This is the type of book that any one interested in the various facets of contemporary Sikh concerns and conversations may have been looking forward to come across. It is a collection of blogs/letters that the author wrote or interventions he made in the last few years as a participant in free wheeling discussions on the Internet or in some cases in response to specific issues that he was engaged with.
These on line conversations on Sikh issues have encouraged intra community discussion on several subjects that only a decade earlier would not even have been thought of. About their style and format, the author observes ‘Sikhs, like all ardent believers, hold our Gurus and Gurbani in great reverence. Heard and talked mostly in the environs of Gurdwaras and homes, it was in the main a one way communication, received in a devotional mode, with seldom if any question expected or asked. Not so on the net – starting in a hesitant manner, the participants soon tend to open up and this leads to flood gates of different understandings, interpretations, experiences and emotions being shared as they jump from subject to subject. It can become a learning opportunity and in some ways a liberating experience.’
As responses by the author to ongoing multi lateral conversations, the texts are ‘rooted in immediate recall — and thus reflect not only on the internalization of issues but also the inner doubts, questions and dilemmas that we all live with — [and] reveal some of what may be going on in the inner core of our thinking about — issues confronting us in our personal and contemporary settings.’
The relatively simple and direct approach that is inherent in dialogical prose makes for easier and interesting reading of the book even though the diversity of subjects and ‘their randomness in a way is overwhelming — After all these are snippets of my thoughts and much of what we keep thinking is like flipping through kaleidoscopic images, rambling, inconclusive, yet intensely absorbing and some times revelatory in the clarity they suddenly bring to bear on a vexing subject.’
One may therefore find that reading the book from end to end is not a pre-requisite – one could read as much as one likes at any time and start from wherever one happens to start. Every page tends to hold readers interest without the need of going back and forth in search of context or continuity.
There are some well known names that occur quite often. Obviously the Forums do attract a variety of participants including some of the better known, with all sorts of background, diverse views on Sikh observances, different levels of understanding of Sikhi and Sikh issues. These Forums deserve thanks for the great seva they are doing though one would hope that in the long term their interventions do not become tiresomely repetitive or de-linked from contemporaneous concerns.
The author’s hope for Sikhi is for it to be inclusive, welcoming and for Sikhs to explore if their understanding of Sikhi is not inducing them to a lower threshold that helps them to strive for comfort but not enough for the outstanding. Amelioration of human condition needs both – the Sikh jugat also encourages both; the lay sangat and the virla who is a fountainhead of vivekta.
The book may jolt many a reader to think about the multiplicity of issues that Sikhs need to apply themselves to as a community – in India and in the Diaspora. Certainly a good reading that gently exposes us to what is often not quite on our horizon but is important nonetheless for us to secure Sikhi in the long run. A must read, especially for the youth.