Kids Corner

Photos: Top of this page - Bhai Joginder Singh, Jathedar of the Akal Takht, on the golf links; photo by Gurumustuk Singh (www.sikhphotos.com). Bottom of this page - golfer Kiran Matharu. Second from bottom - Hari Bhajan Kaur, by Gurumustuk Singh.

Columnists

Bogey Men

by TEJWANT SINGH

 

Recently, Annika Sorenstam, the most successful woman golf player of today, started on her first tee at the Bank of America Colonial (dubbed as the "Bank of Annika Colonial" by her fellow competitors, who happen to be all men).

A first for her, she is also the first woman to play in a PGA tour  -  the exclusive boys' club.

Around approximately the same time, Mejindarpal Kaur, along with other sisters of the Sikh faith, tried to do seva in the Harmandar Sahib alongside their brethren, the male sevadars.

They were the first women known to have challenged what is now perceived to also have turned into an exclusive boys' club.

The former confrontation  -  on the golf links  -  went peacefully. However, lots of bushy eyebrows were seen racing northwards on the lads' foreheads.

The latter incident, an attempt to perform simple seva at the Durbar Sahib, ended in chaos  -  pushing, shoving and jostling  -  as if an invasion of an incurable disease had fallen on the boys.

The PGA (Professional Golfers' Association) is the boys' club of the sport. The LPGS (Ladies Professional Golf Association) is the girls'. But there is no law that forbids either men or women from participating in both tours. Personally, I would enjoy seeing guys in real skirts, not just kilts, competing in the LPGA.

Harmandar Sahib, the most sacred shrine in Sikhdom, has four doors, one pointing in each direction, thus unequivocally declaring that all of humankind, regardless of gender (or even sexual orientation), hue, nationality, race or ethnicity, creed or faith, can visit it and participate in every activity, including the performance of seva  -  a sign of equality and a basic tenet of Sikhi.

As a matter of fact, it is the first religious site in the world where all who enter the precincts have to climb down, rather than up, in order to visit it  -  a sign of humility, another basic tenet of Sikhi!

Vijay Singh, the third-ranked PGA player, positioned himself smack dab in the crosshairs of the debate over Annika Sorenstam's participation in the LPGS Tour when, after winning the Wachovia Championship, he told the Associated Press that he hoped she would miss the cut. He also added that he would withdraw if paired with her at the Bank of America Colonial.

He ended up pulling out from the tournament.

My insecure brethren in Amritsar say that ishnaan seva in the Durbar Sahib, after the Guru Granth Sahib is taken away for its nightly sukhaasan, is done by men in their kaccheras, which women cannot be expected to do.

Pray, since when did the kacchera, one of the five kakaars, turn into a weapon and an object of intimidation and suppression, a symbol of oppression and exclusion? Why can't men wear more discreet vestments to do seva? Is it against gurmat to do so?

Nick Price, last year's champion, publicly vented his ire over Annika being invited to play at the Colonial.

My brethren in Amritsar have also expressed their unhappiness, anger, and even hatred, towards our sisters who wish to serve at the Golden Temple, as is their fundamental and God-given, Guru-proclaimed right.

Why? Because it is fair play.

The boys of the PGA felt Sorenstam's presence as an invasion into the playground that they had owned since the start of the Association, about a hundred years ago.

Our Amritsari brothers, who currently do seva at the Harmandar Sahib, have come to feel that it is their birthright, handed down to them on a platter by their forefathers.

Which forefathers? Whose forefathers?

It is a shame that they have forgotten the basic essence of Sikhi, that one is not born a Sikh, but earns the honour ... and becomes one.

They also forget that, as long ago as the fifteenth century, Guru Nanak gave birth to Sikhi on the foundation of equality.

The fact that women are not as physically strong as men, makes the boys of the PGA feel more insecure and fearful. What if women like Annika do better than them at the Tour? Then they will be left behind, which would prove shameful and unacceptable! They don't want to be second fiddles ... especially to the "weaker" sex!

Our sisters in Sikhi may not have the bodily strength their brothers possess. However, their Sikhi Spirit is inferior to none. They just want the equal opportunity to do seva, as prescribed by our Guru.

No more, no less.

You go, Sikh women! The Guru is walking alongside you on the fairway of equality. Unfortunately, some of our fellow seekers  -  some brethren  -  are dragging their feet by not following gurbani.

In the end, gurmat will prevail with a "hole in one", over manmat, which can do no more than make mere bogies!

Conversation about this article

1: I.J. singh (New York, U.S.A.), July 31, 2007, 8:35 AM.

I commend Tejwant for the jusxtaposition of the dramatic step of Annika Sorrenstam into the male dominated world of golf, with Mejinderpal Kaur's equally dramatic foray into the the historic struggle for an equal role for women in current-day Sikh practices. But the leaders of our institutions find comfort in burying their heads in the sand-traps of life. They claim that the issue is under consideration. May they learn that even the longest, slowest and most inept round of golf comes to an end someday.

2: Prabhu Singh Khalsa (Española, New Mexico, U.S.A.), July 31, 2007, 1:54 PM.

It's a poignant article and I.J. Singh's comments are equally erudite. Just a note about the following: "They were the first women known to have challenged what is now perceived to also have turned into an exclusive boys' club." There were a few women who did Ishnaan Seva at Harimandir Sahib a number of years ago. Additionally the Akal Takht gave a directive that women be allowed to participate in the seva. It seems that this day and age has seen people hijack our institutions so as to use and misuse them. Fortunately for us, the spirit of Guru Gobind Singh lives in the Khalsa Panth and will ever guide us along the straight path of Sikhi.

3: Simran Singh (Hamburg, Germany), August 01, 2007, 2:49 PM.

Excellent posting. I'm quite certain that the "sevadars" forbidding Khalsa women to do seva will not be responding to this directly. But I'm sending a message to them anyhow: Welcome to the Khalsa spirit, and welcome to an international community of Khalsa, who look at your opinion of women with unspeakable disdain. What you are doing has nothing to do with the Sikh spirit. Truth will prevail.

4: Jagdeep Singh (London, U.K.), August 01, 2007, 7:04 PM.

"Hijacking our institutions" - this is an accurate and excellent phrase that Prabhu Singh uses to describe the dynamics at play here. All institutions in any society are susceptible to corruption, weakening and degradation. When they represent religion, the spiritual aspect becomes corrupted by association too. For too long, many of the institutions of Sikhi have been run and moulded to suit the agendas of cliques and self-interested parties. One of the hallmarks of the Sikh religion in the 21st Century will be how these institutions and cliques are held to account for their distortions. In the light of a democratic and critical tradition, the powerful will no longer be able to rely on the old excuses and claims that those who scrutinise and appraise and demand changes are a threat to Sikhi itself. This has been the calling card of the Naked Emperor throughout the ages. An educated, progressive, critical and demanding Sikh community in India and the diaspora will drag these errant institutions, screaming and kicking if necessary, into the modern world and make sure they represent Sikhi's eternal values, properly and without the baggage and false accumulations from un-Sikh practices.

5: Surinder Pal Singh Aulakh (Surrey, B.C., Canada), August 01, 2007, 8:10 PM.

Nowadays, it has become a sort of fashion, with an elite-type of western-groomed Sikhs to condemn and ridicule everything done back home in Punjab, especially in religious matters. They should remember that everything done in our religious places has got a set of rules which are to be followed in letter and spirit. If one tries to change them overnight, a lot of chaos is bound to happen. The seva in question in this article is performed at about 2 or 3 am, so to avoid any untoward happening, it was for men only.

6: Parmjit Singh Minhas (Brampton, Canada), August 01, 2007, 8:27 PM.

Good one ... Keep it up.

7: Brijinder Khurana (New Delhi, India), August 01, 2007, 10:00 PM.

Very good posting. It will encourage women to come forward and insist on their right to do seva.

8: Ishvarlall Singh Bhatti (Singapore), August 02, 2007, 1:19 AM.

Men are not the only Sikhs, our women are as much Sikh as the men. Thus, ALL SIKHS should be encouraged to do seva; and our women should exercise their full rights as Sikhnis. All thinking Sikh men must support Sikh women to do seva.

9: Pritpal Singh (India), August 02, 2007, 3:05 AM.

Its really astonishing to see people not ready to accept changes which are in accordance with the eternal law of nature. In the light of Gurbani, there is but one Bridegroom and the rest of us are the brides of that Lord. How can one reach that level of spirituality when we are still engulfed in this differentiation at a basic level? I find it really hard to digest that Harmandar Sahib, which is the epicentre of true Sikh traditions, can just be hijacked by a few eccentric, self-centred people and they can continue to live and make others live in this uncomfortable zone. I wish all the best to all women of the world who indeed have equal rights to live by and perform at par with the men-folk. Our Guru and Gurdwaras are not anybody's personal property but open to all in the form of Sangat. And Sangat is never divided on the basis of gender, or any other category, for that matter.

10: Gurmeet Singh (Dartmouth, Canada), August 02, 2007, 3:10 AM.

Excellent article! Seva - service, encased in humility and performed by the faithful - should not be denied to anyone.

11: Gurcharan Singh (London, U.K.), August 02, 2007, 3:44 AM.

I am surprised that nobody has told Joginder Singh that jathedars of the Akal Takht should not play golf because the "maryada" does not specifically allow it! I cannot understand how he and his colleagues can get away with excluding women from doing seva at Durbar Sahib. Issues over women should not even exist in the Sikh world. I am deeply ashamed over this one issue where our families are denied their right to practice what other so-called Sikhs think it is their own birthright!

12: Suaran Singh (Penang, Malaysia), August 02, 2007, 4:45 AM.

Surinderpal Singh should know that it is the duty of a Sikh to protect and live up to the principles of justice, as enshrined in Sikhism. It is utterly wrong to presume that anything "untoward" could happen in the holy precincts of Harmandar Sahib. Guidelines can be set, and precautions taken. But you don't bar 50% of the population and distort the practice of Sikhi merely on the basis of a baseless and irrational fear!

13: Jagar Singh (India), August 02, 2007, 5:13 AM.

The semiliterate sevadars may be ignorant, but SGPC has many educated people. We need to ensure that our teachers and sevadars meet the highest of standards. Sikhism as practiced by some of the caretakers in the Durbar Sahib appears to be foreign to the spirit of Sikhism.

14: Dr. Sabh Singh Khambay (India), August 02, 2007, 6:36 AM.

In Sikhism, women have been endowed with equal rights and previleges. Seva is the prerogative of all Sikhs. Preventing women from doing seva in the Harmandar Sahib is a gross violation of the values and ethos of Sikhi. I admire the steps taken by our sisters to perform seva. Keep it up. Blessings of WaheGuru are with you all the way.

15: Prateek Singh (U.S.A.), August 02, 2007, 7:25 AM.

I completely agree that women are in all ways equal with men.

16: Ruby Kaur (Oxford, England), August 02, 2007, 8:18 AM.

I notice that Surinder Pal Singh Aulakh decries 'western groomed' Sikhs with a sneer of contempt; whilst conveniently forgetting that he himself lives in the West in Canada, and benefits from all the good things that Western values can give to individuals and groups and minorities. It is a blessing to the Panth that Sikhs are being raised in such a great and free culture that encourages intellectual enquiry and the challenging of vested interests. It is a great blessing to the Panth that generations of Sikhs are growing up at ease with modernity and free enquiry. Also, his protest that Sikh men might be distracted from doing this seva in the presence of women simply shows a backward mindset that replicates the misogynistic logic of purdah and gender apartheid and is a prime example of the 'blaming the victim' logic more in tune with feudal values than the eternal verities and soul of our great religion. This really is an example of an institution being corrupted by the prejudices of narrow minded traditions with their own agenda inimical to true Sikhi.

17: Sukhwant (Singapore), August 02, 2007, 9:39 AM.

A friend of mine once observed that immigrants still think and behave as if they are in their country of origin. He used to joke: you can take a person out of the third world, but you can't take the third world out of him! Look around you in Canada, Surinder ji, open your eyes and, more importantly, open your mind. If Canada was like Punjab, many Sikhs wouldn't be immigrating to Canada, America and elsewhere. It is precisely because Canada is not like India that you are here. Backward practices which are sadly still allowed to fester in Indian society, have no place here. Have no doubt about this: women are equal to men, they have every right to do whatever they want, just as we men do ... and this is the gift of Sikhi.

18: Kawaljit Singh (Redding, California, U.S.A.), August 02, 2007, 10:02 AM.

Excellent. If we are true Sikhs of the Guru, all we have to do is follow the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib. If men are so insecure in themselves that they have a problem with women having the same rights, then they are out of tune with Sikhi. Don't we recite every morning in Anand Sahib: "Aih neytro merio, har tum meh jote dharee, har bin avar na dekho koyee" ... ? Let's do away with the ignorance and start honouring women the way Guru Nanak established over 500 years ago.

19: Daljit Singh Jawa (Topeka, Kansas, U.S.A.), August 02, 2007, 12:35 PM.

I wonder what prevents us from putting together a petition signed by, say, a million Sikhs from across the diaspora, and sending it to the SGPC, demanding that they either allow women to do seva, within a month, or face a massive protest march of all concerned Sikhs for the removal of the errant jathedars and their lackeys?

20: Rasvinder Singh (Torquay, U.K.), August 02, 2007, 2:23 PM.

If Guru Nanak was present now within the Harmandar Sahib, would these jathedars still turn away women from doing seva. I find it ridiculous that these people fail to understand what equality is. It could not have been made any clearer by our Gurus. They are wound up in their egotism and pride. Good comments from Ruby Kaur and Satwant in answer to Surinder Singh's post.

21: Prabhu Singh Khalsa (Española, New Mexico, U.S.A.), August 02, 2007, 2:44 PM.

Wow! Ruby Kaur really wrote an excellent post. To Surinder ji, if we are to follow traditions "in letter and spirit", the women would be doing seva now, as they did in the past. Also, there was a petition signed by thousands of people from around the world specifically related to this issue. Furthermore, the declaration from the Akal Takht was produced allowing for women to do seva. With no compliance to date! Where I live, it is mostly women who do Ishnaan Seva, and everybody is equally respected.

22: Dr.Charanjeet Singh (Malaysia), August 02, 2007, 10:21 PM.

Veer Surinderpal's concern about the wee hours of the morning not being safe for fear of 'untoward happenings' to our sisters while performing seva can easily be put to rest - there will always be our brothers around to ensure their safety. Question is, are they willing to protect the women, if it means giving in to the fact that women be allowed to perform sewa at that time?

23: Gurmit Singh (Sydney, Australia), August 02, 2007, 11:36 PM.

The definition of a Sikh in the Sikh Rehat Maryada and The Sikhs Gurdwaras Act 1925, as amended, include both genders. Furthermore, under the heading "Ceremony of Amrit Initiation", it is stated that the six committed, baptised Sikhs involved in the ceremony may include Sikh women. Then why don't SGPC or its servants allow women to participate in all the religious functions?

24: Gurjender Singh (Maryland, U.S.A.), August 03, 2007, 6:41 AM.

This article shows how SGPC follows the teaching of the Gurus related to women. I remember a few months ago when Prof. Surinder Singh and his Kirtan Jatha from London, England, went to India. His Jatha was invited and performed kirtan in all the historical gurdawaras in Delhi. Similarly, SGPC invited them to do kirtan at Harmandar Sahib ... but with an express condition: that none of the women in the jatha would sing with him. Prof. Surinder Singh refused. Now one can see that this problem goes far beyond that of ishnaan seva. God bless SGPC and the Sikhs.

25: Rajdeep Singh Pannu (Manteca, U.S.A.), August 03, 2007, 2:04 PM.

I do not agree with your article. Why women wants to play in men's sports in the first place? There isn't any man on earth that I have heard who had asked to play in womens tournaments. Women should stay out of men sports, period. In USA, women reporter wanted to go into men's locker rooms in professional sports to report. why? It made male athletes feel very uncomfortable. No men had ever been allowed to go into women's locker rooms in college and professional sports. Why a double standard or hypocrocy? Second, regarding sewa inside Darbar Sahib. The traditional dress is required. Unless you changed the dress code, womens would be great distraction to their counterparts.

26: Gyani Jarnail Singh Dhillon "Arshi" (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), August 03, 2007, 7:15 PM.

There is no gender inequality/discrimination as per Gurbani - whatever discriminatory practices rear their ugly head in Punjab Gurdwaras are solely due to the sexist mindset of the male-dominated society. How can a woman be a distraction? Unless one's mind is "dirty". Perhaps that's why the Guru Granth is chock full of ways to clean the "dirty" mind rather than the body. Hypocrisy and double standards have no place in Sikh maryada.

27: Ruby Kaur (Oxford, England), August 03, 2007, 8:45 PM.

Rajdeep Singh Pannu demonstrates again how deep seated, confused, barely articulate chauvinisms can become entwined in the fabric of our religion. With even 60 seconds of rational thinking on the principles of equality of men and women inherent in Sikhi, it is clear what is right and what is wrong on this issue, what violates the spirit of Sikhi and what does not, what is the backward feudal and chauvinistic inverted logic, the cruel husk of misogyny, that attaches itself to some aspects and corrupts our faith. And yet there are some, who even live in the West, that just cannot see this. It is quite amazing.

28: M.Singh (Sydney, Australia), August 04, 2007, 5:51 AM.

Equality, as taught to us by our wonderful Gurus, should prevail in our daily practices without any sign of prejudice.

29: Surinder Pal Singh Aulakh (Surrey, B.C., Canada), August 04, 2007, 5:53 PM.

I want to remind people that the Jathedar of the Akal Takht should be referred to with due respect ... that is, as Singh Sahib, for example.

30: Randeep Singh (U.K.), August 05, 2007, 12:48 PM.

I have always taught my daughter that the first Sikh was a woman: Bebe Nanaki. The men disciples all came later.

31: Hukum Kaur Khlasa (Portland, Oregon), August 05, 2007, 8:46 PM.

Their is so much seva to be done in this life, so many mouths to feed and people to uplift, let us not have to struggle to serve.

32: Pritpal Singh (New Delhi, India), August 06, 2007, 12:28 AM.

What would Bebe Nanaki or Mata Sahib Kaur or Bibi Bhaani say about this subject? Guru Granth declares quite unequivocally: "So kyon manda aakhiye jit jamme raajaan".

33: Param (London, England), August 06, 2007, 12:38 PM.

Brilliant article! Every Sikh who wants to see Sikhism in high spirits must help to remove all these anti-Sikh ideas which a small group of Sikhs in India are following in our most sacred shrines.

34: Khushwant Singh (Chandigarh, Punjab, India), August 09, 2007, 1:47 AM.

I really liked how Tejwant Singh has cleverly highlighted how male chauvinism in the sport of golf is akin to a similar blight in some Sikh circles. Great piece.

35: Harkiran Kaur (Canada), January 14, 2018, 3:03 PM.

The easy way to fix the so called perceived notion that men doing ishnan seva will be distracted by women is to have every second night for women. One night all men do it, next night all women do it. But I guarantee that if that was presented, they would still not agree. Because it has nothing to do with what they are wearing or what they may be distracted by, etc. The real issue is the Brahminical ideas that women are ‘apavittar’ - impure. That is, women would desecrate such a holy place. That’s also why women are refused the chance to do kirtan there as well since recent times. I had a Taksali straight out tell me that it’s because women menstruate. We women ‘stink’ as he said and are dirty. And that doing those sevas requires full cleanliness. Ask any Taksali, they will tell you no menstruating woman can ever be anywhere near Guru's tabiya. 'It would be a disgrace.' And since no male sevadars are willing to take the job of checking that women are menstruating or not at the time, all women are barred all the time to ensure that no impure woman slips through the cracks and does seva. Purely Brahminical thinking. No one who thinks like this or believes in this can call himself a Guru's Sikh!

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