When the world over people were celebrating Christmas, our Sikh congregation here was celebrating the “Prakash Utsavs”, the Guruparvs of birth, of not one but two jewels … the beginning of “prabhaat feris” for the 10th “Guru, Gobind Singh” Ji’s birthday celebrations and for “Satguru Raam Singh ji, Kilewale”. While the birth celebrations of 10th Guru ji’s birthday are still continuing, those for Raam Singh Ji Kilewale concluded with great pomp and show. To involve kids in the rich and splendid heritage, there were various competitions organized where kids showcased their talents and learnt a thing or two. Poetry recitation, shabad kirtan, katha or the story telling, reciting the gurbani … there was a long list for different age groups and for different talents.
We (read yours humbly) thought it would be a good platform for Harjas, my five and a half years old nephew, to learn how to face crowds and overcome stage fears. So, two days before celebrations, we found a short spiritual poetry and helped him learn it. I must admit here that the lines were tough for his age and time was already less. Therefore, the halting recitation was not his fault alone. Time and again, he would ask me the meanings and I would try to simplify the heavy and deep implications of the words his tiny tongue was reciting. I just gave him overview that the poem talks of our shortcomings as a human that we deviate from the good, generous and virtuous paths and are gullible to various vices. So, the Lord should help us cleanse our sins and make us walk on His chosen paths. So on … so forth.
Come the day of his competition. I and my sister took him to the Gurudwara Sahib where the competition was scheduled. We got his name registered among the participants. Till the time his name was not called for, Harjas kept learning the poem. No playing around, no fooling around this time. The moment came. The organizer called out “Harjas Singh Thukral”. He took a deep breath or he held his breath … I could not make out. That was all too fast. He rose from his place, walked up to the stage and faced us. His face red. Was he crying??? He started addressing the crowd. He halted. He spoke, starting all over again. He recited the poem. He halted at the second stanza. I moved my hand to give him pointers. Di prompted the starting words of the line. We wondered if he saw or heard our help. After a second … or was it a minute … it seemed long for a second … he got over the stumbling block. He ended his poem, co-ordinator helped him with the “fateh” and he started coming back to us. Somebody from amongst the organizers stopped him; handed over the gift for participation. He accepted the same and came back and smiled … look, I spoke and I did not forget it. My sister hugged him tight. He showed his gift. And then he came and hugged me. He then told us both that … we will do better next time. More hugs from Di followed on hearing this. Mother’s heart swelling with pride after all J
A few days later, the “prabhat feri” for Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s guruparv came to our locality. All the locality people were collective hosts. There was kirtan, gurbani recitation and then there was “langar” afterwards. All kids were vying for the “langar seva”. Our tiny trot was busy distributing paper plates. When the crowd thinned, and it was time for we organizers to have our share of the langar, we called Harjas over. His response:
“I am doing seva , therefore, do not call me time and again. One must do seva … because …
Kayi Janmaan to haan bhatak riha,
Karo mehar prabhu sang jod deyo ….
(I have been wandering aimlessly since a long time now … taking births and re-births. Lord, have mercy on me now, make me tread your path and help me attain the ultimate liberation by binding my humble self to Your name.) “
The lines that I had taught him in his poem … the one he had spoken in Gurudwara Sahib … the lines where he had taken a momentary pause … the lines which he now remembered not just by heart or by words but with the depth of meaning … the lines well timed and suited to the occasion.
I and my sister were speechless. Plain speechless on hearing these pearls of wisdom from him.