Sunday, June 22, 2014

Kurbani Kaur Part Two

by Sukhmandir Kaur

Then one day her beloved brother was in an industrial accident at work. His beard was caught in machinery, and nearly half was yanked out. He suffered, pain and shame. He sat behind Baba ji, and read from the new Siri Guru Granth Sahib, this one had just one line. She wanted to try to read it, but didn’t dare. As she watched her brother’s lips moving, while he recited Gurbaani, a glow lighted him.
Photo © [S Khalsa]
Photo © [S Khalsa]
Looking at his face with half his beard missing, suddenly she saw herself, how she looked when she pulled out half her whiskers. All this time she had thought she was disfigured when her hair grew, yet it dawned on her consciousness now that actually all these years she had been disfiguring herself by removing her hair and painting her face. Even some other ladies in the community had followed her mistakes. She went to her room and wept some more. She had tried so hard, and it had all ended in failure. She had taken off her tight white knits, and started wearing Salvaar Kameez over her Kachhera, wearing black to reserve her inner strength. Removing the white turban she had grown up in, in favour of a Keski (small under-turban), she tied a black one and had worn it day and night, despite many protests from the children’s father. She slept in her Kirpaan, and Kachhera, and kept all 5 of her Kakkaars (articles of faith), even during ishnaan (bathing), and had never ever removed her Karha since the first day she put it on, 20 years ago. And still she failed. She had struggled to learn her Nitnem, gotten up at 3:30am every morning for Amrit-vela, and done Naam Simran for at least an hour, for the past year or two. She carefully never ate outside and did all her cooking in her own utensils, yet still she failed miserably.
She failed because she hadn’t understood. But now she did understand, and she firmed her resolve never to make foolish mistakes again.
k7Vaisakhi day came and she went alone to the Guru-Roop Panj Pyaare weeping. They would not allow her without the children’s father. She wept harder, “He is fed up with me.” She wept so piteously that they accepted her but with restrictions until the children’s father came also before Panj Pyaare. She was so grateful.
They gave her some instructions to recite Baani (prayers) and told her “Do not touch your face, it is poison.”
She wore the Kesri Keski (saffron colour small turban) that she received in the Amrit Sanchaar for nearly a year after, day and night as her Chunni (scarf) and touched her face only with the Kesri Kapraa (cloth) covering her hands between it and face until her hands could be trusted to touch with love rather than remorse. The children’s father had been completely fed up with her and had threatened her security. But she knew that just as she had struggled with change; he also was going through incredible adjustments. Of course that didn’t really make it any easier to deal with the flares of anger, but it drove her closer to Guru Sahib, her shelter, her honor, as she frequently wet the rumaalas flooding them with her tears.
Something had happened, she changed. Everybody said so. It was true. She had changed. Now she was a Singhni for real. Maybe she wasn’t beautiful, or perhaps she didn’t even know what beauty was. Her daughter always told her she was beautiful, but that was just love wasn’t it? She knew now though that she was loved. Loved by Guru Sahib, and loved by Saadh Sangat (the Company of the Holy). She knew “Waahe” (amazement and awe) too… because inside she had “Guroo” (the Light, which dispels Darkness)… WaaheGuroo WaaheGuroo WaaheGuroo WaaheGuroo WaaheGuroo WaaheGuroo… Because rather then being apart from, she now was a part of ~ ONE body of Khalsa ~ ONE Waheguru ~
pri rang rang ratee naaraain naanak tis kurbaanee ||2||104||127||
She is imbued with the Love of her Loving Beloved Lord; Nanak is a sacrifice to her. ||2||104||127|| SGGS Ang 1228
Photo © [Khalsa Panth]
The Lord’s Name permeates each and every hair of mine. gur kae charan kaes sang jhaarae ||1||

With my hair, I dust the feet of the Guru. ||1|| SGGS Ang 387
kaes sang daas pag jhaaro ihai manorath mor ||1||
With my hair, I wash the feet of Your slave; this is my life’s purpose. ||1||SGGS Ang 500
kaesaa kaa kar chavar dtulaavaa charan dhoorr mukh laa-ee ||1|| rehaao ||
I make my hair into a fan, and wave it over them; I apply the dust of their feet to my face. ||1||Pause| |SGGS Ang 749
rom rom raviaa har naam ||
The Lord’s Name permeates each and every hair of mine. SGGS Ang 1144
dhan dhan sae jan jinee kal meh har paaiaa jan naanak sad kurbaanee ||4||2||
Blessed, blessed are those humble beings, who, in this Dark Age of Kali Yuga, find the Lord. Nanak is forever a sacrifice to them. ||4||2||

Kurbani Kaur Part One

by Sukhmandir Kaur Khalsa

Kurbani kaur peered into the mirror, a tear slid down her cheek, smudging the make-up a bit in the corner of her eye. Another threatened to follow. She blinked it back and swallowed hard. She mixed up a little more of the bleaching powder into the bleaching creme, ‘extra strength for dark or heavy hair’ it read on the package.k2
It burned as she applied it over her lip and just under her chin. She fought the urge to pick up the tweezers and shape her brows. She felt like she was turning into some sort of hideous monster. Carefully she walked to the edge of her bed, and picked up the translation of Anand Sahib… She had a 10-15 minute wait for the bleach to do its work.
ਅਨੰਦੁ ਭਇਆ ਮੇਰੀ ਮਾਏ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਮੈ ਪਾਇਆ ॥
Anand bhe-eiaa meree maa-e satguroo mai paa-i-aa
I am in ecstasy o my mother, for i have found my True Guru.
ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਤ ਪਾਇਆ ਸਹਜ ਸੇਤੀ ਮਨਿ ਵਜੀਆ ਵਾਧਾਈਆ ॥
Satgur ta paa-i-aa sahj saytee man vajee-aa vaaddhaa-ee-aa.
I have found the True Guru with such natural ease, and my mind resound with the Music of Divine bliss.
ਰਾਗ ਰਤਨ ਪਰਵਾਰ ਪਰੀਆ ਸਬਦ ਗਾਵਣ ਆਈਆ ॥
Raag ratan parvaar paree-aa shabad gaavan aa-ee-aa.
The jeweled melodies and celestial harmonies have come to sing the Shabad, the Word of God.
ਸਬਦੋ ਤ ਗਾਵਹੁ ਹਰੀ ਕੇਰਾ ਮਨਿ ਜਿਨੀ ਵਸਾਇਆ ॥
Sabdo ta gaavhu haree keraa man jinee vasaa-i-aa.
The Lord dwells within the minds of those who sing the Shabad.
ਕਹੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਅਨੰਦੁ ਹੋਆ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਮੈ ਪਾਇਆ ॥੧॥
Kehai naanak anand ho-aa satguroo mai paa-i-aa. ||1||
Says Nanak, I am in bliss, for I have found my True Guru. ||1|| (SGGS Ang 917)
She fell back on the bed in transports of ecstatic bliss, was there anything more beautiful. She lay there for many minutes washed in waves of inner dimension, until she heard the alarm on her watch sound. It brought her back to the present.k3
As she washed the bleach away, a pale, light, burned stubble remained. It felt sharp and dry and looked unnatural against the dark of her brows and hair. She sighed deeply. It had taken so many years for her to be able to find the courage to receive Amrit. When ever she would hear that Amrit was to be given, she would head away from the camp, or Gurdwara. She didn’t want to make a commitment she couldn’t keep. Still she tied a white turban, when ever she went to the Gurdwara dressed in her tight white knit dresses and leggings. One day as she told herself how devoted she was to Guru and how much love she had, a voice replied,
“Yes devoted, but not enough to take Amrit, or learn to read Nitnem (daily prayers), or get up early in the morning for sadhana.”
Finally, a Singh asked her point blank at camp one night while she was tucking in her sons. “Have you been initiated?”
When she said “No”, it was as though no one would believe her.
When she returned home, she went to her Siri Guru Granth Sahib, with English, Romanization and Gurmukhi all in one. She wept and agonized. Should she take Amrit. Was she worthy? Could she keep the commitments? k4At the next camp, a Singh came to her and asked if her younger son could take Amrit, the older son asked if he could too. She asked a lot of questions about the commitments. She was given a set of Kachhere (specially tailored undergarments, which is one of the five articles of faith) and told to take a bath and wash her hair. She put on the Kachhera. It felt so strange, she was overwhelmed. She felt like weeping, she lay down on her bedroll, and closed her eyes and went to sleep. She wasn’t ready; the children’s father came late from work. During the ceremony, while they were waiting sitting on the stage with other campers singing Keertan, the youngest came running out from a trip to the bathroom, his face was wet and his eyes glowing.
“They put water in my eyes,” he whispered excitedly. And then ran back to where the others were taking Amrit.
Photo © [Courtesy Gurumustuk Singh Khalsa]
 The next week they had driven a long way to reach another camp to be on time to be included among those receiving Amrit. Something profound had happened and her life had begun to change.
Photo © [Courtesy Gurumustuk Singh Khalsa]
Photo © [Courtesy Gurumustuk Singh Khalsa]
 But she made mistakes. Right away she couldn’t stop removing hair from her face. Little by little in stages she had first let her eyebrows grow in. Then hairs came in under her chin. Surely there were many more than had ever been there before. Lastly she got the courage to let the hair above her lip grow. It wasn’t easy. The morning after Keertan Smaagam, she had pulled out every one with her fingers. While driving home from the Rainsabayee, something had happened there as they sang the last Shabad. Something like when she took Amrit, yet still, she pulled out every hair.
She wept into the rumaalas (the draperies covering Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji), begging Guru ji to forgive her and help her have courage. She sat with her fists clenched into tight balls, sitting on her hands, while something like a cactus patch, sprouted on her face. Then she went before Guru-Roop Panj Pyaare once more and confessed her mistakes.
Photo © [Courtesy Ravitej Singh Khalsa / Eugene, Oregon / USA]
Photo © [Courtesy Ravitej Singh Khalsa / Eugene, Oregon / USA]
Still she wasn’t happy, she looked so disfigured, and the bleach didn’t help, instead it just made her appear more bizarre. How could she try to hide something from the world, and yet show that she was a Sikh at the same time? She felt so ugly, how could anyone love her, how could she love herself?
Her best friend told her “You look good! You look like a Singhni,” and that helped a little. But it wasn’t anything she could talk about to any one, only Guru ji, and to Guru ji she wept copiously, wetting the rumaalas with her tears.
She made up her mind to stop with the bleach. The make-up as well, as it just made her feel dirty and ashamed. She went to the store and tried on a bathing suit. The top looked really attractive, but her Kachhera come out from underneath the bottom part, and then she saw her face. It just didn’t match. She never wore that kind of suit for bathing again. Sometimes she felt proud when she secretly noticed other ladies sitting on the stage who looked like they had bleached their facial-hair. k6Then one day she had an attack of nerves and started pulling at her whiskers. Yes, that’s what they were, rough and coarse whiskers. In better moments, she remembered that kittens have whiskers, and that every one loves kittens. Even, she saw a lady horse once that had long whiskers, and everyone petted her affectionately. But this day, she couldn’t help herself and pulled out whisker after whisker. O there were plenty left. Just a few around the edges were missing, no one else would ever know. And they would grow back!!! No doubt about that, they had always grown back. She even went to doctor, and he told her they could only be removed surgically. They always would grow back otherwise. Sometimes they got wet when she drank, she shuddered. Just like a man’s. But she couldn’t complain because after all men had so many more, and much longer. Sometimes, every once in a while it made her feel like a smaller version of a Singh, but more often she looked at the smooth, beautiful, glowing, radiant faces of other women and wept inside with shame. When she looked in the mirror, sometimes she felt like she was looking at Guru Sahib’s face. So she could not protest, yet still she wept.
Photo © [Courtesy Jedi Nights]
Photo © [Courtesy Jedi Nights]

Thursday, June 5, 2014



(with pictures!)

The first pictures are of Deanna Troi disguised as a Romulan and the half-Romulan daughter of Tasha Yar from Star Trek-The Next Generation.

The second example is of Patty and Cathy Lane from The Patty Duke Show from the 1960s. I never could figure out how those two looked alike. They didn't and don't look alike to me.

Both of these are actual examples of TV shows that confused and baffled me back in the day when I had never heard of faceblindness.

There is a Yahoo Group Face Blindness Prosopagnosia of which I am a member.

Here are links for more information

NINDS Prosopagnosia Information Page - for those who like government pages

Prosopagnosia - 10 FAQs

Prosopagnosia Research Centers - for the academically inclined

TEST YOURSELF! - If you wonder if you might have a wee touch of this condition.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Note: I have slightly revised this article that I wrote a couple years ago to make it more understandable to non-Sikhs, especially to my Irish and Palestinian friends.  I believe I have defined words that would probably be unfamiliar and I have kept Sikh philosophy and religious teachings to a minimum.  This is merely my description of what happened in 1984.  

I have tried to write this as factually as possible.  This is difficult for a couple of reasons.  The first is that many of the facts, especially casualty figures, are in dispute.  I have included the whole range of these figures. Certainly, the low figures are magnitudes too low and it is almost certain that even the high figures given are lower than the death tolls actually were. India is not a country that keeps meticulous records of anything, except, it seems, the addresses of Sikh families and businesses and probably addresses of Muslim families and businesses.  The Muslims have also felt the wrath of the government of India, although not to the genocidal extremes that the Sikhs have.  India is not kind to its various minority groups.

The second is that I am biased myself.   I am a Sikh.  How could I not be biased? These events impacted me as much as they would any Sikh.  In addition I support the establishment of the Sikh homeland of Khalistan.   This is known;  I have been quite public in my support.

To understand anything about the Sikh Kaum (Nation) today, it is necessary to understand the events of 1984. Here, as briefly as I can tell it, is a narrative of those events. I do not pretend to be unbiased, but I do believe it is accurate.
The Golden Temple  - Darbar  Sahib (Amritsar)

I personally believe that, since the Creator pervades the creation, every place is equally holy. Even so, some places have a special spiritual significance to us. To Sikhs, Darbar Sahib, called the Golden Temple, in Amritsar, Punjab, India is such a place. In June 1984, during a major Sikh holiday when there were tens of thousands of people in the Darbar Sahib, the Indian Army launched a major military offensive, called Operation Blue Star against the Sikh nation centering on Darbar Sahib and other gurudwaras, Sikh houses of worship, in Punjab. The number of Sikh civilians can never be known, but certainly numbers in the thousands.

To understand why, you will need to understand a bit of Indian history. 

In 1947, when what had been the Raj ruled by Great Britain was partitioned into India and Pakistan, although the Sikhs were offered a portion of the partition, they foolishly threw in their lot with India’s Congress Party, even though Partition ripped the Sikh homeland of Punjab down the middle, leaving half in Pakistan and half in India and later causing untold misery to the entire Sikh Nation.

TheSikh Lionz website explains why the Sikh “leadership” chose this path.
The following solemn assurances were given:

"Let God be the witness of the bond that binds me and the Congress to you. Our Sikhs friends have no reason to fear that it would betray them. For, the moment it does so, the Congress would not only thereby seal its own doom but that of the country too. Moreover, the Sikhs are brave people. They know how to safeguard their rights, by the exercise of arms, with perfect justification before God and man, if it should ever come to that" (Young India 19 March 1931, M.K. Gandhi)

"No Constitution would be acceptable to the Congress which did not satisfy the Sikhs." (Collected works of M K Gandhi Vol.58. p. 1931)

The brave Sikhs of Panjab are entitled to special consideration. I see nothing wrong in an area and a set up in the North wherein the Sikhs can also experience the glow of freedom. (Jawaharlal Nehru, Congress meeting: Calcutta - July, 1944)

However, when independence was achieved, the Sikhs’ hopes were dashed by a cavalier, “The situation has changed. We’re in charge now” from Nehru. Not only were Sikhs not granted freedom in their part of the ripped apart Punjab, but the Indian Constitution gave Sikhs the ultimate insult by being legally classified as Hindus in the Indian Constitution, which, by the way, has never been ratified by the Sikhs.

The Sikh homeland Panjab was divided and the Sikhs suffered great loss. Sikh shrines such as Nankana Sahib, Panja Sahib and many more along with the capital city of Lahore were given to Pakistan, over 70% of the most fertile land owned by Sikhs was taken by Pakistan and over 500,000 Sikh men, women and children lost their lives during the partition.  

Between the horrors of Partition, caused primarily by the premature departure of the British Army, and the betrayal by the now ruling Congress Party of India, the Sikh Kaum was left in a weakened state, not defeated but definitely beaten down. I will not chronicle here all the indignities heaped on the Sikhs by the Indian rulers, but they were many and often violent.

Years passed and the dream of an independent Sikh homeland called Khalistan in Punjab caught fire amongst the Sikhs. A charismatic young preacher named Jarnail Singh whose seminary, the Damdami Taksal was headquartered in the village of Bhindran, who became known as Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale rose up and began preaching to young Sikhs to take Amrit, the Sikh initiation, and follow the dictates of the Sikh religion, including refraining from tobacco and all intoxicants, saying daily prayers and keeping kesh (unshorn hair). 

Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale  with his wife and children

He caught the attention of Nehru’s daughter, Indira Gandhi, who by this time was Prime Minister of India. She tried to corrupt him into being her puppet amongst the Sikhs. Lions are not so easily tamed. Sant ji, as he came to be known, was not at first a supporter of Khalistan, but in time he came to realize that the Sikhs could not survive under the oppression of the Indian Brahmins and that a separate homeland was necessary. During this time, an armed struggle ensued with Sant ji and Amritdhari Sikhs, the Khalsa (the Pure) on one side and the Indian ruling class on the other.

The Sikhs have always been known as great warriors, fighting for the oppressed against any aggressor, according to the very strict rules of conduct of the Sikh faith. Originally, the Sikhs had fought to free the Hindus first from the Mughuls, a group of cruel Muslim rulers, then from the British(1); now the Sikhs were called upon to free themselves from those who had become their Hindu masters. During this period known as the Militancy, starting in the 1970s and lasting through much of the 1990s, the first wave of Sikh struggle for autonomy was fought.


(1) It is a myth that Indian independence from Britain was achieved non-violently. Non-violence was used only in the very last phase. Here are some of the relevant fact again from the Sikh Lionz website:

The Sikhs played a pioneering role in India's struggle for independence from the British. They made sacrifices wholly out of proportion to their demographic strength (the Sikhs make up less than 2% of the Indian population).
(Figures below provided by Maulana Abdul Azad, President of the Congress Party at the time of Independence.)

Out of 2125 Indians killed in the atrocities by the British, 1550 (73%) were Sikhs.

Out of 2646 Indians deported for life to the Andaman Islands (where the British exiled political and hardened criminals) 2147 (80%) were Sikhs.

Out of 127 Indians sent to the gallows, 92 (80%) were Sikhs.

At Jalliawalla Bagh out of the 1302 men, women and children slaughtered, 799 (61%) were Sikhs.
In the Indian Liberation Army, out of the 20,000 ranks and officers, 12,000 (60%) were Sikhs.

Out of 121 persons executed during the freedom struggle, 73 (60%) were Sikhs.

The Sikhs, who had thrown themselves, heart and soul, into the Indian independence struggle, were the third party with whom the British negotiated for the transfer of power. However, due to inadequacy of Sikh leadership, misplaced trust and false promises made by Gandhi and Nehru, the Sikhs lost their claim to power.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


1984 - OPERATION BLUESTAR (The Battle of Amritsar; The Bluestar Massacre)

In 1982, Sant Jarnail Singh ji Bhindranwale, leader of the Sikh liberation movement, and some of his followers, all openly armed, took up residence in a guest house in the Golden Temple Complex, a not unusual act, since gurudwaras all have accommodations for visitors. Sant ji and his men freely came and went and could have been arrested at any time, had the government chosen to do so.

Sant ji in chardi kala (4) on a train

They did not. Instead, they waited until the Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev, a major Sikh holy day in June 1984, when they knew the gurudwara would be packed and launched a full scale attack, which lasted from June 3-7, with some last Sikh fighters continuing until they were killed by June 10. 
The Last Singh killed i9n Bue Star

The Akal Takht, seat of Sikh temporal authority was burned and the Sikh Reference Library destroyed; many priceless and irreplaceable pieces of Sikh history were looted or destroyed.

I will not attempt to describe what it was like for those inside during these days. The army refused to let the civilians leave and thousands were trapped without food or water in the broiling heat of the Punjab summer. No one will ever know how many were killed. Official government figures say 136 Indian soldiers and around 200 Sikh militants, including Sant ji, were killed. 

Body of Sant Jarnail Singh ji Bhindranwale

The official figures claim that 492 Sikh civilians were killed, a laughable number, given the thousands held inside and not permitted to leave. A friend of mine whose uncle was a witness speaks of box after box after box of shoes loaded into trucks and hauled away. Since everyone removes their shoes before entering, that would have given a good approximation, so they destroyed the evidence. A reasonable estimate is between 7000-8000 innocent Sikhs were killed. (2) 

Imagine a Muslim army invading the Vatican, shooting up the Sistine Chapel, burning the Vatican library and killing all the visitors/pilgrims...on Easter Sunday.  This attack had much the same effect on the Sikh psyche as would such a military attack on the Vatican have on Roman Catholics. The shock and horror and deep pain of the Sikh people worldwide can barely be imagined.

Whatever the casualty figures, when the smoke cleared, about 200 largely untrained young Singhs and a few Kaurs had held off the fourth largest army in the world for about a week. 

Indian soldiers gloating in front of burnt out Akal Takht at the
Golden Temple Complex, June 1984

Monday, June 2, 2014



It was inevitable that the architect of this slaughter, Indira Gandhi, would be called to account by its victims. She was by no means a stupid person, in fact, she was brilliantly intelligent, so it remains a mystery as to why she employed two Sikh bodyguards, an act somewhat akin to hiring IRA supporters to guard the queen. Perhaps she had a death wish. In any case, on October 31, 1984, the inevitable happened. She was executed by Beant Singh and Satwant Singh, her two Sikh bodyguards.

This opened the second phase of the Sikh trauma of 1984, often called “the Anti-Sikh Riots.” They were not riots; they were a well-planned pogrom against the Sikhs, with the worst casualties being in Delhi. In India, people are registered according to their religion, so making lists of Sikhs was not difficult. In fact, the lists were ready and waiting to be handed out by Congress Party officials to groups of thugs armed with lathis and metal rods and cans of kerosene. 

These thugs hunted down any and all Sikhs, murdering the males, often by dousing them with kerosene and setting them on fire, not sparing even young babies, raping and beating the females, and setting Sikh homes and businesses on fire. 

The police stood by and watched and in some cases, openly participated. This went on until the army was finally called in to quell the violence on November 3. 

At least 3,000 (the lowest estimate) were killed in Delhi, with thousands others killed in various locations around northern India. A very conservative estimate is about 8000 total killed. There have been recent discoveries of mass graves which would drive the figure higher.  (3)

So that is pretty much what happened to the Sikhs in 1984 and a summary of the causes behind it. I do not pretend to be a neutral observer, but I believe the facts as I present them to be accurate.

If you wonder why she had to be executed when she was, go to this link to read about Operation Shanti, her diabolical plan to rid India of the Sikhs. (A strange way to say “Thank you” for repeatedly saving them in times of crisis.) Operation Shanti

(2) For an eyewitness account of the carnage, read The Stench of Death Was Overpowering, by a policeman who was not sympathetic to the Sikh separatist cause.

(3) There is a wealth of information on line about this.  This blogpost, Recalling Anti-Sikh Riots 1984, is pretty succinct and has some good pictures, not for those with weak stomachs. 

A very large collection of photographs can be found at Khalsanet Photo Gallery.     Again, some of these pictures are quite graphic.

(4) Chardi kala literally mean a rising spirit, a spirit of joy and optimism that all Sikhs are expected to maintain no matter whsat happens.  For more information go to the Sikhiwiki article Chardi kala.