In an ever shrinking world, when news travel fast, we are influenced by instant images on our TV screens and form views about the state of affairs accordingly. Often, the ground realities are very different. Our world-view is formed by news writers more intent on selling sensational news stories than giving a balanced picture.
Generally, media coverage of Sikh state of affairs tends to be negative. Yet, we have much to celebrate about. It is only by travelling around and meeting real people that one begins to get an idea of the true strength and resilience of a proud community like the Sikhs. Even a single Sikh household in some unheard of place in the world can be a Sikh institution promoting Sikhi image. I have come across numerous such examples of Sikhs living amongst remote communities. They have kept up with their Sikhi way of life while being full participants in local life.
One such example I have come across recently, is that of Sardar Kulwant Singh and his wife Bibi Mahinder Kaur, the first Sikh couple to settle in Tasmania in August 1969. It came as a pleasant surprise for me that Kulwant Singh was my class-fellow in Malaysia over 58 years ago! To quote Kulwant Singh, “My wife Mahinder had studied in the Launceston Teacher’s College (Tasmania) in 1963. Later, we arrived in Tasmania on the 31st of August 1969. We were then the first Sikh migrants to Tasmania. We have lived here since then in different suburbs of northern Tasmania. Beside teaching, we did farming as well, for few years. Now we live in Grindelwald,Tasmania.”
So, during our tour of Tasmania in November last year, we dropped in to see the family. The Gursikh couple have converted part of their spacious house for Parkaash of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and for langar seva. In effect it is a small Gurdwara for the benefit of the small Sikh community. The view from the top of the hill is stunning. They participate in interfaith events while promoting Sikh ideals and identity.
There are numerous such Sikh success stories showing that while Sikhs have done well materially, they have also promoted Sikh identity. Success stories of Sikh communities living around the world in many countries need to be shared from time to time.
Today, Sikhs are a global success story. They are true ‘global citizens’! They have become renowned for their hard work and loyalty as responsible citizens. As Dya Singh of Australia wrote in his recently published book**, “It is something within the positive life philosophy and optimism within our ‘way of life’ that contributes to this phenomenal material and spiritual success, and sense of well being….”
The positive spirit of the Sikh pioneers lives on. The independent ideals and identity of such a community will survive. That is the great Sikh tradition. Sikh work ethic and the desire to serve all, will continue to win over local communities and friends.
Gurmukh Singh OBE