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Sikh Day 2007 Ottawa, Canada


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    On a cool autumn evening a bunch of friends get together at a local coffee shop. They just happen to be Sikh, and seem to be interested in a concept that really hasn’t taken off in their faith. They live in a relatively educated community, a small city of sorts, with large expectations. In their city contains many of the legislators and members of parliament from across their great Nation. Yet something is missing? Young turbaned men walk to work during the day, yet they have questions as to why nobody seems to ask them who they are. They receive curious and sometimes degrading looks on the street, and yet still very few people come to ask them about the cotton cloth they don upon their heads.

    It was the fall of 2005 when a group of youngsters drove by me and my father and threw eggs at us. That was the first real time I had witnessed that, and it had visibly shaken me. The youths then circled their van around and yelled “Paki’s go back home to where you come from”. Now some would argue that this is an isolated incident, and that these youths don’t represent the rest of what society believes. Yet, in a recent 2006 study, 1 in 3 Canadians prefer not to live beside a person of color. When I read this statistic it struck really hit a chord. What if my neighbour doesn’t like who I am or where I come from? Luckily both of my neighbours are of Indian origin; however, there are many South Asians and minorities in Canada who must wonder the same thing?

    Five turbaned youth in one coffee shop, customers staring and exchanging smiles with the group, wondering what they must be talking about? In enters some young females who order some tea, and approach the gentlemen. “Sat Sri Akal” they say with their hands folded in their traditional Punjabi salutation. They all begin to sip away at their tea, talking about how to educate Sikhs and non-Sikhs about their faith, culture and issues affecting the community. Many ideas come up, some of which sound good, and others which seem to just fade in thought provoking discourse. They decide that they need some type of project, and to meet at another date to take their brainstorming session and create an action plan.

    Several months later, in a crowded auditorium, a curious audience awaits the opening of the seventh annual Sikh Day. In the audience, news media, non-Sikhs, political invitees and youngsters await in eagerness for the event to Begin. Previews of recently released movies start the program off, along with an introduction to what the event is about.

    A musical quartet places their instruments on stage, while technicians place microphones in strategic places to give just the right atmosphere for Indian classical string instruments. One of these instruments was created by the tenth master Siri Guru Gobind Singh. Its appearance is that of a peacock, and is notably called the “Taos”. Opinder Singh Sadana’s Dilruba Music Academy is ready to perform and does so with a medley initially sung by Jagjit Singh, the great Punjabi gazzal singer. “Satnam Siri Waheguru” plays gently to a crowd who sits listening to the music with cloths placed on their heads out of respect.

    This year was the year of film for Sikhs. With Shonali Bose’s Amu, exploring the tragedy of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, and Harpreet Kaur’s documentary on the widow colonies created by this incident, clips of these films was aired while audience members learned about the tragedy. To think it took 20 years after such a tragedy, numerous books, and a second generation of Indians living outside of India to produce such feature films.

    Warrior Saints

    Kevin Lee’s “Warrior Saints” project was displayed as well, with a passionate discourse about the Sikh faith and values to which Sikhs proscribe to. Yet Mr. Lee notes that there are still many American’s and Canadians who still don’t know, or appreciate who Sikhs are. What does this tell us about our nations, and how we present our faith to others? On this night many leave the auditorium having a better sense of the issues facing Sikhs, and moreover, a sense of pride in their own character. Artistic displays prepared for after the event, highlight the rich unique heritage of the Sikhs which has been diluted for many years by systematic disinformation campaigns. Another year passes by, yet motivation for the future of Sikhi lives on…

    Gursevak Singh Kasbia
    Part Time Professor
    Faculty of Health Science
    University of Ottawa

    Sikh Day 2007 Chair

    Ottawa Sikh Community Services
    Program Coordinator
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