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“But You're A White Man!”
Part II
- Janam Da Firangee,
Sikhi Mai Mangee

FATEHPAL SINGH TARNEY

 

 

 





A Young Muslim Returns To India

I have a Muslim friend, much younger than I am, who left the subcontinent as a toddler and grew up in America. He returned ‘home’ for the first time as a 12 year old to visit family. His aunt has a stall at a busy marketplace in a town where most of the other shopkeepers were Hindus.

He was near his aunt's stall, but found a cow particularly annoying and slapped its snout when it got too close to him. He was taken aback at how angry the Hindus got, as well as how enraged his aunt became. She ordered him to return home and when she came home, she promptly gave him a harsh slap on the face and a lecture on Hindu sensibilities and how Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs live together in her town not only tolerating each other, but respecting each other and even celebrating each others holidays. Hm-m-m.


My Summer Home Mailbox

I retell this story because things have improved in recent years.

My summer home in the Midwest is in a small town. There are many wonderful people there but in the post 9-11 era there are many with a lack of knowledge who also have understandable fears, but some irrational ones too. Muslim extremists perpetrate horrific crimes, for the most part against fellow Muslims, but many Americans hasten to indict all Muslims.

Yet, when a white fellow of Christian background kills 58 innocent people and wounds hundreds of others at a concert in Las Vegas, certainly not all white men, and of course not all Christians are indicted.

There was the Oklahoma City bombing and the Charleston church killings by white men, but no over-generalizations along the lines of “all white men are evil!”

And then, sadly, yesterday, the horrible massacre in a church in Texas, with 26 innocent worshippers shot dead!

In addition to the regular mail I received in my first years at this summer place, I would find Christian pamphlets and discount coupons for bacon and other pork products in my mailbox. Thankfully, this no longer happens. Little did the haters realize that I am not a Muslim and love bacon and used these coupons to advantage!


Time Flies

Most senior citizens, I think, would agree with me that as one gets older, the faster the times goes by. There was a time when I would look in the mirror and see a dark brown beard (badami rang). Then I progressed to a salt and pepper beard (loon atay kali mirch), and now bahut loon!

I recall during my last few years of teaching before retirement, chatting with students who could not relate to things like a time when there was only black and white television, or a time before remote controls when one had to actually get up and go to the TV and turn a knob to change channels. My students were vaguely familiar with pre-computer electric typewriters, but could not relate to manual typewriters where one had to actually move a lever to push the carriage back when one finished a line of typing.

A Sardar friend from my local sadh sangat told me about taking his 8 year old daughter to a flea market and coming across an old-time, dilapidated public phone booth. His daughter was very curious about what it was and was even more confused about the rotary dial phone within it! She had no idea what a phone booth was or how one used one's finger to turn the dial on an old phone and not simply push buttons.

I was at my local military veterans outpatient clinic and passed a group of veterans going into a group therapy session. I looked at them and given their gray hair and other geriatric features, assumed that they were World War II and Korean War vets, but then discovered that they were Vietnam veterans just like me. They looked very old – what we often refer to as “geezers” in slang English. I then went into a restroom and looked in the mirror and got a dose of reality: I looked just like them.

I recall working on reports, terms papers and even my master's degree by literally using scissors and sellotape cutting and pasting portions, thereby moving sentences and paragraphs from on place to another. I would use the sellotape to affix reports and term papers to my dormitory room walls and then move paragraphs from one place to another by cutting and pasting.

Now, cut and paste on the computer is a simple process of punching one or two keys on the keyboard. Yes, times have changed. Moreover, the old days of white-out, liquid paper and other primitive methods of correcting typos are also, mercifully, gone.


Chaur Sewa

We show our respect for Guru Granth Sahib using the Chaur Sahib found next to the Palki / Manji Sahib where the Guru is positioned during the day in a gurdwara.

We, of course, do not worship our Guru – we worship Waheguru (God of all creation), but show reverence to the wisdom found in our holy scripture. Young and old; males and females, do chaur sewa with enthusiasm.

I think the appeal of doing chaur sewa is that it combines sewa and simran. I am always amazed and pleased at how children – even those who can be hyperactive and inattentive at other times – display great focus and spirituality doing chaur sewa.

However, what saddens me are those in such a hurry to take over this honor that they do not allow the previous person even three minutes of time doing this, whereas there are times when someone is left to do this sewa for much too long. Perhaps I am nitpicking here.


Chardi Kalaa

I contend that the Sikh faith teaches us that most evil in the world derives from ego and ends up being self-destructive. When we remain aware of God's reality, we can control the ego and therefore eliminate evil thoughts and deeds.

How can we achieve this? Simran, helping others, and remaining in the company of good people. All this is easy to understand, but often hard to do.

These procedures help: Forget each worry and distress. Be hopeful and forgiving – the very quintessence of chardi kalaa.


Psychology, Sociology, History


When I returned to college after the Vietnam War, I considered majors in three fields: psychology, sociology and history. Psychology interested me because of my desire to better understand my post-war social and emotional issues. I joined the psychology club at my school and we visited a mental hospital one evening, which convinced me that psychology was not for me.

The staff at this hospital did not wear white coats and it was often hard to tell them from the mental patients in terms of their behavior. The only indication was that the staff had keys dangling from their waists.

I recall one very eccentric staff person who kept saying, “I go home in an hour!” I thought this was a patient's wishful thinking. However, he was correct. These few hours at a mental hospital convinced me that psychology in any form was not for me as a career.

Sociology was too involved in contemporary affairs all too close to my Vietnam War experience. I was fortunate enough to have a career teaching, for the most part, ancient history – the farther away from the 20th century I was, the better I felt.

I have a comrade from my platoon in Vietnam that I have stayed in touch with for fifty years. We have both dealt with post-traumatic stress issues during all this time. The recent ten-part documentary film by Ken Burns on the Vietnam War is illustrative of how two people can have diametrically opposed ways of dealing with psychological problems.

My close friend from the war is addicted not only to this film series, but also to advertisements for this film. He is, in other words, glued to his TV set. I, on the other hand, am unable to watch any of the episodes, and immediately turn the channel if there is even a short advertisement for this film.


This Was New To Me

At a diwan in Michigan, I observed a father with no kes, a short muchchh, and no beard, showing great affection to two sons both with kes, joorrahs, and patkas and this affection was clearly reciprocated.

A friend from my home gurdwara sahib in Florida told me that there are two similar families in our own sadh sangat, which I have never noticed. We all learn new things, regardless of age.


Potatoes Are Great

The recent terrorist attack in New York City in the name of ISIS was another terrible tragedy resulting in death and serious injury. While driving to the gym one morning, I was listening to a National Public Radio program in which a Muslim noted that several news commentators in trying to restate the phrase “Allah Ho Akbar” used by this Uzbeki terrorist, mispronounced “Allah” and said “Aloo Ho Akbar” instead.


November 6, 2017
 

Conversation about this article

1: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, USA), November 06, 2017, 8:08 PM.

S. Fatehpal Singh ji, I believe it has been deeply rooted in all Muslims, probably through their scriptures, that for the glory and advancement of Islam, Muslims should not associate with 'infidels' (non-Muslims). Now, Muslim extremists who are madly fanatic about their religion keep watch over other Muslims for their association with 'infidels', thus believing they have the right to kill non-orthodox Muslims as well. Muslims kill Muslims based on their affiliation to concepts of Islam.

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Part II
- Janam Da Firangee,
Sikhi Mai Mangee"









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