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The Pew Forum, through their recently released “US Religious Landscape Survey,” provided information regarding a niche that the US Census manages to avoid: religious affiliation. You could imagine my excitement as I clicked on religions.pewforum.org to check it out and learn what the survey found in regards to Sikh Americans.

And that’s when it all started moving in slow-motion.

“Main page.” I scan through it. “Where’s the category for Sikhs? Okay, no worries. Perhaps we’re buried in the ‘Religious Composition of the US’ table in Chapter 1.” I move the edge of my finger over the mousepad ever so slightly so as to scroll down the page inch by inch. “It’s there, it’s there,” I tell myself reassuringly. “Wow, categories for Eclectic, a little bit of everything, own beliefs, New Age and Native American. Okay, seriously, where are we?” I shoot back up to the top and carefully re-scroll downwards. “You wouldn’t want to publicly hate on a survey for no reason. You’re definitely missing it.” I re-read the text. No luck. Re-loading the page doesn’t work either. “This can’t be for real.”

The record in my head came to a screeching halt.

After going through the entire frickin report I feel comfortable declaring that Sikhs were not included as a category in the study. We are neither a religion, an other world religion, an other faith nor an unaffiliated religion. I don’t get it. Out of the 35556 people over the age of 18 surveyed not one Sikh was reached? We weren’t away from our phones having post-Vaisakhi celebrations between May and August of 2007 (the time period the survey was conducted). How we got shafted remains uncertain.

It’s one thing for you and me to not be able to experience the joy that comes from seeing statistical data published on Sikhs. And trust me, our joy is of major importance to me. But it’s entirely problematic when a survey of great political importance snubs a huge percentage of the American diaspora.

…Muslims rival Mormons as having the largest families. And Hindus are the best-educated and among the richest religious groups, the survey found.

“I think politicians will be looking at this survey to see what groups they ought to target,” Professor Prothero said. “If the Hindu population is negligible, they won’t have to worry about it. But if it is wealthy, then they may have to pay attention.”

Experts said the wide-ranging variety of religious affiliation could set the stage for further conflicts over morality or politics, or new alliances on certain issues, as religious people have done on climate change or Jews and Hindus have done over relations between the United States, Israel and India. (NYT, Feb 26)

I hate to admit that certain groups are lobbied in greater preference than others and politicians cater to certain groups for self gain, but it’s sadly the nature of the beast. Our exclusion from this study is a big loss for our community. We must make sure that this isn’t repeated again. Speak up, people.

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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.

I have a problem with our cultural attitudes. A big problem. And although the problem isn’t a new one I’m still going to write a post about it so bear with me.

Sometimes I feel so out of place when I’m with a bunch of Sikhs. Perhaps it is because I didn’t grow up in a tight-knit Sikh community. Perhaps it was my way of maintaining distance from certain superficial cultural attitudes that I had no intention of perpetuating or adopting. I thought I could be a contributing member of the sangat and simply ignore the nonsense.

Easier said than done.

Earlier this month, Harbhajan Singh, a popular cricket Indian player also known (slightly cheezily) as “The Turbinator,” was accused of making a racist comment towards Andrew Symonds, Australia’s only black player. Although the Australians are currently under investigation by the International Cricket Council for equally not-so-nice remarks towards South Asians and Africans, it wasn’t pleasant to hear someone who identifies himself as a Sikh espouse beliefs inconsistent with Sikh doctrine and see it splashed all over worldwide media.

It’s even harder to contain my expletives when I hear similar crap in person. Especially when it comes from a specific group of highly identifiable aunties gathered in langar halls around North America. They scour the sangat under a cloak of narrowminded beliefs and regurgitate their definition of beauty under hushed tones: that to be ideal is to be fair-skinned (the lighter, the better), tall (above 5’5″ and you’re all set), thin (but body fat percentage doesn’t matter), sharp-nosed (but not too sharp) and have long luscious hair (but don’t you dare have a hair anywhere else). Even L’Oreal, Garnier, and Ponds are aware of the power of auntie-think as they have pushed chemical-laden products that help lighten skin throughout markets in India and the US. How ironic that mega-corporations are looting aunties through their deeply embedded sense of self-hatred and laughing straight to the bank because of it.

I often refer to my thinking (and the thinking of some of you awesome readers) as progressive or revolutionary, but it isn’t, dammit! The ideas of equality, anti-discrimination, and empowerment were outlined by the Gurus not too long ago. What the hell is it going to take to get rid of the hurtful and ridiculous auntie-think that pervades our community? It may take readers like you to make an auntie afflicted with auntie-think aware of her ignorance. [Note: must be done with extreme politeness and respect to be effective. I’ve done it before (and in Punjabi I must add), and she stopped her remarks although I did get a strange look from her as we walked away.] It may take the form of young women speaking up in women’s groups and gatherings. It may be time for our young men to step in and confront their mothers, sisters, and wives. And, oh yeah, don’t purchase the disgusting products like the ones mentioned above.

The cure is in our possession, my friends; are you ready to help administer it?

The Guru Granth Sahib that graces my nuclear family is one that my ancestors preserved and passed forward. My grandfather brought his family’s Guru Sahib from India and gave it to my father when he settled in the United States. Although we weren’t able to delegate a separate room for Guru Sahib in our two-bedroom condominium we respectfully housed it in my bedroom closet. The act of prakash would transform my room into my family’s collective sanctuary. A sense of tranquility emanated from the room amidst the majestic palki hanging over and brightly colored and sparkling rumaals decorating Guru Sahib. Sukhasan and ardas concluded Guru Sahib’s public presence, and my room converted back into its former setting with stacks of video games, books, and art supplies sprawled over my bed and shelves.

I may get slammed for admitting the above as some would say that the Guru Granth Sahib is to always be in the setting of an open throne and presence of the sangat and certainly not tucked away in a bedroom closet. Perhaps this is true. When I read about folks like Pritam Singh who build second homes for the sole purpose of meditation and prayer, my description of our keeping of Guru Sahib appears terrible. I guess I can limit the amount of negative mail I receive by adding that the next home we lived in included a private room for Guru Sahib with a large custom designed colored-glass window with Waheguru in Punjabi etched into a portion of it.

Or maybe I can’t prevent your negative feelings from rushing in. And I’m okay with that. Why?

In each of the aforementioned instances the Guru Granth Sahib is a physical presence of one’s personal sanctuary and a source of guidance for her current life and eventual connection with Waheguru. In each setting it is read with purpose and held with reverence. More importantly, the ideas and content within the spoken word of the Gurus infiltrate our conversations and daily activities. The spirit moves within a Gurmukh no matter what setting he is in, be it at work, the gurudwara, a restaurant, or a concert. Waheguru surrounds every living being in all moments, thoughts, and locales, and to be able to remember and translate his message into practice is what makes us truly blessed.

Do you keep a personal gutka? A Guru Granth Sahib? In a closet? A separate room? In your heart? Please share your thoughts.

Bowne Street in Queens, New York makes my inner spirit smile. Three places of worship lie within feet of each other: a gurudwara at one corner, a Buddhist temple directly across the street, and a Hindu temple next door. The sights, smells, and sounds that erupt on that corner during weekends or on holy days lure people of all faiths together. I love seeing the distinct but common beliefs of bald men wrapped in red robes swirl together with long bearded men wielding kirpans.

The sweet nectar of community and remembrance of God that attracts the hungered soul was described in a recent article in the travel section of The New York Times. Why, there’s more to the holiday season than just the birth of Christ. We musn’t forget the devotees of other faiths: Hindus, Jews, and Muslims.

Oh, but wait. Let us opt to not mention the Sikhs. Even better, let us describe the Hindu temple on Bowne Street in painful detail but not reflect on the gurudwara that neighbors it.

This article is screaming letter to the editor. Okay, maybe not screaming. Perhaps just a gentle nudge that Sikhs make up a large proportion of the multifaith milieu as well.