Friday, May 18, 2007

A Mother's work is never done!

Recently, I was diagnosed with C. A. A. D. D. - Child Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.

This is how it manifests:

I decide to do the laundry. As I start toward the basement, I notice that there are cheerios all over the floor and my car keys are in the cereal bowl.

I decide to pick up the cheerios before I do the laundry. I lay my car keys down on the counter, put the cheerios in the trash can under the counter, and notice that the trash can is full. So, I decide to take out the trash.

But then I think, since I'm going to be near the mailbox when I take out the trash I may as well pay the bills first. I take my checkbook off the table, and see that there is only one check left, my extra checks are in my desk in the office/playroom, so I go to my desk where I find a sippy cup full of juice. I'm going to look for my checks, but first I decide I should put the sippy cup in the refrigerator to keep it cold. As I head toward the kitchen with the sippy cup a vase of
flowers on the counter catches my eye -- they need to be watered. I set the sippy cup on the counter, and I discover baby wipes that I've been searching for all morning. I decide I better put them back in the bathroom, but first I'm going to water the flowers.

I set the wipes back down, fill a container with water and suddenly I spot the TV remote, one of the kids left it on the kitchen table. I realize that after school when they go to watch TV, I will be looking for the remote as they fight over who lost it, but I won't remember that it's on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs, but first I'll water the flowers.

I splash some water on the flowers, but most of it spills on the floor. So,I set the remote back down, get some paper towels and wipe up the spill. Then I head down the hall trying to member what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day: the laundry isn't washed, the bills aren't paid, there is a warm cup of juice sitting on the counter, the flowers aren't watered, there is still only one check in my checkbook, I can't find the remote, I can't find the wipes, and I don't remember what I did with the car keys.

Then when I try to figure out why nothing got done today, I'm really baffled because I know I was busy all day long, and I'm really tired.

I realize this is a serious problem, and I'll try to get some help for it, but first I'll check my e-mail.

Do me a favor, will you? Forward this message, because I don't remember to whom it has been sent.

Don't laugh -- if this isn't you yet, your day is coming.


Monday, May 14, 2007

I will step out on the word of God!

"My Mother would tell her family in particular and the world in general "'I will step out on the word of God". Because of her convictions, it wasn't difficult for me to have faith. I grew up knowing that the WORD of GOD had POWER." - Maya Angelou said it while sharing stories from her life. It is very true that a mother plays a very important role in shaping the destiny of a family, a society and the community at large. The strongest influence on children is that of the mother. Children mostly follow their mother’s example and look upon her as a role-model. A small daily effort by the mothers will help in molding their children to become good Sikhs and an asset to the society they live in. Yesterday was the day, that was celebrated in Gurdwara to pay tribute to great Sikh Mothers of the Panth - Mata Bhag Kaur, Bebe Nanaki ji, Mata Tripta ji, Mata Khivi ji, Bibi Amro Ji, Bibi Bhani Ji, Mata Sahib Kaur ji & Mata Gujri Ji who were great examples of daughter, sister,wife, mother and grandmother. There were many more sikh women warriors who were remembered for their endless strength and grace. Our daughters do not need to look for inspirations anywhere else but Sikh History, where there are unparallel examples of bravery, love and grace.

It was a memorable day for me personally. Here is the just the glimpse of out of many gifts that my children showered me with. I feel extremely blessed to be mother of these children, who never fail to show their love on day to day basis in general and on special occasions in particular.

Thank you! Mom

For being a Wonderful Mother
So gentle, yet so strong
The many ways you show you care
Always makes be feel I belong

Thank You Mom!
For being patient when I’m foolish
Giving guidance when I ask
It seems you can do anything
You’re the master of every task

Thank You Mom!
For being a source of comfort
Like a cushion when I fall
You help me in terrible times of trouble
Supporting me when I call

Thank You Mom!
For being helpful when I’m hurt
Very soothing when in fright
You are always there for me
Through the day and the night

I love you more than I can express
You have my total respect
If I had a choice on mothers
You’re the one I select!

-Your son

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


The word ‘ardas’ is derived from a Persian word ‘arzdasht’ which means a petition or an address to a superior authority. Our ardas is addressed to the Almighty God and to our eternal Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. When we stand in front of Guru Granth Sahib with folded hands, individually or in a congregation, we are pleading for Gurus’s blessings and forgiveness for our shortcomings. Ardas is not written in Guru Granth Saheb. The format of Ardas has evolved over many years. After Bhagauti ki Vaar, the remaining wording of the current Ardas was decided by a joint body of Sikh Scholars in 1932-33 and was published by SGPC (Shiromini Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee – organization that manages the Sikh Gurdwaras).

This shabad is from the fourth Ashtpadi (collection of eight stanzas) of Sukhmani Saheb is recited before starting the Ardas. In these verses, Guru Arjan Dev ji says that our body and soul, and everything we have, are blessings from God. We are His children. Therefore, we must relinquish our ego and plead to Him for our needs like a child pleads to his / her parents.
Ardas can be divided into three main parts. First part is vaar Siri Bhagauti Ji Ki, composed by Guru Gobind Singh ji., in which he invoked the almighty God and the first nine Gurus.


After the vaar, we invoke the tenth Guru and Guru Granth Saheb.


This part of Ardas essentially encapsulates the entire Sikh history, recounting the dedication and sacrifice by the Sikhs, and reflecting upon the memorable acts of the Sikh martyrs and heroes, who upheld their faith unto their last breath.

In this part of Ardas, we seek the gift of meditating on the Divine Name ‘Waheguru’, which brings peace and happiness. We seek Waheguruji’s blessings for the well being of the whole Khalsa Panth, and the gift of leading a disciplined life according to the Sikh Code of Conduct.

In this part of Ardas, we pray to God to allow us free access to our holy Gurudwaras that remained in Pakistan after the partition of India in 1947. After this, specific wording is used to suit the occasion for the congregation (e.g. regular divan, birth, death, wedding etc.) and Waheguru ji’s blessing is sought for the fulfillment of the purpose for which the congregation was done. At the end, we prey for the well being of all, irrespective of their race or religion.

After the Ardas, the above couplets are recited which are not written in Guru Granth Sahib or the Dasam Granth. These are written in a document called “Tankhahnama”, written by a devout Sikh and a great poet named Bhai Nand Lal ji, and are believed to be questions by Bhai Nand Lal ji and answers by Guru Gobind Singh ji.

Source: Gurbani101


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

GIFTS: Teachers Appreciation Week

My father was a Primary School Teacher all his life, who has retired from the profession many years ago but never stopped teaching. Education was the most important gift that he gave to me and my siblings. My father’s example instilled an awe and respect for the profession. I realized that, next to parenting, teaching is the most compelling and the noblest of professions. Every young mind needs a spark to light the way to a brighter future through learning and teachers are that spark. In 1984, National PTA established Teacher Appreciation Week - the first full week in May-to honor the dedicated men and women who lend their passion and skills to educating our children. While it is supposedly the opportunity for the parents and students to convey their thanks to the teachers, at grade schools, parents are expected to give gifts to their children's teachers. For many families, there's a fine line between showing appreciation and wrecking family budget. Finding just the right gift; at just the right price can be challenging at best. With the end of the school year looming on once again, here are some ideas for often inexpensive teacher appreciation gifts.
It is a common knowledge that every teacher appreciates school supplies. Often teachers spend a lot of their own money stocking their classrooms. Pencils, markers, dry erasers, construction paper, anything for the classroom: games, electric pencil sharpener, writing equipment, books, rulers, things to decorate or theme objects, whatever you can get inexpensively or in volume. After dividing these between your two or even three children, it will cost less than $2 per gift. So stack up shoe-box sized plastic storage box full of school and classroom supplies that you can collect throughout the year at sales, clearance stores, etc. Don’t forget to add the most important part of the appreciation - A letter from the student (and/or parent) telling what they enjoyed about the year or the teacher's input into the child's life.

The other more personal gifts can be – Gift certificates from Baskin-Robbins, a bag of popcorn and a flavored salt sampler, a Gift certificate for a DVD rental, Movie Theater passes, a small basket of lotions or soaps, homemade fudge in take-out meal containers or flavored coffee/tea mixes. If you are an artist print teacher’s name on pencils; give coffee and a cup decorated by your child, handmade items from your child e.g. potholder, pencil holder, A small plant potted in a thrift store coffee mug or tea cup.

As we celebrate Teacher’s Appreciation Week, there are too many people who get left out, such as the principal, the secretary, long-term substitute teachers, P.E. teacher, the kitchen lady who serves your child every day, the teacher's aide, the Girl/Boy Scout leader, the Sunday School teacher, and the private teachers like sports coach, karate sensei, Art Class teacher, piano and dance teachers. I know a parent can't possibly buy gifts for all these people. I suggest that you send a personal e-mail or card to each individual telling them why they were so important to your child & thank them in most unique way by donating a book to the school or the public library in their name. Let them know how this gift will help other children as much as he/she helped your child. Another great way of acknowledging their contribution to your child’s life is to invite them to dinner at your house. This is also your chance to get to know them on more personal basis.

Basically, showing appreciation to the dedicated people who've touched our lives and given of themselves to our children should be an expression of heart-felt thanks, in any manner that does not pressurize any parent to go broke.


Monday, May 07, 2007

A Journey of a Sikh Woman

A Journey


It's nap time and my mother's hair becomes a world of my own. Mama unpins her bun and lets her hair fall, rushing down her back. She combs through the tangles with her fingers. Her long, shampooed tresses are thick pieces of rose-smelling silk. Her shiny hair is black pashmina, an endless journey toward the heart of a dark sky.

I lie perpendicular to the length of the bed, on top of tangerine and gold embroidered pillows, flexing my feet and wiggling my toes. Mama lies down next to me. I proceed to thread her locks from the crown of her head through my big and second toes. Her hair fans out like a thousand silk threads suspended in air. Nestling both of my feet into the nape of her neck, I doze off warm, happy and safe.

I wake up to my mother combing out the knots. My father is coming home soon. I am only five years old, but somehow I know I will live my life joyfully. Mama is my light. She is home.

Mama teaches me how to take care of my hair during hair-bath days on Saturday mornings. I sit in our white ceramic tub waiting for my shampoo to commence. When the water reaches my waist, I crouch forward and push myself off the front of the tub. I sink under, and under is where I stay. The waves ripple over me as I hold my breath - one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi. I release tiny air bubbles with two seconds in between rounds and watch them float to the surface, then hover and pop.

"Meeta, beti, please get up so I can wash your hair." My mother places a plastic cream-colored stool next to the tub and squats down with her knees bumping up against the tub's side. I surface, a humpback whale disrupted from its southern migration. Mama's fingers sink into my scalp as she begins a relaxed massage.

"Close your eyes, urrahhh, close your eyes so it will not sting you." Mama piles the strands of hair atop my head and squeezes out more shampoo. She beams as she sculpts my hair into a temple. I tilt my head back for the rinse.The weight of the shampoo washes away, leaving me light as a feather. She towel-dries my hair and draws a line down the middle of my head with a comb.

She combs each section of my hair the way she combs her own - carefully, patiently. Mama's slow hands tell me how much respect she gives my body and me. At school, I romp with fluffy, tangle-free hair through recess.

As a child, I never question why all of my family members have long, thick hair - we just do. It is a natural extension of who we are. I do not realize until later that hair-bath days only exist in our family household, and that the brothers and fathers in other American families do not have long hair.

My mother silently declares an allegiance to a homeland that is rooted from our heads and connected to our hearts. As a Sikh woman who migrated from India to America, she carries the strength and solace of spirituality in her hair. It is a light that provides a sense of place and home between any borders, on any soil, whether she is in India, America, or any other country.

Although I didn't realize it then, my mother has been stoking the same guiding light in me since my childhood - a light that shows me the illuminating life that extends through my thoughts, out of my head, into my hair, and into the world, a light that shows me the path to who I am becoming, a light that sparks with subconscious knowledge and holds a steady glow.

When I am older, in middle school, Mom sends me on solo trips to India during summer breaks. My first trip alone leaves me jet-lagged and anxiously awake in the deep Indian nights.

After riding the Shatabdi train from the Bombay airport to Poona, Jeeti Masi and Uncle Ji greet and escort me to their home. Their daughter and my cousin, Baby, is married and has moved away to live with her husband and in-laws in Hyderabad. In her dusty pink- and-bronze room, the night's cool breeze chases the day's humidity out of the room through the half-opened windows. I sit up on the bed not knowing what to do.

I slink downstairs and head for the front door and quietly unlock the steel bolt to step outside. I step toward the custard apple tree in the lawn and pick one off. It looks like it has been glazed with green bottle glass. I carry it back upstairs, set it on the wooden nightstand, and wait for sleep to arrive.

The next day, jet lag leaves me drowsy on the velvet maroon sitting-room sofa with a set of my cousin's old comic books. They are dog-eared and have broken spines. They tell the spiritual stories of the ten Sikh Gurus, divine mortals sent as teachers to deliver the wisdom of a new faith, Sikhism.

As I read, I travel back in time to the 16th-century Indian subcontinent. Mughal soldiers force Hindus to convert to Islam or suffer death. The ninth Sikh Guru, Tegh Bahadur, dons a navy blue turban and a golden robe and has a long silky beard. He declares, "All people have a right to practice their own religion."

The Mughal leader sarcastically responds, "If you are so interested in defending these people, are you willing to die for them?"

In the next scene, Guru Tegh Bahadur is beheaded by a Mughal soldier.

Another comic book illustrates the story of Mai Bhago, a great Sikh woman warrior who challenged forty deserters of the Sikh army to return to their posts and fight on behalf of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Master, against the tyranny of the Mughals and the Hill Rajas, and to protect the principles of the nascent faith.

As I read the comics, I realize that if there are no people standing at the end of these battles, there will be no principles, because they live within the people. The need to live with dignity and freedom becomes greater than the need to just live. To me, the sacrifices these Gurus made for future generations seem fantastical and out of this world, but in reality the Gurus had compiled scriptures that captured their direct conversations with God, the enlightenment that centered on equality, while also drawing from the most progressive Hindu and Muslim tenets to create a just society.

On the comic page, the Gurus wear regal turbans that protect their hair. Their long black beards flow freely. They look different from everyone else. I am familiar with the way they look because they remind me of my family, but I also see that they are different. We are different.

I spend the next two days reading through each of the one-hundred comic books. I learn that my hair is referred to as kesh. My kesh represents an outward identity I am required to preserve as a Sikh woman.

The comic books fill me with information and history. I learn, in preserving this natural uniform, that I commit to the equality between men and women, rich and poor, black and white, Muslim, Hindu, Christian ... Kesh is a commitment to a loving state of mind, to self-control, to faith in humanity, and to the protection of individual and communal rights.

Through daily meditations; a commitment to just thought, speech and action; and faith in the One Supreme Being, a Sikh can reach a state of rapture right here on earth. A Sikh can live in utter bliss through serving humanity. What amazes me is the capacity to care enough to protect the rights of even those who I disagree with or who are intolerant of me.

I have a hard time developing the discipline it takes to fulfill the destiny that is laid out for me. To me, these spiritual prophets are political ideologues. I dismiss their faith as jargon. I do not see it, cannot feel it, and have no evidence of it existing around me, so I follow my pleasures and passions as a young adolescent American girl who has bought into the illusions of this world: standardized beauty, romantic love, and the power of money.

I want the attention of friends. I want the attention of boys. I want to be picture-perfect stepping out of the swimming pool with styled hair. I want to swoon with my classmates over our class pictures, squealing in delight about how cute we look. I want to date Rick Springfield.

But all of this is not going to happen with all of this long, frizzy hair. I muse: Maybe if I imitate my classmates' hairstyles - Stephanie's bangs, or Laura's bouncy blond bob, or Mindy's perm - I'll have a chance.

In my freshman dorm at the University of California at Davis, I am surrounded by young women fawning over their tresses all day and night. Deep conditioners, natural dyes, wave relaxers and mousse are must-have helpers. Fraternity parties, house parties and international parties call for one- to two-hour sessions in front of the mirror.

But my choices are limited: a ponytail or pigtails, wearing it down with a part in the middle or to the side, a tight or loose bun. Okay, there are choices, but something about my hair feels stale, like old bread. It is ancient, musty, and tired.

In my hair, my mother, aunt and grandmother nest with their stories, their histories and their spirits. They sit on my head waiting for me to hatch into a woman who makes a difference in the world, who makes a habit of acting fearless in moments that demand it.

The women in my family believe that my hair will purify my thoughts. They believe I can expand my thinking with my hair; all the positive energy in the world will be transmitted to me through my hair. Midnight tresses are rolled up into buns at the napes of my mother's, aunts' and cousins' necks. My grandmother wraps her salt-and pepper hair into an acorn of a bun, nesting her love for God and her ancestors' heritage into her hair.

But I am convinced that this is not for me. I am convinced that I belong to the world and the world is a better source of authority for me. The distance between my parents and me grows with fewer conversations and an ocean of misunderstanding. I decide it is time to push forward with something new - defined by me - something I can call my own.

I step into Select Cut Salons on Fourth and C Streets in downtown Davis. I am convinced that this decision will alter who I am and carve out an entry into my real life, a life waiting to be defined. Inside the salon, peroxide mingles with the receptionist's cigarette smoke.

"Who are you here to see?" The receptionist smashes her cigarette into the ashtray and scans the appointment book. Her sandy blond hair is cut like that of a choirboy who does not own a comb.

"I'm here to see Tiffany for a hairstyle ... um-m, a haircut," I tell her. It is no big deal, I try to convince myself. Everyone gets haircuts. Relax.

"Tiffany, your four o'clock is here!"

Tiffany greets and ushers me over to a hot-pink leather chair that competes with the black-and-white checkered floor. Cotton-candy-colored vanity lights line the individual station mirrors. The spritzers, mousse, hair relaxing serums and alcohol-free finishing-hold sprays confirm that hair care is a commitment that cannot be taken lightly.

Tiffany lifts my thick braid of hair over my head and lets it drop. Her hands are careless, unlike Mama's.

"Wow, what thick and curly hair you have."

For Tiffany, my long rope of a braid is just hair, humdrum strands hanging out of my head.

"Okay, so do you have any ideas?" she asks.

Her clumsiness makes my heart pound faster. I feel my hands quivering, so I sit on top of them and attempt to look genuinely interested. I scan the top of the mirrors for all the European cuts: pageboys, what looks like a Cleopatra cut, and simple unassuming bobs. It's exciting to think about how I might change, but something keeps grabbing at me, telling me to leave this place, to just get out of here.

But I won't. My head pounds, weighing heavier and heavier as I take in all the pictures. I survey Tiffany's red, curly, turn-up-the-volume hair. It hangs an inch off of her shoulders. I have to answer her, but I don't want my hair to look like hers.

"Umm . . . a bob looks nice, or maybe a Cleopatra cut, or . . . I don't know. What's the difference? Just cut it."

Tiffany's eyes widen and her eyebrows bob up and down looking like she is going to skip the Are you sure? or Wanna think about it?

My heart is thumping, and I see the entire Sikh army falling off their horses as they ride into battle - sliding off cliff edges, pierced by arrows, losing control of their purpose, their direction.

Just shake it off, I tell myself, it is just a head of hair, and everyone gets a haircut. Well, everyone except for Sikhs, Rastafarians some Native American tribes - and my entire living family.

Maybe I'm not a Sikh, or don't have what it takes to be one. I am the weakest link. I'm the soldier falling behind, barely able to carry my backpack, late for daily prayers. I'm the one who cannot get my act together, so what does it matter?

Tiffany's steel blades skim my neck. She struggles to cut off a lifetime of hair in one snip; it will have to be severed off, decapitated. Half of my braid is disembodied from the back of my skull. I close my eyes and wait for it to be over.

"There you go, hon," Tiffany says, holding my thick braid in her hand, like a dead animal. "I'll put it in a bag for you so you have a souvenir to remember it by."

When Tiffany hands me the bag with my braid, I gingerly set it on the floor. I hear her mumbling something about styling my new hairdo, but my mind is somewhere else.

I really did it. What did I do?

Tiffany uses smaller scissors to "style" my hair. Her glossy lips smack together as she talks, but I can't make out a single word of what she's saying until she's finished with the scissors.

"Okay! A quick blow dry and we are finizio."

She blow-dries my hair and asks me to do a quick flip of my head. I see myself in the mirror with tussled hair surrounding my face. I had expected something different. I thought it would be different.

Later, I get together with my roommate, Martha. She holds her hands to her mouth when she sees me. She looks like she is going to puke.

"Oh my God! You look so cuuuuu-ute!"

Cute? I am empty. Cold. I run my fingers across the shaved patch on the back of my neck and wonder about this cycle of growing out my hair, cutting it again, growing it out again.

What purpose does this serve? To be cute?

Three weeks after my haircut, I go home to Yuba City to visit my mother. On my way to the house, I pull on my hair at the back of my head trying to tug it to its original length. I ring the doorbell and wait. The lock clicks open and I throw my arms around her.

"Mom! Hey!" She throws her hands around me and they search for my head, for my hair. I freeze.


She whips me back where she can see my face; my hair jostles around near my neck, settling down two inches above my shoulders. Her face crumples and turns red. Her eyes well up. I see the pain denting her face, contorting it into something she is not.

She runs toward the kitchen, pleading with my grandmother to enter the prayer room. My mother wipes her face with her dupatta and starts her prayers before she even enters the sanctum. She is whispering into God's ear.

She does not speak to me for four months.

I call my mother on the phone and try to explain to her that it is just hair. My mother swallows her tongue in her attempts to explain that it is not just hair.

"It is identity. It is your commitment to an honest life, to a compassionate life. It is your character, your credibility. Why would you give up your own credibility?" she asks.

I want to cry, swallowing the sobs stuck in my throat. The smell of flowers in my shampooed hair makes me nauseous.

I reach for my childhood memories, but they slip away quickly, running away from me.

The next few months, I enter into the ritual of growing my hair out, trimming it, cutting it, and growing it out again. I become indecisive about my school major, and my grades falter. I find studying too overwhelming to deal with. I grow silent. I do not know who I am anymore. I drift and float through my sophomore year of college.

I develop an identity through a guy I date and transform myself into an accessory for someone else's life.

There is a constant gnawing at my insides for something concrete, something that grounds me. I have no center, so I drift out to sea without direction or guidance. I lose my connection to myself and to the world. I lose my connection to a deeper sense of who I am.

I do not realize that I had put that much faith into my kesh, into my long wavy hair, the hair I blame for my problems.

Mama accepts me into her house again, but she cannot hide her disappointment. She dismisses me during family conversations. She questions my pride at the dinner table. She tells my younger cousins to follow the example of my cousins in India: "The girls in India know who they are and where they come from."

I know my mother doesn't mean India when she says this to my cousins. She doesn't pledge an allegiance to the geography of India or even America, for that matter, but to the spiritual homeland of Sikhism. She stamps my passport: Deported. I am exiled from my family's homeland. I am a foreigner in my family's home.

The border between my mother and me expands. She sets up a front line to protect the sanctity of her life against the impiety of mine. I hold on to my illusions, declare my mother narrow in her thinking. We never talk about it-the hair, the kesh, the identity I abandoned.

A few years after graduation, I join Narika, a South Asian women's hotline that supports survivors of domestic violence. The hotline serves women from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. There are quite a few counselors who know Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu and communicate with the women on the hotline in their native languages. I stick with English because it is essentially the language I understand best.

I attend two counseling training sessions in the summer and prepare to wo-man the hotline. We receive a directory of domestic violence resources ranging from legal help to emergency room phone numbers.

Shoba, our counselor, suggests we prepare a hot cup of tea to keep at our side during our shift. She tells us that we will receive a range of calls: from women who may hang up, merely content with having heard a soothing voice on the other end of the line, to professionals asking for the names of good divorce attorneys.

It's Tuesday night, and I'm naively excited about my first hotline shift. I dial into the hotline and pick up one voice mail. I call the woman back. I listen to her pauses and hesitations when she speaks. I let her know it is okay to talk about what's happened to her, that it is okay to speak her truth.

She tells me he has hit her. We rest in the silence between us after she speaks. In this moment, I am humbled by my own history of Sikh women charging into battle, leading communities to fight oppression, and try desperately to pass on this historic courage, this timeless fearlessness through my lips into this woman's ears - down to her heart.

Eleven voice mails, three cases, and some court appearances later, the world has turned inside out for me and the distortion of it all hurts my eyes; these women's stories leak onto my pillow night after night. The counselor-training sessions ring true. Violence transcends class, education and race. Even though these same realities exist within Sikh communities in America and abroad, the scriptures state unequivocally that mothers, wives, sisters and daughters deserve the highest respect from their families and the society around them. Anyone who dares to harm them is violating sacred law.

I begin to question the world I am living in. I recall how quiet most of the Sikh girls were at school, how much they held in. I remember my mother demanding that my father respect her as an equal partner in those moments he lost sight of her right to make decisions in our household. I remember my own ability to dismiss myself because I had the ability to shrink, become invisible, smothering my own light because I am scared of where it could take me.

I walk the streets imagining that every man passing by is preparing to go home and beat up his wife. I lose two or three nights of sleep during any given week. On weekends, I'm in a deep slumber coma, not waking up for the sunlight, lunch, or even early-evening tea. The slumber pushes the days crammed with hotline calls into a semi-distant past, but the women's voices continue to scream in my head.

I help one woman secure a restraining order against her husband who consistently molests his youngest daughter. On the morning of her court date on the way to the courtroom, she shields me with her hands when she sees her husband. She turns to me and says, "I will not leave you alone with him."

She sees her daughter in me. I put my arm around her shoulder and let her know that I will not leave her alone with him either.

Colleagues and friends see me absorbing these women's lives and making their pain my own. The daily hotline calls push me into daily meditation and prayer. I practice rising early in the morning with the sun. I brush my teeth, bathe, and then have a cup of tea.

I recall my mother's and grandmother's practice of sitting down to pray, to clear their minds of any disturbances, to reach a solution or relief from a situation.

I return to my bedroom, sit cross-legged on my bed, and cover my head with a dupatta. I reach for my Nitnem bound in red velvet. The small book holds Sikh prayers in Gurmukhi on the right side of the page and gives English translations on the left. In concentrating on these prayers, I ask for peace of mind and strength, a calming of my nerves that will sketch a decent mind-size portrait of a sane world. I ask for guidance - grounded, firm guidance.

The meditation becomes a daily practice I cannot live without. Little by little, I chase fear out of my body to make room for more light. Three months of heavy meditation help me create a healthy detachment from the women without sacrificing my compassion for them.

The prayers center me. I realize that all the little hells created on this earth are what the Sikh Gurus fought against. I realize there can be no peace or rest if members in a society suffer or are denied their basic rights.

My hair has grown three inches longer. The meditation increases and with it my hair expands in length. I focus on the strength of my mother's hair and the strength and safety she gave me as a child, the comfort I find in my spiritual homeland.

I feel a crack in the older self that I mummified when I cut my hair into that Cleopatra bob three years ago in college. The new growth of my hair is the outgrowth of my new mind. I see the world for what it is and realize that faith and my contributions toward realizing the vision of a socially just society are what I have to hold on to.

I protect my mind's thoughts with my long wavy hair, warding off the severity of the world, nurturing my ideas and visions for my bright future. I realize all will not be resolved overnight, but I see a spark of light flicker from the steady glow of childhood.

The thick plaster of the bandages breaks off, and I return to the original homeland of myself, with the gift of kesh.

My hair becomes witness to all the love and atrocities in the world. My hair holds the strength, pain and love of these women on the hotline who I will never forget, cannot forget. I realize that I, too, am on a battlefield similar to the ones I saw in the comic books, even though the landscape is different and I'm not holding a sword.

The guiding light I inherit from the women in my family finds a way to penetrate me at my core and transform me from the inside out. I am duty-bound to the world around me according to the kesh I reclaim.

I rise daily to my original locks, which are now younger than me. My hair has grown back out to its former length, and I no longer question preserving it until I die.

I am on the path to becoming the woman my mother and grandmother prayed I would be.

[From Journey By Inner Light, by Meeta Kaur. Published in an Anthology, "Homelands: Women's Journeys Across Race, Place, and Time", edited by Patricia Justine Tumang & Jenesha de Rivera, Seal Press, California, 2006. ISBN-10: 158005188X; ISBN-13: 978-1580051880. US $16.95 ]


Friday, May 04, 2007


I have exhibited super powers from an early age, when I had to compete with three older brothers. Determined to leap tall obstacles in a single bound; I did manage to rack up national scholarship beginning high school until I graduated with Master’s Degree in Science. I grabbed my degree and tunneled into my career. Followed again my brothers to US, established my career & life in pardes. I married man of my choice as opposed to arranged marriage for Punjabi girls. Before we celebrated our first wedding anniversary I birthed a baby boy without fear, because if anybody could make the Super Mom thing work, it was me.

…………………………..And that’s when all the wheels fell off my steam engine. Children are energy consuming creatures, they can suck every last tad of energy you’ve got and leave you in a pile on the floor. It’s not their fault, of course. If they were all we had to do, it would still be a full-time job. But as any Joker will tell you, most women are playing more than one hand at a time.

Convinced with my organizing skills, I figured I would simply ease my new little one, Harji, into my agenda. It wasn’t long, however, before I learned a different universal truth – babies don’t like scheduled events. As you can imagine, I cried a lot during those first parenting years. After Harji’s sister, Sukhmani, arrived, there were times we all three would blubber like babies. When Sukhmani turned two and baby Harjap came along, I finally threw my Day timer against the wall. I no longer desired a lifestyle that moved like a speeding bullet…….so I wanted to be full-time mommy.

Finally, my dream is coming true and I am counting days at my work, cleaning up computer, cleaning up my desk drawers, dusting files that were piled for more than a decade in the drawer above my head. I wish to make my presence at home wonderful for every one at home, including me. Since I have cleared my schedule, I have a chance to rest up and concentrate on my family. My husband is thrilled with the thoughts of having me around more, and the kids are glowing with adoration for a mom who finally will have time for them free of excuses.

I promise I will not let my old enemy weasel his way back into my household. I refuse to be Super Stay-at-Home Mom, perfect wife, perfect mother, and perfect volunteer, perfect all-around person. Since I will no longer be heading to the office everyday, does not mean that I will have all this spare time. I will not work like a dog, just like I had to since I was employed outside the home.
If I forget this promise of mine to myself, I will have only one thing to blame - my wicked alter-ego, that has been feeding me this list of must-do’s. In turn it is - Me.

……….But it is not me only; I have seen every mother doing the same what I did whether she is working in home or outside home. I have learnt from my own flight down Misery Lane; that a lot of the striving comes because we’re unsure of who we are or where we’re going. So we rush from project to project until we wear out, never truly accomplishing anything of value. When I look at the Sikh History and see how Gurus & great Sikhs of those times lived their everyday lives, I’m amazed at how applicable their messages are to my own routine. I’m a sturdy gal, and it probably took longer for me to get His message than most, but I finally unfastened my cape and let it fall to the ground. I’ve got a new veil draped around my shoulders now, one that encourages me to make choices based on Guru’s example, not a demanding schedule. I want to walk humbly with my SatGuru. But from now on, I’m not going to obsess over it and will let hrIPul AjImYN ] rzwiek XkInYN ] The Perfect Friend and Surest Provider of Sustenance – Waheguru Ji lead the way.

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