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The first novel written in Punjabi has been adapted into an animated film!

If this is the musical score then the movie is sure to rock.

Published in 1898 Bhai Vir Singh’s Sundri (or Sundari) was written with the aim of “boosting the morale of the Sikhs [of their own history and cultural heritage] after the downfall and subsequent annexation of the kingdom of Punjab.” Written with a literary rhythm and flow I could only hope to emulate, Bhai Vir Singh paints Sundri as a heroine who embodies the Khalsa virtues of discipline, courage and compassion through her strength as a woman and her fighting and equestrian spirit.

Read the short story for yourself.The movie is to be released in May and June 2008 in different cities across North America.

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I drool (in a completely respectful way) whenever I remember that Sikhi supports scientific theory, design, and thought. I drool when I see nature’s form and function reflected in man-made objects. Stuff that I can’t quite grasp completely (i.e., string theory, genomics, fiber optics, philosophy) also makes me drool. So do nice European accents.

Perhaps this will make you drool as well:

Waheguru is not only the ultimate engineer but he is science itself! He pushes the forces of natural selection and adaptation and sprinkles a bit of random mutations to create efficient elements of nature. He then smiles (and maybe even snickers) as he watches us exert our evolutionary fitness at the expense of other living things, attempt to rationalize the universe through mathematical equations, selfishly proclaim that our equations are elegant and beautiful, and argue over whether we are damning ourselves to a so-called false belief in intelligent design.

His smile probably widens when he sees us plagued with questions of identity and self-purpose– the existential queries of “who am I, what is the meaning of my life.” He smiles when he sees us slap our hands to our foreheads in anxious frustration. He smiles when he watches us struggle with self-doubt and uncertainty. He smiles because he is the force behind each of our unique paths: the occasional bumps, the pleasant coincidences, all of it. It serves as a reminder that as long as we have faith in the Guru we will find ourselves under his protection and guidance and ultimately safe, healthy, and happy.

I don’t have to necessarily see the light at the end of the tunnel because I know it’s already there. Wow. What a concept.

I’m no longer drooling. I’m less anxious. I’m reassured by my faith. I hope you are as well.

I’m decidedly indecided to begin the beginning of my spiritual path.

Read that three times fast.

Vaisakhi is around the corner. And in each of the five different gurudwaras I have visited during the past few weeks, Bhai Sahibs have been encouraging their congregations to feel the spirit within, and with Waheguru’s grace, embrace Amrit and join the league of saint-soldiers.

And I’m inclined to do so. I would have walked forward at Guru Gobind Singh’s request. I live the Sikh way of life… well, kind of.

I’d say that I’ve got the seva and compassion aspect covered in some sense. But can I wake up at amrit vela everyday instead of only on days when I have to be at work at 4 AM? Can I do nitnem and reflect on it each day? Can I immerse myself with the sangat as much as possible rather than only on the occasional evening or weekend? Yes, I’m disciplined and guru-centered and I already do much of the above. Yes, I can do this.

Where is the hesitation coming from then? Deep down inside I think about how it would be to stop shaping my eyebrows. I’ve been able to put the razors and wax aside for a few years, but I can’t seem to get over the tweezer-to-eyebrow action completely. Deep down inside I wonder if this would make the circle of guys I may be interested in become even smaller than it is already. That sounds so horribly lame. And it is. I ultimately want to spend my life with someone who considers his spiritual growth equally as important and wants to raise a family of strong, open-minded, confident, and bright Gursikhs. So why am I even considering this notion? Deep down inside I wonder how I could even entertain taking this step if my knowledge of Sikhi just skims the surface and I barely know how to read and write Gurmukhi. I mean, I just maintain a silly and superfluous blog that gets a total readership of 30 on a good day. Deep down inside I wonder if the non-amritdhari community will begin to maintain their distance from me because I am not one of them. I would be deeply hurt by this as inclusivity is what I strive for. But I already feel that way sometimes with those who are amritdhari so there’s another deep down feeling that lacks substance. And lastly, deep down inside I wonder how it would be to give up my family name. All its wonderful history and ties to generations past. The nice ring it has to it. Its uniqueness. And all the forms I would have to fill out to have it officially changed.

I’m decidedly weak. I’m indecidedly strong. I wish I could make a decision. With Waheguru’s kirpa I hope I make the right one in due time.

Folks in the tri-state area may still be talking about Mr. Caberwal’s likeness plastered on a wall in Rockefeller Center, but images of Sikhs have long been incorporated into various forms of art in the United States. Walk along the meandering streets of Central Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts and you may just come upon this cheerful wall mural. Pay attention, though. I managed to miss it completely the two times I walked by. Good thing editors at Sikhswim have better eyes than I do. Although now that I look at our smiling representative Singh closely he doesn’t seem to be wearing a kara

Have any neat Sikh spottings of your own? Send them in!

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Photo credit: Sikhswim

A pain assessment usually begins with the following question: on a scale of 0 to 10, how would you rate your current level of pain? During a long day of asking people to describe and illustrate their pain through words I tried to find a bit of humor by imagining whether this scoring system could be adapted and applied elsewhere…

Twenty-five years ago, when Kanwaljeet Anand was a medical resident in a neonatal intensive care unit, his tiny patients, many of them preterm infants, were often wheeled out of the ward and into an operating room.

The journey of a Sikh and his career is described in a main article in this Sunday’s Times magazine. Wow. +3 points.

Known to all as Sunny, Anand is a soft-spoken man who wears the turban and beard of his Sikh faith.

The author highlights the physical emblems of our faith. +2 points. Yet, what did this comment add to the article? -1 point. I wonder why Singh was omitted from his name. -1 point.

Anand says he does not oppose abortion in all circumstances but says decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis.

How do Sikhs approach the issue of abortion? Is all life, no matter whether he will be born with defects or endanger his mother, entrenched with a blessed spirit? How do we feel about aggressive medical care for those nearing the end of their lives? Is this in some way meddling with Waheguru’s plan for our destiny? +5 points for getting us to think about this.

In the push to pass fetal-pain legislation, Anand’s name has been invoked at every turn; he has become a favorite expert of the anti-abortion movement precisely because of his credentials. “This Oxford- and Harvard-trained neonatal pediatrician had some jarring testimony about the subject of fetal pain,” announced the Republican congressman Mike Pence to the House of Representatives in 2004, “and it is truly made more astonishing when one considers the fact that Dr. Anand is not a stereotypical Bible-thumping pro-lifer.” Anand maintains that doctors performing abortions at 20 weeks or later should take steps to prevent or relieve fetal pain.

My, what an observation. He is not a stereotypical Bible-thumping pro-lifer. -0.5 point.

Total: 7.5 points. A considerable amount of pain on a scale of 0 to 10, but not bad on my imaginary scale of a good read that raises awareness of our community and promotes open discourse on important issues that are often pushed aside.

An image of a young Sikh man is plastered on a wall in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center. Nice. I’ve been debating whether to identify him because it would take away from the idea that he represents all members of the Sikh faith. But after some thought (and acknowledging the entertainment factor it would add), I gave in. He goes by Sandeep “Sonny” Caberwal and has a blog of his own. He’s the co-owner of Tavalon, a tea bar in New York’s Union Square. There’s a Facebook group you can join if you’re a fan. He’s a tabla player on Thievery Corporation’s third LP release. He’s also in the promo below. And, no, I’m neither working with the paparazzi, stalking him, nor a part of his entourage.

Don’t put your air guitar down just yet. Singing shabads and playing tabla and harmonium may lead you to realize your dream of becoming a rock star and playing side by side with bands like Rage Against the Machine and Ozomatli. Sonny Suchdev of Outernational proves it’s possible.

Suchdev is not only a musician, but a writer as well. His intimate short essay “The Day My Skin Came Off” details his experience of being harassed as a young Sikh traveling on a Brooklyn train.

Each of us has faced times where our beliefs have been challenged; Sonny is an example of how “staying up” can keep one afloat from unwarranted criticism and how terrible experiences can inspire one to become an activist and promote tolerance and social justice for all.

Choice and fate both play a role in determining the name of a Sikh. The family crafts a name after looking to the Guru Granth Sahib to provide the first letter of the child’s name. The first name is followed by Singh for males and Kaur for females. Singh and Kaur are names universally shared by Sikhs as this exemplifies equality within the community by reinforcing that Sikhs are sovereign under one God.

Although certain prefixes and suffixes are commonly used, each name remains highly meaningful and defines a Sikh’s identity. The beauty of this concept, however, is being drowned in the perception that global acceptance and success are unattainable if one appears to be different from the masses. More are purposefully choosing to either modify their given names to shorter ones, westernize their names, or completely omit their middle names and replace it with their family names.

One of my favorite essays titled “The Concise Eloquence of Names” celebrates the idea of embracing our historical past and the blessing our name bestows upon us. Perhaps this may help us appreciate what lies within and move forward with our names intact and our heads held up high.

I love it when I see articles in major newspapers covering issues important to the Sikh community. I’m always hopeful they’ll be positive reflections; however, this article didn’t necessarily bring out the warmest of emotions. Rather, it left me feeling hurt and worried.

Popularity contests, apathy, and laziness are the leading forces behind why one of the most conspicuous emblems of our faith is nearing extinction. Sadly, I don’t think I’m exaggerating. A sense of deep concern is reverberating through our community as seen by the number of Sikh revivalism schemes flourishing as of recent. Young Sikhs can visit “turban clinics” to learn how to tie fashionable turbans. A CD titled Smart Turban 1.0 is being marketed to the technologically hip. “Mr. Singh International Pageants” are being held to celebrate the accomplishments of model Gursikhs.

The gurus taught us to embody an independent spirit by maintaining a unique appearance. A sense of duty, responsibility, and respect naturally follows with the adoption of this identity. It seems that these remarkable and forward-thinking teachings alone are not enough to motivate our youth.

Why do we need to market our article of faith as a fashion statement in order for young Sikhs to keep their kesh and wear a turban? Why can’t we simply accept and respect our unshorn hair as a part of God’s design? Why are we blinded by embarrassment and the need to conform instead of seeing our turban as a crown and symbol of wisdom, power, and knowledge? To single out men and place them at fault alone wouldn’t be fair: what has happened to our mothers, our strongest female presence, who are vital in raising proud young Gursikhs? What are our mothers teaching our daughters, the next wave of women responsible for raising the next generation of young Gursikhs?

As long as our community addresses this issue as one that is complex and demanding of our attention, I think we’ll be okay. This isn’t going to be as easy as tossing in a couple of pills to get rid of an annoying headache. A much more not-so-tasty regimen will be needed to reverse this self-created and self-destructive pathology.