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I have scoured many a library and bookstore back in the day in an attempt to look for books, articles, anything! on Sikhi. Just imagine your Sikhpulse writer at age 6, a seasoned master of the Dewey Decimal system (or at least she thought she was), learning that the institutions she revered and placed so much faith in had failed her. The smile she usually wore instead resembled the same form as her pigtails: a frown.
She may have transitioned out of the pigtails and gained some command of appropriate expletive usage, but, twenty years later, the frown persists.
Two Sikh pals and I checked out a major bookstore in a major US city that had a major section dedicated to Philosophy and Religion. Six stacks were reserved for Christianity alone. Two stacks were filled completely with Bibles. Judiasm won three stacks and Islam and Hinduism competed for two stacks. There was another stack for Eastern Religions including Buddhism and Taoism. Atheists and agnostics got some love too with their own stack.
How many stacks were dedicated to Sikhi? Brace yourself now.
There were more Sikhs within the bookstore than there were books on Sikhi. Only two books made up the entire Religion and Philosophy section. Not stacks, but books! Both books were tiny and less than 75 pages in length. And both books were awful representations of Sikhi: one even made strange and incorrect correlations to Hinduism.
Is there a dearth of Sikh literature? Is this what resulted in the dismay of three Sikhs over the selection of two books? Perhaps but certainly there are more than two books that could have populated the stacks. The Sikh Coalition’s campaign to supply local libraries with resources about Sikhi is a great start but it shouldn’t be become our endpoint. We, writers and artists of the future, need to keep fresh and new thoughts in the mix by continuing to document our history, past and newly-formed, and think critically about Gurbani in a way that is accessible to Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike.
Please help me from ever telling a corny joke that starts off with “three Sikhs stood in front of a stack of books…” Work the supply and demand theory by reading and buying our texts. Help the Coalition with their project or speak up with your pen or voice and ask your bookstores and libraries to accurately represent a major world religion through the number of quality books offered on their shelves.
So the last few posts have been pretty heavy which means I probably lost your interest completely. It’s time I get it back.
Twenty-four year old Californian comedian and soon-to-be-movie-star Harvin Sethi is part of a 4-comic comedy troupe in a show that aims to “ease religious tensions through laughter and a healthy dose of political incorrectness.” Titled Make Chai, Not War, the Indian-American comedians (Muslim, Sikh, Christian, and Jewish) threw out jokes to an equally diverse crowd on April 28 in the D.C. area. Co-creator Azhar Usman commented that “some of the comics have a deep commitment to interfaith and bringing communities together. For others, it’s probably just another gig” (newsblaze.com). Although Harvin clearly identifies himself as Indian, here’s hoping he’s also part of the former. And if not, well, it doesn’t bother me much: he’ll win you over with his laughs as well. Here’s a great one from March 2005: The Power of the Jatt.*
*Uh oh, I might have made your Caste-is-Bad bell go off. Remember: this is just for laughs.
A probing public service announcement made by the folks at rethinkbias.org/A More Perfect Union/Virginia Interfaith Center (probably with the help of both SALDEF and Sikh Coalition) is being streamed on TV stations across the Virginia/D.C. area.
Dramaticized? Reactionary? Exaggerated? Yeah, a little bit. (And perhaps I showed my own ignorance when I first saw it and thought hey, why is that Jack Bauer/Kiefer Sutherland dude being such an awful character?) But it relays the message clearly to the viewer: education and outreach are the answers to ignorance and intolerance.
As a mediocre “writer” I look up to and try to learn from publications such as The New York Times. Sometimes they win my complete admiration. And sometimes they make me go up in arms. Why, oh why, do they have to make our relationship so tumultuous and difficult?
The Times apparently likes recycling stories. Especially ones as interesting as the multitude of faiths practiced in the diverse town of Flushing located in Queens, New York. But even I, blogger-unextraordinaire, know it’s possible to freshen up a recycled story by including perspectives and views that may not have been addressed in the past.
Back in 1999, they published an article titled “A Snapshot of World Faith; On One Queens Block, Many Prayers Are Spoken.” The piece briefly acknowledged the existence of a Gurdwara in the first paragraph of a two-page article but nothing more. It made me upset at the time, but I somehow managed to keep it together and get over it.
Fast-forward to 2007. The same topic is drafted into an article for their Travel section. Omitting multifaith options in New York is the best way to describe it. This time around the sangat and Gurudwara aren’t even mentioned. I was pissed enough to write a blog entry, and had begged you to write letters to the editor.
May 2, 2008. I take a moment to check out the main page of the Times website. Oh look: the same topic has now been released as a video report and as an article in the Arts section. And oh look: there’s still absolutely NO mention of our lovely gurdwara and sangat.
Let me once again illustrate where our “forgotten” gurdwara is located in relation to the other religious venues that have somehow managed to capture the attention of three different NYT writers over a span of a decade:
- Singh Sabha Gurdwara = 43-69 Bowne Street
- Ganesh Temple = 45-57 Bowne Street
FYI: The Hindu temple and Gurdwara are less than a block away from each other!
- Sri Shirdi Saibaba Temple = 46-16 Robinson Street
- B’Nai Abraham synagogue = 75-03 Main Street
- St. Paul Chong Ha-Sang Roman Catholic Chapel and Center, Evergreen Presbyterian Church, Hazrat-I-Abubakr Sadiq mosque = take my word for it: they’re all close by as well
If I drew a map there would be a bunch of dots within a mile radius of each other and the Gurdwara would be right along side all of them.
This is absolutely frustrating. Should I direct my strikes towards The New York Times or the sangat and sevadars of the Bowne Street Gurudwara who may have not picked up on the ignorance of my typically very unignorant newspaper? I would be crushed if this was recycled again for the fourth time and I didn’t see any mention of our house of worship and spirited, presumably civically-engaged people. I think it’s time for desperate measures… either a stern letter to the editor/op-ed piece or boycotting my once beloved and favorite newspaper.