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Apostasy and Sikh Youth in the West


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Apostasy and Sikh Youth in the West

By Pritpal Singh Bindra

A couple of years ago one teen-ager committed suicide in Ontario, Canada. He belonged to a Pooran Gursikh Family. His parents were very affluent and the boy was sent to an exclusive French school. The parents were very proud of the fact that their son was the only one in that institution, and that too in full Sikh-form. He was not only a brilliant student academically, but also excellent in sports. He was highly acclaimed by the members of the teaching staff. By an overwhelming choice he was elected head-boy of the class, and later of the school. He supported full facial and head standards of Sikhism; he wore turban or patka during all his activities.

His parents always stressed the need of preservation of the Sikh form like his older brother, who was, then, in a University in Canada. His grandmother, particularly, maintained that if he ever adopted apostasy, he would see her dead face.

He was accepted in all the activities inside the school, but, unfortunately, he was deserted socially by his class-mates and friends out side the school-hours. The situation came to the crunch when he invited a few of his friends to his birthday party at his house. Not a single one turned up. A few days later a Canadian (white) friend of his celebrated his birthday. All of his colleagues attended the occasion but he was deliberately left out, he was not informed even. He learned that they objected to his physical appearance and the turban. They thought that his presence could be very odd at the jovial social gatherings.

Feeling humiliated he went into a hotel and his body was found next day, in a room there, with a suicide note. The note, directed towards his grandmother, said that the shape the grandmother wanted him to remain in, he could not maintain, and the shape, that he wanted to retain to move in social environments, she could not tolerate. He could not dream to offend her and, therefore, he was abandoning the world. At the bhog ceremony, Professor Darshan Singh Ragi stressed the need of Khalsa Schools to avoid such tragedies. (For the situation in the Khalsa institutions, please refer to the last paragraph of this artcile.)

And now on January 9 this year (1997), Inderjit Singh Shergill took his life and left this world. His parents are the most ardent devotees at the Dixie Road Gurdwara in Mississauga, Ontario Canada. Day in and day out his father would, voluntarily, keep abreast to rectify any mechanical repairs (in the kitchen, etc.) or physical needs of the building without any aspiration of personal gains. Inderjit, merely a high school boy, was as ardent as his parents. He fervently adhered to the study of Punjabi Language and Sikh ethics and Gurbani in the evening classes run in this gurdwara. He regularly participated in the Keertan classes and took part in monthly Gurbani recitation contests.

Unlike the Anand-boy he attended an ordinary school; Punjabi boys and girls dominated the school population and the majority of them were Sikhs. Inderjit was often taunted and misbehaved for sticking to his Sikh form, not by the white ethnics but by his own kind (which frequently indulged in drugs and gang-activities). Due to his adherence to his belief he was often called `Giani'. Instead of respecting Inderjit for his love for his belief, his classmates contorted and called him `gay'. Inderjit could not digest all those and ended his life. Here the boy was the victim of the sneers of his own people.

These are not the only two isolated cases. It is learnt that there have been nine such incidents since September 1996. Immediately after such happening the Sikh clergy and leadership wakes up and raises hue and cry but soon it dies down.

From nine to nineteen is the most crucial stage in the development of a child. Up to the age of nine they are far less conscious of their colour and facial features (Two boys, one coloured and one white, were playing in the court-yard. They heard one of the parents haggling about a family of variant colour. The black boy said to his companion, "You know I am black, too." The white boy looked at his face acutely and said, "Are you?")

And once one attains the age of twenty, one becomes strong enough to face the diversionary forces.

But, I am sorry to say, the Sikh community is least concerned of this crucial age of the second category, i.e., nine to nineteen. There are, no doubt, many Sikh families who are very vigilant, and they comprehend the problems their children are facing. But, in most cases, their priorities are prejudicial and fundamentalist. Nineteen hundred and ninety-nine is approaching fast. Everywhere we are hearing the calls for all Sikhs to become Amritdhari. I hope it does not just remain an exercise to boast about the numbers. Sant Jarnel Singh Bhindrawale travelled through hundreds of villages and, through his magnetic aura, influenced thousands of young people and got them to become Amritdharis. Unfortunately, as the persuasion was abrupt and lacked long lasting spiritual consciousness and understanding, within ten years of his demise most of the youth fell into the domain of apostasy and drug-addiction.

In the West, more often than not, the compulsive environments become the cause of the apostasy. It is vital that the last and ultimate goal of every Sikh should be to be an Amritdhari Sikh. But before that the consciousness of the cause is critically needed. Children should be imparted right perceptions. Without this (particularly in the West where even a baby asks `why' before acquiescing to a parental suggestion) any coercion would be ineffective; either it would end in tragic circumstances or culminate in facial apostasy.

To consider this problem, a few young voluntary social workers in Ontario have formed a group, called Sahara, to enhance necessary understanding between the parents and the children to combat the negative impacts. Their plans and endeavour to hold the seminars are quite appreciable. Considering the importance of the family unity they will be focusing their forums on Family Dynamics. Whereas, as I understand, their main stress is to impress upon the parents to accede to the wishes of children, they will also, I hope, consider the means to help those children who, themselves, wish to keep the spirit and consciousness of Sikh tenets alive. The group should not only prepare the children to combat the distracting forces but also must intercede with such impacts, and illuminate their misgivings.

Two cases mentioned above, are the representatives of the thoughts prevailing among the youth. The Anand-boy, for sake of his social amalgamation (which, perhaps, he might have desired himself), could not inflict mental agony to his parents. Had he expressed his feeling, would his parents have acquiesced?

And the second one is the case of Inderjit Shergill. The Sikh spiritual values, ethics and decorum were thoroughly ingrained in his concepts. As his father explained, had he come to him and expressed his desire to change his shape, he might have agreed (Panj Paani Weekly, Toronto). But Inderjit, himself, wanted to retain his true form and he, himself, refused to succumb to derogatory influences. Would he have taken his life, if he had known that to commit suicide was contrary to the teachings of Sikhism?

Any organisation working towards this end must ponder over both the aspects. Whereas the stress is laid upon parents to be amicable, there should also be efforts to protect the understanding of the heritage, particularly in case of the ardent and convinced youth. Whatever the shape they may be they must be helped to keep the spirit of Sikhism alive. Such organisations should not leave their work to the point of pleasing the youth but also endeavour to take steps to keep the spirit of Sikh thought and existence of their lineage.

It would be worthwhile to reflect upon the Bombay experience in this regard. Even up to 1950s the Sikh face was nearly as much alien in Bombay as in a foreign land. A turban frequently received the comment, "Sirdar Ji, Is it twelve o'clock?" But with the advent of prosperity whole situation has changed now. A turban has become a symbol of effluence. (In the Rajdhani Express, coming from Bombay, I heard a Hindu gentleman saying, "He is asking for money from us. He should ask Sirdar Ji. Money is available with them only.") Through parents, abundance wealth coming in the way of youth has moulded their characters too. Unadulterated Sikh form (though with patkas instead of turban) has become a status symbol. When a Sikh boy joins social activities he is overwhelmingly welcomed; his lavish spending power makes his companions from other religions to forget his outer make-up.

But, unfortunately, the youth of Bombay (to that matter any Indian metropolis) is devoid of heritage consciousness. They hardly ever speak Punjabi (except to follow Malkiyat Singh, Baba Sehgal or Daler Mehndi). They hardly ever go to Gurdwaras (except at the non-religious social functions, e.g., engagements, marriages, etc.) In case of another 1984 carnage would they be able to display spiritual Sikh courage or they would be the first ones to change their shapes? The education for the consciousness of Sikh thought is more important.

And in the same context, it would be worth while to study the thought of Dr. Varinderpal Singh of Prem Nagar, Gurdaspur (Monthly Sant Sipahi May 1997). He had gone to Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar recently to attend the Bhog Ceremony of Sri Akhand Path Sahib. He was very much impressed with the devotion of the students who had, themselves, performed all the services. It was dismaying, however, to note that about eighty percent of students (who passed by the gurdwara precinct or participated in the ceremony) had forsaken their Sikh outer form. But their reverence towards Sikhism was, undoubtedly, unquestionable. None of them would, even, pass by without paying his obeisance either at the steps of the building or inside the gurdwara. At the end Dr. Singh observes, "Whole night I kept on reflecting upon the mental attitude of these young people. I feel, although, due to some ignorance (or compulsive environmental circumstances - PSB) those young ones have accepted apostasy, but the Godly fear and the consciousness of Waheguru still predominates. Creating circumstances congenial to Sikhism can awaken this. The need (of the time) is to bring them near (the Sikh decorum) with love."

Heartbreaking Story :cry: :cry:

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Guest Singh47

Those are some sad stories. Unfortunately a lot of Sikh kids go through what those two Sikh teens in that article went through. If Goray don’t tease you then Apnay will. Our monay kids put a lot of peer pressure on Keshadari kids to become like them. It’s sad, but it’s true. I think we should have a couple of Sikh schools. Look at the Jews. They don’t send their kids to normal public schools. They send them to Jewish schools. Sikhs have such a large population in Ontario. But only one Sikh school. Until we have our own schools, this is what Sikh kids are going to go through.

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I agree with you 100% bro.

We defo need Khalsa School which provides elementry classes and high school classes. In UK there are already school like that. I heard in a news they are opening more but again sikhs of england are much advance as in parchar wise than us canadian (ontarians pricesly).

I think few reasons might be-

- Gurdwara Comitte's consits of money hungery mongers.

- Hostility between gurdwaras ie- (Dixie Vs Malton) .. I heard there is a hostility.

- No younger generation or youths involved in gurdwara comitee to make such decisions.

- Lack of Funds because of sangat is spilt off ( All goes to different gurdwara)

- Lack of Commitment.

- Lack of parcharaks (I only know one "Harmet Singh") with pure dedication. He does lecture on every friday night at dixie. He might not know mucch literature or have scholarship but defo need singhs like him with high potential.

- Lack of sikhi related programs on t.v (Chardi-kalah, Insight to sikhism rest are full of advertisments and other kanjar khana).

- No sikhi related radio programs or radio talks shows.

- More concentration on khalistan progangda as in making khalistan movement more political (Air off shows) but cant simply show the sangat something like Insight to sikhism by Hari Nam Singh Khalsa on T.V.

- No Help Line for youths burning in desires, drugs, stress.

- Bad representation of Sikhs overall in Canadian media (whether its gurdwara politics or table/chair wrestling match or Air Indian Bombing) all makes it to paper headlines.

- Our Gurdwaras are soo busy that we cant even invite canadian media to our gurdwara in big events such as- baishakhi, Guroo nanak sahib nirankar birthday, gurpurbs etc.

- Lack of trust from banks.

- Major Scams in Khalsa credit union bank in BC, Canada.... now canadian banks will think twice for sikhi related funding organizations. Making punjabi community parniod about (Khalsa Image in general) by breaking the relationship of trust in the name of religion.

- Here is the MAIN ONE- L A C K O F E D U C A T I O N (Canada is plaqued with immigrants/refugee's not that there is anything to wrong with that but its just sad that they cant change themselves when it comes to representation of sikhism in good light)

This listed things might not be directly connected with opening khalsa schools but they do affect us indirectly..

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I think things are slowly changing man... before couple of yrs back there were no youths camps.. now by guroo grace they are happening once a year.. same with khalsa school.. its just matter of time veer.

As given bachan by guroo maharaj ji.. Khalsa will flourish four corners in the world...!!!

i think we shouldnt worried about it .. just do your bit!!!!

Agaaie jivvaie hakum hoya akaal purkh da us tra ho jana :D

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That article is so true. "White" culture has no shame or remorse for their actions its no surprise that these Sikhs had it bad.

"If Goray don’t tease you then Apnay will. Our monay kids put a lot of peer pressure on Keshadari kids to become like them." - Singh47

I couldn't agree more, (most) monay just want to have fun, booze, tobacco, indecent intimacy and in some cases bongs and other paraphernalia. Its no surprise that they insult us, to them we are just old fogeys who they think need to loosen up (well that's the attitude I've been sensing). What annoys me the most is how they wear chunky karas, Khanda necklaces etc whilst being so hypocritical and even have the nerve to call themselves Sikhs whilst endorsing Jatt pride as well which I find a contradiction.

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Guest Javanmard

Ridiculous and essentialist statements.

It's so funny that the outhor who complains about Sikh apostasy is an apostate himself as he does not consider Charitropakhyan to be the bani of Guru Gobind Singh. I suggest Mr. Pritpal Bindra better look at his own heretic beliefs before going on whining about apostasy among young Sikhs provoked in great part by the people of HIS generation!!!

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I couldn't agree more, (most) monay just want to have fun, booze, tobacco, indecent intimacy and in some cases bongs and other paraphernalia. Its no surprise that they insult us, to them we are just old fogeys who they think need to loosen up (well that's the attitude I've been sensing). What annoys me the most is how they wear chunky karas, Khanda necklaces etc whilst being so hypocritical and even have the nerve to call themselves Sikhs whilst endorsing Jatt pride as well which I find a contradiction.

Actually, most monay don't want to have fun, booze, tobacco, etc. Your opinion is biased and prejudiced. Who the hell are you to say that they are not Sikhs???? You prat. If you said that monay aren't Khalsa then I agree 100% but to say that they aren't Sikhs is pure arrogance.

I've seen at first hand the divide between religious and non-religious Sikhs in university. Monay feel that religious Sikhs (most of them Amritdharees) look down on them and are arrogant. And the religious Sikhs feel that the non-religious Sikhs "just want to have fun, booze, tobacco, indecent intimacy and in some cases bongs and other paraphernalia."

I could write a lot more abt this but we'd be swaying away from the topic at hand. Suffice to say I'm really cheesed off with what you wrote giani_g - I think you need to sort out your own insecurities.

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just another point/observation:

if a typical keshadari Singh saw a mona getting beaten up by a gang chances are he wouldn't interfere. If a typical mona saw a Singh getting beaten up he would go ballistic. No matter what the odds that mona would give his all to help the Singh.

Remeber, I'm on abt the average keshadari/mona here. As a generalisation, the respect that all Sikhs have for the turban and beard is immense (whether those Sikhs are keshadari or not).

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"in some cases bongs and other paraphernalia"

These are presumably worse than indecent intimacy and tobacco?

For obvious reasons, it's true to say that tobacco is a nasty, addictive and evil substance. How can a bong be worse? Why is a vaporiser a bad thing to a khalsa Sikh? Would a pestle-and-mortar count as paraphernalia?

If it's not the paraphernalia but the substance, is weed bad? How about ganja/skunk (flowering tops)?

I'd be interested to know roughly what proportion of monay toke up (i.e. burn up/smoke), and how this sort of activity is regarded among them (i.e. whether it's considered a shameful thing or no big deal).

Would an amritdhari khalsa Sikh keep matches in his house (for emergencies, lighting up the cooker, etc)? How about an ordinary lighter?

Sometimes the questions are more interesting than the answers. Funny boundaries set by people for others.

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Guest Punjabi Nationalist

I agree with Beast. I dont know about Canada but here (in my experience) your average mona has more respect for a Singh than a Singh does for a mona. Beasts view regarding helping out your fellow Sikh if in trouble is also pretty much on the money. Although, to that i will say it is not often easy for a Singh to tell if a mona is a Sikh or if he is a Punjabi Hindu or Pak Punjabi.

Alot of mona Sikhs have the same look as a Pakistani of the same age, ie same garms same hair-cut etc. These days i've also noticed non-Sikhs wearing karas. I know for certain cultural or family reasons you have Punjabi Hindus wearing a kara which is fine, but when a kutchi wears one i think thats disgraceful.

Anyway, if i can ask N30 Singh to answer a few questions for me:

1) Tell me a little about the gang problems faced by Sikh youth in Canada. Does it resemble the gang culture in the states? ie turf wars, gun running etc or is it more to do with drug related crimes or ethnic/relgious tension with other communities?

2) It is unacceptable that a cut-haired Sikh or Punjabi Hindu would make fun of an amritdhari Sikhs appearance. They should damn well know better. Do many monas ever even attend Gurdwara in Canada? Because i feel these ones obviously know little about the faith...

3) What do you mean rivalry between Gurdwaras? Do these Gurdwaras have caste-based committees? (As in Singh Sabha, Ramgharia, Ravidas etc) Or are they segregated on other lines such as second generation born Canadian Sikhs go to one Gurdwara and recent immigrants from Punjab go to another?

4) Are the Gurdwaras being allowed for use as places where political speeches are given? (Like on Khalistan etc) If so, what can you do to stop this without first having to resort to physical means?

Id just like to add that smoking and alcohol should not be so harshly frowned upon (Unless its under-age kids doing it). The individual has made a choice, it is not for us to disown them because of it. Our duty is to first better ourselves, not to criticize others behaviour (especially when it is legal). No i am not a smoker of cigaretes or blunts but i occasionally smoke some shisha (not often, and its not illegal) while in private company of a few friends, alcohol is also an occasioanl thing. I am aware that the Gurus requested we not do these things, but since i keep them to myself as recreational and dont throw it in peoples faces like its a big deal (unlike some) i see no real harm done, except maybe to myself.

There are far more important issues that need to be dealt with instead of arguing over such trivial things as these or falsely lumping all "monay" as a bunch of delinquents, which they are not.

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No i am not a smoker of cigaretes or blunts but i occasionally smoke some shisha (not often, and its not illegal) while in private company of a few friends, alcohol is also an occasioanl thing. I am aware that the Gurus requested we not do these things, but since i keep them to myself as recreational and dont throw it in peoples faces like its a big deal (unlike some) i see no real harm done, except maybe to myself.

Apart from hashish containing impurities like car tyre, droppings and shoe polish, probably the most harmful thing is to regard the use of cannabis as "recreational". This is a powerful plant - not to be messed with. And it is a big deal - the effect on meditation and awareness is substantial (if you have potent stuff). Surprised that you attach no significance to it.

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Guest Punjabi Nationalist

Apart from hashish containing impurities like car tyre, droppings and shoe polish, probably the most harmful thing is to regard the use of cannabis as "recreational". This is a powerful plant - not to be messed with. And it is a big deal - the effect on meditation and awareness is substantial (if you have potent stuff). Surprised that you attach no significance to it.

Noooo no no no no no no no. Shisha (Arabic/Turkish water pipe) is simply flavored tobacco (Usually fruit flavored). It is not inhaled into the lungs and i dont believe it to be an intoxicant.

It just leaves a refreshing flavor in the mouth, which is whats appealing about it. It can have a slight calming (drowsy for some) affect, but nothing that can lead to a state of automatism (unlike intoxicants).

Hashish is something else...

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Noooo no no no no no no no. Shisha (Arabic/Turkish water pipe) is simply flavored tobacco (Usually fruit flavored). It is not inhaled into the lungs and i dont believe it to be an intoxicant.

It just leaves a refreshing flavor in the mouth, which is whats appealing about it. It can have a slight calming (drowsy for some) affect, but nothing that can lead to a state of automatism (unlike intoxicants).

Hashish is something else...

Oh I see. I've learned something new.

I would advise against using tobacco, even flavoured pipe tobacco though. That stuff is less natural than you might believe.

There are very potent cannabis strains around these days. Powerful enough to throw open the doors of perception. Conscious use of cannabis is something not to be discounted by throwing it in the same category as intoxicants. It's a very special and precious plant. I believe it's very foolish and idiotic to use it as a toy (as most people tend to regard it).

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This is a reply to Beast (sorry that it is late). I'm writing from my own experience in Leicester. Notice that I use the word "most" as well, I don't slander all monay, nearly all of my uncles, aunties, and even my parents are monay but they have respect for their faith. However I was talking about the Sikhs I have encountered in the Leicester (those between 13-18 ). Of course there are monay that do behave but they are significantly smaller in number than those who are blasphemous. Don't forget that different areas are not all the same, I've been to Walsal and as far as I know, the Sikh community there is mainly religious. My opinion is not biased no matter what you say, get a social life and you might actually see the kind of things that go on.

I do look down on certain people, I look down on philanders, hypocrites, misers, racists, hoes, druggies etc. I don't see why I should sympathise with this kind of trash. I'm not saying that the only Sikhs are those of the Khalsa, it is just that mona is one of the best terms (in my opinion) to use for someone of Sikh origin who does not maintain long hair which the majority of the apostates are. I apologise if you can think of a better phrase.

Beast what do you think is acceptable behaviour? Do you really think that guys like me are arrogant fools because we wish to disencourage liberal behaviour?

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Sorry N3O for not sticking to the topic, but I feel that I need to respond to this.

giani_g, I know you weren't talking abt all monay, but you were talking about the majority. Dude, its because I have a social life that my opinions on this subject you brought up are so valid. I've seen what the monay are like in Leicester, my cousin's from there and I've been to their university a good few times over the years. Leicester is one messed up area and a lot of the monay (and quite a few keshdari Singhs) live up to your description. I don't know what the Amritdharees are like in Leicester, so I won't judge. Now giani_g, you're only 16. You're big mistake is that you've used Leicester as you're working model. If you were able to get around more (improve you're social life maybe? lol) you would see that a lot of areas are nothing like that. When i first read you're post I knew exactly what kind of monay you were on about - what really made me angry was that you referred to them as the majority wheras experience (and an active social life - lol :P ) have tought me that they are in fact a very small minority.

A better term than monay for apostate Sikhs is surely 'apostate Sikhs' - its only a few letters longer.

Right then N3O, don't get your kachera in a twist. lol

What I've seen monay kids do at first hand is tease kids with a joora. But this wasn't done at school or with friends, this was done at home by older brothers and sisters. I've noticed this in a couple of families. I really do feel that the parents of these kids should explain the significance of the hair to all the kids. But from what I personally saw the parents didn't step in because they just saw it as kids teasing each other. The kid with the joora would get teased, but then he would hit back and tease his bro/sis/cousin. But at this point the damage is done - the kid with the joora might have won the slanging match but he now feels an insecurity towards his joora.

There's no point blaming 13/14 year old kids, they're at a biological stage in their lives where they're half way between childhood and adulthood. Kids at this age take the p*ss out of anything and everything.

PS giani_g, you made your assumptions based on the monay you see in Leicester, I've made my assumptions based on Sikh university students. Some people will follow your argument, some people will follow mine. I don't think there's anything more either of us need to say on this topic.

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This matter is not limited to only youth, one will commonly find amongst many mona circles of ages 20-60 that a Keshdari individual is some sort of Pendoo person.

I have found this ironic as often it is such monas who are usually 'pendoo' in their thoughts and outlook and lifestyle ('asee taa, bilkul Punjaab vangar hisaab-kitaab rakeya hai' -then why don't you go back to Punjaab!!!).

Alternatively these Monas regard themselves as so 'modern' that they effectively are annoyed with the colour of their own skin...again it is ironic when I meet them and their all-too-often pendoo families (My son is a "dacter") as I recall doing during my graduation as it was indeed a fantastic site seeing the mannerisms of such families when meeting my Parents who were not only Keshdhari, but spoke good English and conducted themselves in a manner appropriate for the setting...great how we were suddenly regarded as being "too modern" given that on account of our practising Sikhi were not all that long ago regarded as Pendoos!!!

This type of attitude I find more so in the US and Canada during my travels and the good old hot spots in the UK like Southall, B'ham, Leicester, Slough etc.

I do find it hilirious meeting families in NorthAmerica, all too often coming straight from a Village in Panjab and having made some money now regard themselves as effectively modern and upper class...of course, their mannerisms remain the same and as soon as they do open their mouths...well, I'm sure everyone knows where this is going!

It's just amazing how they seemed so surprised to learn that even my Great Grandfather spoke English and more so when they learn Khalsa Singhs who maintain Rehit, although work in professional settings, command positions of respect and actually have more fun than they do!

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Niranjana, you have hit the nail right on the spot :)...

Completely agree!! :D

Also Punjabi Nationalist, I ll answer question you asked in a bit .. i m just lookin for this video from cbc talks about indo-canadian violence...

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Well Niranjana, you have your point of view and I have mine.

I feel that you are labelling all monay as being the same, I feel that is very unfair. You seem to be judging the actions of a few as your standard bearer for what a model mona is like.

I was looking outside earlier and I saw 2 Sikh 6th form students, and one of them was smoking. One student was a mona, but the student who was smoking was a keshdari - if an outsider used that as a working model of what all Sikhs were like then they would logically come to the conclusion that its not uncommon to see keshdari's smoke. --> the 'logical' way that was reasoned is extremely flawed, just as your argument is about monay.

We can take this further - if an non-Sikh saw the way a nihang lived his life he would think that all 'baptised' Sikhs lived like this (ie bhang, alcohol, mahapurshad). Can you imagine what would happen at an AKJ meeting if this guy turned up with a bucket of KFC!

Just to conclude, attacking a whole group of people on the basis of your experiences with a few of them is unjust and uneducated.

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