Growing up in Toronto, like all kids, I just want to fit in. I wanted the other kids to accept me and not look at me as if I was different. Even as a teenager at times I felt this way. Staring into the mirror and thinking, how life would be different if I were to shave and cut my hair. I “might” just fit in with the crowds but I knew if I did that, I’d greatly disappoint my parents.
Looking back, maybe if I were five years younger when there were many more Indians going through school, that I might not have felt this way. I’m not sure. I wonder if my boys are thinking the same as I did growing up, even though, there are many, many more brown kids in their schools today.
I never did cut my hair. Why? Because of the history I learned from my dad. There are countless martyrs of our faith that gave their lives, but never cut their hair and give up their faith. If you google “Sikh Martyrs” and click on “images”, you’ll see a small sampling of pictures that I grew up with.
Through out history, Sikhs were targeted, hunted down, had rewards put on their heads by the Mogul emperors. Were forced to survive in jungles, fought valiantly against oppression and died doing so. Seriously what was my problem? Wanting to fit in!
The Sikh “outward” identity was started by the 10th Guru. After his father’s martyrdom to help the Hindu cause, many years later on April 13th, 1699 Guru Gobind Rai created a national Sikh identity and formed the fearless Khalsa. What is unique and has never happened before in history, the 10th Guru, after baptizing the 5 Sikhs who volunteered their life and became the “5 beloved ones” and were honored with a last name of “Singh” (Lion), to rid the person of any class distinctions and create brotherhood in man. T he 10th Guru, requested to be baptized in the Khalsa fold and be honored by the 5 beloved ones as a “Singh”. They did and hence forth, the Guru was called Gobind Singh. This is the first time in history that a Guru became a disciple and the disciples the Guru.
Why was this identity created? Why have so many given up their lives to protect and uphold it? Why did the 10th Guru sacrifice his own children for the cause of justice? Why is Sikh history littered with the blood of countless martyrs and acts of bravery? I don’t know. But knowing all this, kept my faith strong. How could I be so weak and give up my Guru’s gift? A gift that he himself begged to receive in return from the Khalsa and honored it by sacrificing everything he had.
Growing up, I just felt the bravery oozing out of the Singhs and felt empowered to be part of a great tradition, people and spiritual wisdom. We are supposed to be saint-soliders. A person that would be distinguished amongst a crowd of thousands. Waring the 5 Kakars (Ks) (5 articles of faith). Kesh, Kanga, Kirpan, Kara, Kachhera.
I’m honored to be a Sikh and not have cut my hair. I’m grateful that I am unique and stand apart from the rest. I’m stronger for it. I’m wiser to it. I accept my Guru’s gift. I’m hopeful the Sikh people will continue to remember their great history and follow in the footsteps of our Gurus and ancestors and always fight for justice, be compassionate and serve the greater community.
I thank ahead all my fellow Canadians for reading and taking the time to learn of my Sikh faith. The British have a long history with us and know of our legacy and hopefully my fellow Canadians will see us as equal members of society. Together, let’s build a stronger, compassionate and tolerant Canada.
Bhai Kanhaiya Ji giving water to fallen Moghul soldiers. The Khalsa complained to the 10th Guru, that he’s giving water to our enemies and they get up and start fighting again. The 10th Guru, Gobind Singh Ji asked Bhai Kanhaiya Ji why is this so? Bhai Kanhaiya Ji said “that on the battle field I do not see Muslim or Sikh, I see only human beings all having the same spirit of God. Guru Ji, isn’t that what you have taught us, we are all one?” Guru Gobind Singh Ji was very pleased by his answer. He blessed him and also gave him balm to be able to apply to the wounded.