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Camp Gurmat, 2014, Dallas, TX – My experience from a distance

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Year 2005, my first feel of the land of opportunities. Married for a year, my wife, Rupinder Kaur and I were a little skeptical about our decision of moving to the US. Initial couple of months, life was slow and dull. However; setting up the house and exploring how things worked kept us excited. Still remember being on craigslist looking for any used stuff on sale for the minimum price. It was a different experience.

As time passed by and things started to fall in place, there was still something that we felt was missing. This pushed us to start looking for a Gurdwara around. We started by visiting the Guru Ghar in Flushing, New York and as we bought a car started visiting other Guru Ghars in the New York and New Jersey area. Year 2010, we moved to Dallas TX and started visiting the Guru Ghars in the DFW area. Each Guru Ghar we visited was extremely welcoming. The buzz around with the sangat and sewa became a big and important part of our life.

You must be wondering, when am I going to get the to the actual topic. I thought its important to know that at least for us, visiting a Gurdwara was primarily to fill the social gap in our life but as time passed, Gurdwara, Sangat and Sewa have become the most important and an integral part of our life.

Waheguru has been very kind all through and the biggest and the most wonderful gifts from him have been our kids, Nehmat Kaur (age 7 yrs) and Arjit Singh age 3 yrs). Born in Secaucus, New Jersey and Plano, TX respectively, they have been experiencing the Gurdwara atmosphere since their birth. Fridays and Sundays are all about connecting with the One through Gurbani Kirtan and having fun with the Gurdwara friends. Nehmat loves playing the harmonium and Arjit is extremely passionate about tabla. Thought he has had not formal training, he continues to impress many with the skills Vahiguru has blessed him with.

Come October 2014, Rajinder Singh Ji, a key member of the Gurmat Camp stopped at the Guru Ghar in Irving and shared details about the camp. From the word go, the whole idea sounded exciting and I immediately made up my mind to have Nehmat attend the camp. While Rupinder has some apprehensions about Nehmat being too small to survive 5 days away from home, we continued to get more information from the organizers. Every additional detail helped built our confidence. It was most comforting to meet the volunteers who had decided to stay at the camp. Having known some from the past like Dr. Pritpal Singh, Darshan Singh, Rajinder Singh and having met many more for the first time was enough to take a final call. Nehmat was going to the camp.

Unfortunately for me, I already had my India trip finalized before the camp was announced and hence I was left to observe from a distance. The organizers volunteers did an amazing job at the planning and execution of the camp, making the kids comfortable, giving the kids the priceless gift of Bani and Gurmat and not to mention building the confidence in the parents to leave their kids at a unfamiliar location for 5 days. They also did a stellar job at utilizing the social media by posting pictures and videos of numerous activities happening at the camp every single day. As I write this post in flight from Delhi to Nagpur, India, my thoughts keep going back to the lost opportunity of being amongst these dedicated bunch and makes me look forward to the next Gurmat camp in 2015.

Another thing that made this camp unique is the way it bought the DFW Sikh sangat together. All the Gurdwaras were engaged at the right time with equal opportunities to serve.

At the same time, it would be unfair to not appreciate the enthusiasm shown by the kids. Starting the day bright and early followed by a grueling day of activities was surely not easy but looking at the videos from the last day’s performance showed what Sikhi is all about. Every single kid and volunteer had a look a pride showing how the kids matured over the 5 day period and got them another step closer to being Guru’s ideal Sikhs. I was bamboozled by the energy by which the kids participated in Gatka and how creatively they shared their experiences.

So I call Nehmat to check if she wanted something from India and all she wanted was a Chakra so that she can continue practicing Gatka. Do I need to say more?

I so look forward to the time when Arjit will be old enough to accompany Nehmat and we will have the opportunity to volunteer. Already looking forward to the next Gurmat Camp.

My congratulations to all the organizers, sewadars and kids for making Gurmat Camp, Dallas 2014 a grand success.

Chardi Kala

I am a Sikh

As I walked out of my office building for a short break, I saw this small Asian guy (looked like a Korean or Japanese to me) looking at me with a big question mark on his face. I could figure out that it was my look that had him wonder if I belonged to this planet. Looking at his uniform, I could make out that he worked for the local housekeeping contractor.

Next, I walk up to him and say “Hello”, his first reaction was to point at my turban and ask “What is that and why do you wear it?”. I give him a smile and said “I am a Sikh”. He tried to pronounce it a couple of time and got it just right on his fourth try. We shook hands and I ask him for a quick chat. He looked at his watch trying to ensure that he was not ignoring any planned housekeeping tasks, and agreed to join me.

As we stood out side on a rather chili afternoon with me sipping into my hot cup of coffee, he kept staring at me as I shared more details about Sikhism including a little bit of history and culture and most interestingly for him, my looks. As I shared with him the rationale behind keeping my hair uncut and wearing a colorful turban, he for some reason kept going back to the hair imagining how difficult it would be to manage this look.

As he decided to go back to work (still having the same look that he had 10 minutes ago), we gave each other a hug and said “Good Bye”.

I see him every day and our bond seems to get stronger each day. He greets me each morning trying hard to pronounce my name but he does say “Sikh” pretty well and that brings a sense of pride and a smile on my face.

As you read this post, I request you to take a few minutes to read about Sikhism here. We are all about peace, love and service to humanity.

And to my new found friend John, we are from the same planet and this is we 🙂

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