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Laughing and Playing ...

by JESSI KAUR

 

"Have fun", a friend wished me as I was leaving for India to teach at a Sikh youth camp.

Fun in India in June, when the mercury was touching 120F? Fun at a camp, where the amenities were basic? Fun with five hundred young participants, all of whom were unknown to me ... and with a pretty intense daily routine, to boot? 

Yes, why not?

While some were warning me about the heat in India that had caused many to fall sick, and others were cautioning me to eat right and resist  the lure of street food (good advice), the injunction to "have fun" touched a chord in my heart.

I have always been big on having fun in life. Don't get me wrong. I don't mean irresponsible, wayward fun. I mean the healthy, wholesome, soul-feeding, "Hasandeyan khelandeyan pehnandeyan khavandeyan viche hovey mukti" variety! ["Laughing and playing, adorning and feasting ... Salvation is to be found amidst life itself!"*]  

As a professional staffing consultant, one of my questions to the candidates I find for my clients is, "Are you having fun at what you are doing?" Over the years, I have realized that enjoying your work is an essential ingredient for success.

Fun is the lightness of being, the playfulness one brings to the task at hand, and the spice whose flavor elevates plain fare to gourmet status.

The traditionalists will probably raise their eyebrows till they disappear into their foreheads. Fun for the serious-minded has taken on a pejorative connotation. It has become associated with puerile pleasures that one has to wean oneself from.

But let's pause and take a cue from nature.

The ocean frolics everyday as it rises and ebbs and crashes on the sand. The early morning rays of the sun tease the dusk away and make the world bask in fun-filled glee.

The ever-changing sky is a canvas of pure delight. My childhood was replete with imaginary sky-people. One moment, a wispy cloud was a pink elephant, the next, a white rabbit! One day, the blue of the firmament was filled with fairies, the next day, it was dominated by dragons. But at all times, it provided endless enchanting fantasies.

Today, I see the stars twinkle from faraway galaxies and wonder if they are winking at us puny mortals who take ourselves a little too seriously!

The pansies, the violets, the dainty tulips spend their short sojourn in the spring garden, ablaze with unadulterated joy even as the hardy roses mock their fragility.

The honeydew, the watermelon, the mango  -  the irrefutable king of fruits  -  all provide finger-licking gusto in the scorching heat of summer. Ask a child or an adult, sweltering in the summer of India, what a delight it is to skin a safeda mango and bite into its firm, full-bodied flesh! The pleasure is impossible to put into words  -  a forerunner, one could say, of spiritual gratification: gunge ki mitheayee  ("a sweet delicacy, but how can its taste be described by a mute?")

The laburnums, the "Flame of the Forest", the jacaranda bloom, all in feisty zest even as the merciless heat threatens to wilt everything and paint it brown.

A grand performance of Waho waho ka wada tamasha ("Wondrous is His vast creation at play!") is staged every day, providing an ever-changing tapestry of pleasurable sights and sounds.

So, pray, why should we be shy of having fun?

Motherhood, one of the greatest blessings of the universe, is the most fun-filled and, therefore, fulfilling experience  -  if you let it be so. How marvellous it is to see your child take the first step, utter the first word, kick the first ball! How we clap and cheer in utter joy to behold these simple but sweetest of gifts!

A marriage from which fun exits becomes an albatross around the neck. Creating time for mutual enjoyment makes the bumps of life easier to take.

But there are those who frown at amusing activities that entertain and regale the mind, coaxing us to stay away from innocent pleasures. To take no joy in His creation and its wonderful offerings, to shun fun and embrace the dry road of denial in the hope for salvation, is to shortchange ourselves.

Guru Arjan's Sukhmani ("The Psalm of Peace") blesses the pleasurable activities of life that are carried out with the Beloved in the heart. To dress well, to abide in a fine mansion, to wear the choicest of fragrances, to enjoy gourmet feasts  -  all constitute an acceptable, nay, laudable, way of life in Sikhi.

But balance is the key, remembrance and service and gratitude to the Universe, the collective mantra.

Of course, the greatest of all pleasures is forgetting them all at the feet of the Beloved. When the notes of celestial music stir the soul, lesser satisfactions are nudged out. But this is a gradual process and happens amidst peace and not when steeped in strife. The ultimate gratification is all-consuming, but how can it be experienced by a shriveled soul that has turned its back on everyday rejoicing?

For the Creative Force is one of joy, and having created the joy, it watches over it all in pleasure.

Thank you for wishing me fun, my friend!

 

* GGS, M5, 522

 

[Photos: Top of this page  -  Renowned Elvis impersonator, Peter Singh. First from bottom  -  detail from photo, "Nihang Rider", by Raminder Pal Singh. Second from bottom  -  detail from magazine advertisement by Avis Rent-a-Car from the 1940s, courtesy: "Singh & Kaur". Third from bottom  -  detail from "Gidda Girl", a photo by Raminder Pal Singh. Thumbnail  -  detail from "Gidda Dancers", courtesy: Dinodia.]

Conversation about this article

1: Harmala K. Uberai (Los Angeles, CA, U.S.A.), July 06, 2007, 12:50 PM.

Very true. And I really like the gurbani quotations you used - very apppropriate. I believe this concept is applicable to life in general. We often take ourselves way more seriously than we should, and that's when the simple pleasures of life (such as fun and laughter) elude us.......

2: Bharat Vir Singh (Derby, U.K.), July 06, 2007, 2:13 PM.

Jessi Kaur's assertions that Guru Arjan, in his Sukhmani, blesses pleasurable activities and that these are laudable in Sikhi, are both very misleading presumptions. The Guru does not in any way promote or recommend pleasurable activities. In fact, he simply advises humans to be grateful to God for the pleasures of life. Simple living and high thinking is the best way to describe the life of a Sikh.

3: Prabhu Singh Khalsa (Española, New Mexico, U.S.A.), July 08, 2007, 1:28 PM.

Excellent article; it should be read by all who take themselves too seriously. For the man who wrote: "The Guru does not in any way promote or recommend pleasurable activities", all I have to say is: You have a long journey ahead of you, ji. Perhaps, you should start by re-reading this article and understanding it's full ambit and meaning. May God bless you with the simple pleasures of life so that you may see God in all.

4: jolly (Chandigarh, Punjab), July 09, 2007, 12:32 AM.

I completely agree with the writer that it is correct to aspire to be playful and happy while being practicing Sikhs. Our Gurus encouraged us to live life to the fullest, while surrendering ourselves fully at His feet. Rigid ideologies only help to keep our youth away, and discourage them from partaking in Amrit because we then succeed in scaring them away. A Guru-ka-Sikh has as much right to the simple pleasures of life as any one else, as long as it is within the parameters of Sikhi. I hope we will all understand, appreciate and embrace the Sikh way of life so well described by Jessi as one consisting of "laughing and playing ..."

5: Manjeet Kahai (Mumbai, India), July 12, 2007, 7:49 PM.

Loved reading the article. It's made my day. Was feeling low and depressed today. Feeling thankful to God now for all he has blessed me with.

6: Meeta Kaur (Oakland, CA, U.S.A.), July 14, 2007, 12:46 AM.

This was so much fun to read!

7: Jagtesh Sodhi (Toronto, Canada), August 09, 2007, 3:24 PM.

Very nicely and correctly written article by Jassi Kaur. But we need to remember that "laughing & playing ..." are not everything. We are guided by: "Sikhi sikkhia gur vichar". This is the main thing; while everything else goes with it, side by side.

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