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O Khotey-aa!

by KHUSHWANT SINGH

 

 

This is a true story of an incident which took place in a gurdwara in Noida.

A Hindu, who excelled in singing the gurbani, had been invited to perform kirtan. A large number of the sangat turned up. Amongst them was a lady friend of mine, who went all the way from her home in South Delhi to Noida to hear him.

Everyone was enchanted by the man's melodious voice. A granthi then recited the ardas, and spoke: "I want to say something important", he said. "I agree that it was a very good kirtan and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. But I think anyone who has cut his hair or shaved his beard should not be allowed to sing in a gurdwara."

The fellow evidently did not know about Sikh maryada (tradition).

If I had been there, I would have told him: "O khoteyaa (you donkey), do you know that till the Partition of the country in August 1947, the principal raagis of The Darbar Sahib were Muslim descendants of Guru Nanak's first disciple, Bhai Mardana? All Sindhi ragis like the famous Bhai Chella Ram are clean shaven. At the bhog ceremony of my closest and life-long friend, Prem Kirpal, the kirtan was done by a Muslim jatha based in Delhi."

Although the Noida fellow did not think about hurting anyone's feelings, he did so by his stupid bigotry. If I had been there, I would have got up and slapped him on his face.

I hope he reads this column and tenders an abject apology to the Noida gurdwara sangat.

 

[Courtesy: The Tribune]

November 23, 2010

 

 

Conversation about this article

1: N. Singh (Canada), November 23, 2010, 9:51 AM.

I think this is an important line of discussion. Perhaps we need more scholarly and philosophical input into the issue ...

2: Dr. Birinder Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), November 23, 2010, 10:20 AM.

If and when scholars and philosophers are invited to address this issue, please do not forget to invite the "khotaa" to attend the conference. (I sincerely mean no disrespect towards anyone.)

3: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada.), November 23, 2010, 5:34 PM.

There are some Sikhs with their own maryada and want to impose it on others. There are many Sindhi and Muslim followers of Nanak who do melodious kirtan.

4: N.V. Singh (Chandigarh, Punjab), November 23, 2010, 9:38 PM.

I think Khushwant Singh has said it all. No matter how many intellectuals you collected in a room - they couldn't have come out with this one.

5: R. Singh ( Canada), November 24, 2010, 5:08 AM.

Maryadas are just guidelines. When they overtake and suffocate the principles of any faith, devouring the very principles that gave it life, it defeats the very purpose of its existence.

6: Manjeet Kaur Shergill (Singapore), November 24, 2010, 5:10 AM.

Poor granthi ji - made to play the role of a khota in guru's darbar and sangat. The khotaas and the Judas among men ... slapping them down may be a good impulse, but ... I am glad Khushwant Singh ji hesitated - remembering it's the karmic law at work. Was it Htler who once said - "Who said i am not in the special protection of God?" But Khushwant ji - I suggest you get the granthi out of the darbar and slap him silly if he does it again. No need for scholarly discussions on this particular subject, I think.

7: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), November 24, 2010, 5:01 PM.

Every religion has Talibans, only named differently. They make and enforce their own maryadas. Khushwant Singh's use of 'khota', although quite apt in this context, is one that is often used as a term of endearment, but since it drew a wholesale ire, let's replace it with plain 'dumb-head'. Now that this is settled, let's look at Guru Granth Sahib, the living Guru that we all respectfully bow to as we enter the precincts of the gurdwara. Guru Granth Sahib has honoured the saints and divines from even so-called 'low castes' and 'untouchables' belonging to different faiths by including their hymns, thus emphasizing the fatherhood of one Pita and love for all mankind, irrespective of caste, colour and creed. Bhai Kanhayyi-aa started the first equivalent of the Red Cross known to Man, and served water indiscriminately to friends and foes alike. Some accused him of treason. You know the rest of the story. The Seva-panthis and Adanshahis, all Sehajdhari Sikhs, were the ones who propagated the teachings of the Gurus more than anyone else. It was also their tradition that the first born son shall become a Sikh. Our Talibans took care of that and that tradition has now totally disappeared. We also went out on on the town with the followers of Bhagat Ravidas and many now no longer have parkash of Guru Granth Sahib and have now installed only Bhagat Ravidas' hymns in the form of a granth. Let's learn to think before we pick up the first stone to throw at others.

8: Davinder Singh Dhanjal (Freuchie, Cupar, Fife, Scotland ), November 26, 2010, 1:18 AM.

Thank you, Khushwant Singh ji. The more I read about such practices, the more I feel that we have built Maryadi Sikhi on a very loose stony base. And this type of observance has reached giddy heights and will fall. I am sure ordinary, simple Sikh must believe in Guru Nanak's Sikhi - whether one practices it exactly, I am not sure, but if we believe 'Raj karega Khalsa', then this Sikhi has no place in the Khalsa Guru Gobind Singh created!

9: Karan Singh (United Kingdom), November 26, 2010, 6:28 AM.

While I don't personally agree with the granthi's comments, I am also offended by some of the author's glib remarks.

10: Tushar (Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.), November 26, 2010, 11:51 PM.

You gotta love Khushwant Singh. He is inimitable and I remember him from his days as the Editor of the Illustrated Weekly Of India and his column, "With Malice...". We need more of his sort in India - to rid it of its vast reserve of humbug - across its myriad groups/ religions/ parties ...

11: Harprit (Bareilly, India), November 28, 2010, 1:59 AM.

I am not sure how this conversation has added to our knowledge of Sikhi.

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