December 4, 2020

Kurbani

(c) J. Singh, 2016

Daya Singh looked across the hallway to see his three year old daughter sitting with her mother among the sangat, gazing back at him with her wide hazel eyes. She smiled and giggled, and hid herself in her mother''s lap. Daya smiled at her, then he turned his attention back to the ragi jatha who were singing the melodious tunes of shabad keertan.

The Gurudwara was filled with sangat, as usual. In the front was a dais with the palki, where a Singh sat silently, waving the chaur reverently over the Guru Granth Sahib. Draped in an embroidered rumalla with hues of purple and blue and threads of gold, it sparkled in the light cast from the chandelier above. It was a serene and calming scene, and with the strains of classical Indian music floating through the air, the environment had become meditative and reflective. Most of the sangat sat with eyes closed, listening with rapt attention, lost in bliss.

It had been over a year since his conversion to Sikhi. When he had decided to become a Sikh, his wife had decided to convert as well. They started coming to the Gurudwara regularly. They would listen to the keertan, volunteer in the kitchen, cooking, cleaning and serving meals, and talk with members of the sangat in an effort to learn more about Sikhi and to connect with other Sikhs. It was a long, slow process of discovery and learning, but Daya felt privileged to even be a part of it, and always left the Gurudwara with a fulfilled heart.

He spoke with any and every Sikh who would talk with him, from the young boys playing outside in the parking lot to the frail elderly woman sitting in the corner, to the many and varied distinguished guest speakers and musicians who often visited the Gurudwara. He obtained as much knowledge and wisdom as he could from these souls. Like a sponge, he soaked it all up. When he returned home, he would put into practice what he had learned. Waking up in the early hours of the morning, before dawn, to bathe and then sit down and read the morning prayers. Sitting in meditative reflection to remember the Creator Lord. Donating a tenth of his earnings to the poor. Everything he learned, he diligently applied in his life.

A few months earlier, a famed Sikh scholar had visited the Gurudwara, and when Daya Singh approached him for advice, the man agreed to sit and talk with him. He offered him guidance on his daily spiritual practice, as well as philosophical ideas on life and living. Before he left, the man commented, "You are traveling on the road, Daya Singh, your feet are firmly in the path now, and if you continue going as you have been, you will reach a very high level of spirituality indeed."

And it was true. As the weeks and months passed, the sangat came to regard Daya Singh very highly, as he seemed to be developing in his spirituality by leaps and bounds. Even though he would now regularly get comments and praise from people, he didn't really feel any different inside. But he did have a new sense of peace and tranquility that seemed to emanate from deep within him. And it seemed to be somehow connected to his daily practice of prayers and adjusted lifestyle. It was comforting, and he intended to continue his daily practice. He loved this feeling, he had never felt anything like it in all his forty-two years of life. It felt like being home; it felt safe.

And so the Gurudwara visits continued, as well as his daily practice. He found that many Sikhs, especially the youth, were now coming to him for advice, which he graciously and generously offered.

Today was an evening diwan. Daya Singh sat cross-legged like everyone else, while the ragi jatha sang and the overhead projectors displayed the shabad in the original Gurmukhi, as well as the English translation. He glanced up at the large screen to read the shabad translation. He had been learning Gurmukhi, but without a formal teacher, it was a slow process.

He looked over at his daughter again. She had hidden herself in her mother's chunni, and only her beautiful hazel eyes peeked out. Daya felt a surge of emotion, it welled up inside him, and his heart felt as if it could not hold the unwieldy feelings of love inside. It felt like it was going to explode and the waves of emotion were going to emanate outwords, enveloping everything. As the words being sung fell upon his ears, and blended with his feeling inside, a churn began and then something unexpected happened. The music seemed to fade, the view seemed to drop away like a background image, and all he was left seeing was his daughter. It seemed like he was caught in time, and in a flash, she was suddenly a teenager, then a young adult, then middle-aged, and finally, a frail old woman. He saw the key moments of her life, and they were filled with pain and agony. He saw her suffering, and in distress. Her future was one of misery, she had many misfortunes and each one brought intense feelings of hurt and heartbreak, despair and anguish. Her life was not going to be pleasant or pleasurable at all. It was going to be filled with pain

Daya Singh gasped for air. What was he seeing? Nothing like this had ever happened to him before. He looked around but there was only darkness. Before him, his daughter's future life flashed before him as if on a movie screen, except that he could feel each excruciating moment of pain and heartbreak.

"What is this?" he called out desperately.

Silence.

"What am I seeing?" he asked again. "Please!"

And then, a Voice.

It is her future, Daya Singh

He instinctively knew who the Voice belonged to.

"But she is innocent!" he cried, "She does not deserve all that pain!"

As you sow, so shall you reap. Oft-repeated actions are engraved upon the Soul.

"Please! Forgive her! She is just a child!"

Everyone must pay their debts.

Daya felt a tightness in his chest, a desperation.

"Please," he whispered in anguish, beseeching the Power for mercy.

You have seen this because of your kamai, Daya Singh

"But what is the benefit of me seeing this, if I can do nothing to help her? She is my only child, I cannot bear to see her like this!"

The debt must be paid.

"Then I will pay it! Give that karam to me. I will trade my future for hers. Spare her, please?" he begged.

You have seen her future. Are you willing to pay this debt?

"Yes, I am."

Silence.

And then, suddenly everything was back. The ragi jatha, the music, the sangat seated all around him, his daughter still smiling at him. Daya took a deep breath, deeply thoughtful about his uncertain future.

Some years later, the local Gurudwara that Daya Singh used to attend had grown in sangat and in capacity. Building improvements and extensions had been carried out, and diwan was being held twice daily now. Some of the sangat members who had been visiting the Gurudwara since the early days had gathered in the kitchen to perform langar seva, and the ladies were talking.

"You don't remember Daya Singh?" one of them said, "He was so blessed, he used to come to Gurudwara daily and do seva."

"It's such a sad story," another added, shaking her head sadly.

"What happened to him?" an inquirer asked.

"He stopped coming to Gurudwara. He fell away from the Guru's path. One of the sangat saw him many months ago, he was in the city, begging for money in the streets! It so sad. They tried to help him, but when he saw them, he fled. Nobody knows where he is."

Decades had passed. The emaciated old man with the torn clothes and straggly hair lay curled up in the barricaded doorway to an old building, shivering in the cold dawn air. His long beard was unkempt and dirty. His face was worn and exhausted. Well-dressed young men and women walked past him as they hurried on their morning commute to work. Nobody could spare a glance for him.

The old man was hungry. He hadn't eaten in several days. He hadn't had a hot meal in weeks. His life had been full of misery. Forgotten by family, abandoned by friends. Now, he was just a miserable old man waiting to die. As he lay there, despair took over and he wept quietly.

And then, suddenly...

You have fulfilled the debt, Daya Singh. Karma has been satisfied.

He hadn't heard that voice in decades. It made him sit up straight. He mumbled, trying to find the right words.

"I thought," he said, struggling to collect his thoughts, "I thought I'd never hear You again."

I never left you, Daya Singh. I have always been with you.

Tears welled up in Daya's eyes as the feelings of warmth, peace, and love flooded back. He began to sob uncontrollably.

Several months later, Daya Singh stood proudly and watched as his daughter walked towards the Guru Granth Sahib. She was a beautiful young woman now, full of the hope and promise of the future. They were in the main darbar of the Gurudwara. Family and friends had gathered on this day to witness her wedding. Her future husband sat in front, patiently awaiting her arrival.

She smiled as she walked by her father, her wide hazel eyes bright and full of love. Daya Singh, dressed in a neat sherwani, with his long flowing white beard and neat blue turban, felt elated. His heart was so full of love, it felt like it might burst. He held back tears of joy, but even so, his eyes glistened. Considering the past few decades of his life, he could never have imagined in a million years that he would be here now, reinstated with full honors in his family, and in the sangat, witnessing the marriage of his daughter. There were no words to express his gratitude and his love.

His wife stood next to him, watching quietly but full of emotion.

"I pray that our daughter will be ok," she whispered, "I pray that her life is full of happiness, and that she does not know any sorrow when she goes to her new home as a wife."

"Her life will be full of happiness, and joy," he replied calmly, "Of that, I can assure you."

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