1. When you first came to the US, how did you deal and balance your Sikhi Saroop with the new environment?
I moved to the US in late 1993 with my mom and siblings. I was not in Sikhi Saroop at the time and didn’t really get challenged by my appearance as was easily mixed up with the crowd. People used to mistake me for being Spanish until I spoke with an Indian accent. It was about 13 years ago when I got more involved in Gurdwara Sahib activities. As for most people, it was my older son Sumeet who drew my family towards Gurdwara Sahib to have him learn Punjabi, Sikh History, and later on Kirtan. I got involved with Punjabi teaching within a year or 2. I got more serious with practicing Guru Sahib’s teachings after Guru Sahib blessed me and my husband with Amrit in April 2008. Our sons, Sumeet Singh and Danveer Singh were 7 and 3 years old at the time.
2. What is your daily routine like?
I do Nitnem after a shower, get breakfast ready, and then prepare lunch in advance before heading for work. 2-3 times a week, I squeeze the gym in between. In the evening, I do Rehras Sahib, prepare dinner, and run some errands as needed. I am usually listening to something Sikhi related while doing household work like Kirtan, Katha, audio biography of a Saint or other Sikh personality, or some historical event or inspirational speech. I believe in what Guru Sahib says
“ਭਰੀਐ ਮਤਿ ਪਾਪਾ ਕੈ ਸੰਗਿ॥ ਓਹੁ ਧੋਪੈ ਨਾਵੈ ਕੈ ਰੰਗਿ॥”
But when the intellect is stained and polluted by sin, it can only be cleansed by the Love of Name.II
I don’t know what bad Karma I might have done in previous lives or doing now. So as Gurbani says, I try to remember Waheguru one way or the other to wash those away and beg for mercy of Waheguru.
3. What do you do professionally? Tell us something more about yourself.
I work at Boston College and am responsible for the smooth running of the Undergraduate Teaching Labs for Organic Chemistry, which involves ordering all needed chemicals and equipment and delivering in a timely manner to ~350 Undergraduate students each semester. I also supervise about 15 Undergraduate work-study Lab Assistants, 20+ Graduate students assigned to teach labs, and 3 to assist me in preparing chemicals and equipment. It’s amazing to see students progress through their student life while balancing the work and all other activities they are involved in like sports, cultural, humanitarian, and the list goes on. I love working at BC as it provides me huge satisfaction in making a difference in the lives of so many students. It’s a Jesuit run University and the whole university (faculty, staff, students, and management) are very respectful about anybody’s Religion. During my last 8 years of service there, I never faced a situation where I felt discriminated against or given bad looks for my appearance. I graduated with a Masters in Organic Chemistry from BC as well. My dad works there, my brother is a BC graduate and my son Sumeet just finished his first year from BC Business School.
4. What drives your passion for Sikhi?
a. As we read in Rehras Sahib daily a Shabad written by Guru Arjun Sahib,
ਭਈ ਪਰਾਪਤਿ ਮਾਨੁਖ ਦੇਹੁਰੀਆ ॥ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਮਿਲਣ ਕੀ ਇਹ ਤੇਰੀ ਬਰੀਆ ॥ ਅਵਰਿ ਕਾਜਤੇਰੈ ਕਿਤੈਨ ਕਾਮ ॥ ਮਿਲੁ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਭਜੁ ਕੇਵਲ ਨਾਮ ॥੧॥
This human body has been given to you. This is your chance to meet the Lord of the Universe. Nothing else will work. Join the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy; vibrate and meditate on the Jewel of the Naam. ||1||
I try to remind myself repeatedly why we are on this earth born as humans and try to walk on the path that would lead to that goal mentioned by Guru Sahib to merge with Waheguru. We are born in Kalyug when Akal Purakh came in his Sargun Saroop as Guru Nanak Sahib and gave us the wisdom to follow through Shabad ( Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji). So we need to not only read Gurbani, but also understand, and apply in our daily life. We are not Sikhs by being born to parents who happened to be belonging to Sikh faith, but by following Sikhi principles written in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Sri Dasam Granth Sahib Ji, Bhai Nand Lal Ji verses, Bhai Gurdas Ji Varan and Rehatnaame written by Guru Sahibs and their beloved Sikhs.
b. Reading Sikh history and remembering Sikh martyrs who gave up their life but not Sikhi is another source of inspiration.
c. Guru Sahib gave high importance to Sangat of Gursikhs. So I try to surround myself with true Gursikhs.
Without good fortune, the Sat Sangat is not found; without this Sangat, people are stained with filth and pollution. ||3||
d. And as I mentioned above, I mostly listen to Sikhi related material which is Sangat of Shabad for the ears and human mind.
ਏ ਸ੍ਰਵਣਹੁ ਮੇਰਿਹੋ ਸਾਚੈ ਸੁਨਣੈ ਨੋ ਪਠਾਏ ॥ ਸਾਚੈ ਸੁਨਣੈ ਨੋ ਪਠਾਏ ਸਰੀਰਿ ਲਾਏ ਸੁਣਹੁ ਸਤਿ ਬਾਣੀ ॥
O my ears, you were created only to hear the Truth. To hear the Truth, you were created and attached to the body; listen to the True Bani.II
5. Apart from being actively involved in NESSC Gurdwara, what other organizations are you associated with? What is your role in NishkamTV?
I had been involved with Nishkam Sikh Welfare for about 4-5 years. But for the last couple years, I could not do justice to that seva, so backed off. In Nishkam TV, I serve as part of the Advisory Board. I have initiated a few programs that were telecasted through our channel. It’s always my effort to involve as many kids/teens as I could without any bias but based on kids/teens’ capabilities. Only by giving an opportunity to different kids, we will find out their true talents. We are not all created equal when it comes to our strengths and weaknesses. Today’s weakness could be tomorrow’s strength too. We just need to recognize and shape ourselves to be better than yesterday. It’s always my effort to set the bar high to bring the best out of myself and kids/teens I mentor. Each of us has a lot more potential than we reach. I realize the lack of leadership in our community, so many times I see myself ending up in that role while I support others as well who took the lead on some other projects. Together we can make a difference in society and our own sikh community. After all, Nishkam TV is run by kids and it’s our duty and responsibility as adults to support them today to shape them to become better Sikh citizens of the US tomorrow.
6. Tell us about how and when you started doing Gatka?
I have been involved in efforts for Gatka for 10+ years. I have organized a few camps in the past. Mostly invited Gatka teachers from NY or NJ for weekend camps and a couple of times week-long camps. It had not really picked up until last year when Adults especially ladies, joined as well during the visit of Gatka teacher Lakhvir Singh Khalsa from India in Feb/March 2019. For the first time in history, in April 2019, we performed Gatka on behalf of all 4 Boston Gurdwara Sahibs during the New York City 32nd Annual Sikh Day Parade. Often it’s hard to convince kids to commit unless the activity is mandatory. As Gatka is not part of Khalsa school but is optional, kids tend to shy away from it. They enroll in other martial arts and pay high monthly fees and attend classes each week for most of their student life, but Gatka, a Martial Art given by Guru Sahib doesn’t make sense to them. It’s a strange phenomenon. The only explanation that makes sense to me is the absence of a regular experienced teacher. Management is working on that currently and with Guru Sahib’s grace, I hope to see more involvement by kids along with Adults under the guidance of trained Gatka Master.
7. What motivates you to stay actively involved in NESSC Khalsa school events?
When I organize any activity, I am not actually aiming for Khalsa school kids, but for Sangat kids who are Panth’s future leaders/great Gursikhs in the making and I don’t see them as any different than my own kids. I believe in creating an ideal society rather than just an ideal family. Family needs better Sangat (company) to grow with, so only working on my kids won’t do much unless I work on the environment my kids will grow in. I don’t consider that we will become Gursikhs, by living in our own bubbles, but by serving others and growing with others in the community. If you look at Guru Sahib’s lives, they didn’t work on their families only, they worked on the society around them. Guru Sahibs and their great Gursikhs lives are the examples to live by. They are the real role models.
ਸੇਵਾ ਕਰਤ ਹੋਇ ਨਿਹਕਾਮੀ ॥ ਤਿਸ ਕਉ ਹੋਤ ਪਰਾਪਤਿ ਸੁਆਮੀ ॥
One who performs selfless service, without thought of reward, shall attain his Lord and Master.
If Guru Sahib says above in Gurbani, then what else more a Sikh can desire?
8. How do you get your ideas/inspiration for the activities of Khalsa school kids?
I often desire for Guru Sahib’s Khushi (happiness), hence keep doing Ardas to Guru Sahib to provide opportunities to do the Seva. So it’s Guru Sahib’s mercy that he blesses me with different ideas. I take upon those ideas as Guru’s Karaj and let Guru Sahib guide me through. Projects get completed through Guru sahib inspired Sangat’s cooperation.
9. What are the current projects you are working on?
Currently, Guru sahib provided Seva opportunities are as below:
- WhatsApp group of kids learning the meaning of Chaupai sahib and memorizing the Bani since January 2020.
- Handling of WhatsApp group for the recital of Sahej Paath since April which Sangat desires for ongoing basis throughout the year.
- Inspiring Kids to record Rehras Sahib and Sohila Sahib for Evening virtual Diwans. Provide feedback to correct mistakes in kids’ audios or videos to be telecasted.
- Virtually Unveiling of paintings of Shaheeds.
- Writing some material for kids for virtual Diwans and proofreading and editing as needed.
- In the process of creating videos for Sakhis narrated by kids in Punjabi.
- Host for some NISHKAM TV events.
10. How do you manage to stay connected with kids, adults, seniors, and management?
Seva has no limits and sharing laughs at each stage of life is healthy. Each individual is created to be seen as an important entity in the universe. If sharing some dialogues and laughs gives someone happiness, then my mission is accomplished. We come to Gurdwara Sahib to connect to Guru Sahib and to feel part of our community, but if nobody talks to you then you will feel bored and alone even if surrounded by 1000 people. So I try to connect with many if not all. I connect with management to arrange for some activities and sometimes to pass suggestions of some shy Sangat members. Management is very cooperative and encourages activities for the well-being and growth of our kids/teens.
11. What advice would you like to give to Nishkam TV kids?
Nishkam TV kids are very close to each other. There is an uplifting vibe in our Sangat and kids where they not only positively influence but also stand for each other. I can’t give much advice but encourage all to promote our Guru Sahib given lipi Gurmukhi and Punjabi Language. While we plan and participate in activities, we need to make special efforts to read, speak, and write in our own language at Gurdwara Sahib, at homes, and also on Nishkam TV appearances. The best way to connect with Gurbani is through Gurmukhi than relying on Roman Punjabi or Translations.