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  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?

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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

Status quo. Acceptance. Rediscovering yourself and your faith. Finding the path to inner piece.

I would say those are reasonable and cool themes to explore in a movie.

But throw in a Sikh transplant surgeon and a love story and you got the makings of Ocean of Pearls, a very-soon-to-be Hollywood release.

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Sarab Singh Neelam, director and co-writer of the film, founder of Lightpost Pictures, Toronto-ian, and gastroenterologist, will debut Ocean of Pearls at the Miami International Film Festival on March 2nd.

Although our protagonist, Amrit Singh, is a surgeon, his story is common to many Sikhs outside of medicine as well. I have seen one too many brother and sister struggle with adapting to western standards while compromising their Sikh identity. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling the pressure myself from time to time.

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Although the film centers around issues of Sikh heritage and principles, the director adds a healthy reminder of the realities and complexities faced by most in our current health care system. In an interview he commented “most Americans do not realize that even if you have health insurance and earn good money, an accident or a health crisis can bankrupt you.”

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Awesome to see folks like Sarab Singh Neelam pursue change for the community though diverse creative outlets. To see our experiences translated through characters such as Amrit Singh and the medium of film, art, and music is a beautiful gift I hope both our community and the general public will appreciate.

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.

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