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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.

The video speaks for itself. Watch it.

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.

The Sardar and Sardarni (yup, Sardarnis too) Rockers and Metalheads Group on Facebook sent a sweet message earlier this afternoon giving the heads up on Fatbook, a great band out of Appleton, Wisconsin with guitarist/vocalist Harjinder Singh Bedi. Listened to a few of their samples on their myspace page and already dig ’em. Wonder when they’ll be touring the east coast…

You can hear more of Manpreet Singh here. Even better: listen to his entire album “Take It All.”

port-authority1

His face is plastered on a Bank of America ad along a wall in Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Can you help identify the Sikh with swagger?

Just a few weeks after the release of The X-Files sequel comes verification of the Unidentified Sikh. He proudly goes by Manpreet Singh.

See? The answers are there… you just have to know where to look. Just like Scully said in the pilot episode. I can’t vouch for the recent release, but watching the progression of Scully’s deep skepticism and unwaivering belief in science in Season 1 morph into tolerance of her faith and ultimately a belief in the unknown by Season 6 was fascinating. A neat review of the movie in The Christian Post concludes “that our future is found in joining both heart and mind, reason and faith, science and religion to address all aspects of life is a message that this new X-Files [film] graphically presents.” Looks like the movie may be worth checking out.

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.

Who’s the Singh that’s part of Warren Buffet’s entourage?

(Source: cnn.money.com)

Identify yourself! 🙂

My job could be accurately interpreted as an interviewer in some regards. And I’m very comfortable with my role. I gather details about your life — much of which you have shared with no one else — and I promise to keep it to myself and use it only to solve the puzzle(s) troubling you.

Occasionally, an interviewee decides to stir trouble by reversing roles. Sometimes it’s meant to establish a human connection, and other times it’s completely inappropriate. The ones that are memorable, however, are the ones that remind me I represent.

I had just finished speaking with and documenting the story of an Ethiopian woman when she pulled a role-reversal by asking me where my family was from. I was initially taken aback by the expression of interest. “My family originates from India,” I answered. “And which part of India? Which state?” she eagerly asked. Whoa, I thought. She didn’t even give me a second to let me get the interview back on my terms but she seemed genuine. I smiled as I replied “Punjab.” She glanced at my wrist and squinted at my ID tag. “Punjab? What religion do you follow?” The smile remained on my face. “I’m Sikh. I practice Sikhism. Have you heard of it?” Her eyes widened as she nodded her head. “Oh, the honorable Sikhs of Punjab. How could I forget them? I remember how they helped protect our people and train our armies alongside the Brits. The Sikhs made up almost the entire army and thank goodness they did! How wonderful it is for me to be speaking with you.”

The smile that was on my face washed over my heart.

Sikh men represent through the bold twists and turns of their turbans and their flowing beards. Some men and women repreSENT! with kirpans and a permeating spirit. I represent in softer ways: through my pinned up uncut hair, the steel kara on my wrist, and my name. But although it may be soft it doesn’t mean people don’t take notice. Whether bold or soft representing is representing.

Sikhs continue to conjure up steadfast images in the minds of many. Let us continue to represent in memorable and positive ways. How do you represent?

  1. Have a Guru Granth Sahib with Bhai Sahibs who share their responsibilities with the sangat.
  2. Have a sangat who regards the community as an extension of their family and is willing to take some ownership of and responsibility for themselves and community.
  3. Have a sangat made up of Sikhs born into the faith with generational ties to Punjabi culture and Sikh converts.
  4. Have Sikhi-to-the-Max (or its equivalent) displayed and viewable to the entire congregation.
  5. Translate the context of Hukamnama after it is read.
  6. Serve langar that is meant to provide nutrition and control pangs of hunger, not induce comas: 1 dhaal, 1 sabzi, phulka OR rice, water, 1 dessert and nothing more.
  7. Open langar to the rest of the community. For real.
  8. Offer youth and teen programs. Not only Gurmukhi, instrument, history, and philosophy lessons, but outdoor group activities, sports teams, arts and crafts, tutoring, and mentorship (i.e., big brother/big sister). I’d like to think of it as offering what the current summer camps or Sikh conferences have squashed together in 3-7 days but instead spread evenly over 365 days.
  9. Offer adult programs: regular evening walks, gurmat veechar lectures, book clubs, cooking classes with a nutritional bent, [insert topic] 101 classes.
  10. Have a women’s group. Yes, the Kaurs need their own venue.
  11. Have a complete library (and perhaps buy out Sacha Sauda).
  12. Have an up-to-date website and mailing list.
  13. Have an acute-care health clinic with a little pharmacy on the side. Free services. Meant to link people into the health care system. Not a way to funnel patients into one’s own private clinic.
  14. Address mental health issues openly and respectfully.
  15. Invite members of other faiths regularly to visit, learn about Sikhi, and share ideas AND vice versa. (Can you describe the basics of Christian or Judiac theology? I hear myself saying “umm” quite often to that question.)
  16. Make sure to have every member of the sangat registered to vote and get the sangat out on election days.
  17. Never have political infighting.
  18. Become acquainted with local media and actively engage them when necessary.
  19. Have some marvelous way of centralizing funds and distributing it at the sangat’s discretion.
  20. Have folks who take action on the above and make it real rather than complain in private or write it out on a blog.
  21. Have marble floors, open grounds, and a sarovar with multi-colored fish 🙂 (I’ll leave it to you to decide whether it would be okay to feed parshad to the the fish.)

A gurudwara is a place of individual learning and spiritual growth and a center for the sadh sangat as well. It should be a resource that serves all the dimensions of a Sikh: the soul, mind, and body. It should be a place where ideas and thoughts can be shared, debated and challenged openly and then acted upon by the community as a whole. Thankfully, many gurudwaras are on their way to reaching perfection or nearly there. What do you think is necessary for our gurudwaras? What would be your ideal?