A Maypole Dance: T. SHER SINGH
The Story of sikhchic.com
I think I have lived through, and tasted the full gamut of parenting experiences - except for one obvious one, of course.
I am a father and I've had the pleasure of playing mother as well during the last 34 years. Yes, joy of joys, as a single parent, I get to celebrate both Mother's Day and Father's Day with my daughter!
But being a mere man, nevertheless, I have missed out on one experience: the pangs of childbirth.
Until the year 2006.
True ... bringing sikhchic.com into the world was free of the physical agony and trauma that inevitably goes with real motherhood. But the analogy isn't too far-fetched.
It came with liberal doses of angst, both prenatal and postpartum. And the gestation period was certainly longer: I seem to have carried the embryo since I was a young man.
The idea germinated as I was growing up in India: every Sikh I knew I had heard say, sooner or later, that the single-most dire need of the Sikhs was a presence in the media: some small space to stand on and share thoughts and ideas with others in the community. With full-throated ease. Without fear of censure or chastisement. A place that would nurture a free flow of ideas and allow us all to grow.
I grew up surrounded by, for example, laments over the loss of The Tribune - a newspaper founded by Sikhs, but subsequently lost by them.
The Hindustan Times too, I'm told, was similarly launched by Sikh money and vision ... and then lost by the community.
Sure, there were many successful ventures, and some continue to thrive: The Khalsa Samachar, The Sant-Sipahi, The Sikh Review and Nishaan, to name but a few. But none were able to achieve the considerable outreach needed to bring together the far-flung community under one umbrella.
The reasons are many, some good, some bad. Not the least of them being that we are a minority, even in the land where our faith was born, and the numbers game tends to work against us.
But life has a curious way of straightening things out from time to time. As it has in recent decades.
The computer and internet revolution has somewhat leveled the playing field: for once, one does not need enormous wealth and resources to have a media voice of one's own. The PC and the ‘net have become the great equalizers - offering, like little else has before in human history, a clearer promise of democracy.
Only time will tell whether these latest tools will indeed deliver, or if they, too, will be exploited and manipulated to benefit the unscrupulous and greedy few.
In the meantime, we also have ventured into this brave new world.
sikhchic.com -- a daily online magazine -- is a product of one such dream to reach out and connect with all Sikhs that are scattered around the globe, and open the lines for a multiplicity of dialogues.
The last seven years have been heady because they've not only met all our expectations, but gone way beyond, into the realm of infinite possibilities.
Sikhs constitute an extraordinary community, empowered by incredible strengths and blessings. Despite heavy odds, they continue the tradition of being nation-builders wherever they go, reaching unprecedented levels of leadership and excellence.
sikhchic.com has connected with but a fraction of all of those that are out there; but still, they are to be found in the most obscure corners of the continents - in addition, of course, to the usual population centres of international commerce. The place-names that appear on our "comments" and "conversation" columns have the same exotic and yet familiar flavour of the proverbial "Jhumri Talaiyya"s and "Marwar Mundawa"s - place-names that still ring in the ears of All-India-Radio listeners of yore.
I look at the pattern of hits and clicks that sikhchic.com draws from a wide swath of cities, towns and villages from every longitude and latitude imaginable, and it brings to mind a wonderful dance I once saw with revelers in the shadows of the tall Stonehenge columns in southern England one summer.
The Maypole Dance, they called it.
Men and women dance in a circle, each holding a coloured ribbon attached to a single pole in the centre. And as the dancers swirl around the pole, the ribbons get plaited and intertwined on the pole, or in intricate patterns around the pole. The dancers then retrace their steps, interweaving amongst themselves exactly in reverse, in order to unravel the ribbons. The music and the singing by onlookers guide the nimble steps and provide the high energy!
I see sikhchic.com as the maypole.
Each one of us in the diaspora is holding a separate ribbon, and all of the ribbons are attached, at the other end, to the pole. It connects us all and keeps us focused centripetally, no matter which way or wherever we whirl and twirl. Each one, at any given time, has a different perspective. But dancing together to the beat and song turns it all into a joyous celebration.
sikhchic.com is now in its eighth calendar year of existence. The midwives at its birth and its nurses since then have been, and continue to be, many ... the most obvious of them being Dr. Birinder Singh Ahluwalia of Toronto, Canada. And a whole brigade of columnists and contributors, readers and supporters, friends and well-wishers, from every corner of the globe.
It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. This progeny of ours has truly been raised by the global village.
Where do we go from here?
I want to leave you with two thoughts.
Firstly, a reminder: it is your magazine. All of you. Some of you disagree with us on something or the other: it's easy because we have many faults and failings. Some of you sometimes differ with even the directions our editors or contributors take.
None of the above should deter you from grabbing a ribbon of your own and connecting with the maypole.
We are not asking for exclusivity. There are other sites which meet our many needs and do a wonderful job in covering news, religion, politics, kirtan and Sikh-related shopping. There is no dearth of excellent sites. Connect with this maypole and stay connected with them as well.
More importantly, please ask your friends, relatives, acquaintances - your personal data-bases - to check out the sikhchic.com site. The rest will follow.
This is most important: the more of us who become connected and thus establish an open line of communication, the more useful and beneficial and valuable the very idea of sharing becomes.
Secondly, we need your ongoing support as sikhchic.com continues to spread its roots, grow bigger branches, and bear fruit.
We continue to rely on your rich input and participation.
E pluribus unum ... we're all in it together.
It's the only way the dance will result in rhythm and harmony.
[An earlier version of this piece was published in December, 2007.]
May 15, 2013
Conversation about this article
1: Amardeep (U.S.A.), December 17, 2007, 11:23 AM.
I like this site - it's a feel good site. That's why people log onto it. But I believe so far it has not achieved/done anything which requires boldness/truthfulness. Let's hope it'll achieve that too.
2: Noreen (Brampton, Canada), December 19, 2007, 3:26 PM.
I really enjoy this site for a number of reasons including its attractive, user-friendly layout that lives up to its name and the fact that it showcases Sikhs who are part of all facets of the greater community, especially the arts. Having said all of this, there is one thing I care to mention regarding the point in this article about how the internet revolution has "somewhat leveled the playing field" and that is, the issue of accessibility. Those who have access to such technology, because technology and globalization are so undeniably intertwined, will always have an advantage over those who do not, and the gap between the haves and the have-nots has widened since the technological revolution because technology has given those who have access to it (i.e., us in the West) even more power than we ever had. Therefore, I encourage those of us who have the advantage of participating in the technological revolution to give voice to those who do not by using the tools available to us such as this website, to bring to surface important issues concerning those who are less advantaged in our community (e.g., the issue of drugs and alcoholism in the Punjabi community) and working towards solutions to such major issues. I cannot imagine, even in the crowded space of Sikh and Punjabi Sikh websites, that we are ever giving too much attention to such issues.
3: Ajay Singh (Rockville, U.S.A.), April 25, 2009, 4:44 PM.
It is indeed an excellent site. I deeply appreciate the series on 1984 and Heritage Tours. I have read and re-read the articles and each time I am engulfed in an emotional whirlwind. I was so proud when Sikhs all over India forced the withrawal of Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, it shows how deeply we are affected as a community and that we have not forgotten. It is a small relief but it is a damn good one. Thank you for this wonderful site.
4: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, USA), May 15, 2013, 11:19 AM.
5: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), May 15, 2013, 4:55 PM.
This is one 'Fix' that I am hopelessly hooked on to with no way out. It was, Sher, your vision and don't know how to sufficiently thank you for this 'trip'.
6: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), May 15, 2013, 6:30 PM.
A true Sikh is Chic and stands out from the crowd like a Rolls Royce amongst all other cars and a saint amongst saints and a warrior amongst warriors! Thanks, sikhchic.com, for enabling us to communicate thus with the global Sikh world at the speed of light!
7: Harmik Singh (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), May 17, 2013, 6:28 PM.
I visit sikhchic.com everyday. It gives me food for thought. I have been visiting it since 2009 and regularly sharing articles on my facebook. Some of my friends do read and visit the site I love. Thanks, sikhchic.com!
8: Jiwan Singh (Patiala, Punjab), May 18, 2013, 10:12 AM.
I have been a daily visitor to sikhchic.com for years and can declare with some authority, based on my life experience that spans close to a century now, that history will attest that you have single-handedly brought about a revolution in modern Sikh/Punjabi writing in the English language ... in the way we see ourselves, in the way we describe ourselves to others, in the way we are reflected in the mainstream media, etc ... The journey you have started is a long and difficult one, but you are without doubt its pioneers! You have indeed fulfilled the promise you made to yourselves and to us, when you began the venture. Thank you. Keep on truckin'.
9: S Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), May 19, 2013, 11:32 AM.
Luggey raho! We love sikhchic.com!
10: Raj (Canada), May 20, 2013, 11:05 PM.
I hope the management of sikhchic.com has a system in place to continue this site a long, long time. Otherwise, it will follow the same fate as newspapers like "The Tribune" and the many other similar examples: started by Sikhs but later taken over by anti-Sikh elements. The comments posted by global Sikh intellectuals is evidence of it's merit and speaks volumes about the quality of ideas and articles offered here. Thank-you for doing a great service.
11: Ravi Nam Kaur (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), May 26, 2013, 3:10 PM.
In my experience, sikhchic.com is the most civil, thought- provoking, and accessible Sikh forum on the internet. Blessings to you to continue with many more years of success on these issues and new innovations.
12: Hardarshan Singh Valia (Highland, Indiana, USA), October 09, 2013, 11:17 PM.
This site is truly a smart, elegant and sophisticated presentation of the Sikh World to all those who have a craving for life-enchanting effect. Thank you, Sher Singh ji, for the vision, courage, and artistic brilliance.