The day of Vaisakhi 2010 brought me many blessings. I hope all of you were able to remember Vaisakhi in your own way, use it to strengthen your connection with Waheguru, and enjoy it with the Khalsa Panth.

Two major announcements on activities occurring within the Sikh sangat this May:

Sikh Youth Alliance of North America Gurmat Retreat – Detroit, MI – Memorial Day Weekend, May 28-31

Over the last 16 years, our sevadaars in the Midwest have been running a fantastic gurmat camp and this year’s retreat will no doubt be just as outstanding. The theme of this year’s retreat is “Putting the Guru’s Word into Action.” Through Keertan Divaans, various workshops, Gurbanee discussions, and healthy debate, participants will explore several aspects of Gurmat practice and together open a dialogue for how these principles are integrated into daily life. Speakers include Sardar Ajmel Singh, author of Gurbaannee’s Significance and Pronunciation and Understanding Gurbaannee, Sardar Kuldeep Singh, author, speaker and leader within North America on Sikh and Gurmat topics, and Cynthia Keppley Mahmood, Professor and author of “Fighting for Faith and Nation: Dialogues with Sikh, Militants.” Check it out and sign up here.

The Hermeneutics of Sikh Music (rāg) and Word (shabad) – Hofstra University, Long Island, NY – May 21-23

A variety of lectures and discussions about the musical expression of the shabad will be given by an international group of scholars and performers. The full and colorful schedule can be found here. Think you might be able to attend? Register here.

“One of the highlights of the exhibition, Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts at the Victoria and Albert Museum, is its focus on the Raj – the colonial years when the Indian princes, deprived by the British of their absolute rule, could concentrate on the decorative things in life. Pictured here is the Maharaja of Patiala, wearing a diamond and platinum parade necklace created by Cartier in 1928.”

The exhibit is being shown at the V&A in London through Jan. 17. Check it out if you can. Learn more here:  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/fashion/10iht-fjewels.html

The city of Brampton, Ontario, home to more than 30,000 Sikhs, is more than just a place where you can find fresh and perfectly made chole pature at any time of the day.  It is where the sangat is a recognizable political force with considerable purchasing power as evidenced by some of the photos below.

The community has worked for years to have their local emergency room graced with the title Guru Nanak Emergency Department of the William Osler Health Center.

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And don’t forget to reserve part of your day for a trip through the stacks of Sikh literature at Sacha Sauda. If you need some extra brain food, you can stop for a quick bite right next door at Rasoi.

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The photos above are just a glimpse of what Brampton has to offer; if you have a chance to visit take me along with you!

Watch out libraries! “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “Where the Wild Things Are” have a huge competitor coming into the arena. “A Lion’s Mane” is an empowering new children’s picture book that celebrates the Sikh identity. Written by Navjot Kaur and illustrated by Jaspreet Sandhu, the book colorfully documents a young boy’s journey around the world, through different cultural lands, and within himself. It aims to encourage Sikhs and non-Sikhs to maintain a positive self-identity and to steadfastly challenge bias and intolerance. “A Lion’s Mane” will be available in August 2009, but watch the mini-trailor here:

This book will make a great addition to any personal library (both young and grown up!). Make sure to let your public library know about its release as well. To receive updates, you may leave your e-mail address at saffronpress.com.

The New York Times recently published a series of essays written by college and graduate students in “The U Issue.” Among the varied stories about freshman year and life’s big questions, I stumbled upon an essay written by a young Singh featured under the heading of “College Life.” In his essay “Becoming a Dukie (and an American),” Harsimarbir Singh describes how his Duke sweatshirt (and not his turban) catches the attention of other students and explains how he, a teetotaler, handled himself at parties. He even manages to embrace The Freshman 15 by eating his way through pounds of cookie dough. Hear his experience and series of transformations as a master’s student through his own words by clicking here.

Front Over 100,000 innocent civilian Sikhs were massacred by the Indian army throughout Punjab during the first week of June in 1984. Following the attack, hundreds of thousands of Sikhs have been killed, tortured, and persecuted by the Indian government. Much of 1984 is forgotten history partly because there are limited resources that provide a fair and balanced political context to the narratives of victims and historians. Lost in History: 1984 Reconstructed attempts to be a primary resource for those who aim to understand the genocide. The second edition, released this year, coincides with the twenty-fifth anniversary of Operation Bluestar.

The second edition retains the same passionate voice as the first, but is more polished, nuanced and objective. New to the second edition is a suggested list of references for further reading. Other lists are provided to help readers with a limited knowledge of Indian history (i.e, me) create a framework: there is an outline detailing the implementation of the President’s rule since India’s independence and a list demonstrating the hierarchy of rankings amongst the Punjab police force. The book also includes over 260 footnotes which substantiate major claims made by the author. The footnotes serve as a useful resource and make the book an excellent reference guide for research.

“The genocide of 1984 demands our attention, for it is in danger of becoming lost in history, buried under communal politics, international relations and the government’s emphatic silencing of human rights workers,” writes the author. We must continue to not forget. We must continue to take action against such abuses, both past and current, both in Punjab and throughout the world. Support the seva of our committed sangat by ordering your copy of Lost in History: 1984 Reconstructed at 1984reconstructed@gmail.com

The video speaks for itself. Watch it.

Jaikara.

A call of victory, triumph and exultation.

Definition as found on (I’m not kidding you) Urban Dictionary.

Listen to a jaikara here.

We have daily successes and blessings. We share them with our families and friends. Wouldn’t it be neat if we as individuals and a sangat expressed ourselves through a jaikara? Imagine if we moved with the same intensity, strength and spirit more often.

One of the many responsibilities of a Sikh includes the practice of dasvandh, or sharing a part of one’s earning in the name of the Guru towards common resources of the community. Dasvandh should be distinguished from dan, or charity; contributions made in the spirit of dasvandh focus on projects of universal social reform and maintenance of religious institutions such as gurdwaras and guru ka langar.

Although Sikhs have been practicing dasvandh since the time of Guru Amar Das Ji, the potential of this collective resource remains untapped. The Sikh-American community has only recently started to organize to address current and future challenges, but it still remains paralyzed by inefficiency and lack of consistent funds. The Dasvandh Fund, a pooled investment fund aimed at investing our financial capital in Sikh enterprises securely, thoughtfully and ethically, is the first of its kind (to my knowledge) and currently in the works.

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The venture fund is on the lookout for a smart, dedicated and passionate intern to commit 6+ weeks over the course of Summer 2009 to assist in setting up the fund. If you’re the lucky sevadar, you’ll help the fund:

  • connect with other non-profits who are structured in a similar way to learn best practices
  • build relationships with Sikh non-profit organizations in the U.S.
  • construct the member organization application form and ongoing oversight process
  • establish a marketing program to publicize itself to the Sikh community
  • specify the layout and functionality of its website

If you’re ready to make waves in the future of the Panth, email inderpal.singh@dasvandhfund.org with a brief statement describing your interest and a resume. And after you’re done with the internship send some updates–we’d be stoked to hear them!

How did this story get missed by the national news industry? I haven’t seen it as a headline or sideline in any major newspaper. Have you? Thank goodness the word got to public radio. Listen to NPR’s report on our two Sikh US Army recruits who have filed a complaint against the Army over rules that require them to cut their hair and beards and forbid them to wear turbans.

From the Sikh Regiment’s sacrifices in WWI and WWII to the current Sikh presence in the United Nations’ security force and Canadian Army, Sikhs have had a long history of serving selflessly in armed forces throughout the world with turbans and unshorn hair and beards intact. To serve in the United States Army, however, a practicing Sikh is forced to compromise his identity and relinquish the basic tenets of his faith. The Sikh Coalition is leading a campaign calling the United States Army to end discrimination against the Sikh identity and allow Sikh-Americans to freely serve their nation. G.N.E’s poetic, revolution-driven, and soulful song Souljas Story is the perfect backdrop to the cause.

Show your support by signing the petition here.

During college and grad school I somehow managed to bypass the bhangra scene completely. While Sikhs and South Asians at my school packed for trips to national bhangra events and had webs of relationship triangles I couldn’t even begin to tease out, my life during that time resembled shows like Gilmore Girls and Smallville; Rory’s bookish life in the suburbs included a Korean best friend named Lane (and not Luvleen), and Clark ran at the speed of light to the sounds of Remo Zero (and not to the vocals of Surinder Shinda). Even though I maintained some distance from what to me was a semi-underground culture, I always wondered what it was really like and what I may have been missing.

Times are a bit different now. Gossip Girls and One Tree Hill now have the following of the exclusive 18- to 34-year-old viewing segment. And although TV shows still don’t give a glimpse of what Sikh and South Asian young adult life is like, the blog Sikh Subculture attempts to do so. I felt like a total fly on the wall while reading the narrator describe how the bhangra scene was more like a sports event and how he maintained a love life through instant messaging in the 3-part short story aptly titled “How Bhangra Ruined My Life.” I was also surprised when I felt a pang of regret and a sense that I may have been a bit judgmental towards the experiences of my brothers and sisters in the past.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a CW network writer picks up on the blog and adapts it into a fresh new TV series. What would the Gurus’ think now?

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