Saturday, September 30, 2006


Todays post is based on the story of this family.

Rupinder Kaur Chahal, with her mother Jagjit Kaur and father Gurdev Singh in their home in Deenashabib, hasn't seen her husband for 19 months. Groom Beant Singh Chahal is living in Calgary.
Photograph by : Ted Rhodes, Calgary Herald

This week was a fascinating one as we expected the verdict of ball tampering issue in cricket, then the AFL grand final ( yes, blokes from non footy playing nations outside OZ too are excited about this great game) and NRL grand final. But more than anything else what shook me during the week was the issue of Rupinder Kaur Chahal reported in the Canadian media. Having read this information and on the basis of previous reports, the question that I asked myself was " Can we call the these perpetrators sikhs simply because they were turbaned?
Historically, when a new religion was formed out of existing , it was natural that there could be manifold remnants of previous religions of the newly converted followers being added to the new community. But, in this process , it was necessary to shed negative and harzadous practices. The essence of a code of conduct ( Rehat Maryada) for followers emerged as a consequence of this kind of events. Discrimination against gender was so prevalent in the Indian society that specifically gender equity was promoted by sikh gurus. Sikhs were able to hold their heads high as sikhism was the only indian religion which promoted gender equity other than Buddhism. It has been recorded in sikhi literature that women were required to be held in the highest possible position as they were the ones who gave birth to kings, soliders or any person of might having had them in their womb for ten months. The sikhi approach to this existing issue was "how come women be inferior if they were to bear kings in their womb". Contrary to existing practices of hiding faces of women by a piece of cloth( Fardah)( Guru AmarDas banned Purdah) or confining them to the back yard when some one came to the house, sikh women were encouraged to be in the company of the male counterparts of the household in receiving guests.Thus, gender equity was openly preached in Sikhism.
There were many Hindu customs among the new followers of Sikhism and obviously there were repercussions of those considered to be negative upon the core values of the new religion( Sikhism).Among them, shedding away of Hindu influenced negative nuptial procedures was of significant importance. Having understood the magnitude of the damage that can be exterted upon the core Sikhi values , Guru Ramdas, introduced the Anand Karaj,the Sikh wedding ceremony literally meaning " BLISSFUL HAPENNING". Guru Ram Das emphasising the importance of a nuptial bond says ""They are not said to be husband and wife who merely have physical contact only. Rather they alone are called husband and wife who have one soul in two bodies". Guru Amardas was instrumental in banning socially unacceptable practice of SATI . Thus,Guru Amar Das occupies a special place in the Indian Sub continent in the same rank with Lord Buddha for uplifting the status of women and promoting gender equity.
Anad Karaj has an enormous social value. It symbolises the encapsulation of two souls as a one ( ONE LIGHT IN TWO BODIES) and from that moment the two souls travel together in search of the Amrit(Bliss). However, it is very sad that the meaning of the concept is loosing ground among the followers of the great religion in the face of western materialism.Sanctity of a marriage has been commented by Premila Kapur.She wrote "Marriage is a Sanskara and as such it is a sacrament and a religious bond which cannot be broken under any circumstances. Ideally, it aims not only at the individual's biological, emotional, social and spiritual fulfillments and development through union with a person of the opposite sex, but also at the development, fulfilment and welfare of the family, and through it of the society and mankind". (The Changing Status of The Working Woman in India, Vikas Publishing House, Delhi, p.6, 1975 )
Sikh nuptial requirements are clearly laid down and there are important points that should be adopted by a sikh family in a nuptial ceremony. They are :
Both partners must be Sikhs.
Marriage is a partnership of equals.
No consideration is to be given to Caste, Social Status, Race or lineage.
No Dowry is allowed.
No day is considered holier than any other; No astrological considerations are to be made; No superstitions are to be observed in fixing the date of the wedding.
The religious ceremony to take place in a Gurdwara or home of the Bride in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib
The religious ceremony must NOT take place in a hotel, wedding palace or Banqueting Hall.
Burden of the cost of the wedding to be shared as equally as possible
Going through the codes, one will feel as to why Guru Ramdas wanted to re organize a sikh nuptial code.It is obvious that the existing practices were obstructing the social development with too much emphasis on gender discrimination.However, it is sad that even in the modern era, the sheded practices dominate in the society of both resident and non resident sikhs. As reported from Punjab, our holy land, many NRI sikhs come back in search of brides in India, marry young women, seek pleasure in their company, demand money and leave the poor souls behind. Perhaps, the western kind of life style that they have seen from their western counterparts may be the reason for playing hide and seek games with poor souls in the land of their forefathers. Latest, pathetic story of the "beautiful princes", Rupinder Kaur Chahal is only a tip of the ice berg. The only question that I need to ask is if they are dowery hungry hindus( with appology to hindus living a dharmic life) in the Sikh Panthic form. Are we loosing our Sikhiness?
Bhai Gurdas writes, “ Seeing other women, do not cast a lustful eye on them, instead consider them as your mother, sister and daughter.” The impact of this concept was so powerfully engraved in Punjab that it has been noted that a sikh in turban was trusted more than any body by women in Punjab as they were certain that a Sikh in Khalsa will not lay their hands upon a women for lust.I could remember a person telling a lady planning to visit USA, to look for a Sardar taxi driver and assuring her that she was definitely safe in a sikh man's hand. Will we have the same kind of recognition in the future if the trend of the nature given below will be followed. It is a point to ponder for the Sikh community all over the globe.
Read the story of Rupinder Kaur Chahal as reported by
Valerie Fortney; With Files From Michael Roberts, theProvince., Calgary Herald
Broken vows and shattered dreams
Each year, thousands of men from Canada, the United States and Europe return to India in search of a bride, promising to whisk them away
Her name means "beautiful girl" in Punjabi. Yet for Rupinder Kaur Chahal, her life feels anything but. The shy 25-year-old resident of Deenashabib, a plain village in the Moga district of India's Punjab state, says her life is over before it's even begun.
"I have nothing to hope for, nothing to do," the graceful young woman whispers as she lowers her head, tears dropping on to her baby blue salwar kameez, also known as a "Punjab suit."
Sitting in the dusty courtyard outside her family's humble stone house, an emaciated cow grazing in a stall next to the room where she and four other relatives sleep, Rupinder explains the source of her misery. A newlywed, she hasn't seen her husband, a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) living in Calgary, for 19 months.
"He promised he would come for me in three months," she says. "Now he is saying it will take seven years to get me into Canada."
Rupinder's story is an all-too-common one in the Punjab, the northern Indian agricultural state bordering on Pakistan that is home to 24 million, two-thirds of them followers of the Sikh religion.
Each year, thousands of men --some new immigrants, many of them sons of 1960s immigrants to Canada, the United States and Europe -- return to the land of their ancestors in search of a bride.
Young Indian women are paired up with NRIs, the couples finding one another through village matchmakers, relatives and the full-page matrimonial ads found in every local newspaper.
Once a suitable match is found, they typically marry in India, the weddings grand events with often several hundred guests.
The majority of these young women are later brought to countries like Canada, the U.S. and Britain, where they start new lives and families of their own.
But in recent years, far too many of these young women -- a good number of them from Punjab state -- have been left behind, waiting months, even years, for their husbands to send for them.
Some never do, and these young brides, having given up their virginity and their dowries to a husband who then disappears, are treated as social pariahs. The children of these marriages also get their share of scorn, with many, especially in the smaller villages and rural areas, labelling them the progeny of an illegitimate union.
Their parents are often left near-penniless after selling off their land and liquidating much of their net worth to get cash and jewelry.
The long tradition of dowry in India, in which the bride's family is required to hand over a substantial amount of money and gifts as an offering to the groom -- often worth thousands of dollars, in a country where 47 per cent of the population lives on less than one dollar a day -- was outlawed in India in 1961.
But the under-the-table practice, many observers say, is even more popular today than in earlier times.
The family of Rupinder Kaur Chahal, the pretty 25-year-old who feels her life is over, now has no dowry to offer any other potential mate. Their daughter, living in a kind of marital limbo, has nowhere to turn. After a large wedding only months earlier, she's not supposed to still be here, in the home of her parents. Her continued presence in her village is a social stigma for both bride and her family.


Blogger Sifar said...

Can you try a different template. The color contrast is so annoying that I give up reading after a few lines... It is so uncomfortable to read with the black background on a computer screen.. It hurt the eyes...

01 October, 2006 21:20  

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