Friday, May 13, 2016

A Page From My Diary
Sardarji jokes
1974: I was a student at Srinagar’s Sri Pratap Higher Secondary School and had gone to Delhi on a combined study and pleasure trip. While returning home, I boarded a ‘chalo’ coach of a Jammu-bound train. On board and sitting next to me on a side lower berth was an elderly Sikh; his long white and unfastened beard hanging down his wrinkled face. Soon the coach became crowded and when it left Delhi’s old railway station it had already turned cramped. Seeing a lady standing near us, the old man gave up his seat to her. After stopping at a few of stations en route, the remaining passengers could have more legroom and feel less cramped. Sardarji got his seat back but soon surrendered it to a woman as the coach became crowded again at Panipat. He repeated the gesture of respect and courtesy twice more before getting down at a station in Punjab. On one such occasion, getting motivated rather feeling embarrassed, I offered up my seat to Sardarji as he got up to surrender his own to a woman. He, however, declined saying, “You may remain seated. It gives me pleasure.”
A few years after this inspirational experience, I had another one during a visit to Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk area. After returning from the main prayer hall, I found a Sikh gentleman polishing my shoes in the shoe-stand area. The reporter in me couldn’t resist asking him who he was. He turned out to be one of the top industrialists from Punjab (we continue to be in touch with each other since). He said cleaning shoes of the worshippers gives him “great pleasure” and “humbling experience” he can’t have any other way.
Post-September 2014 floods back home, I saw Sikh volunteers and philanthropists from Jammu, Punjab and some other parts of India deeply moved and intensely and whole-heartedly involved in relief work. I’ve the experiences of and am witness to the Sikhs being busy in charity and humanitarian works elsewhere.
When the situation demands, Sikhs are some of the most gracious, bighearted and gregarious people on the planet. They are also one of the hardest working prosperous and diversified communities in the world. And people still crack jokes to make fun of them. I hate this pastime.
P.S.: Societies throughout history have each had their share of bad, unlawful and out-of-control people.

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