Not for the orthodox Sikh, Walking with Nanak by Haroon Khalid brings a fresh and alternative perspective of not only Guru Nanak’s life but the other Gurus lives too. Over the years, both my sister and I have often questioned the logic of some of the miracle stories of the Gurus we heard as children, and it seems the author is also interested in seeking the facts about Nanak’s life too, but he does so in a very balanced way. Khalid has a lot of respect for Nanak and it is rare for someone of the muslim faith to be so deeply fascinated with the life of Nanak in the way Khalid is, so much so that he has devoted his time in retracing some of the steps Nanak made on his udasi (travels). Interestingly, the authors own family even expressed their opposition to Haroon’s interest in wanting to learn more about the Sikh faith and their Gurus. As someone who dreams of visiting Pakistan and the sites that bear cultural, historical and spiritual significance for the Sikh faith, this book made me feel as if I were walking alongside Haroon as he traced the steps of Nanak’s travels. This book is not just about the Gurudwaras that have been lost to Pakistan after partition, nor is it simply bout Nanak, the saint, traveller, poet. Khalid’s book seeks to understand Nanak on a more human level and I believe he succeeds in doing so. I have always wanted to know how was Nanak as a son? What truly was Nanak the brother like? How would it have been to be his friend like Mardana was? As a father and husband who left his wife and sons for his own life mission and purpose - what really did he feel when he came back home two decades later? In the end, we get a sense of who Nanak might have been by seeing him through these varied lenses, and he emerges as very much like you and me. (Review by Noorie)
FILM & TV
21st March 2019 saw the worldwide release of Akshay Kumar’s new war drama, Kesari, which is based on the the Battle of Saragarhi - an unbelievably true event lost in the annals of history in which 21 valiant Sikhs of the British Indian Army fought 10,000 Afghan invaders on 12th September 1897. We came to learn of this battle of bravery in our early 20s and were shocked and saddened that we had never learned of it before. Why was this historical event of outstanding valour and courage not widely known across the world, particularly amongst the Sikh community? Akshay Kumar plays the lead, Havildar Ishar Singh in what goes down as one of the best films we have ever watched. We were simply not prepared for the level of emotional intensity in the film. You find yourself with a lump in your throat, especially in the battle sequences when you are hit with the reality that this actually happened. Our chests swelled with pride watching a mainstream Bollywood movie in which Sikhs are finally given their due respect as the honourable, and courageous warriors and not just the butt end of the jokes as we typically see in Hindi films. After the film ended, we felt we had just endured war ourselves. The songs really tug at your heart strings as does the raw and authentic acting by all 21 soldiers. The film is peppered with references to Sikh history and legends, perhaps in a bid to re - educate the audience on the contribution of the Sikhs to society. Such is the impact of the film, we are still talking about it and researching the real events. An absolutely outstanding film, and possibly Akshay Kumar’s best performance.
In keeping with the theme of the era of the British Raj, this April marks 100 years since the atrocity of the Jalliawala Bagh massacre in which British troops fired fired on a peaceful crowd of unarmed men, women and children in Amritsar, Punjab, killing several hundred people and wounding many hundreds more. The Jalliwala Bagh massacre is marked as a turning point in the fight for India’s independence from British rule. It was seen as a ‘stab in the back’ by many Indians, especially as a large proportion of Punjabi men had sacrificed their lives for the First World War which had only ended a year before. The Dominion Centre in Southall and Redbridge Punjabi Centre in Ilford are commemorating the centenary of the massacre on Saturday 13th April 2019 at 4pm (Southall) and Sunday 14th April at 3pm (Ilford). There will be speakers, poetry and a photographic exhibition.
Born and bred in Canada, Keerat Kaur is an astoundingly talented artistic all-rounder: her sketches range from life-like detail, to a playful innocence. She also sings soothing Punjabi melodies, as well as angelic Western vocals. This month she was featured in Vogue and we were so excited and happy for her. We have followed Keerat’s journey for many years and even had the good fortune of meeting her in person, and just like her artowrk she is an exceptional gem of a human. Keerat aims to use her art to share stories about her Sikh identity and through her work we have gained new perspectives on our faith too. Keerat’s biggest sources of inspiration are Sikh texts such as Suraj Prakash, Aad Granth and Dasam Granth, which are texts we are also inspired by.