April is a prosperous month for Panjabis all across the world as it marks the harvest festival and most importantly the birth of Khalsa. Yesterday we were at the Surrey nagar kirtan with our children sharing how Vaisakhi brings everyone together to celebrate. Childhood memories are triggered of parents sharing stories about Vaisakhi in India, explaining at school why we there is a ‘parade’ and learning that there are so many Panjabis in Canada that choose to get together. We want to continue passing this knowledge onto our kids and the many, many generations to come. However, we are afraid that it is not going to happen. What we saw yesterday was disappointing. Yesterday’s nagar kirtan was so commercialized and about who the biggest sponsor was, which financial institution was giving out the best swag, who had the largest banner or which stage had the opportunity to represent the most popular politician or bring in the most renowned artist. This saddens us. The generosity of our community has always fascinated us. It’s like wow, look at how everyone comes together to donate hours of labour to carefully plan an assortment of foods to be cooked to ensure all are well fed and hydrated. That’s what it is all about. Instead, we were faced with people negotiating for bigger bags to put food into so that they could have larger portions as the plates being provided were insufficient to enjoy the food in the moment. What!?! Did we seriously just witness this? We did have a few interactions with aunties and uncles who graciously greeted us with warm Sat Sri Akals inviting us to have a warm cup of tea or fresh pakoras. Thank you to these people as you helped us keep faith with just your Sat Sri Akal and smile.
So, what are we teaching our children about Vaisakhi? Are we addressing the sacrifices and hard work our ancestors have been through to allow us to be where we are today? The teachings of our gurus influences who we are and what we stand for. Guru Gobind Singh Ji baptized the first Sikhs and gave us a reason to celebrate. The birth of Khalsa, that is a big deal. What about the sea of orange, white, gold and blue that brightens the streets during the nagar kirtan. Orange represents our Nishan Sahib, cholas worn by the Panj Pyaray and Sikh turbans. It is the colour of connection and a sense of community. White is the colour seen on the marble flooring throughout numerous Gurdwaras. It shows strength and purity, hence common colours worn by men and women. We could go on but the point being is that everything has a reason or meaning. We need to share this so that our children can be stimulated to ask more questions. We need to ignite that thirst for knowledge and inquiry.
Instead of having conversations or spreading the knowledge, emphasis is on marketing to sell products that may or may not be related to Vaisakhi. Vaisakhi was celebrated by our past generations when they looked back at the hard work that went into the harvest that was completed. It was a time to reflect on the efforts of everyone and to enjoy the fruits of their labour with family and friends. Why do people think that they should be financially profiting during an auspicious occasion where an entire community comes together to celebrate sharing and giving? This is baffling when we are trying to role model basic principles of humanity, being thankful and embracing your culture. Instead of a teaching opportunity, we are plagued with whys about current propaganda and nagar kirtan associations related to people pushing and shoving for food.
Despite the barriers and negative exposure, we will continue to do our part and spread the message to ensure that Vaisakhi does not get diluted for our offspring and theirs to come. It’s about celebrating what you have and the past year’s accomplishments along with what the basics our culture is built on, hard work and selflessness.