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Jaswinder Singh, Fighting an Inner Battle

By Jaswinder Singh

A powerful question it is, and a very personal one for many Sikhs who have been living in foreign countries, such as England, USA and Canada. Many if not all who have been raised, or nearly raised their entire life in these countries, must have asked the same question that I have, over and over, why am I a Sikh?. Why do I follow the Sikh religious beliefs? and most importantly, what is it to be a Sikh?

I have lived 21 of my 24 years in Toronto and like most Sikhs who maintained unshorn hair, have been harshly ridiculed, had to fight physical and verbal battles with my school mates almost every day. Just trying to survive in this white-dominated culture where children were out rightly racist, was a tough daily battle. The only thing that kept me strong at heart, was hearing the stories my father used to read to us all, of the lives of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, his children and other Sikh Martyrs who gave all for their faith in Sikhism.

Though I was still young and didn't understand the details of Sikh values at that time, just having role models like Guru Gobind Singh Ji' young children (Baba Zorawar Singh and Baba Fateh Singh) kept my spirits alive and allowed me to pass through this most critical time in my life as a youngster with a strong sense that Sikhs were brave, strong, courageous and that we would give our life, but stand tall like warriors and face all obstacles.

Today the racism has decreased many fold since the 1970s and early 80s when I was in public school, however it is still very real and visible to Sikh boys who maintain their long hair. They endure the same subtle discrimination by their class mates. The only difference being, it is less physical nowadays.

The last few years, since entering University I have asked myself many difficult questions such as, would life not be easier if I just adopted the norm of today's society? by cutting my hair, drinking alcohol, smoking, hanging around in bars and partying?

The last year has been the most craziest of my life. For some unknown reasons to me, a Muslim girl came into my life. This was the most challenging time of my entire life. The reason being, I loved her and she loved me, however, I could never marry her unless I convert to Islam she said.

Now what is a 23 year old, warm blooded Sikh to do? I love her, but at the same time, I knew my Gurus, their children, the many other Martyrs gave their life, but did not accept Islam. Should I betray their sacrifices? for LOVE?

I was so confused, why did she not say such before coming into my life, "that she can only marry a Muslim"? Why after taking my heart did she throw this piercing thorn into our relationship? However when I reflected, I knew I had strayed away from the Sikh values, and if I wanted to maintain Sikh values, I would have to give her up, or she would have to convert to Sikhism.

I asked myself why did my Gurus sacrificed their lives for Sikhism? It must be truly the greatest religion. Why did they ignore all the riches of the world, the pleasures of society and women? But immersed themselves in the love of God?

This period was the most testing in my life. If I had not known about Sikhism, I would have probably "jumped the gun" so to speak and married her by converting to Islam. However when I looked into what Sikhism is, what are its values, what is its history, I knew I would be doing a grave injustice not only to my Gurus, but my own soul, for forsaking the most humanly religion in the entire world. Most poetic, most respecting of all other religions, and foremost, only religion in the entire world, where Sikhs have sacrificed their lives to help save another religion. The ninth, Guru Teg Bahadur Ji, just one prime example. How can I betray this worldly religion, which respects all humans, does not enforce itself on anyone, respects all religions alike, for humanly pleasure? I didn't. I couldn't. Blessed with the understanding of my faith. I never would. My love left, but my faith remained.

I wrote her the following poem to depict to her my reasoning, my feelings, for my decision...

She asked from me, my heart in love,
I gave her my treasures- heart, body and soul.
Unsatisfied was she, requesting my identity
I could only offer her my life, not birth!

I shall not forsake my blessings at birth
a religion of love, in blood poetically wrote.
Equality its emblem, crowned by selfless sacrifice
a religion offering peace, justice to humanity.

A religion not elitist, nor condemning anyone
joining humankind as beloved children of God.
A religion stressing Truth (God), not blind following
spreading rays of happiness, not endless tyranny.

Why do you ask me to relinquish this path?
do you not want to be my partner, equal in all respect?
My "Love", I tell you, my heart I will burn,
shall die as a Kaffir, in God's love, over and over.

Jas. Aug 17, 95.

I sacrificed love for a human, for the love of my Guru. I could not betray my Guru, who holds the wisdom, the light, the key, to ferry me across this worldly ocean, to give me the true nectar bliss of God' love, to bring me closer to my essence of whom I am, my spirit, my soul, for anything or anyone in this world.

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