Kids Corner

Image: detail from painting by Amrita Shergill.


Part I

Bhai VIR SINGH [Translated from Punjabi by INNI KAUR]




The following is a free translation of the opening chapter of Bhai Vir Singh’s “Baba Naudh Singh.”



In a small town situated on the banks of a river, piercing shrieks resound from a house where death has grabbed a young man in the prime of his life.

His parents wail. His young bride Jamuna, who has yet to experience the joys of marital bliss, sits motionless in a corner burning like a furnace.

Evening descends. Near and dear ones leave.

The young widow occasionally breaks into sobs. It is her first night of an eternal separation. Sleep eventually overpowers her.

Before long, faces with blood-shot eyes invade her consciousness: “You sinful soul, you can hide in a corner but you cannot escape my grip. A single blow will crush your delicate frame. Don’t try to escape me. My blood-stained teeth will crush your very bones.”

Startled, she wakes up. Thoughts of her husband flood in.

“Where is he? What suffering is being inflicted on him?”

Absorbed in these thoughts, she dozes off only to find herself standing in the world of the dead. The cries of the inhabitants are unbearable. She sees her husband in chains, waiting for the god of death to pronounce his judgment.

The wailing of newly arrived relatives awakens her.

Four days have gone by. The days are long, the nights even longer.

The loss of nuptial bliss; the indifference of the world; the fear of death and dreams of the next world have become her constant companions. Thoughts of her own death nudge her to seek and unravel the mysteries of the next world.

Renunciation is the key, she decides. She confides to her grandmother.

“Child, let the days of mourning end. I will find a way to occupy you in meditation, service and charity. That which will bring you peace.”

Pale and haggard, Jamuna goes about her daily chores.

With her grandmother out-of-town, she is forlorn and desperate. Seeking solace, she wanders into a temple.

An old woman seeing her ghostly pallor remarks, “Dear girl, your beautiful face is shadowed. What has brought about such sadness?”

“Don’t ask about my plight,” cries Jamuna. “I’m an unlucky woman who is destined to live a life of misery. I don’t want to burden you with my suffering.”

“Child, troubles when talked about make the soul lighter. Repressed suffering is like a virus that will eventually damage every cell of your body. Lighten your soul, and tell me what is troubling you.”

“I am the most unfortunate woman. My husband has left this world. I burn in agony thinking about him. I’m finding it hard to live this miserable life. I don’t know what to do.”

“Child, to be a widow at such a young age is no small tragedy. But it is God’s Will, which one must learn to accept. One cannot die when loved ones leave. Have patience, have courage. Time is a great healer. Your anguish will dissipate

“I long for peace of mind. But having seen my husband in pain, it is driving me insane. My earnest desire is to see him happy once again. I will do anything to make that happen.”

“Oh! That is easy to do. You are very fortunate, a renowned swami has just returned from the Prayag Fair. He’ll definitely be able to ease your mind. He has helped many people communicate with their departed loved ones. He even goes into the next world and brings back messages for them. He can make the deceased souls appear in this world. He also cures people of their ailments. You should see the crowds that surround him. Tomorrow evening, meet me at the front of the garden and I will take you to him.”

“How lucky am I to have met you. I was drowning in my grief, but you have saved me. Is it possible to meet the swami when he is alone? He may be able to connect me with my dear husband.”

“Excellent idea! Tomorrow at 5 a.m. meet me at the entrance of the garden. The swami will be alone and most likely will hear your story without interruptions. Child, I normally don’t get up so early, but for your sake, I am willing to bear this

“God has specially sent you to me for this purpose. Thank you so much,” replied Jamuna gratefully.

Early next morning Jamuna stood outside the garden entrance waiting for the old woman. On her arrival, they both walked in silence towards the center of the garden. Their footsteps alerted the swami and his men. The swami immediately closed his eyes, went silent and began to breathe slowly.

Jamuna bowed reverently and gently placed a coconut along with a rupee coin in front of him before sitting down.

“Holy Swami!” said the old woman. “You are the most renowned and powerful all-knowing miracle-worker, please help this young widow. All her efforts to find peace have failed. Bare-footed she has come to worship at your holy feet. Her deepest desire is to meet her late husband. Please have mercy and fulfill her longing.”

One of the swami’s men gently said, “Mother, don’t worry. The swami is a great yogi and has many powers. Have faith, he fulfills all desires.”

“Do you want to see heaven? Do you want to meet your husband?” asked another of the swami’s men.

“I should be that lucky?” asked Jamuna shyly.

“Dear daughter, what is it that you truly seek?” asked the swami gently.

“I wish to reassure myself that my husband is alright. I seek peace of mind and want to live the rest of my life in prayer and service,” answered Jamuna nervously.

“You will certainly have the sight of your husband. Do you wish that I also hand you the keys of heaven?” asked the swami.

“Swami ji, what more could she want,” inserted the old woman quickly. “Please shower her with grace and bestow your blessings on her. You are the holder of all treasures.”

The swami nodded and began chanting.

Jamuna and the old woman were mesmerized.

From that day on, they both began visiting the swami every morning. As the days went by, Jamuna’s confidence and trust in him grew stronger. She began to lean on him. She was convinced that he was the only one who could fulfill her desire to meet her husband. He appeared to be such a noble soul, unlike her husband’s relatives who had to date only revealed their greed. Day by day her trust in the swami grew deeper.

One day when Jamuna was immersed in the feeling of renunciation, the Swami said, “If you desire to enter heaven, you will have to go to the top of a mountain. I am going there the day after tomorrow. If you still wish to meet your husband, you can come with me.”

“Swami ji, I’ll go wherever you want me to. Please release me from my troubles and also grant liberation to my husband as you see best,” replied Jamuna.

“Alright then, we will leave the day after tomorrow. But remember, continue to free your mind of all entanglements, otherwise your mind will stray. Child, when you begin to meditate on spirits, your prayers become more powerful and amazing things happen. Tell me, are you attached to your money and jewelry?”

“Swami ji, I have no love for money or jewelry. If you like, I can donate everything to the temple.”

“I don’t think you should do that. Bring them with you. Your mind will remain secure having them in your possession.”

The next day, Jamuna left her home with all her worldly possessions. She got on a train with the swami, heading towards the Himalayas. They reached the city of Jammu and from there they traveled on foot through desolate mountains and hazardous valleys. Eventually, they reached a high mountain top near a waterfall.

“My daughter, sit on this rock and gaze continuously into the water flowing below. Do not allow your eyes to flicker. When you begin to experience a whirling sensation, close your eyes and meditate. In your meditation, you will see the path to heaven. Then you will hear the voice of your dear husband saying “come.” You must go immediately. If you hesitate for even a moment, you will lose this rare opportunity and the door of heaven will close. Chant the name of Shiva and don’t let any other thought enter your mind,” said the swami lovingly.

Jamuna did as she was instructed. Her desire to see her husband was overwhelming.

The swami kindled a small fire and threw in fragrant substances. Then with particles of sand he drew numerous charms around her and asked her to begin chanting. As her chanting increased, the swami quietly got up and left with her money and jewels.

*   *   *   *   *

“Young lady, why are you sitting at such a dangerous spot? Stand up, otherwise you will fall into the water from dizziness. Why are you inviting death?” shouted a tall man wearing a long brown cloak.

Annoyed at the intrusion, Jamuna answered, “I am not sitting her to die. I’m undergoing discomfort to get real joy. Please go away and do not bother me.”

“I fail to understand what type of real joy you will be getting by sitting here. Please enlighten me so that I too may know what you are seeking,” persisted the man.

Jamuna did not want to reveal her secret. Baffled and scared she called out, “swami ji, swami ji.” But the swami was nowhere to be seen.

She felt alone. Terrified, she revealed everything to the newcomer.

“Dear lady,” said the stranger, “the swami was a thief. He cheated you and tried to kill you too. Get up! You will get nothing sitting here. Allow me to lead you to a true savior, the one who has sacrificed his life for guilty souls like us. If you take his refuge you will not need to perform any other rituals. Gentle lady, if the swami was honest, then where are your money and jewels? How can the way to heaven be downwards? Below is Hades, a breach in the earth and fire. Heaven is above the earth. Accompany me and I will show you the way to heaven, and unite you with your departed husband.”

With great reluctance, Jamuna accepted the fact that the swami was indeed a cheat.

She was now in a desolate place; without any money; without a friend; with no direction and no home. Nervously, she agreed to put herself under the protection of the stranger standing in front of her. His tender words were like a balm to her open wounds.

Yes! She had been robbed of her worldly possessions but she still had her chastity to guard, which she valued more than life itself. She decided to accompany the stranger; for after all he had saved her from the jaws of death. He certainly seemed better than the swami.

The stranger took her into town where she was warmly received and looked after.

For three months Jamuna basked in the community’s love as she listened to the stranger’s sermons.

One Sunday, he baptized her and renamed her Miss Dumaily. He entrusted her care to a woman who vowed to treat her as her daughter and to instruct her in Christianity.

Miss Dumaily’s new mother showered her with modern clothes and attention. Her confidence grew and she began to glow. Soon she started receiving marriage proposals from dark-skinned cobblers and scavengers - the lowest strata of Hindu society who had converted to Christianity. Brought up in the Brahmin tradition, she loathed their very sight.

Besides, fidelity to her husband’s memory was paramount to her. Therefore, the idea of remarriage was evil. Out of fear, she could not express her true feelings, nor could she uproot the ideals that were ingrained in her very being.

She used every trick in the book to push off her ardent suitors. She had come here to find the way to heaven; but instead she found men who were only interested in seeking her flesh.

“O God! Have mercy and release my soul from this body or grant me a peaceful life. I’m fed up with people trying to save my soul,” she prayed day and night.

There were no traces of the high principles with which she had been brought to this place. She saw no future and the past she had left far behind.

In despair, she disclosed her secret and revealed everything to an old Muslim woman who was a maid-servant at the house.

“Mother, please take pity on me and get me out of this hell-hole. I’d rather beg, than sell my flesh,” she pleaded.

“Dear daughter, I’m willing to sacrifice myself for your welfare. Don’t worry, I will free you, but you must have patience. I cannot jeopardize my respectable job in this household. Your leaving will require some planning. Have faith in me. I will definitely get you out,” replied the old woman.

Five days later, Jamuna/Miss Dumaily sneaked out of the house and traveled under the cover of darkness to the home of the old woman’s cousin in Lahore.

A devout fakir took her under his wings. He instructed her to face the Kaaba and recite the text of Ayat Karima for three hours daily along with other rituals. Sometimes the fakir would press his hands on her eyes and recite the lyrics of
Bulleh Shah.

Jamuna began to see a glittering light; visions of her late husband danced before her eyes. Her heart leaped. At last, she had found peace.

One Friday Jamuna/Ms. Dumaily presented herself at the mosque in Lahore for her third birth.

Congratulations resounded: “You are lucky to have been converted to the faith. The Holy Prophet will grant you salvation and you will rule over heaven.”

Her joy was boundless.

Although she did not know how to recite the Kalima perfectly, she uttered it as best as she could and adopted her new religion with zeal.

The Head Maulvi gave her a new name, Ghulam Fatima, and in the congregation asked, “Can someone instruct her in the faith so that she may become a good believer.”

A young looking maulvi agreed to take over her religious education. He began to come daily to teach her the Kalima. After a few weeks, the maulvi thought that Ghulam Fatima should not remain single for her own welfare.

One day, he mentioned to her that his monthly income was fifty rupees and that he was a well-known person belonging to a very high caste. He repeated this over and over and gently insisted that she marry him.

“After all, it is the commandment of Allah and His Prophet that without a husband a woman’s chastity is always in jeopardy,” he said, trying his best to persuade her into marrying him.

The maulvi was presentable and quite gentle, but Jamuna had become wiser. She knew that for a Muslim man to have more than one wife was not a sin, but the thought of remarriage disgusted her. Her deepest desire was to have sight of her husband. Devotion to her childhood principles and fidelity to her husband was deeply rooted in her.

On hearing the maulvi’s marriage proposal, Jamuna faked a dizzy spell and distanced herself from him.

“I don’t want to commit to anything right now as I’m not feeling well. Please give me a few days to get well. When I’m better, I will ask you to come,” she said.

Even in this third incarnation, Jamuna / Miss Dumaily / Ghulam Fatima’s desire to see her departed husband did not bear fruit.

In despair, she cursed the stranger who had saved her from the mountain-top.

“Death would have been better than to endure these overtures,” she moaned. She abandoned her newly acquired religious rituals and suffered silently.

Her torment increased day by day.


Continued tomorrow …


[The translator, Inni Kaur, is the author of a children's book series, “Journey with the Gurus” –]

August 24, 2014

Conversation about this article

1: K Singh (New Jersey, USA), August 24, 2014, 10:48 AM.

Can't wait to read the rest of the story.

2: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), August 24, 2014, 6:57 PM.

"Baba NaudH Singh" is truly a handbook of Sikhi and bears the perfume of Bhai Vir Singh Ji's sensibility and poetic expression. Inni ji, your own prose is poetic. We also know of your deep veneration of Bhai Vir Singh and every word you write is soaked in love. The book (original, in Punjabi) is also available in audio and this was done by another unsung devotee of Bhai Sahib. He is S. Guldeep Singh Sethi in USA who was responsible for the excellent studio quality audio recording. I hope he will forgive me for disclosing his name. This can be found on the following site: "Baba Naudh Singh" provides the key message of the Gurus: (a) honest, hard work (b) sharing one's bread with others, and (c) Naam Simran - the constant remembering of Waheguru. The whole message is revealed through the exemplary life of Baba Naud Singh. Bhai Vir Singh is actually himself the real-life embodiment of the protagonist. Inni ji, looking forward to your next ... and the next ... offerings. May you have Guru's blessings.

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Part I"

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