YOUR TURN NOW: ARE YOU READY?

There must be several people like me who are looking to the youth to come forward and assume leadership roles in our community. It could be that I just sort of feel up in years or as Sheikh Fareed so succinctly put it ‘buddha hoa sheikh fareed kamban lagee dehu’ – may be it is my body that sends me the vibes that things are not the same as they used to be. So be it I tell myself and then look around – and it is not just the state of my physical well being that has changed so much, it is the entirety of the little world that I was used to. It is not the same any more. I sense a lot more of different kind of uncertainties now than I did several decades back when I started out on my journey to discover life as a young person; aware of being a Sikh if for no other reason than that I could have been killed twice for being one as our family lived through the rigors of suffering in the wake of partition of India in 1947.

Yes there were uncertainties then. We had to resettle – dispersed, far away from the securities and support system we had known. So when I look back I marvel at the generation of my parents who took all the adversity in stride, never looked back, never gave up. They built their lives anew; nurtured us, gave us the wherewithal to cope with challenges of life, as they perceived, kept us closer to Sikhi.

So even as our individual lives may have unfolded with a varying mix of moments of joy and anxieties, our life experiences did seem to make us recognize that whether we wanted it or not, we were looked at as Sikhs and if two of us happened to come together even in a large gathering eyes would turn in our direction. We were noticed. The experience often was elating and at other times rather disconcerting. Nonetheless it gave us an added sense of identity that sort of was incremental to our individual standing on the basis of our net assets of merits and demerits.

The incidents of 1980’s in Punjab gave us a rude awakening. We were engaged in several kinds of pursuits that are available in any society. We had had some successes – may be a few more than others in that developing and increasingly competitive society. And then things started to unravel. As individuals we could live up to the emerging uncertainties in the environment but as a community we seemed not quite sure of ourselves. As the events moved inexorably to a crisis some of us began to realize that perhaps we did not have the kind of clarity that was needed to position ourselves in the larger socio-political arena. The preceding generation[s] had worked very diligently and thoughtfully to bring us where we were but our councils lacked a vision of how to bring congruence between our dreams and surrounding realities.

Since then the challenges have grown, possibly multiplied. We are now more dispersed than we were ever before. We also are likely more divided than at any time in our history. Our institutions are withering against their own internal inertia. We have individuals who can be called exemplars but as a community we are beginning to falter more often than we should. We need fresh, new, inspiring and inspired leadership – those who can feel the pulse of times and position us so that we can face the future with the assurance that our Gurus instilled in us.

This brand of leadership will have to display vision in the likeness of halemi raj where one had to prepare for the onerous task of leadership by strengthening inner spirituality and learn to lead through seva and humility. They will not shy away from what is right but will have a winning strategy – nishchai hee apnee jeet karoon – for that is what one expects of a leader. The leader also has to define what is victory; it has to be doable; it has to relate to the world that we live in.

It is a big task. It is challenging and the opportunity is beckoning. Come, get involved, and bring us a new direction. For me, I am bereft of new ideas and wonder if I ever really grasped the essence of being a Sikh, its tremendous potential and its hazards. I want to pass this baton – do hold it firm and run. It is your turn now. Carve your path; redefine it for that is something I did not quite attempt. I just fumbled along.

Are you willing? And are you ready? Ask yourself.

New Cumberland, PA

Jun 8, 2007

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