and what would be the drawbacks?

Are we losing our Punjabi language?

My parents have always emphasized the importance of speaking Punjabi in our home. Their reasoning was that we would have the opportunity to learn English in our schools, but may never get the time to learn Punjabi again. My father was so passionate about creating an opportunity for children being raised in the West to be taught Punjabi, that he opened the first Punjabi School at the Gurdwara we attended in our town. I was grateful to my parents for sending me to the school, because it allowed me to communicate with my grandparents, and other elders who didn’t speak English, and maintain my relationships with them.

Often the older generation is heard saying our language, and thus an aspect of our heritage, is being lost on the present generation. There are many young people who attend Gurdwara but have no idea what is being said. We have Gutkas with English translations. We’ve become quite tech-savvy in our Gurdwara now too, where we have projectors displaying the English translations of Shabads. We watch Punjabi movies with english subtitles. In India, even Punjabis are speaking Hindi now.

Is it the responsibility of parents to teach their children or send them to Punjabi school to learn? Or is it an individual’s responsibility? Some people take the initiative to learn Punjabi on their own, either through courses available at University, or from the growing number of online courses.

How can we preserve the Punjabi language?

Updated: Failed Assassination Attempt on Dera Sacha Sauda Cult Leader

Earlier today, Gurmeet Ram Rahim narrowly escaped an assassination attempt when someone from a truck passing by his motorcade threw an explosive object.

derasachasauda.jpgWhile members of his entourage were injured, the Dera Sacha Sauda leader walked away unscathed. The rumor mills are buzzing and expect the words “RDX” and “Pakistan” to soon circulate. What seems to be completely missing from the coverage in terms of the timing was the recent directive by the Punjab and Haryana High Court calling the state of Punjab not to file a chargesheet in the case registered against Gurmeet Ram Rahim at Bathinda a few weeks ago. Badal was using the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s directive to wiggle himself out of upholding the Sikh masses’ pressure after the Jathedars had to call an emergency meeting last year at Takht Dam Dama Sahib announcing that if the Punjab Government failed to act, the Sikhs would be “forced to act against the Dera” and would commence all social boycott.

From newspaper reports, GT Road has been flooded with his followers and closed down. Unfortunately, expect clashes and a brutal random round up by the police within the next three days. (See earlier “joke” about this issue)


Two men, Mohinder Singh and Swaran Singh, have been apprehended in connection to Saturday’s failed assassination attempt against the Dera Sacha Sauda leader. Another man, Bakshish Singh, has been implicated and it is not yet known whether the police have already apprehended him or if he is eluding their capture. (One is never quite sure with the draconian Punjab Police)

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The Search for Thematically Sikh Art

I always keep my eye out online for Sikh art (visual art that is) because, to be quite honest, there is very little accessible Sikh art on the market – aside from the legendary Sobha Singh prints (available almost everywhere) Banda_Singh_Bahadur.jpgand the works of lesser known artists displayed on Sikh calendars (the hallmarks of almost every Sikh-owned business) of course. Until recently, Sikh-themed art seemed to be limited to the afore mentioned. No longer! A number of artists have come out with Sikh-themed art and there are two that I would like to highlight in particular.

First is Kanwar Singh Dhillon, a Punjab-born Canadian whose works are themed around Sikh history. I was attracted by the detail in his art and was surprised to learn that he uses a rather unique medium – although his Gurdwara_Entrance.jpgworks look as if they are done in oil on canvas – his paintings are computer created and printed onto the canvas. Needless to say the product is still wonderful.

The other artist is Bhupinder Singh. I came across his art long before I knew who he was. I actually had the painting titled “Gurdwara Entrance” (pictured) as my desktop background for the longest time, and admired it every time I sat at my computer. It was only after I came across a second painting by him on (which reminded me of the first) that I started poking about the net. His medium of choice is watercolor –making his work both unique and striking.

Please feel free to post your thoughts and about any cool works of art or artist that you know of. Note – I know there are other artists out there, but I chose to post about these two because they are new to me.

Towards a Queer ethos

Queer Sikhs are largely invisibilized in the greater Sikh community, although some are present within the U.S./Canada diaspora. Last month, the debate over the Sikh-perspective on GLBT unions bubbled up in Canada when a leader in the Vancouver community denounced homosexuality [link]:

“I hate homosexuality. Most Sikhs believe homosexuality is unnatural and you can’t produce kids through it. And, secondarily, no major religion allows it.”

This comment echoed an edict issued two years ago by Jathedar Akal Takht that Sikh [Canadian] MPs ought vote against a bill that would legalize civil unions for queer couples. When this conversation has come up (rarely, but a few times in recent years), the conventional wisdom is that Sikhi’s family-oriented mission and denunciation of kaam [lust] trumps its egalitarian sensibility and tips the scales against homosexuality and towards heteronormativity. Testimonials from out Sikhs are sometimes uplifting, but oftentimes heart-breaking.

SGGS Ji, unlike other religious scriptures, is entirely silent on this issue. Among those who decry homosexuality, the most common argument is that homosexuality is an indulgence, and that those who fall out of the straight-jacket should either marry straight or stay celibate. They are told to “overcome” their homosexuality because sex is solely for procreation.

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Patchwork towards Justice

There is a fascinating article in this week’s Wired Magazine. The article discusses a new software that is being developed by German computer scientists that may be able to take shredded documents and piece them together. Before the Berlin War came down, the East German Secret Police, the Stasi (there is a wonderful highly-recommended movie about this) created huge dossiers on its citizens. In this surveillance-state, government conformity was maintained through fear, paranoia, and torture, if required. These huge dossiers have since been made open to the public, but just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, Stasi workers made an effort to destroy the documents. However, even these may not be beyond recovery:

kps_gill.pngThe machine-shredded stuff is confetti, largely unrecoverable. But in May 2007, a team of German computer scientists in Berlin announced that after four years of work, they had completed a system to digitally tape together the torn fragments. Engineers hope their software and scanners can do the job in less than five years — even taking into account the varying textures and durability of paper, the different sizes and shapes of the fragments, the assortment of printing (from handwriting to dot matrix) and the range of edges (from razor sharp to ragged and handmade.) “The numbers are tremendous. If you imagine putting together a jigsaw puzzle at home, you have maybe 1,000 pieces and a picture of what it should look like at the end,” project manager Jan Schneider says. “We have many millions of pieces and no idea what they should look like when we’re done.”

The implications for this project are tremendous. On the Big Brother side, citizens may be worried that even after shredding vital personal information, it may still be recoverable. However, keeping Big Brother in check may also be possible.

“People who took the time to rip things up that small had a reason,” Nickolay says. “This isn’t about revenge but about understanding our history.” And not just Germany’s — Nickolay has been approached by foreign officials from Poland and Chile with an interest in reconstructing the files damaged or destroyed by their own repressive regimes.

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Bhangra is our common link?

The SJ Mercury News ran a story on Dhol Di Awaz [disclaimer: I went to Cal and was part of the Berk SSA] and made the argument that in today’s multi-generational diaspoa, bhangra is the common thread that holds Punjabis together. I thought this was interesting on many levels. While the article is relatively well-written and sensitive, there were no excerpts from conversations with non-Sikh Punjabis, and certainly not with Pakistani Punjabis.

bhangra.jpgThis divide over who has a “right” to bhangra has certainly been a source of tension in the DDA-verse in the past — while many embrace bhangra as a Punjabi dance that can be shared by all across religions (and even regions), while others argue that some of the uniform elements of the dance (e.g. the phugri) require a Sikh focus. In the Bay Area, where Punjabis are somewhat divided along religious lines by neighborhoods, are we being truly honest with ourselves re: tolerance and inclusivity? Along those lines, is bhangra tying together generations of Sikh Punjabis from Indian Punjab, or is it tying together ALL Punjabis? I would argue that bhangra (and giddha), which is, in its purest essence, a dance of joy and celebration, belongs to everyone. It doesn’t see religion or region, and it also doesn’t see a “backdated” interpretation of “traditional” uniforms. This made me reflect on a question I often ask myself — where does the Punjabi begin/end and the Sikh begin?

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The Pursuit of Happiness

This story made me chuckle when I first read it. A recent news article from Toronto describes how a scam artist beguiled dozens of people out of $3 million by appearing to pull winning lottery numbers out of egg yolks. u_zodiak.jpg(Yes, I had to re-read that sentence too). “Roshanbhai”, a self-proclaimed swami was able to convince people he was a spiritual healer who could fix their family, health and business problems….and of course help them win the lottery. The catch was that these individuals would first have to invest in a “special ceremony” (I guess this is where the egg yolks come in) and pay large amounts of money – in some cases over $100,000 (this is where I chuckled). I don’t know why, but I continued to read the article, all the while thinking, “who could fall for something like this?” And then I came across this sentence,

Though it sounds far-fetched, Roshanbhai – real name Mohammad Umar Ashrafi, 43 – left dozens of people in the Greater Toronto Area, all members of the Sikh community, embarrassed and broke.


Admitting to being duped out of $105,000 is not easy for Paramjit Bhullar, owner of a Toronto trucking firm. “How do I feel? Stupid. I’m coming out front because I want him to get caught so he can’t rob anyone else,” says Bhullar, 42, who went to Ashrafi for help with marital and business problems after hearing a Punjabi radio show ad.

Ashrafi told Bhullar that his problems were the result of someone’s black magic and told him to return with a dozen eggs. After cracking the eggs open, Ashrafi claimed to have “found” a piece of foil in the yolk with lottery numbers on it. The catch was that in order for Bhullar to hit the jackpot, Ashrafi would have to perform a prayer ceremony and to do so, he needed $210,000. How convenient. Bhullar accepted and gave up his entire savings to Ashrafi who subsequently fled the country.

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Gurdwaras and Religious Tolerance

While reading Bruce La Brack’s ethnography on Sikhs in Northern California my attention was drawn to his writing on Sikh and Muslim relations in the Gurdwara. He wrote,

“Muslims, particularly Punjab-born-Muslims, had regularly joined the Sikhs of California at the annual celebrations of national holidays and in welcoming dignitaries from India. There are stories told by older Sikhs about how Muslims were welcome to spread their prayer rugs in the gurdwara so long as they did not place their backs to the granth (this being no problem as the dais of the gurdwara is oriented east-west)” (219).

He was referring to the Stockton Gurdwara in California prior to 1947. I admit at first I was little shocked because it debunked my own beliefs about what I was socialized to believe a Gurdwara was supposed to be. I thought the Gurdwara was only a site of worship for Sikhs. However, after I got over that, I saw the beauty in the religious tolerance and ethnic commadare in allowing the Gurdwara to also be a place of worship for Muslims as long as they respected the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. I believe my Gurus would have practiced a similar peaceful religious tolerance (despite our history with Mughals) and this to some degree was an extension of that act. I wonder if we would practice a similar tolerance today in our Gurdwaras? When I think of my community, I am doubtful. Maybe it’s the changed socio-political backdrop of relationships between Sikhs and Muslims following partition or just the shear size of our communities in the Diaspora. What do you think? How about your community?

No Nishan Sahib = No Gurdwara

I often take many trips to Fresno to visit my friends and on this day I was visiting one of their work places. A number of people had told me about the new Gurdwara that was nearby and in seeking to pay my respects to our Guru, I went to pay a visit.

nanaksar.jpgWhile the building was large and beautiful, something caught my eye (or rather didn’t catch my eye). There was no Nishan Sahib to be found. The first thing that entered my mind was maybe this is NOT a Gurdwara, but rather some Dehra. But as I parked my car, the sign on the building made it clear – GURDWARA NANAKSAR.

After paying my respect to the Guru Granth Sahib, I went outside to ask why a Nishan Sahib was not on the grounds. I respectfully said Fateh to the Bhaiji and asked him this simple question. “Why is there no Nishan Sahib at the Gurdwara?”

The Bhaiji first talked to me about his baba Nand Singh and then went on to talk about how this in fact is not a gurdwara, but rather a dehra, where one can do bhagi and thus no need for a Nishan Sahib.

I understood his logic. This was NOT a Gurdwara, but then why label it a Gurdwara? Why not just be honest with the sangat and call it a dehra? The bhaiji’s answer was that we have to get permits from the City, County etc. thats why we call it a Gurdwara. At this point the bhaiji wanted no more to do with me, said some remarks, and left in a hurry.

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Raising awareness or a turban commodified?

A few days ago, Kenneth Cole unveiled one of his new ads on a wall of Rockefeller Center in New York City. The model is, surprisingly, a sardar.

kenneth-cole-sikh2.jpgMost Sikhs will be (and should be) proud to see a sardar breaking into an industry that traditionally has narrow ideas of beauty, desirability, or glamour… most of which don’t encompass the features -facial hair and turbans – that identify many Sikh men.

This ad is a breakthrough. Perhaps that’s what motivated the designer.

I’ve heard Kenneth Cole is socially conscious and apparently he uses his brand as a platform for campaigns on AIDS awareness, human rights, and alleviating urban poverty. (Even if the effectiveness of such a strategy is questionable, the motivation and effort should be appreciated.)

Maybe the ad is a reaction to national conversation that divides ‘us’ against ‘them’/the ‘other’ (reiterated in Monday’s State of the Union Address). Maybe it’s a visual trying to show that ‘us’ and ‘them’ are not so easily definable or distinguishable, breaking stereotypes of who ‘us’ and ‘them’ are. In that case, it’ll be an opportunity for many people to learn who Sikhs are and maybe break some stereotypes in the process. But in trying to break some stereotypes, is Kenneth Cole reinforcing others (the exoticism of the ‘other’)?

Something else makes me uncomfortable about this ad. Is something that’s supposed to be a symbol of high ideals, if not sacred itself (a sardar’s appearance), being commodified? If it is, is it inevitable that everything will one day be commodified?

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Can You Hear the Nightbird Call?

Dedicated to “The man on the bridge in Modinagar and the victims of Air India Flight 182,” Can You Hear the Nightbird Call?, is said to be one of the recommended reads for Sikhs everywhere. While there are numerous historical accounts of the Partition, Operation Bluestar, and the Delhi riots – this is one of the few fictional accounts I have come across where the same feeling and emotions rise to the surface as they do when we think back to those events.

The author, Anita Rau Badami recalls,

[It was] just after Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards. I’d been married two weeks. My husband and I were traveling back to Delhi after our honeymoon. In Modingar, a town close to Delhi, we saw a Sikh man standing on a bridge… his turban removed, his long hair unbound, his arms pinned to his sides by a car tire, surrounded by a group of hoodlums. Somebody tossed something at him and the next moment the man was on fire. [Link]

nightbird.jpgThis event is the seed for the novel. The story spans over half a century, from the Partition in 1947 to the Delhi riots following the events of 1984 and finally to the explosion of the Air India flight in 1985. It’s the story of the intersection between personal concerns and larger ethical and political ones. Bibiji, Nimmo, and Leela are the three main characters of the novel – three women whose lives merge and diverge by chance yet are linked through the political turmoil and destruction in Panjab, first during the 1947 partition and then again during the events of 1984. Bibiji grows up in Panjab and as a teenager manages to steal her sister’s husband-to-be and moves with him to Vancouver. Leela, a half-German woman from Banglore, also follows her husband to Vancouver and befriends Bibiji. Nimmo, my favorite character, remains in Delhi and is a direct witness to the partition. She is also Bibiji’s niece and in a twist of fate, she reluctantly agrees to send her oldest son, Jasbeer, to live with Bibiji in Canada. It’s a heartbreaking decision that Nimmo will come to regret. Interestingly, Badami’s three heroines were partly inspired by a collection of survivors’ testimonies published by People’s Union for Democratic Rights in 1984 about the impact of the Delhi riots.

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You a African? Do you know what’s happenin?

The Dead Prez song remains one of my favorites. For the past month or so, the violence and allegations of rigging following Kenya’s election has led the country to a dangerous standstill.

africa.JPGSince we concern ourselves with issues of the diaspora, too often our discussions are centered in the US, Canada, and UK. In trying to think of the greater Sikh community, our populations in South East Asia, Africa, and a number of different locales are often forgotten and overlooked.

With this in mind, I have been thinking about the Sikh population in Kenya (Many of us are familiar with Sikh-Kenyans in the US, UK, and Canada, due to their often high-levels of education, successful businesses, and distinctive pagris, this is an example of a unique exaggerated Kenyan style). Googling on the internet, I found an article in the Chandigarh Tribune, dated over 3 weeks ago, lamenting about the Punjab Government’s apathy towards the Punjabi community there as opposed to the Gujarat Government’s involvement. In that article, a comment was made that no Sikhs had yet been injured, but loss of property was substantial. I found another article discussing the Sikhs’ engagement with the issue and providing a refuge centered for those that have been displaced. This was particularly refreshing.

Here is another blog, written by a Sikh-Kenyan with some beautiful pictures of a Sikh camp held there a few years ago.

It seems Gurdwaras throughout Kenya are coming together on February 3rd to organize a ‘Sanjhi Ardas’ (United Prayer) and have simultaneous Sukhmani Sahib, Simran, and Kirtan in hopes for peace to that land.

While we have a few Kenyan (infrequent) readers to our blog, can any shed some light on the current political situation there?

SAAN 2008 and Vote or Die

Guest Blogged by Mewa Singh

Partially due to the rave reviews found at Sepia Mutiny, I flew out to Michigan this weekend to attend the annual SAAN (South Asian Action Network) Conference on the Ann Arbor campus. I had a number of different motives, not the least of which, was to make connections with other South Asian activists and learn something that may be of use to a certain conference in Fresno that I have helped with in the past.

voteordie.jpgThe conference was great. It was on-time, professional, the Michigan students were kind and courteous, and the speakers were top-notch. I had the pleasure to engage with South Asian academic/activists such as Vijay Prashad, Sunaini Maira, and Aasif Mandvi, among others.

While I have nothing but admiration for the overall conference and the tireless efforts of its coordinators and staff, there were some observations that I think may be of use for reflection amongst The Langar Hall community.

On a panel discussion, one presenter remarked one of the most important present ways to be an ‘activist’ is to vote. In particular she was canvasing for Obama calling for members of the audience to vote for Obama as ‘he is like all of us.’

Now I don’t really want to get into a conversation about candidates, some of the other bloggers have mentioned their support and active campaigning for him during these elections. I also think there is a marked difference for those that are willing to actively campaign and those that are self-satisfied by the mere act of voting. However, it didn’t sit well with me for someone to so easily hand out the word ‘activist.’ To be an activist takes much more than mere ‘voting.’ Participatory democracy fails if all one does is vote every four years. It takes much more to critically engage with your community and find solutions to existing problems, than merely vote for a person who you believe will do all the work for you. This is a cop out and in someways reckless advice. It breeds complacency, self-indulgence, and a smug sense of self-satisfaction. As Vijay Prashad mentioned earlier in a workshop, “Convenience is not liberation.”

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Sikhi, Light, and Social Activism

Recently, when I was watching Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra’s speech that he gave at a Gurdwara in Toronto in 1995, I found his metaphor of Light and Darkness particularly inspirational for social activist. He said (English translation of Panjabi),

“There is a fable that when the Sun was setting for the first time, as it was completing its journey, light was decreasing and the signs of Darkness were appearing. jyot.gifIt is said, lamentation was rife amongst the people that the Sun will set, Darkness will spread, no one will be able to see anything, and what will happen to us? Everybody was worried, but the Sun set. In order to show its strength, Darkness set its foot on the earth, but it is said – far away, in some hut, one little Lamp lifted his head. It proclaimed, “I challenge the Darkness. If nothing else, then at least around myself, I will not let it settle. Around myself I will establish Light.” And it is said, watching that one Lamp, in other huts other Lamps arose. And the world was amazed that these Lamps stopped Darkness from expanding, so that people could see. I believe, today when Darkness is trying to overwhelm Truth with full strength, then if nothing else, self-respecting Panjab, like a Lamp, is challenging this Darkness. And I pray to the Guru, who identifies with Truth to keep this light lit.”

Even though Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra was talking about all those individuals who make-up Panjab and were fighting against the Darkness of the lies prepuatated by the Indian State and were trying to spread the Light of Truth about the murders during the 1980s and 1990s, I would like to extend this metaphor to talk about local and global social activism. As Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra said about the Lamp, “I challenge the Darkness. If nothing else, then at least around myself, I will not let it settle. Around myself I will establish Light.” I believe our activism needs to start locally … we need to start with spreading Light around our local communities and preventing Darkness from engulfing them. Too often I have seen activism begin globally, but have little effect locally because we fail to understand how global issues take a unique form in the local context. Therefore, with little knowledge of the local context we try to implement global solutions that mean very little and let Darkness spread. Don’t get me wrong, I think the global and local should constantly be in dialogue and inform each other, but solutions are based on local implementation. As we become more strategic and effective at local implementation, I think we can inspire more Lamps to spread the light around themselves and begin to build local activism into a larger global social movement with practical solutions.

Also, as Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra spoke about how one Lamp arose and inspired other Lamps to also arise, I began to think how social activism is a form of seva which makes it a crucial component of our spiritual journey as Sikhs. To some degree, I kept equating the Lamp and it’s Light to the Divine Light that resides in all of us. As Sikhs, our spiritual journey is based on seeing the Divine Light (jyot) of Truth in others and ourselves. It is this recognition that makes us act. We act to fight the Darkness (i.e. injustice) that engulfs and dims the Divine Light in people and ourselves. As we allow this process to take place, our individual and communal Divine Light becomes more visible, larger, and stronger in fighting Darkness (i.e. injustice).

What does everyone else think?

Mental Health Today — are we serving our community?

Like many communities bifurcated by both their religious understanding (Sikhi) and their ethnic/racial identities (for many of us, Punjabi), there are unique challenges to providing comprehensive mental health services to immigrant communities. Within the context of California, this is not only compounded by a lack of language access, but also by the vast isolation and transportation difficulties for those in the more rural areas of the state. And on top of all of that, the sheer diversity of issues that face Sikhs in the U.S. — from torture and domestic violence to struggling with learning disabilities, substance abuse, or depression — can exacerbate the experience for those who may already feel stigmatized.

A small but growing body of work examining how the religious and ethnic context of Sikh and Punjabi identity reframe service provision. Within the ABD, Punjabi, Sikh community in the Bay Area, a growing number of public health students are focusing their research specifically on mental health services, underreporting, and (the lack of access to) treatment.

Recently at The Langar Hall, we’ve discussed a variety of topics that seem to come back to the issue of mental health, both in the U.S.-diaspora and in Indian Punjab. There are certainly unique historical factors that contribute to what feels like a high incidence of mental health needs in the Punjabi community, but perhaps there are other factors at well. And while a significant number of ABD Punjabis become health professionals, how many have the language access needed to deliver health services and comfort newer immigrants? Are there new initiatives taking place, or are new resources being provided via already existing organizations? Some organizations (particularly DV organizations) have begun visiting at places of worship to do intake, but the need for translators is always a limiting factor. There’s a lot of energy bubbling around this, but will we see it concretely manifested soon? Do you see the need for outreach and services in your own local community? Or do you know of services and resources that are religiously-sensitive and culturally relevant?

Farmer suicides continue…

A couple of years ago, in the farmer suicide capital of Punjab (Sangrur-Mansa belt), the first People’s Tribunal on farmers’ suicides took place, organized by the Human Rights Law Network and the Voluntary Health Association of Punjab. Word got out about the tribunal by word of mouth and women traveled to Lehragaga, Sangrur by bus and foot to have their stories heard and recorded.

farmer-suicides.jpgAs people from 10 villages spoke of how their families had witnessed double, even triple, suicides in a year, everyone knew of the havoc debt and unsustainable agricultural practice had wreaked on farmers in the state.

So they spoke fearlessly, revealing shocking details. National Samples Organisation data shows “whereas the average annual loan taken by farmers in India is Rs 13,000, the corresponding figure for Punjab is Rs 40,000.” It also shows that around 40 per cent Indian farmers want to quit farming due to the cost it involves.

Why are farmers in such debt? Agriculture is no longer the profitable livelihood it once was, yet many do not have the skills or education to turn to other forms of livelihood.

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dubois.jpgW.E.B. Du Bois’ concept of Double Consciousness is used to describe an individual whose identity is divided into several facets. I recently read a Mexican-American’s short autobiography on his own Quadruple Consciousness and to say I related to it would be an understatement. The writer has very distinct fragments of his consciousness that I personally am not able to define as of yet. But I can feel the internal struggle between the three, four, five however many there are.

I don’t want to rant on about the craziness that is in my head, but am curious as to what readers out there are experiencing. How many different “selfs” do each of you have? Does your gender play a role? Your family background? Your class? Your own religiosity?

Bruised Body, Mourning Mind, Soaring Spirit

Some readers to this blog may be aware of the great work done by Ensaaf in advocating for human rights. Jaskaran Kaur, Sukhman Dhami, Jasmine Marwaha and the rest of their team deserve the community’s praise for their tireless work advocating for justice in Punjab and beyond. They are among a number of fearless warriors in our community including HS Phulka, Jaspal Singh Dhillon, and the late great Jaswant Singh Khalra.

torture.gifHowever, in addition to their tireless efforts, they should be praised for bringing greater awareness to the wider community about the injustices perpetrated upon the Sikhs by the Indian State. One such example is in the latest edition of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

A team of researchers, including Dr. Andrew Rasmussen of New York University School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital, Dr. Barry Rosenfeld, Kim Reeves, and Allen S. Keller, secretly entered Punjab to conduct their research on Sikh torture victims. Evading the Indian Government’s efforts at censorship, the research team, invited by Ensaaf, documented the trauma suffered by these victims of state violence.

The article titled “The Effects of Torture-Related Injuries on Long-Term Psychological Distress in a Punjabi Sikh Sample” sheds light on the psychological ramifications of torture. The findings of the study are those typical of a scientific journal.

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