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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Mardi Gras!

Yesterday, the bunch of us went to a neighboring town to witness the Mardi Gras celebrations. What a pah-tay. The parade was a visual delight. The rest of the party was a spectacular spectacle of debauchery that we expected it would be. Not surprisingly, I was the only guy with a turban on. Most of the crowd was friendly or neutral and overall it was a nice not easily forgettable experience. Only twice did a few jerks call me Osama. I met a few other Sikhs there too. They were all monas and hence were deprived of the attention that I received.

On the way back home, in the car, my non-Indian friends were sympathetic and curious. They told me that one cannot do anything about other people's ignorance. And I told them what I have said several times before. I am really neither scared of nor bothered by any of that. In order to maintain my reputation of a "whiner", I added that what bugs me is when I get these damn rejections from Sikh girls coz I am too hairy. They all made me shut-up and told me to use my charms to win them over. Easier said than done. But watch out ladies, Hairy Harry is coming to steal your heart away. "In your dreams", I heard somebody say. Later on, the rest of us also whined about the fact that we were all still singles and had to go back to our humble lonely abodes. The brotherhood of bachelors. And the usual crap.

Anyways, all this is meant to take some heat away from the fierce battle that is going on in the "comments" section. Chill guys.

BTW, it seems like my sister, Puneet2 is trying to turn the tables on me. Well, it so happens that I started this whole blog just to tell people how young Sikh women are rejecting Sikh guys because of "hair" issues. I am sure you might have experienced some discrimination at the hands of some fundamentalists or whatever but surely I don't see that in my local Gurdwara. Mona Sikhs seem to be as much a part of the fractious management committees as any other kind of Sikh. At any rate, like I said I am not in favor of labeling monas as lesser Sikhs unless they feel that way in their own hearts. I can't argue about what is written where simply because I have neither the knowledge nor the erudition to prove that. I certainly believe Sikhi is more than just hair and other outward symbols but so far all I have experienced is more and more of younger Sikhs labeling those who do keep their hair as hyperreligious, orthodox or fundamentalist. I admit that my experiences are limited but so far I have only seen the turbaned Sikhs to be subjected to a bad attitude, both from outside the community and from within.

I am the last person to be hung up about the hair issue, even though it might not appear that way. It is a personal decision and although I can try to educate others about my thoughts, I do not believe in imposing my thoughts on others. My marriage is not going to be a tug-of-war between who should and who shouldn't keep their hair. Please. I care more about people than their hair or their castes or whatever. I expect my wife to accept me the way I am and she can expect no less from me. I have my personal belief system that I intend to nurture and follow for my lifetime. She is entitled to do the same. I am going to love her for who she is, which is a multitude of small things and not just for one isolated aspect. All I am saying is people should not judge people on whether they have facial hair or not and whether they tie a turban or not.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Neither hair nor there

I am amazed by how well educated some of my peers are about Sikhism. It is indeed heartening to know that young Sikhs are so well acquainted with Gurbani and Sikh principles. Compared to you guys, I am so naive.

Hair or no hair is indeed the million dollar question. I have already expressed my personal views on this issue. I am trained to analyze evidence and form opinions based on the merit of evidence. However, I have chosen to reserve my analytic faculties for my professional life. I study religion and spirituality to be closer to God. I have chosen to be a servant to God rather than a brat son. That might appear childish to some of you but that is how I have felt since my younger years and it is hard for me to divorce myself from that thought process.

I am not smart enough to quote Gurbani to support or refute one view or the other. Some of you are erudite enough to argue one way or the other and I am jealous of you for being so well conversant with Gurbani. I do not know whether Gursikhs are better Sikhs than monas or not. Thinking casually and perhaps selfishly, I would imagine that monas have taken the easy way out. Like I mentioned before, it is a matter of how comfortable one is with the "rules". Who knows if the "rules" themselves are valid or not? Who knows that whether "rules" should change with the changing times? All these are valid questions and the answers to these will determine the future of Sikhism. I do blame the so called Sikh leadership for failing to address these issues especially with the younger people.

More and more of us have become oblivious to our history. I am no expert in the field but I do realize that kesh did represent one's grit and determination to resist tyranny. Our times are certainly different from those centuries ago and a growing number of young Sikhs have questioned the relevance of such symbols in modern times. What is disturbing is the animosity between the two groups. I know of some Sikh families who would not even talk to a mona Sikh. The other way round is rampant too and all of you know that I know that personally. I personally am not a big fan of this rift and I certainly resent the implication that Gursikhs are fundamentalist. I value my relationship with God and follow the path that I think He chose for me. But I do not criticize others for following a different path.

Anyways, I am learning from all the debate. Thank you all for your comments.

Me, myself and I

Each one of us is a unique aberration of the time-space continuum. I am no exception to this rule. Who I am is a confluence of the multitude of influences of my genes and my experiences. I am a Sikh but I think it is unfair to say that one could make statements about Sikhs from who I am. I have never feigned to be a perfect Sikh. On the other hand, I consider myself merely a naive student of Sikhism. I am also a young guy. I also grew up in the backyard of Punjabi culture where often one's importance among one's buddies is based on the basis of how successful one is with women. Indeed, that is not unique to Punjabi culture. That is solely a guy thing. Some would argue that it is so superficial and so ridiculous but hey, it is out there.

It might be hard to believe but I am not desperate for women. I am just desperate to take the next step in my life. I am also impatient by nature and do not like to wait. In my younger years, I was often told:" Puttr, padai kar la. Life da kuch bana lai. Baki galan bad vich."( Son, study hard and make a life for yourself. Other things can wait). Well, I did exactly that. I deprived myself of worldly pleasures so that I could carve out a life for myself. At this point in my life, I need to focus on the other things. But surprise, surprise. The other things don't come easily either. It is a whole goddamn saga in itself. Hence, the so called desperation.

All I am saying to the non-Sikh readers is that please don't form opinions about Sikhs from my views about women. The vice-versa, however, may not be true.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Waiting for Magic

It was a gloomy day in Houston. The sky was overcast with splashes of grey and black. After the drizzle in the morning, there was the aroma of wet earth in the air. The scent of native earth that fills my nostrils and evokes strong memories of back home. I tried to look outside the window but it was dark outside and all I could see in the window was a reflection of myself. My eyes met the eyes of my reflection and incited a million thoughts in my mind. Introspection inside out.

It is amazing how our priorities change with time. There was a time where all I wanted was to complete my education and establish a career. There was a time where all other things did not influence me. There was also a time when I was deeply immersed in spiritual pursuits. Most of my time was occupied by reflection and comprehension of the world around us. Trying to make sense of who I was. God, family, friends and career have been my priorities throughout. But now, more and more of my time is being spent in something I never thought would be so hard.

Yesterday, I received my usual quota of rejections from various matrimonial sites. Interestingly enough, some of the people were gracious enough to mention their reasons. One lady said:" Um Hun, sorry I am not that religious". Very interesting indeed. I never thought being religious would be am impediment to me being a good husband. Maybe it was another way to say that she did not want a turbaned guy. Good for her.

Some of the people have commented in the last post that perhaps it is best for me to quit my quest and let God, my Father, take control of my affairs. Well, as far as I am concerned, He was in charge every second of the way. I am not going to lie that tiny molecules of bitterness have started to deposit themselves over my psyche. It is not that I am dying to get married or something. It is just that this process has been so inefficient and so tedious that it has started to get boring and prosaic. I wish marriage was like an exam. One could study for it, work hard and had a good chance of doing well. Unfortunately, this is so random, so arbitrary and has a million different variables that are almost impossible to predict.

Anyways, as it is, I am not actively doing anything. I get a few offers from family and friends here and there which I must evaluate. Other than that, I am lying pretty low. Hopefully, the clouds will scatter away and a ray of light will shine through.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


It turns out that people have often asked me if I have not met anybody at the local Gurudwara. It is true that for the Sikh diaspora like myself, the local Gurudwara is the only place one could meet and interact with other Sikhs. I go to my local Gurdwara every time I am not working on the weekends. I do meet other Sikh people.

However, the thought of meeting women at the Gurdwara is too revolting for me. I go to the Gurdwara to pay my respects to God and hopefully listen to some keertan and learn something new. It is true that I do not need to go there to pay my respects. I could do it anywhere anytime. But I do enjoy listening to the keertan and the langar is no less of an attraction. On the other hand, when I think about checking out women at the Gurdwara, guilt and remorse overwhelm me. My upbringing in a traditional Indian household means that the negative association between religion and amorous feelings is hardwired into me. I know God does not want me to be single( I hope He doesn't) but I can't bear the thought of ogling at women in His presence. I admit that sometimes inadvertently I have found myself indulging in the same process but every time I have realized that, I choke and I start reciting Japji Sahib hoping that God will forgive me. I figured that I am going to save my suitor skills for other places.

It is true that I could meet people who might be looking for grooms for their daughter's and maybe they will like me and something could work out. Well, here is the problem and now I am going to replay the blame game. Most of the people I have met are neck deep in the caste or turban stuff. Period. Nothing else matters to them. And so, I feel I don't have a fair chance.

Anyways, I did not mean to insult Khatri Sikhs in my other post. Part of the reason is that I was born into a Khatri Sikh family myself. The other part is that I don't believe in castes and care more about people than their surnames.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Mi amour

I have often thought about who I would like as my wife. I have been questioned about this several times as well. All the folks who are helping me in my quest have all asked me about this. But to tell you the truth, I am not sure I can give a precise description of the woman that I think will rock my world. After reading Percy Shelley,Keats et al, my vision of my woman is all a mist.

As a person, I conceptualize better in abstract terms. I think about God in abstract ways. A lot of times, we think about our partners based on their resumes. People want to marry a doctor or an engineer or whatever. There is logic behind it and I understand it. Maybe I would prefer somebody from my own field as well. If I think in conventional terms, I would think I would be attracted to someone intelligent, professionally qualified and someone who has ambition and some dreams to crystallize. Somebody told me that we seek our own image in our partners. I concur with that thought. I am an intense person myself and I think I like people with passion.

It is when I think about the personal attributes of my princess that it becomes vague. I like it when I smell love on sniffing the air after entering my home. I like it when there is a gentle breeze of romance flowing through the relationship. Some people believe that couples shouldn't have to express their love all the time. I don't share their belief. I like communication and giving free rein to once's feelings. I don't like it when people have to suppress their emotions because they are afraid of what others will think about it. I am not saying that one should roam naked in one's house but one should be able to vent out one's feelings on a regular basis. I love it when people do small things to make the other person feel special. At the same time, a random kiss on the go, breakfast in bed blah blah should be allowed. Some cynics have told me that after two years into a marriage, I will be too jaded to provide or expect such tokens of love. That is a distinct possibility and something that sends shivers down my spine. The last thing I would want is a lifeless killjoy marriage where people are together for the sake of maintaing the semblance of marriage that once was. Maybe I will grow old and my thoughts will change but right now, the thought scares me.

Sometimes I think that part of the reason it has been tough is because I don't know who I want. At least that is what my parents tell me. Every two weeks, they call me to tell me that they think they have found the "one". And then something or the other just doesn't gel and it all falls apart. My friends accuse me of being too picky. I don't think I am. I just want to be sure that I am going to make the right decision. I don't want to say to myself two months into a marriage:" Harry, what were you thinking?'

I admit I have only vague ideas of who I want to spend the rest of my life with. Maybe it doesn't have to be a hard thing. Maybe I can just marry the next person that I meet (provided she agrees). If I were to use my brains, I would have married the first girl my parents wanted me to marry. The problem is that it is my heart and not my brain in the driver's seat. Sometimes I think I am behaving like a pubescent teen on a heavy dose of Mills and Boon (although my puberty was aeons ago). Whatever.

Talking of Shelley, here is a piece from Indian Serenade. If only I could see her face in my dreams.

I arise from dreams of thee
In the first sweet sleep of night,
When the winds are breathing low,
And the stars are shining bright;
I arise from dreams of thee,
And a spirit in my feet Hath led me - who knows how?
To thy chamber-window, sweet!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Two to Tango

It has been my endeavour to alternate the themes of my posts between my quest for a wife and the larger issues affecting Sikhism that I think are important. My love life (or the lack of it) is presented for the consumption of cynical eyes in the hope that a few people will start thinking about those issues as well. It is ok if some people derive amusement from my hardships. That is only natural human behaviour. I still appreciate people's unsolicited and sometimes spite-laden words of wisdom. I appreciate their concern to make me a better candidate with the ladies. Keep up the effort.

We, as a people, have inherent divisive tendencies. Our relegion was founded to unite people. We have still managed to etch out artificial lines among ourselves. There are Jats and non-Jats, there are turbaned Sikhs and there are Monas, and there are also FOBs and ABDs. A few people have suggested that these are all my hallucinations. They have postulated the hypothesis that I "blame" these demarcations for the fact that I am wifeless. In the big scheme of things, it does not matter if I remain a bachelor all my life. I hope and I know that that will not be the case. The fragmentation that I see evolving in my religion however does matter. Does it matter what I think about it? Maybe not. I can go on with my life, pretending to ignore everything but I can't.

Some women readers have been candid enough to say that the Sikh swaroop is not a no-no for them. That is consolation to me and perhaps scores of others. I know some of my Sikh buddies do feel more confident to approach a Sardarni knowing now that there might be a good chance that they will not be rejected for their appearance. I mean there are still hordes of Sikh women out there who will scorn a turbaned suitor but it is good to know that there are still a few women who will at least try to look beyond the hair. Whatever...

Continuing the blame game, I will now focus on the Jats vs the rest of Sikhs issue. I am anticipating a lot of heat on this issue but that is ok. Hubris was the sin of the Greeks and I am afraid that a big majority of Sikhs is guilty of the same. Speaking of personal experiences, there have been innumerable instances when I have been rejected by women because I am not a Jat. We all know of how Jats are superior than others, how the Khatris(or Bhapas) are a bunch of money-hoarding untrustworthy lot blah blah blah. These notions have travelled down generations and it is sad that neither education nor contact with the Western civilization has done much to alter people's thoughts. If I am not a Jat or if I wear a turban, that automatically makes me a lesser person in the eyes of others. Some of you will again accuse me of making all this up. But honestly, I know this to be a fact and all you have to do is visit chat rooms or your local Gurdwara to witness it.

The reason that I raise these issues in the context of my quest for a wife is because that is the only place where these issues are relevant to me and they affect me directly. My relationship with Sikhism consists mostly of self-study and meditation. Most of my friends are non-Sikhs. My relationship with Sikhs(not Sikhism) is only when I visit the Gurdwara or when I am trying to look for a wife. Both the times, I come face to face with the issue of my caste or my turban or my status as a FOB.

Writing this post, I think I am commiting this blog to its harakiri. That is fine. My quest and my devotion to my religion will go on.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Guilty as charged

I guess I will have to plead guilty to the charges of "pathetic" and "judgemental" I am accused of. I am indeed a salt and pepper mix of those things but I will have to say that I have other spices as well. Here is a snippet from Sex and the City:" You shouldn't judge anybody till you have walked a mile in their shoes". I urge you to walk a block in mine before making up your mind. But honestly, things are not that bad. I seem to employ the tool of hyperbole a bit in excess to make my points. Perhaps, I should use it more sparingly.

V Day was not that bad. I decided to dress up in the spirit of the day. I put on a neat maroon turban and a red striped shirt to match it. Work was usual but then I ran into this cutie at work for whom I have always had the hearts for (in a shareef way) even though I know she is already dating someone else. She smiled and asked me:" Harry, you are all dressed up in red today. What's up?". I replied:" Miranda(not her real name), it's all for you. I am your rose today. Complete with petals and a stick." This was culminated by the blink of my left eye. She blushed, smiled and bit her lower lip and said" Stupid". Now, my cousins who have been educating me since childhood in female body language would have told me that it was a good sign. Just kidding. Just a funny thing that happened today.

Later, I met up with my friends and spent some time togther listening to romantic hindi songs and fantasising about our honey's.

On a different note, it seems that the FOB vs ABD argument is kinda getting steamy. I apologise if somebody's feelings have been hurt by stuff on this blog.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Days of My Life

Tomorrow is the V Day. No special day for me. The Sun will rise in the east again, my alarm clock will pour molten lead into my ears again and I will run off to work again trying to be on time but will probably be late again. I will, perhaps, see a lot of pink around and perhaps a lot of roses. I will try to ignore them but then silently a crack will appear in my heart. They say there is no noise when the heart breaks. I kinda agree with that. It has happened before and it will happen again. No special day.

I will meet people. I will smile with them. I will hear their stories of how they will be going out with their significant others blah blah blah. I will go out with my single dude friends as well and we will all bitch and moan and laugh it all away. We will find excuses and curse the fairer half of humanity in a feeble attempt to condone our own frailties. And then we will pretend to forget everything over a cup of coffee. Silently inside, a crack will persist in my heart. I will try to put a band-aid on it but I am afraid it will develop into a pus draining sore. Nasty but true and painful.

I know I seem to whine a lot. People think I am trying to put the blame on others for the fact that I have no one to give a stupid rose to. Subconsciously that might be true. Consciously, however I am just narrating what I have experienced. It would be so nice if I were to fall in love with somebody and she were to reciprocate that and we were to get married. I have tried to make that happen but call it luck or whatever but that has not happened. It is not easy to meet single Sikh women with the kind of lifestyle I have. All I have now is the "arranged marriage" route. Sadly enough, when you go this route, you learn how many hurdles there are in this path. You find out, sometimes to your dismay, how many preconceptions and prequalifications one has to satisfy before one becomes "eligible". For instance, H1 tried to get in touch with somebody whose daughter was of a marriageable age. Well, supposedly the girl was not interested for the simple reason that she would not want to be with a FOB( I was told turban was not an issue). That is a ok. Everybody is entitled to their own decisions but when you are in a vulnerable state of mind, sometimes you ponder and reflect over why people made those decisions. I never met that girl and for once, I really don't care why she thinks whatever she thinks about FOBs. To me, it was another instance of people stereotyping people and that is kinda touchy for me.

I apologise for lumping all American-Indians into the category of "confused". For the record, I am very good friends with a number of American born people of Indian origin and my experiences have mostly been pleasant. It is true there are cultural differences between the two but none of those are insurmountable. I also know of FOBs who will stoop to any level to get a visa. Like I said in my last post, I can partly understand the way ABD's think about FOBs. However, I was suprised to find the degree of negativity towards FOBs. Ms Singh's vitriolic comment on my last post is an apt example. QED, madam. But I just wanted to let people know of the new face of FOBs. And personally, I don't care if my princess is from India or the US or from the North Pole. As long as we have magic between us, it is all cool. My well-wishers have "arranged" for proposals from India as well as the US and continue to do so. The process is interesting and I can't help but make observations.

On the whole, I think it is just the nature of the game. There are too many prerequisites to meet. Clean shaven, Jatt, non-FOB . I am none of those. I know I will still find a wife. It's just going to be harder.

On a lighter note, I am suprised it took people so long to realize that I am dashing etc etc etc. BTW, I have tried to approach women directly and have had a few hilarious experiences. That is a story for another day. Today, I have to arrange a bucket for all the tears I am going to shed tomorrow.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Too FOBy

I was talking to one of my friends the other day and during our conversation, I had a revelation. She was trying to help me in my quest and as part of that effort, she called one of her friends(Person #2) who knew another girl( Girl#1) who was eligible. So, she is talking to Person#2 and I overheard bits and pieces of their conversation. "So, who is this guy again? A FOB?". I know eavesdropping is not cool but that was completely unintentional.

Anyways, that was intriguing. I asked my friend if that was an important consideration for ABCD girls."Of course", she said. Oh Oh. Am I in the wrong neighbourhood or what?. Here I am. A turbaned Sikh and now also a FOB. I mean I was always a FOB but I never knew chicks( no disrespect) will hold that against me. My friend assures me that I am unlike most FOBs she has known. But I wonder why ABCDs care about that anyway

On more thought, I can partly see where they are coming from. True to the epithet given to them, they are confused. They still think people from the motherland are poorly dressed, uncultured uncool money-lusting aliens who are not good enough for displaying to their American friends. Oh Please. I mean most FOB kids I know are so unlike that. Sure, they have a little bit of accent and they can't roll their Rs as well as their American counterparts but most of them are highly educated, ambitious, smart chaps. They like to groom well and they do spend their hard earned money, albeit a bit more thoughtfully. They all are doing extremely well in their careers and do great on the social scene as well. The new crop of FOBs is unlike anything you have seen before. These are not kids who ran away from poverty back home to make a living here but they are the go-getters and are here to make a mark.

So Ladies, don't assume. FOB is not = to Full of Bull. Explore and you shall not be disappointed.

BTW, FOB is an acronym for "Fresh off the Boat", an uncool slang for people who were not born and brought up in the country of their residence.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

More on My Sikhi

My Sikhi does not hold me back. I understand it is my own version of Sikhi. Most other people have their own version as well. It is a futile debate as to whose Sikhi is better than the rest because people will always come up with reasons to justify their own. Our conception of Sikhi is formed as a result of our own experiences and our upbringing. The reason I mentioned my story of my premature birth and all that stuff is not to bore anybody to death but to merely illustrate the point that our thinking about Sikhi is fashioned by the factors I mentioned above. My Sikhi is a visceral feeling. It does not originate from a precise elaborate deliberate analysis of Sikh teachings. It is who I am and where I come from.

Keeping kesh or not is obviously a matter of how comfortable one is with the "rules". There are more and more of us who think that perhaps God does not care about how many hair follicles have sprouted on your face. Perhaps, He doesn't. Perhaps, all He cares about is what you do with the rest of your life. Perhaps, He cares about your sense of charity and truthfulness and all the other goodies that you know as well as I. But having been brought up in a Sikh family, I have been told that keeping kesh is part of His design for me. That in and of itself is good enough for me. Everytime I had thought of cutting my hair, I think of that first morsel of Prasad that my parents put in my toothless mouth. I can still taste it and then reverence and guilt overwhelm me and I forget about it. I think of the countless times I have stood with my hands folded and my head bowed in ardaas and asked for kes-daan. How can I forget all that? I am just not comfortable with shutting my eyes to the relationships I have forged with God in my life. Like I said, it is a matter of comfort.

I never thought what others think of my Sikhi would ever make any difference to me. Although it was tough in the beginning but now I don't really care what other non-Punjabis assume about me. It is understandable that they may misconstrue my thoughts on the world. I can somehow understand their position. What bothers me, however, is what my own people think of me?
Most days, when I am in full control of my sanity, I can withstand a lot of nasty stuff without problem. But then again, I am an ordinary mortal. There are days when I see what more and more of young Sikh people around me perceive about the Sikh swaroop and it bothers me. Even though, I don't think women's opinion is any yardstick to measure one's Sikhi in but as a young guy it does matter when people who should have understood me don't seem to. These feelings do not generate self-doubt in me. Only bitterness and chagrin. I know I have chosen a path in life which is at the very least not commonplace. I know I can reason out composure for myself and be untouched with the fast changing thoughts around me. But sometimes it hurts when people assume things about you and toss your feelings around with utter disregard to the person behind the hair. Anyways, just a thought. Just who I am. An emotional fool.

My litany goes on. Here is what Robert Frost said in "A Road less taken":

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

My Sikhi

Thank you Puneet2 for asking a very important question. I have pondered over that question several times myself. I think the question is just a variation of the self- identity question that Freud said every human being asks himself. We, as humans, have the insatiable curiosity to find out who we are in relation to this Universe and in relation to God. As Sikhs, this question becomes even more pertinent because not only do we ask ourselves that question but the rest of the world seems to inquire about our identification on a daily basis.

Let me address your question in two steps. First, let me explain why I keep my kesh. And in the next post, I shall try to argue if I think Sikhism is a static religion. Unfortunately, both posts are going to be very verbose. They will perhaps be unstructured as well but I assure you it will all be straight from the heart.

For me, this is what Sikhi means.

I was a premature baby. My parents tell me that I was in the ICU for almost a month. After they got me out of the hospital, they took me to the Gurdwara in our city and put the Sacred Jal in my mouth. I smiled, they tell me. They also tell me that after they tried to put some Prasad in my mouth, I seemed to relish it immensely. Since then, my parents have inculcated in me the basic religious values that every Indian parent passes onto their kids. They wanted me to go to the Gurdwara frequently, which I did. They wanted me to memorize the first few Pauris of Japji Saheb ,which I did. I was an obedient kid, you know. Then as I grew up and my mind started to think on its own, I started to find reasons for what my parents were asking me to do. This was a journey of self realization. I started reading about religion, God and spirituality. Like any other confused teen, my mind was in turmoil. Yeah, I would go to the Gurdwara before my exams and ask Babaji to help me score good grades. Yeah, I would bow before Babaji and ask for a good career. But sometime then, I don't know how but I started to see the big picture. I realized that God was indeed my Holy Father and I loved him not because he would help me get good grades or get a bike on my birthday but because I had love for him.

Later on, as I grew up, I found that intellectuals have labeled the above model of religion as the "Paternalistic model", whereby God is looked upon as a fatherly figure and His wishes are deemed as paternal commands. I was kind of hooked onto this model for a long time. It kind of gave me the justification for getting up earlier than my friends every morning and clumsily wrapping seven meters of cloth around my head. There were days when my turban would not be perfect and those days, my mind would be roiled up in a million twists. I would question myself the whole logic of doing something which took so much effort only to make me look weird. But then most days I would be at peace with myself. I continued to go to the Gurdwara and for some strange reason, every time I would bow before SGGS, I would feel inner peace. I would feel something inside me grow stronger and I felt like a better person. I could barely understand the keertan but for some reason, the melodies lingered on in my mind and strengthened what I later realized was my devotion. I found a love for God that seems to spring from the innermost nooks of my soul. I did not understand Him, I did not comprehend Him but I loved Him. One of my cousins had told me:" The more you analyze, the more respect for God you lose". So, I just followed along. I just loved God and did what others told me was His bidding. It was a general love for God rather than precise knowledge of Sikh edicts that made me wear the turban.

For a long time, my knowledge of Sikhism was elementary. To be very honest, even now I am only a student of Sikhi. I am aware of the broad principles that our Gurus have put forth but I do not understand Gurbani fully. And the simple reason is that I don't understand the language. Like most young Sikhs, I feel more comfortable expressing myself and understanding English than archaic Punjabi. Like most Sikh kids, my parents tried to teach me basic principles of Sikhism but were unable to go beyond that. And again, like most Sikh youth, I was so busy trying to make a career that I never devoted time to understand the minutiae of Sikhism. Yeah, I had read Vivekananda and Henry Thoreau but I never read Sahib Singh. Even though I have been brought up in Punjab, that does not mean that by default, I received a good education in Sikhism. And I was by no means alone. Most of my Sikh friends could not tell you the name of our 10 Gurus if you asked them. Since everybody around you was wearing a turban and growing a beard, you had to do it too. Most of us never questioned that. There were a few rebellious brats who would do the unthinkable of cutting their kesh but they were the "bad boys" and hence considered an object of abhorrence. Strangely enough, they were also thought of as "Jatt" sikhs who for some weird reason had the divine right to do as they please with their kesh. Anyways, none of that ever bothered me. I was part of a larger crowd and the cushion of familiarity was good enough to maintain my calm.

9/11 and the tragic murder of some Sikhs following that was the first shock for me. I had always heard how Sikhs were doing so well in UK, Canada and the US. Overnight, that perception changed. Suddenly, Sikhs were targets of "mistaken identity". To my dismay, I learnt that even though Sikhs had done so well abroad but the Sikh swaroop had not enjoyed that prosperity. Most turbaned Sikhs had relegated themselves into small unknown towns where they would good money but never got integrated into the American society. Most of the new FOB's were too afraid to be made mistaken victims of the post 9/11 frenzy and would rather have a hair-cut at Frankfurt than land on the American soil with a turban on their head. I came to USA 1 year after 9/11. I had heard lot of horror-stories and I think people almost expected that I would cut off my hair. But I didn't. I guess the love for God and that association with the Gurdwara that I had formed as a child won over. For my first few days in the US, I felt afraid, very afraid. But then God gave me the strength to go out and carry on with my life and career. The external things keep on changing but for some reason, my inner being refuses to give in.

It is only now that I am in the US and by the grace of God, well settled in my career, that I have rekindled the passion to learn more about my religion. I have started to read English translations of the Sikh texts and I have joined Gurmat classes. I am mature enough that I can understand a lot of things and so far, my love for Sikhism and God in general has only multiplied. I was aware of how Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji formed the Khalsa and how the tradition of tying the turban became a part and parcel of Sikh life but only now I realize the significance of not giving in to pressure. The turban is a sign of human resilience against tyranny. It is easy for a confused mind to question the relevance of turban in today's life. I don't think that analyzing and over-analyzing Sikh philosophy helps that confusion either. I think it is unconditional love and surrender to God that brings peace to the mind.

I will wrap up this post by saying that I can not give any logical answer why I keep my Sikhi swaroop. But more importantly, I do not need a logical answer. Maybe it is some thing that has been indelibly imprinted on my mind, may be it is my sense of duty to the invisible Parmatama. I don't know but now I know that I don't need any logic.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Is Cupid listening?

It was my day off today. I languished in bed till late morning. With great effort, I dragged myself out of my bed and made myself some coffee. As I stood in the balcony sipping my cup of lukewarm coffee and listening to the wind rustle my wind-chimes, it hit me. It is February. The month of St. Valentines and for someone like me, the month that brings bile to mouth. Shit, I told myself. Last year I had promised myself that this year would be my last year as a bachelor. It would be the last year when I would utter profanities on seeing a couple walk hand in hand oblivious to the world around them. Of course, the profanities being directed at myself rather than at the couple. That goes without saying.

I live in a country where overt expression of affection is the rule rather than exception. Even in India, things are changing rapidly and it is so common to see young clueless noveau amores ( I think that is a word but read new lovers) walk around with the girl chuckling and blushing ,carrying a teddy or a red rose in her hand and the guy, content with his conquest and thinking of all the steamy stories he is going to tell his buddy. Anyways, it is kind of hard to be surrounded by this sea of love, if all you have is yourself and an imaginative mind. If only I were dumb enough not to be affected by things around me.

Anyways, sometimes I think Cupid has been unfair to me. I have been the object of his target practice for too long. I wish he were kind enough to turn his bow towards a femme fatale ,shoot an arrow with my name written on it and make me happy.

Cupid Bhaji, are you listening?

Thursday, February 02, 2006


It is funny how sometimes there is just one unique word which alone can capture your emotions. For example, what I feel these days, words like loneliness, solitude etc fail to express it fully. "Tanhai" on the other hand clearly expresses the full strength of the emotion. The word has strong undercurrents of personal anguish which other terms are clearly devoid of.

I am lucky to have a rather wide circle of friends. I work almost 70 hrs a week and there is a lot of interactions with colleagues and people in general. My life is hectic and there is litlle time to feel anything. And then I also like to go out. There are parties, get togthers, conferences and what not. People and more people. I talk to people, I dance with people and I listen or sometimes pretend to listen. There are female friends too who are mostly married, or going steady or too good for me. It is all fun. I believe it was Francis Bacon who wrote:"The bigger the crowd, the lonelier you are". Only now I realized how right he was.

I then get back home and then it hits me. There she is ,the biatch. Tanhai.(Forgive my French, but again Profanity alone can do full justice to my emotions). I move around and she follows me.I try to study but as I am flipping through the pages of my books, I hear her giggle. She taunts me with images of the mystery girl. Fleeting images of a pearly ankle, of a killer smile and of a nervous kiss. She drives me crazy and then I flip open my laptop and start writing.

Later, as I try to sleep and battle against insomnia, right then ,in the twilight zone before sleep, my princess comes back again and whispers sweet nothings in my ear. I struggle to see her but all efforts are futile. I give up and Tanhai pushes me into La-La land.

The other time I see her is when I am in the kitchen. I can't and choose not to cook. As I am ransacking the refrigerator trying to put togther a joke of a meal, I see her standing near the kitchen counter munching a succulent piece of chicken tikka masala. I curse her and as I am trying to crush the cold hard piece of bread, the third eye of my mind wanders off and I see my princess. There she is, standing in the kitchen. Cooking for me. I come from behind and embrace her. I try to kiss her but she stuffs a piece of food in my mouth. Not bad, I say and then she vanishes away. BTW, I am not the kind of man who thinks that women's place is the kitchen. It is just my hungry stomach playing tricks on my nutty mind.

I have considered the possibility that I might be going crazy. I have even considered self medicating myself with Prozac. But my friends tell me I am not crazy. They tell me I am not a pervert either. They tell me that I am just ready. Ready to end my bachelorhood.

So, those are the two women in my life. Tanhai and Tamanna. I hope Tanhai leaves me soon and my princess walks into my life.

So kyon manda Akhyia....

Friends, sisters and Blog readers, I am lovin' it. It is so interesting to know what my peers think about the issues I consider very important. I respect everybody's opnion. I understand that this blog might have acquired a slightly sexist tone but I assure you that I respect women. Even those who have and continue to break my heart. The title of this post is what Shri Guru Nanak Devji has enjoined upon all of us to do. And certainly, I am a zealous follower of that. For those of you who might not be familiar with Gurbani, here is a simple paraphrase: "Why should be slander the women for they are those who have borne the kings?"

I think it is really a chicken and egg problem. And it is impossible to ferret out a cause and effect relationship. Do Sikh men want to change their appearance because they feel that Sikh women would rather prefer them shorn of what their religion has bestowed upon them? Or is it the other way round? Do Sikh women want clean shaven guys because there is a paucity of Gursikhs? The longer I ponder over these questions, the more the former appears to be closer to the truth. I am certainly biased, given an ordinary mortal that I am. Some of you have rightly observed that the both the sexes are responsible for the corruption that has almost become rampant in our faith. I also don't think it is a lost battle. It is a battle worth fighting for and I am all for picking up the arms.

Ok. I also think that in all this hubbub, the object of my mission is perhaps getting lost, which is, if I may remind you, my wife. You guys can fight out among yourself but please be cognizant of the fact that I am still sleeping with my mistress (aka loneliness) and I am sick of her. I need to move on. Like the surface of the moon, my heart also has a lot of craters. I have now started to name some of those lest I should forget who caused which one. In my next few posts, I shall describe the anatomical features of those craters. So, why don't we all hang up our swords for a while and focus on what is also very important to me: the extermination of my bachelorhood.

Last but not least, for the brother who wants me to be more confident, I appreciate your advise but this is what I learnt in school:"Fools walk in where angels fear to tread". I am all for confidence and I know girls liks confident dudes. I have tried that and trust me that has landed me in some very awkward situations. More on this later...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Spare me the wrath

Boy, did I get myself into trouble or what? It seems like I have touched some people's Achilles heel. Ladies, give me a break. I had said from the outset that I am no expert on these matters. I expressed my opinion on some very pertinent questions based on information gathered through personal experience as well as conversations with friends. It is indeed sad how the counter-arguments have utilized personal attacks to make a point while they could have easily done without those. Just because I have the guts to say my mind aloud does not mean that I am a fat (non-atheltic), inconfident looser who can't get a date. I don't think personal slandering like that will serve anyone's purpose. That should not blind us to the fact of the day that the Sikh swaroop is loosing its acceptance among young Sikh women.

First of all, let me get one thing out of the way because it has been grating against my soul. I do not wear a turban to please or displease others. I do not care if my thoughts on issues I feel strongly about turns anybody off or on. I have strong beliefs in my religion and in God. I have profound respect for my culture and my decision to wear the Sikhi swaroop springs from that. If I had an iota of discomfort with that, I would have changed it a long time ago. We can pretend to shut eyes and believe that there is not a persistent erosion of Sikh values among the newer generation. Log into any matrimonial site and make the effort to read the last line of most profiles:"I want a clean shaven man". Those words may mean nothing to a lot of you but to somebody like me who cares about his relegion and his culture, those are harbingers of doom.Look at Sikh men around you where an increasing number of them have trimmed beards and perhaps trimmed souls. I agree that there are a lot of Sikh women out there who would love to marry a full Sardar but unfortunately, their number is ebbing. "Finding a Wife" is not a looser's tale of finding a suitable girl; it is my effort to bring to fore the strong cultural metamorphosis that we as a people are undergoing. I am pretty sure I will find a nice wife. God has been extremely merciful to me and I know He will take care of me. But this is not just about me. My experiences have unraveled to me the "trials and tribulations" of young Sikh men who feel being the object of rejection because of their attire. Most are too shy or too lazy to let out their feelings. But not me. People have called me nuts because I am letting my personal life being exposed to the scrutiny of the cruel world where people are quick to sling mud, but that is ok. I feel that this should be a matter of debate and I am happy that at least people are talking about it.

For every example that you give me of a smart Sikh guy with a lot of women, I can quote a hundred examples of Sikh women who are dating non-Sikh guys because they think it is uncool to date a Sardar. It is indeed unfortunate that most of the commenters have even failed to acknowledge that truth. Maybe I live on Mars, maybe I am not as bright as others but if I can see beyond the hypocrisy, anybody can. I had mentioned a lot of things under my post:" Judge us Not". I do not wish to repeat myself but generally speaking, if I whine and if I complain, why do people assume that something is wrong with me? I write this blog not for kicks or because I am an idle no good person but because I am hurt by what is going around me and becasue I care. I could have said those things in a matter-of-fact prosaic fashion but I chose to say them colored with crimson humor. Maybe they need to take a closer look around themselves and then start judging me.

Last thing, I can't believe people have issue against my going to a club. But, I should not be surprised. We live in a cynical world(myself included) where color comes in black or white. Where hypocrisy trounces honesty. I think it is high time when people start leaving their holier than thou attitudes and finally start talking about serious issues. I do not think it is appropriate for me to defend my club going or what I did there. I shall leave that to people's obviously fertile imagination.

I am sorry if I seem to have a slightly confrontational attitude. The price of honesty is that people get offended. It has engendered a few very interesting comments and I consider them valuable even though I wish they were less personally directed and had more logic to them.