“I know you’re traveling, but you deserve to know.” A deep pause held the defying silence. “We’re taking dad to the hospital.”
The call ended shortly after. The barrage of unanswered questions already felt like hours.
He paced the room attempting to focus as he spoke, “I’m in Hong Kong, it’s 13-hours to London…” He stumbled over the small coffee table, the ones meant to be convenient and helpful.
He emptied his laptop bag over the hard-wood executive table. He plugged in his complimentary Internet. He attempted find the time on his diamond studed Swiss watch. Super heated tears and nervous sweat had already fogged his designer glasses. He reached out for a tissue and found that it had abandoned its post. Off on the floor next to the now unhelpful coffee table. His Egyptian cotton sleeve was a suitable equivalent.
The earliest flight was 6-hours from now, overbooked, full to capacity. Waiting-list.
He slumped back his chair, still hazy from the passing time. None of his many accomplishments could help him. None of his wealth could solve this problem. He felt like he had sat there for days.
His phone rang again.
“I know you’re traveling, but you deserve to know.” A deep pause held the defying silence. “We’re taking dad to the hospital.”
A beggar lived near the king’s palace. One day he saw a proclamation posted outside the palace gate. The king was giving a great dinner. Anyone dressed in royal garments was invited to the party.
The beggar went on his way. He looked at the rags he was wearing and sighed. Surely only kings and their families wore royal robes, he thought. Slowly an idea crept into his mind. The audacity of it made him tremble. Would he dare?
He made his way back to the palace. He approached the guard at the gate. “Please, sire, I would like to speak to the king.” “Wait here,” the guard replied. In a few minutes, he was back. “His majesty will see you,” he said, and led the beggar in.
“You wish to see me?” asked the king. “Yes, your majesty. I want so much to attend the banquet, but I have no royal robes to wear. Please, sir, if I may be so bold, may I have one of your old garments so that I, too, may come to the banquet?”
The beggar shook so hard that he could not see the faint smile that was on the king’s face. “You have been wise in coming to me,” the king said. He called to his son, the young prince. “Take this man to your room and array him in some of your clothes.”
The prince did as he was told and soon the beggar was standing before a mirror, clothed in garments that he had never dared hope for. “You are now eligible to attend the king’s banquet tomorrow night,” said the prince. “But even more important, you will never need any other clothes. These garments will last forever.” The beggar dropped to his knees. “Oh, thank you,” he cried.
But as he started to leave, he looked back at his pile of dirty rags on the floor. He hesitated. What if the prince was wrong? What if he would need his old clothes again. Quickly he gathered them up.
The banquet was far greater than he had ever imagined, but he could not enjoy himself as he should. He had made a small bundle of his old rags and it kept falling off his lap. The food was passed quickly and the beggar missed some of the greatest delicacies.
Time proved that the prince was right. The clothes lasted forever. Still the poor beggar grew fonder and fonder of his old rags. As time passed people seemed to forget the royal robes he was wearing. They saw only the little bundle of filthy rags that he clung to wherever he went. They even spoke of him as the old man with the rags.
One day as he lay dying, the king visited him. The beggar saw the sad look on the king’s face when he looked at the small bundle of rags by the bed. Suddenly the beggar remembered the prince’s words and he realized that his bundle of rags had cost him a lifetime of true royalty. He wept bitterly at his folly. And the king wept with him.
We have all been invited into the royal family–the family of Maharaj. Our Father Guru Gobind Singh ji gave us the honour of being his Sons and Daughters. And to join Maharaj’s family, all we have to do is shed our old rags and put on the “new clothes” of faith.
But we cannot hold onto our old rags. When we put our faith in Maharaj, we must let go of the sin in our life, and our old ways of living. Those things must be discarded if we are to experience true royalty and abundant life.
What are you holding on to from your life? Whatever it is, get rid of it! Maharaj will give you everything you need … you don’t need to rely on the world to satisfy you anymore!
Mata Gujri was a perfect woman, a Puran Istree. The word “Stree” originates from Sanskrit and means “expansion.” In a physical sense women expand by being mothers. In a spiritual sense, women give their children the ideals and values to live by; they nurture a sense of security; and they have the power to construct or destroy their families and their generations to come.
So, it is only pertinent to say that Mata Gujri was a Puran Istree in both the physical and spiritual realms. She completed the life and mission of Guru Teg Bahadur; raised the extraordinary child Gobind; managed the affairs of the Sikh Panth while the Guru was still a child; and inspired and prepared her young grandsons for the extraordinary courage, grace and sacrifice that would be required of them at such tender ages.
Let us look at her life and the different roles she plays as a perfect woman.
· As a Daughter:
MataJi was brought up with the consciousness of the Guru’s light; she fulfilled her parent’s aspiration of serving the path of the Guru beyond their expectations by growing into a perfect role model of grace, strength, persistence and sacrifice.
· As a Wife:
She supported Guru Tegh Bahadur when he was deep in meditation for years, again while he was on his missionary tour, and finally, when the Guru left for Delhi to make the supreme sacrifice.
· As a Leader:
After Guru Tegh Bahadur’s martyrdom, she and her brother, Kirpal Chand had the responsibility of managing the affairs of the Panth. She also organized the langar (community kitchen) and played an important role as the administrator of the army. She had an important role inspiring the Khalsa armies during the battles Guru Gobind Singh had to fight. Her role in the battle of Bhangani is especially remembered.
· As a Mother:
She molded the father of the Khalsa, the great Guru Gobind, raising him as a single mother after the martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadurji.
· As a Grandmother and inspiration to the young martyrs:
When Mata Ji and the sahibzadas were arrested and confined in Sirhind Fort, and as the children were summoned to appear in court each day, she kept urging them to remain steadfast in their faith. She constantly reminded the Sahibzadas that their Grandfather and Great-Grandfather had both sacrificed their lives to strengthen the ideals of Guru Nanak. Her support of her grandsons played such an important role in Sikhism that as Sikhs, we probably owe our existence to her. It was due to her role that the seven and nine year old children did not budge from their beliefs and attained martyrdom. If the Sahibzadas had accepted Islam on that winter day, Sikhi probably wouldn’t exist as it does today. So, in fact, we stand tall because of the teachings and the inspiration Mata Ji provided to her grandsons and thousands of martyrs who gave their heads and not their faith.
· As a Martyr:
While imprisoned on top of an open tower during the cold month of December, Mata Gujri continually did simran with no complaints about her physical being. She attained martyrdom the same day as her grandsons after hearing that her grandsons had been bricked alive rather than give up their faith. Her mission had been fulfilled.
One of the greatest lessons we get to learn in life is that we are often attracted to a bright light in another person. Initially, this light is all we see. It’s so bright and beautiful. But after awhile, as our eyes adjust, we notice that this light is accompanied by a shadow – and usually a fairly large one.
When we see this shadow, we have two choices: We can either shine our own light on the shadow or we can run from it and continue searching for a shadowless light.
If we decide to run from the shadow, we must also run from the light that created it. And we soon find out that our light is the only light illuminating the space around us. Then, at some point, as we look closer at our own light, we notice something out of the ordinary. Our light is casting a shadow too. And our shadow is a bigger and darker than some of the other shadows we’ve seen.
If, on the other hand, instead of running from the shadow, we decide to walk towards it, something amazing happens. We inadvertently cast our own light on the shadow, and likewise, the light that created this shadow casts its light on ours. Suddenly, both shadows begin to disappear. Not completely, of course, but every part of the two shadows that are touched by the other person’s light illuminate and disappear.
And as a result, we each find more of that bright beautiful light in the other person – which is precisely what we have been searching for all along.
For five days the Panjab has been cut off from the rest of the world. There is a 24-hour curfew. All telephone and telex lines are cut. No foreigners are permitted . . . all journalists were expelled. There are no newspapers, no trains, no buses . . . Orders to shoot on site, were widely carried out. The whole of Panjab with its 5,000 villages and 50 major cities, was tuned into a concentration camp.’
(Christian Science Monitor, 8th June 1984)
For the 25 million Sikhs across the world, the city of Amritsar is a sacred place, and its holiest sanctuary is Sri Harmandir Sahib more commonly known as the Golden Temple, a resplendent 72-acre compound which also hosts the Akal Takhat, the highest political throne for the Sikhs. However, 30 years ago on the 2nd June 1984, the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, addressed the nation in a broadcast on the All India Radio, ordering an army attack on the holiest shrine of the Sikhs. The reason she gave for this extreme measure was to “flush out separatists” who threatened the “unity and integrity of our motherland.” The separatists as described by Mrs Gandhi, were in fact a group of Sikhs, who had been for a number of years, been campaigning for fair treatment for all of India’s minorities against growing evidence of majority bigotry.
The fertile ground for the struggle between the Sikhs and those in the corridors of power, was provided by the perceived notion of injustice and discrimination among the members of the Sikh community at the hands of the successive Congress governments at the Centre. The army attack on the Golden Temple and forty-two other Sikh shrines across Punjab, code named Operation Bluestar, was the culmination of this confrontation.
At the time of the partition of India in 1947, the Sikhs as a community had decided to be part of India as it had been promised autonomous powers as a reward for the pivotal role it had played during the Indian independence movement. However those promises were soon backtracked upon by the Congress party when it came to power. The Sikhs were not recognised as a separate religion in the Indian constitution and instead regarded as an extension of the majority Hindu faith. Even the demand for re-organisation of Punjab on linguistic basis on the pattern of other states was rejected and helped reinforce the persecution complex. It was in 1973 that the Shiromani Akali Dal, the political party which aimed to represent the Sikhs, adopted the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. This resolution, which was later incorporated into the Akali Dal constitution, demanded autonomy for the region on the basis of the exclusive and separate Sikh identity. It was for the implementation of this resolution that the Akali Dal launched the ‘Dharam Yudh Morcha’, a peaceful mass civil disobedience agitation in 1982 from the Akal Takhat after all other means had been exhausted.
After successfully portraying the peaceful agitation as a separatist movement filled with lawlessness and violence, the government had managed to sow the seeds for acceptability of attacking a holy shrine with its armed forces. The attack was deliberately timed to coincide with the martyrdom anniversary of the temple’s founder, Guru Arjun Dev ji. The complex was overflowing with pilgrims. The battle between the Indian armed forces which numbered in the excess of 8,000 and those who had been declared ‘separatists’, numbering at an estimated 400, lasted for five nights and six days. Even on conservative estimates, the death toll was well over 4000 including innocent pilgrims, women and children, the youngest being a two weeks old child. There were also reports of those who had been arrested on suspicion of being separatists, being shot at point blank range with their hands tied behind their back with their own turbans.
Sikhs were shocked at the sight of a bullet ridden, tank battered Akal Takhat and left a deep rooted wound in the souls of all who came across the horror. People across the globe gritted their teeth in revulsion and felt a surge of anger against the use of military might on the holiest shrine of the Sikhs. The lack of closure, the lack of feeling that the legal system of India delivered justice, the helpless feeling that no one will ever pay for the mass butchery that took place has left a simmering anger among the Sikhs. Thirty years on, disclosures from the UK government archives revealing British government involvement in the Amritsar massacre, has once again stoked the simmering feelings of discontent.
Operation Bluestar is seen as the beginning of a Sikh genocide that continued through the anti-Sikhs pogroms of November 1984 and lasted through the decade of state-sponsored extrajudicial killings from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. The campaign initiated by the Sikhs, to achieve fair treatment for all of India’s minorities, is more important than ever today. Unfortunately since 1984, Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 and Christians in Orissa in 2008 have both suffered from anti-minority and divisive politics. Now as we commemorate the 30th anniversary of Operation Bluestar, we must commit ourselves that such atrocities to never happen again.
Kirat Raj Singh | 31st May 2014