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The Beacon




"Beta, let no action of yours put a stain on my white turban."

Those were the parting words of my grandfather, Sardar Pratap Singh Marwah, to his daughter - my mother - as she sailed for Kuwait, her new home in 1955.

She was all of eighteen.

"Mum, you were going to a foreign country to build a life with a man you barely knew, weren't you scared?" I question her.

"Foreign country, my foot! Kuwait had nothing. No water, no vegetables, no chicken. It had nothing. Everything had to be brought in from Basra. The houses were made of mud; there were no working toilets, barely any electricity. Even India was much better," replies my spirited mother.

"But Mum, weren't you scared?" I persist.

"Scared of what?" she replies looking strangely at me.

"Mum, you were eighteen years old. Your father had never let you leave the house alone. Now you were going off to a foreign land to start your married life with a man you barely knew. It must have been scary. Were your nervous? What if it didn't work out? What would you do?"

She looks at me.

Her eyes mist.

"I loved and trusted my father completely. I knew he would do what was best for me. He chose your father because he respected his family. In a strange way, I knew that your father would never let my father down. And I was right. My father chose the right man for me. Your father loves and cares deeply for me. Through all my health problems, he has never left my side. I pray that if I have to come back to live another life, may God give me the same husband," she replies with an unusual softness.

"But those were different times," she hastily adds.

I wonder. Were they were really different times?

I too was married at twenty to a man chosen by my father.

I too left the safety of my family and flew to New Zealand to start my married life with him.

"Was I not scared?"

And the honest answer is "No."

In a strange sort of way, I too knew that the man my father chose would take care of me. Was this because of the implicit trust I had in my father, whom I adored?

I don't know.

"You are going very far to begin a new life," said my father with tears in his eyes. "Let no action of yours cause me to lower my eyes and drop my head."

"I promise I won't," I said, clinging to him.

Thirty-three years later, at a family wedding, I ask my father, "Dad, have I done anything that has caused you to lower your eyes?"

He smiles and kisses me.

"Even after I am gone, I know you'll never do anything that will lower my eyes," he replies.

"How do you know that, Dad?"

"Because I know you," he replies confidently.

"I wish I was that sure, Dad. I just wish I was that sure."

My father's parting words have never left me. They have stood me well and I know they will continue to do so.

I wonder what my parting words will be to my daughters.

In a flash, I know.

 "Truth is the high, but higher still is truthful living" - words that I borrow from Guru Nanak, the First Master.

May these words too serve them like a beacon of light on their journeys.


[The author is the author of the recently released children's book, Journey With The Gurus, which is available at ]

March 11, 2011

Conversation about this article

1: T. Sher Singh (Mount Forest, Ontario, Canada), March 11, 2011, 1:46 PM.

Excellent genes, Inni!

2: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), March 11, 2011, 3:58 PM.

If I may reminisce a little: Inni, this was the standard script of nearly all parents of that era when we were going through the pains of growing up. We were expected to do what our parents did, live where they lived, worship where they worshiped and, nearly expected to think the way they thought. In retrospect, life was pedestrian but predictable. We were expected to be 'beeba raanas' - that is, dutiful at all times. Those restraints and accumulated wisdom provided adequate groundwork for the future. We took 'Que sera, sera' to heart. It was a good operative antidote that served well. The bases of all that were the early lessons and practices enjoined by gurbani. That was the roadmap to help us walk the 'maarag.' - path.

3: R. Singh (Canada), March 12, 2011, 7:38 AM.

Those were the good old uncomplicated times, when there was trust between generations. At least the families made sure of the peripherals that make or break a marriage. A huge contrast to the economic matrimonials in vogue currently.

4: Gurjender Singh (Maryland, U.S.A.), March 12, 2011, 8:54 AM.

Thank you for the beautiful writing, which is also full of lessons for us. I believe that if Sikhs follow one lesson of Guru Nanak, we will be trouble free: Truth is high, but higher still is truthful living.

5: Manjeet Kaur Shergill  (Singapore), March 13, 2011, 1:27 AM.

Love your family portraits, Inni. No parting words from my Dad. Not sure what Mum will say. Not sure what I will say to my son. All is good - is a possibility. Or ... say your prayers.

6: Parminder Kaur Dhillon (Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S.A.), March 14, 2011, 9:55 AM.

Thanks, Inni. I remember my Dad's words when he sent me to college. He has been gone for over a year, I am a grandmother now, yet, I am always conscious of his presence and hope I never do anything that will "lower his eyes". Sometimes we forget there is a bigger father, our chosen Guru and how easily we violate his rules! The rules that He has made for us to lead a good life on this earth. Let us keep our heads high by honoring our Father, the Guru!

7: Devinder Singh Marwaha (Canada ), March 17, 2011, 12:42 PM.

Being one of the Marwaha family, I am proud of the principles enunciated.

8: Parminder Kaur Dhillon (Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S.A.), September 24, 2011, 11:57 AM.

Dear Inni, our thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time. A mother is irreplaceable. May Waheguru give her soul eternal peace and rest.

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