Pages Navigation Menu

Poet, Singer, and Activist

Fighting Our Own Battles: Using Technology to Educate People on The Sikhs!

Posted by on Jul 28, 2014 in Discussion | 0 comments

safe_image.phpIt always pleases me when I see organizations like SALDEF (Sikh American Legal Fund) stepping up to actively educate people about the the Sikh turban. It seems like it’s an ongoing series of battles, even though we have been living here in America for over a century!

Caused primarily by ignorance and misunderstanding, several community activists and Sikh American organizations are actively engaged to overcome this bias by spreading awareness and educate our fellow American brothers and sisters. They are working with the legislators, educators and other community leaders and organizations. Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, SALDEF has launched a historic new media initiative on behalf of Sikh Americans, with first ever PSA (Public Service Announcement) by a Sikh American – Waris Ahluwalia, an actor, writer, and designer. Please take a moment to view it above and you can read more about the initiative HERE

Under different circumstances and in a different land, the Sikh turban has a long history representing a revolutionary voice against oppression, ever since Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion donned it the first time more than 500 years ago. Below is a video slide show of my Punjabi poem “ਪੱਗ ਦੀ ਸਾਂਝ,” (Pag di Saanjh with English subtitles): a Tribute to the Sikh Turban that I sang to add to this dialogue and hopefully instill pride, respect, and understanding in its history and all it represents.

The importance of not only educating others, but educating ourselves on the history of the Sikh turban and contextualizing it is especially important today when it has become almost a standard part of a Sikh boy’s educational experience to be called “Osama,” or “terrorist,” simply because people don’t know who the Sikhs are or what the turban represents.

Sikhs have been in the United States for over a century. It’s about time our fellow Americans knew!

Read More

Pag Di Saanjh: A Tribute to the Sikh Turban and the Bond with Humanity (Dedicated to Late Professor Atamjit Singh)

Posted by on Apr 12, 2012 in Discussion | 0 comments

Guru Nanak Dev Ji: First Guru of the Sikhs, Bhai Mardana and Bhai Bala

Guru Nanak Dev Ji with Bhai Mardana and Bhai Bala

Happy Vaisakhi and Pagdi Divs to you all!

I dedicate this blog post on ‘ Vaisakhi and Pagdi Divs’ to a gentleman and a scholar: Professor Atamjit Singh, who did a commendable job understanding unity in diversity by spreading not just Sikh awareness, but a new zeal for studying Gurmukhi, as a means of understanding the message better amongst university students all over California (U.S.A.). He sadly passed away in 2010, and although he is missed, he will never be forgotten, especially in the Bay area and the Central Valley of California.

Professor Atamjit Singh taught Punjabi language at the San Jose State University’s Department of World Languages for many years and was instrumental in designing their program to systematically teach it, making it accessible not just to those who already knew some Punjabi, but to complete beginners, as well as intermediate and advanced students. At the request of the Sikh Council of Central California, Professor Atamjit Singh also had the courage, capacity, dedication, and above all the humility to teach the beginners level class 200 miles away in Fresno in the central valley, California several years ago.

One of the beneficiaries of that beginner’s course in Fresno was my son Navdeep Singh Dhillon, who never had any formal classes before or since this one semester. Navdeep currently teaches English literature and Creative writing at the School of Visual Arts in New york, and is now not only able to read and write Punjabi (Gurmukhi) but also is able to help his two year old daughter Kavya to learn the basics in Punjabi as she goes to an English only speaking nursery school. Check out his blog post on raising bilingual and multilingual babies:

A few years back when Professor Atamjit Singh was teaching at the San Jose State University’s Department of World Languages for the benefit of his majority non-Sikh American students, he requested me to make a live presentation at the University of my video ‘Pagg di Saanjh’: A Tribute to the Sikh Turban, which he had found on youtube. I, of course, gladly accepted, and I sang my Punjabi poem, with images from Sikh history, and translated into English in subtitles. The poem attempted to contextualize the significance of the Sikh turban, and it was  greatly appreciated by the Dean, the Head of the Department, and the students and the staff alike.

Here is the moving image slideshow of my poem with English subtitles for you to watch and share with whoever you think will benefit from the message. As always, I will greatly appreciate your thoughts on this by leaving a comment here or at my facebook:

Read More

Music Slideshow: Pag Di Saanjh (A Tribute to the Sikh Turban)

Posted by on Nov 5, 2010 in Featured, Music Slideshows | 0 comments

Regardless of whether you are a Sikh who wears a turban, a Sikh who doesn’t wear one, or are simply curious about why the turban is so important to the Sikh identity and cannot simply be taken off at will, here is a music slideshow of a poem I wrote with English subtitles set to my voice and images, conveying my thoughts on the matter. As always, please leave me a comment if you have anything to say.

Read More

It’s Official: November 2010 is Sikh American Awareness and Appreciation Month!

Posted by on Oct 27, 2010 in Discussion, Sikh Council of Central California | 0 comments

Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism

Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism

Greetings to All on the Guru Nanak Prakash Utsav in the month of November.

Guru Nanak Prakaash Utsav (Celebrating the birth of founder of the Sikh religion) is just around the corner. All over the world wherever the Sikhs now reside, November has traditionally been the month to rejoice. On this auspicious day, there can be no other befitting tribute which may be bestowed to the Guru than the California legislature unanimously passing the Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 181-Relative to California Sikh American Awareness and Appreciation Month in November 2010. And there can be no other message more powerful for humanity than what the most cherished philosopher/poet Sir Ilama Iqbal, a practicing Muslim, wrote about Guru Nanak:
“Phir Utthi Aakkhr sdaa Touheed Ki Punjab Sey
Hind ko ik Mard-E-Kamil Ne jgaieya Khaab Sey.

I haven’t translated the above yet, but let me know if you would like me to, and I will gladly do so. Readers familiar with the history of India in the 15th century and what the word ‘Khaab’ or khvaab means in this context will understand the sentiment behind the lines.

Despite Sikhism being the youngest of the religions, it is the 5th largest religion in the world. And yet not many people know who the Sikhs really are or what Sikhism is all about. Many people invariably confuse Sikhs with members of the Taliban or disciples of Osama Bin Laden because they equate all turbans as alike. Neither we, as Americans ,nor the entire civilized world can ever forget the terrorist attack of 9-11 on our nation. And ironically, none of the 19 attackers who committed the heinous crime of taking the lives of nearly 3000 totally innocent people had beards or turbans. However, they belonged to Al Qaida, whose leader (Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants) grow beards and wear turbans, as do the Taliban in Afghanistan. They were shown repeatedly by all TV channels.  This led many people to believe that Sikh Americans were one of those terrorists. The mistaken identity caused the hateful cold-blooded murder of Mr. Balbir Singh Sodhi on 9/15/2001 in Mesa, Arizona as well as many “backlash’ crimes that have not been covered in any depth by any national media outlet.

In America, and I am sure in many other countries as well,  Sikh boys have also been and are continued to be harassed in schools by their peers because of their long hair, turbans and patkas. Organizations such as the Sikh Coalition based in New York have taken a great step forward in addressing this issue. These incidents show the need for a greater understanding and educating people about some basic Sikh facts such as the fact that 99.9 % of the men wearing turbans (Pug or Dastaar) in the U.S. are Sikhs, hailing from India. 100% of the boys wearing mini turbans (patkas) and having unshorn hair are maintaining their Sikh identity.

Sikhism is not a branch of another religion. It is a monotheistic religion  founded in Punjab, India 540 years ago by Guru Nanak. It has approximately 26 million followers worldwide, largely living in Punjab, and is the 5th largest world religion. Sikhs have been in the U.S. for over 100 years and approximately number 700,000 of which nearly 40% live in California.

Sikh Temple in Stockton

Sikh Temple in Stockton

The first Sikh Temple in Stockton was built in 1912 by the Sikhs who later played a significant role in the freedom of India movement better known as Ghadar movement. Sikhs have served in all American wars, starting with Bhagat Singh Thind in  WWI. Some 85,000 Sikhs died fighting for the freedom of others in Europe during the wars they did not start or want. The first Asian American to be elected to the U.S. Congress, Dalip Singh Saund  (1956-1962), was a Sikh. And the serving Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, who as the US President Barak Obama put it, “ when he speaks, world listens,” is a Sikh. Sikhs are enterprising and are in all professions from farming to fiber optics and everything in between.

Mine is not a mission in preaching a particular religion to the multiethnic and multicultural readers but the Sikhs need to use all possible means of educating the general public about who they are and ensure that their identity is not to be mistaken or abused. If this was the case with any other community, I as a poet and singer would appreciate it and support their effort the same way.

California Legislature recognized and acknowledged the significant contributions made by Californians of Sikh Heritage and has adopted the aforementioned ACR 181 (Logue). This measure seeks to afford all Californians the opportunity to better understand, recognize the rich history and shared principles of family values, monotheism, the tenants of Sikh faith and the important role that the Sikh Americans play in furthering mutual understanding and respect among all peoples. This ACR 181 Resolution – Relative to Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month, a shot in the arm so to speak, couldn’t have come at a better time if not too late for the auspicious day in November 2010, coinciding with the 541st Guru Nanak Prakash Utsav.

Contributing to this effort as a humble Sikh, permit me to draw your attention to my poem ‘Pag di Saanjh’; A tribute to the Sikh turban (Dastar/pag/pagri). Explaining the historical background, symbolism, struggle, sacrifice and successes against all odds, the poem is set to my voice and moving images by my son Navdeep Singh Dhillon. As always, I welcome your comments.

p.s. The story behind this Kavita ie, ‘Kavita di Kahani’ will follow in a later blog.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger... Read More