So I had the opportunity to present this poem at Lahir 2009. I’ve included the full text of it below. Please let me know if you reprint it anywhere. Thanks!
By Savraj Singh. November 2009.
Let’s get in the time machine and rewind
to a time just after 1469.
We find ourselves in Punjab before it existed,
A time and place where darkness and drudgery persisted,
But in this environment two men traveled, sang, and brought light,
Guru Nanak and Mardana were here to fight the good fight,
People thought they were crazy to question the social norms,
But their message of equality meant monumental reforms,
With divine poetry and music, they cracked into closed minds,
They pounded at the social structure, and began to unify humankind.
Now the followers of Nanak, let’s call them Sikhs,
Quickly filled with ideas that put the ruling class in a fix.
They snapped the once-unbreakable bonds of caste,
They understood equality and that the cruel social system wouldn’t last,
They began to read, write, and be all they could be,
All the while remembering God, sharing and living honestly.
The feeling of empowerment, the passion, the energy grew,
Sikhi began to swell as more and more adopted Nanak’s world view.
Fast forward about 100 years, where we meet the Fifth Guru,
Arjan Dev Ji compiled the scripture, lived the message and stayed True.
Then came the oppressors, to them faith didn’t matter,
They just wanted to stop people from climbing the social ladder.
They liked their control of the masses, and saw Sikhi as a threat,
So they tortured and killed Guru Arjan, may we never forget.
The oppressors knew that they were testing our mettle,
What ensued over the coming century leaves many peaceniks unsettled.
The rulers held the power, they wanted to keep the people down,
The Sikhs would have none of it, and we took this message to town.
They attacked us with blunt tools and big threats, you know, things like money and death,
Of course they found that Sikhs fought to the last breath.
They kept trying to cut down the tree of Sikhi, but they could never cut the root,
With each cut it grew back, faster, bigger, and stronger to boot.
Now we find ourselves on Vaisakhi Day in 1699,
Flags are waving, the crowd is gathering, people are enjoying the sunshine.
The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh caught his followers by surprise,
And decided to make this the day that the Khalsa would rise.
Nanak’s original message, so simple and profound,
Was now carried forth by soldier-saints known the world round.
The Khalsa marched forward with both serving bowl and sword,
On a mission to help the oppressed, without an expectation of reward.
The Singhs and Kaurs, the lions and princesses, kept Nanak’s message alive,
Even if it meant that they themselves would never survive.
They did it for their children, and for future generations, like us,
They made the ultimate sacrifice, in Waheguru they placed their trust.
Fast forward to now, and here we find ourselves today,
A noble and gallant people, wait, what did I just say?
Let’s be honest with ourselves, I think we’ve slipped a bit,
Instead of holding fast to Nanak’s pure ideals, we’ve sized them down to fit.
A once principled and proud people ready to die to preserve the Guru’s blessed vision,
Now we struggle with our identity and seem to suffer from indecision and division.
We’re good at turning words and justifying our own self-centered positions,
Drawing targets where we shoot our wayward arrows, we lack True purpose or mission.
You see, at some point the oppressors got smart,
The events of 1984, well, they were just the start.
Instead of coming after us openly and threatening our lives,
The oppressors come in new forms that help us eliminate our own drive.
“Give them bread and circuses, let the masses be entertained,”
And so we spend our time watching movies and playing video games.
When we look at the world we find that our community is not so unique,
Languages are rapidly disappearing and the future for many looks bleak.
As many of us try to approach Sikhi, we’re like kids in the cockpit of a 747,
Forget about flying, we don’t even know how to start an engine.
In fact, it seems like we might be accelerating our own oppression.
Is there hope, you ask? It all starts with your own mind.
If you want the message to survive, start to seek Truth and you shall find.
This effort requires little resources or time,
Merely a commitment to the pursuit of the Divine.
The Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the message, is in a room in your house somewhere,
Realize that a lot of blood was spilled to get it there.
Open the pages and sit behind it,
If you have a question, the answer you’ll find it.
You’ll discover a poetic manual to cross the deep world-ocean,
Effectively a guide to swimming through Simran, dedication, and devotion.
Awaken your inner warrior-saint, that Singh or Kaur is within you,
You’ll find that the world comes into focus and into clear view.
But nothing’s going to happen without your mind onboard,
So it is this, I implore, and nothing more.
Lahir 2009 was a smashing success. There was an incredible turnout — a great show of support for the cause in this day and age. There must have been at least 500 people there. I am proud to be part of such a talented and diverse sangat. I just got a bunch of media from the Lahir press office, I’ve attached some of it below. Here’s the post-Lahir press release:
Satjeet Kaur informed us of the following cool event. Check out the professionally made promo-video.
LAHIR NY: Move the Movement 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009, 7-11pm
at NJIT Campus Center – Ballroom (2nd Floor)
150 Bleeker Street, Newark, NJ 07102
The Sikh youth of the New York tri-state area would like to invite you to Lahir NY: Move the Movement 2009 The purpose of Lahir 2009 is to commemorate the Sikh Holocaust of 1984 and the violations of human rights that follow. We aim to inspire, educate, and awaken the masses through our community’s talent-encouraging Sikh artists to express themselves through music, art, poetry and other non-conventional ways. We hope to move the movement through the solidarity of our youth and the support of our people. Lahir is a free event and is open to everyone.
For more information, please visit the Lahir 2009 Facebook Page