I realized the divine gift of human life through my biological mother, Kamaljit Kaur, in 1972. I thank Guru Sahib (perfection beyond prophets) for blessing her to bring me into this world. Her Guru-given discipline through association with great personalities in Panjab, and the roles she took on in defiance of gender stereotypes in the Indian Cow-belt, gave my life an early headstart. She gave me an opportunity to realize my divine potential, here and now, showing me my real salvation is in harmony with the Nam (Culture of Divine Identification) and Vahiguru (One Universal Integrative Force). I must learn to be thankful.
In that same journey, by extension, my nani (maternal grandmother) Jagir Kaur and my dadi (paternal grandmother) Bhagvan Kaur, have played unparalleled roles in nurturing me toward the actualization of my real development as a Sikh and a world citizen. In their garden, my budding occurred. I must learn to be thankful.
I was born in the house of the Guru to Mata Sahib Kaur in 1988. After declaring my allegiance to the “Blessed Fort of Uncut Hair” – Kesgarh Sahib at Anandpur – another great journey began; a deepening sense of strength in my identity was forged. I moved to the heartland of the United States and found the challenge of personal balance in my Kansas days. I strove not to become “just American” or remain submissively Indian, for neither captured who I truly was. The Mother of the Khalsa implored me to be a Sikh first, then an American. The khande-ki-pahul (Sikh initiation ceremony) clarified to me that there comes a point when the law of the land must be ignored, when it violates the birthright of every human to be free. At that juncture, the cosmic law reigns supreme. In her sweetness, she taught me that foremost, I’m answerable to my Guru. I must learn to be thankful.
I was invited into the house of my mother-in-law, Pritpal Kaur, through Anand Karaj (Sikh marriage) in 2002. After the “ceremony of bliss,” I learned about her resilience built over two migrations, her patience honed through familial challenges and her endurance as a granthi’s (religious custodian at the Sikh place of learning, Gurduara) wife. All this in the same life; all this borne with Divinely-inspired graceand courage. I imagine it is her faith that strengthens her. From the very first day our lives came together, I was not her son-in-law, but a son-in-themaking. My marriage to her daughter was celebrated, despite the reality that my volunteer career had not brought income into my pocket in five years. I must learn to be thankful.
I was privileged to be instrumental in bringing my son, Jodha Singh, into this world in 2007. His mother, Gurpreet Kaur, first exploded kirtan (devotional hymn singing) and laughter into my life, and now brings the same spirit of “peaceful warrior” and joyful strength into Jodha’s. She stood by me when my surroundings were pulling me down with negative energies; she is my mature partner-in-crime, championing causes and projects close to both of our hearts. Her unflinching commitment to service makes me wonder about my own, be it towards Jodha, or Qaum (nation). I must learn to be thankful.
I have been taking for granted the Great Mother Earth’s caress for 37 years. To paraphrase Baba Farid ji, have I become a load on her? Am I even a tiny bit conscious of how I’m continuously violating her? Yet, she remains ever-giving! Environmental sensitivity is not even on my radar screen. I am consistently and unconditionally being given air and water. I must learn to be thankful.
Thus far, these are my five mother-stages, from biological to ecological. And even after all of these classical and unconventional births and re-births, I still have much to learn and much to be thankful for. Have I really learned anything from any of my mothers? Or, have I merely taken my “entries” as either accidents or ceremonies?
In Asa-ki-Var, Guru Nanak Sahib proclaimed it is thru woman that life continues. How can I doubt this? The mothers I have encountered have continued my life in all dimensions: physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially and politically are only some of them.
Maya Angelou’s poem, “Mother – A Cradle to Hold Me,” is a gentle reminder to me of how I do not thank my mother enough. I ought to thank her more for “It is true I was created in you. It is also true that you were created for me.” Gurbani (infinite wisdom in Sikh scriptures) exhorts me to love her in the most devotional way, for “She is to be celebrated for giving birth to those who connected with the Creator.” This is true, be she my biological mother, my spiritual mother, or the Great Mother Earth!
On this Mother’s Day, I must open myself to learning life’s insights from all the mothers in my life! I must listen to all of them more intently. I must speak to all of them more respectfully. I must treat all of them more divinely.
What’s more, I’d better learn quickly how to be more thankful!
Harinder Singh is the co-founder and Chief Programming Officer of the Sikh Research Institute. He assisted in developing and reviewing the Sojhi curriculum published by SikhRI. He is an interdisciplinary researcher and a global orator. His passion is to learn and share the Sikh culture.