Generally, we all accept that change is necessary for us to progress but how much do we really want it? Is there a danger in assuming that we have become part of a culture that finds comfort in complacency? Are we guilty of simply acknowledging the problems in our society but always wait for others to change it for us?
Recently I’ve considered these questions in the light of a new youth Committee party at Southall Gurdwara. As someone who has always lived in Southall, I agree with countless individuals feeling that the Gurdwara does not play the role it should in society. This new committee promises to increase the education within the Gurdwara for everyone; offering services to the wider community whilst ensuring pure transparency and accountability. However, after establishing that this new committee is needed, it seems people are not quite ready to get involved and actually believe they can contribute to a positive change in how Gurdwaras serve the community. The new youth committee pledges to help the Gurdwara serve its original purpose; a place that helps Sikhi to progress, not merely maintain the place like a business. Even though some individuals have been cynical as to whether this could actually work; few question or argue that this is the right thing to do. So why is it that people are so quick to remove themselves from responsibility by rejecting the practicality of the party? Why are we not excitedly grabbing the opportunity to make the Gurdwara serve its original purpose as a place of refuge; a place of immense learning for everyone and a pillar of support for the wider community?
We can talk of bigger solutions like “Khalistan” all day long; but Sikhi is greater than boundaries. It is easier to make ourselves a part of such long term goals because their effects and the need for them does not infiltrate our everyday life. However, whilst seeking such long term solutions, we should not restrict all of our efforts to just that, because like I said, Sikhi is greater than boundaries. Why not look closer to home, into the things that physically impact you, and attempt to change those to serve the interests of the community? These type of solutions require us to not wait, but be radical and revolutionary in the here and now. The initiative behind this new committee brings about that revolutionary spirit. Making Gurdwaras a place of learning and progression is needed and would be a solution to a lot of problems. I find it so strange that when we are now exposed to what a Gurdwara should be, many find the idea so revolutionary, when in fact this was the original purpose.
It may seem to people that Gurdwara management isn’t their problem, but this just reinforces how complacent we have become. As Sikhs, we should feel responsible and care for what happens in the Gurdwara; the fact that we don’t, emphasises the existing problems. We either feel powerless to do anything about it or we distance ourselves so that we don’t feel responsible. Either way, is it not time to start believing that we are the ones to bring about change? Is it not time to support those who attempt to make Sikhi progress again and help us follow the path Guru Ji wanted for us? We need to start feeling empowered enough to know that we are the ones to make that change. No one is promising a flying start but everything starts from somewhere and I believe it is time for us to be a part of a step in the right direction. The most distinguishing point about this committee is that the sangat are able to decide what happens within the Gurdwara. By making a membership now and being a part of this radical change in how Gurdwaras are run, there will be access to more after-school activities; seva being open to all and services offered to the wider community. I feel this move towards changing the role of the Gurdwara would result in so many more people becoming confident in attending the Gurdwara and feeling more comfortable in carrying out seva. Whilst spiritually catering to people, the Gurdwara would offer services that help the sangat outside the walls of the Gurdwara. Some of these include tuition for students, professional workshops for University students, counselling sessions for victims, legal advice and much more. The fact that all of these would be open to Sikhs and non-Sikhs would help the Gurdwara play the role it should in a community. We need to attempt to let go of the complacent, victim mentality and become a lot braver and bolder; we need to rekindle the high spirits from before 1984. Sometimes we need to put our intellect aside and place faith into something that may not seem as promising and concrete at first, but it definitely feels like the right thing to do.
We need to stop waiting for someone to drop us the ideal solution; we need to individually be that solution in helping Sikhi flourish. Having long term solutions which stemmed from trauma are not healthy; let’s start closer to home. I feel we need to move from thinking “this is what happened to Sikhs” to “this is what Sikhs are going to do about it“. There are a lot of political, social and economic issues that need addressing but why not start from fixing where the Guru’s sangat gathers? Why not help to make that the ideal place and let that bring about empowerment needed to deal with Worldly issues? We need to start believing in ourselves and give our Sikh heritage a lot more credit. I believe that as so many Sikhs reside in Southall, the Gurdwaras play a huge role in setting standards not just locally but nationally. The mere size of the Gurdwara and the tourists it attracts, it can definitely be doing a lot more to represent Sikhi whilst being a platform on which Sikhi progresses.