Tuesday, February 28, 2006

their shoes

Sat Shri Akal!

The problem with living in a small community is that all the gossip or slander or rumours finally come to your ears anyhow.
And last week it was bingo again.
The latest insinuation was that i was a spy of the Indian Embassy or at least of the police.
Reason for this thinking was that i introduced this photographer who made a few general pictures of the sangat and invited them voluntary to be portayed.
First i was shocked (how could they think this!) then i was very sad and upset (why did they think this?)

I felt very lonely and misunderstood. I am very aware of the power of the media (any media), so if i can introduce the sikhcommunity in any positive way; i do not hesitate. Too often they suffer a bad image; drinkers, fighters, cheaters etc. This is not the reality, so one can only take away prejudices by taking away the ignorance.

Come on in, see who we are! See how we pray! See how we live! We are not a secret sect, come on in!!!!

So i slept one night over it. And then i tried to walk in their shoes.
How does it feel when you have no legal stay? How does it feel when you do not feel safe? Not even in your own gurdwara?
I understood. Ignorance is woking both ways...
And if you live in very difficult curcumstaces, it is difficult to trust.

So i am sorry, if i made someone feel unsafe.
Please trust me...

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Sat Shri Akal!

According to the Belgian Home Minister i am a criminal. Oh yes, he made it clear that helping illegal people is also a criminal act.
When refugees (for whatever reason political, religious or economical) get a negative answer ( like most of the Sikhs) on their asylum request, they are supposed to leave the country. A lot of people don't, they prefer rather to stay here illegal than going back where they came from ( war, poverty, oppression etc)
As a social worker i considered it as one of my duties to take care of this illegals, as a citizen i considered it my dutie when they knocked my door, to open this door and welcome them.
We supported them with clothes, blankets , food, money. Whatever was needed to give them a proper life, as good as possible concerning the circumstances. Sometimes i went far over the deontological line (as a social worker) and allowed people into my personal life. I shared my familyhome with one of them for almost 3 years.
But helping (sheltering, feeding, providing) these people-with-no-papers ( les sans papiers, mensen zonder papieren) is now made a criminal act. So i am a big criminal!!!!!
And i am proud of it!!!!

But in our law is written that this is only an act of humanity, mr. Home Minister.

Anyhow the helping people got afraid, that is in the beginning.
Now they are reorganising again and are willing to start the battle with the Home Ministry. It is important not to anger them (too much), because too much action can turn against the people still in procedure.
Last week there was a big demonstration in Antwerp and this week in Brussels. And yes, a lot of people turned up, showing their anonymous faces to the country.
Do we look like criminals?
Do we deserve to be called criminals when we only are helping others!

If you can not see God in all, than you can not see God at all!!!

And i hope this will make a change. The demand of the demonstrations is that illegals (oh, i hate this word!) who are longer than 3 years in some kind of procedure (because the goverment failed to deal with their file more quickly) and who are well integrated, deserve an immediate regularization.
This will of course not cover all the illegal people, but it is a start. Somehow i get the impression that there is going to change something positively (this year being an electionyear).
And this will give some of my sikhfriends a legal stay in Belgium, so their life can start at last, without all this insecurity and unsafety.

Waheguru, please, give us a hand!!!

Saturday, February 25, 2006


We have two chickens.
They are great enviromental helpers. All the leftovers of our vegetables are perfectly converted in a natural way. They help us to reduce some insects in the flowergarden. And they give us in return some (hopefuly) healthy eggs. We have no rooster, so the eggs are not yet chicken babies. I am Flemish, so i am a great waffle baker and their eggs make my waffles just irresistible.
Now suddenly BIRDFLU is coming closer. The goverment makes us put all the chickenstock inside, to reduce the risks. But we have only a sleeping- henhouse, which is good for sleeping, but is far too small for permanent stay.
It will be animal cruelty to keep them all the time in this small henhouse.
A lot of people say we better kill them in this troubled times and make a good chickensoup of them. But this is completely out of the question. I would not bare this!
On the 1 st of March this law becomes operative. So we still have a few days to find a solution...

It seems so unfair. But is giving birdflu the chance to spread not unfair as well?
What a dilemma!

Monday, February 20, 2006

What's in a name?

Sat shri akal!

My sweet granddaughter is making me puzzled. The only turbanned sikh she knows is my dear friend A.Singh.
So when she grasps the little picture of the blessing Guru Nanak next to my bed, she says:
- "Amar-jeet!"
- "Nei, nei, this is Guru Nanak."
- "Amar-jeet"
But she does not want to change her idea, that every turbanned man is Amarjeet Singh.
-" Amarjeet looks like Guru Nanak, yes?
-" Amar-jeet"

So i gave up, she is not even two years old and after all this is a painting. An impression of some artist. So what's in a name?
But it feels a little uneasy anyhow...

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Sat Shri Akal!

I am a very keen reader (writer too, but that is another story). Most books i read are about spirituality or about India.
So last week's book was:"Het huis van de moskee" (The house of the mosque) written by Kader Abdolah. Kader Abdolah is amazing! He is an Iranean refugee in the Netherlands, who writes in perfect Dutch but with a beautiful touch of his Persian background. Dutch is a very straight language but he makes it sound poetic and fluent.
Kader Abdolah is his writer's name. Kader and Abdolah are two friends of him who were killed in Iran. By using their names they will never be forgotten.
Now about this book (i do not know if the english translation is already available), it pulls you in the world of islam. The real world of islam, the soft side of islam. Islam as a way of living. And yes, it ends up in the time of ayatolla's, when friends becomes ennemies, when love becomes hate. It shows how the muslims themselves suffer by this. Extremism is not what muslims want, it is the choice of a few and a full nation(s) suffers by it.
It is a beautiful book, not only because of the story, but the way it is written. The writer himself was in danger in his country and by his religion, but still he does not hate. And again, it is so well written.
And the best part is, i will meet him on Friday!!!!!!
He will come to one nearby town and i will go there to listen to his reading.
As a social worker my mainfield is "caring for refugees" so you can imagine i have alot to ask him. If i am not too shy, overwhelmed by his personality.
So this week am (re)reading other books of him. Oh if i had only one percent of his talent....

And no, no i am not one of the sikh "girls" (thank you) who is dragged into islam. But yes, I have some very kind muslimfriends! But i am sikh, no doubt about that. Wasn't Guru Nanak Dev Ji not befriended with his muslimcompagnon? So...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Sat Shri Akal!

Rome and Paris are not built in one day. So, organizing my life will take some time too, i guess.

So far is handled the speech on Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which went very well. Though there were some difficult questions, i honestly said i didn't know (yet), i am a sikh in its first meaning aswell. So keep on studying, lady, being a sikh is for the rest of your life.

Last week we had a group of visitors in the gurdwara; female pensioners, still healthy and young at heart and full of adventure. I could see it when they arrived by the choice of their chunnies . Glittering, shining as if they were going to explore the tales of 1001 nights. Ah, ah, something exotic.
I started the slides; Punjab, founding sikhism, Mool Mantra, why they came over here, how are they coping etc. The ladies were not in a hurry, so i could talk "at large". Then the granthi entered, i introduced him to them. A shiver went through the ladies, their mouths fell open . I catched their eyes. The granthi? I realised he must have looked like Laurence of Arabia, tall, kind, handsome. Suddenly i got the impression the temperature in the room went up and everybody started blushing. Oh sweet hormones!
I only know a handful of Punjabi, the granthi a handful of English, but usually we are able to have some kind of communication. But this time we stuttered because of the menopausal tension in the room. The granthi left to do some "urgent" work. Oh,oh.
It was difficult to get their attention again, but in the end they were really interested. So i kept on talking for 4 hours and still the questions were coming. They enjoyed langar with us.
These ladies lived in a nearby town (17 km) and they went home completely happy to have discovered the sikhs and their faith. But they were completely exhausted by my speech, most of them shall have fallen asleep in the bus. I know who they were dreaming of....
Anyway it made me happy too!
But suddenly i look with different eyes to the granthi. Waheguru please forgive me!

On Saturday again 6 students of Social Highschool Brussels came for an interview. They are making a paper on sikhism.
Meanwhile a famous photographer contacted me to see if it was possible to make some pictures of sikhs (with turban), suddenly the sikhs are getting popular!

And the Centre of Fine Arts in Brussels wants "to do something" on India in their winterexhibition and they are inviting the sikhs aswell. Guess who is going to handle this one again?

Maybe public relations would be a nice job for me? What do you think?
But i honestly believe we must grab all these chances to make a possitive image of the sikhs.
It is a blessing to be part of it, it is a blessing to tell the world what enriched my life in so many ways.

What was next on my list? The letter to allow the children with their patka's in school. Yes, the letter... I will finish it as soon as possible.

But first, a sweet stroll in blogging land. Mr. Solarider here i come...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Sat Shri akal

Recently i did not write on this blog. You know why? I spent too much time reading other sikhs blogs. They are so interesting, i can not resist checking them every day. It is like an addiction, really. So i was wondering why? I have things to do, i have things to read, things to write. Still every day i spent a few hours on these blogs.
I think it is a process of identifying myself as a sikh. I often feel very isolated being the only western sikh around over here. So invading other people's blogs makes me a little more at ease with the consequences of the choices i made.
Actually it is a little like reality TV, one peeps in someone else's life, thinking one knows these people, but it is not. It is a false image of intimacy and familiarity.
Having a blog is a strange thing too, anyhow. It is like leaving your diary open on the kitchen table, isn't. I was wondering if it is a matter of proudness too? Is what i think or i feel so important that the world should know about it. Is this about a big ego?
I have to figure this one out. Meanwhile i have to make a plan to manage my precious time.
What do i have to do?
- preparing my speech on Shri Guru Grant Sahib for the interreligious dialoguegroup next week
- writing a letter on behalf of the Guru Nanak Sikh Society to the head of catholic schoolnet to rethink allowing sikhchildren with covered head in their classes
- making annual report of Guru Nanak Sikh Society
- start lobbying again to strenghten our network

Meanwhile several visiting groups i have to welcome in the gurdwara. I like to do this, but i have the impression that my sangat lost their interest in these visits. While it is important to make ourselves known to those who make the effort to visit us. Well i hope so anyhow...

So where is my agenda? I start to make a plan NOW!

Please wish me luck!