Kids Corner


The Project:
Sidak IV







The Sidak Retreat, San Antonio, Texas, USA

Remember The Manhattan Project?

Wikipedia -- the fount of all knowledge -- describes it succinctly as a research and development project that produced the first atomic bombs during World War II. Begun in 1939, says the same source, it grew to employ more than 130,000 people and cost nearly US $2 billion (about $26 billion in 2013 dollars). Research and production took place at more than 30 sites across the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.

The project involved a vast computer system -- until then, almost the exclusive domain of the US military -- which needed multiple building complexes to house and maintain its physical presence.

Sitting here in a Sidak class, I see that each of the 34 students -- as well as each of the instructors -- has an iPhone or a Blackberry or an equivalent, as well as a laptop or iPad with him or her. At all times.

Sure, they are electronically cordless, but -- trust me, each is connected to its owner with an invisible umbilical cord. The gadget goes where its master goes. One is an extension of the other.

In effect, neither can function without the other. 

And, guess what? Each of these gadgets -- each one, separately, individually, as is, as it sits besides each Sidak student -- has greater capacity and strength and capability than the entire computer system used by the great Manhattan Project.

That’s where we are at, as the human species. With more power and knowledge at our finger-tips than ever before. Miracle-wise, neither the Moses of legend or the Krishna of myth could do the feats that each and every young man and woman in this room can perform today, sitting right here in this room, without even getting up from their seats.

Sometimes I wonder, simply talking to these bright young ones, and seeing what they do, what they’ve already done, where they’re headed … I wonder how someone like me has even survived in this world. My daughter, as all daughters are wont to do, never misses an opportunity to ask me how on earth I have ever managed to come even this far … without her help!

How on earth, for example, did I get an education? It couldn’t amount to much, could it, in comparison, if one looks at all that the present generation has, and what the preceding generations didn’t.

It wasn’t until I was well into my university years, for example, that we first had access to a calculator. It was basic: add, substract, multiply, divide, and square-root. Before too long, you could actually get one that did trignometric configurations, provided you were willing to dish out US $400!

By then, however, I had no need for it because what I was studying by then -- literature and, later, law -- had no immediate use for mathematical calculations.

Before I go any further, I should make one thing perfectly clear. I’m not T-H-A-T old! Sure, I’m 63. But that puts me well after the Second World War, after the Partition of Punjab.

When I was a mere two years old, this very Elizabeth became Queen of Great Britain, as she still is today. Yes, we are talking about the same era -- the same Elizabethan era, at that -- and not of the Tudor period.

There were no photo-copiers throughout my undergraduate years, and my first two years in graduate school. 95% of the work in preparing for exams involved copying page after page, word by word, line by line, in long hand, from the tomes that were required reading.

There were no computers.

Our home had one telephone. And it was permanently wedded to the wall. Calling someone long-distance was an event. Getting through to someone long-distance was cause for celebration.

I was about 20 years old when New Delhi became the first place in India to get television. It was black and white -- do you know what that means? It means, there was no colour on the screen. And there was one channel. It came on for a couple hours each day. And the entire mohalla -- neighbourhood -- would gather, literally, in the house of someone who had been blessed with ownership of a television set.

And that was only in New Delhi. I lived a thousand miles away. Ergo, we had no television.     

Fast Food meant eating fast … which you weren`t allowed to do.

Everything was cooked from scratch. I can remember when our household was in the process of making potato chips. They were washed and peeled, sliced and then, each limpy wafer was laid out, one by one, on white bed-sheets in the sun … to dry. That was only the first stage … the chips were ready for tea-time by the end of the week.

My clothes. Everything was tailor-made. I had never worn anything bought ``ready-made`` until I was past 20. I`m not complaining … we were reasonably well-dressed, because my family was reasonably well off.

All I`m saying is, that`s how it was.

So, I ask myself, looking around the room here in Sidak, how on earth did we survive those prehistoric days?

And, pray, how did they possibly manage to impart to me, and the likes of me, an education? More importantly, how could that education be worth much, seeing today how deprived we were then, and how much that we take for granted today, we didn`t have then?

Get my drift?

I`m not saying all of this tongue-in-cheek. I really mean it.

*   *   *   *   *

What I also mean to say is: today, we have no excuses for not being able to solve all the challenges we face, as a community … as a people … as individuals.

All the tools are available to us. So is all the knowledge we need.

It is a delight, therefore, to watch the younger generation adept with the tools. And it is heartening to see almost three dozen of them take two weeks out of their summer schedule to come here in order to fuel their minds, their hearts and their souls, with a purpose.

Looking at the syllabi of each of the three streams into which the students are divided here: Gurmukhi 101, Sikhi 101 and Sikhi 201; having already attended some classes in each; having spoken to most of them, as well as each of the instructors; having dipped my toes into the electricity that runs through the air here, from time to time … I get the distinct feeling that all is well with the world.

Despite all the challenges we face as a community today -- I could even argue, B-E-C-A-U-S-E we face them -- the torch is safely and firmly in the hands of the new guard.

All is well. All will be well.

This is not an exercise in positive thinking or reinforcement or affirmation. Those who know me well know that I can unabashedly be a Cassandra when the situation warrants it, that I don`t ever shy away from making tough prognostications.

But what I see here … and what I know of all that the community is doing, in baby steps in some places, in giant strides in others, across the length and breadth of the diaspora … tells me that our core is solid, our ramparts are secure, our garrisons are well-equipped, each position is manned well …

Here, let me list for you just the titles of the classes that are being taught here. I reproduce them here unedited, roughly as they appear in the program, and in no particular order.

Sikh Framework, Sikh Theology, Guru Granth Sahib - Introduction, Santhya, 1469 - 1708, Phonology & Language Systems, Asa ki Vaar, 1708-1849, Suprasegmentals & Inscribed Elegance, What is Guru?, The Sikh Revolution, Janamsakhi, Sikh Canon, Masculine Nouns, Punjabi-Sikh Poetry, Feminine Nouns, Guru Khalsa Panth, Sikh Sovereignity, Nouns, Sikh Raj, Adjectives, Guru Granth Sahib, Bhais of the Guru, Parkash, Singh Sabha Movement, Postpositions, Guru Khalsa Panth, Pronouns, Sikh Rehat Maryada, Feel Your Guru, Miri-Piri, Dialogue with Your Guru, Vyakhya, Verbs, 1849-1947, World Religions, 1947-1984, Prem Sumarag & Chaupa Singh Rehatnama, Interpreters of Sikh Thought, 1984 Facts, 1984 Context, Adverbs, 1984-Present, Punjab Crisis, Conjunctions & Interjections, Diaspora Today, Transcription, The Ideal Person, Themes - Principles - Concepts, Leadership, Hip Hop & Identity, Rehat Maryada, Gurdwara Protocol, Kirtan,  Mahima …

Merely going through the list, I feel inadequate, unlettered, uneducated …

Attending the classes -- and the instructors are a pleasant surprise, they are not the run-of-the-mill camp counsellors -- I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do, and that it is venues like this one where I can begin to make a dent in my vacuum.

Put all the tools together, all that we didn`t have even a generation ago but are freely ours today, and add Sidak to the mix, and you end with one hefty potency.

The youth, for sure! But frankly, I can`t think of any adults, regardless of age or occupation or inclination, who won`t find Sidak life-transforming.

The question for you, dear reader, is … where do we go from here?

Rather, where do you go from here?                   


More tomorrow ...

August 1, 2013

Conversation about this article

1: Chintan Singh (San Jose, California, USA), August 01, 2013, 12:07 PM.

Thank you for this piece of Chardi Kala and also for this summation of Sidak. I wish I could say that I am for sure attending the next Sidak. Unfortunately, with two young kids and both my wife and I working full time and no grandparents here in the U.S. to take care of our kids, I can't think of taking two weeks off. It's, of course, my own loss. I am praying that one of these days Sidak will become an online cyberspace course so unfortunate ones like me can also join in, remotely.

2: Harinder Singh (Bridgewater, New Jersey, USA), August 01, 2013, 3:02 PM.

Sidak has accommodated parent(s) with young kids; young ones attend "Junior Sidak" while adults are in classes. We are growing program and experience every year for wider participation/inclusion.

3: Sangat Singh  (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ), August 01, 2013, 5:01 PM.

Sher ji, you are a 'dhaadi' (bard) extraordinaire of yore, singing paeans of praise. This 'Siadk' is going to get a boost like nothing before. I am reminded of the black scientist George Washington Carver, born of slave parents, who became a scientist, botanist, educator and inventor of no equal, who did all those things on his own volition. I remember having read a question he posed to his class that I am now ad-libbing: "What is the most important component in a locomotive?" Somebody said it was steam, some said it was the exhaust system, or the wheels or the rails and the countless nuts and bolts that held them together. He allowed the class to wax without pointing out the single most important component in a locomotive. The answer: "The blueprint by the person who conceived the idea!" Once you have the blueprint, any fool can make a locomotive. Here I salute the ones who came up with the project of 'Sidak', the seminal beginning that is now turning into a raging force. Here is the nursery of the great leaders of tomorrow. No, not like the general who said: "I want to see where the people are going so that I can lead them!" Sher ji, you have a hand in polishing the blue print most handsomely: "khaalak ka-o aadays daadjee gaavnaa" [GGS:148.4] - "I humbly bow to the Creator Waheguru. I am but a minstrel singing His praises!"

4: R. Kaur (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), August 02, 2013, 3:44 PM.

Last summer I attended Sidak with my husband and two young kids. The accommodations were excellent for a young family and my kids enjoyed themselves immensely. My husband and I took the Gurmukhi 101 course though and I will say, it was a LOT of work - but all very much worth it. It just meant that, on our breaks, our kids watched a lot of Netflix while we did homework. If you can take the time off from work, Chintan Singh, I would say having young kids isn't a reason NOT to go. There are many young local kids who attend Jr. Sidak and your kids will be well looked after.

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Sidak IV"

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