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'Prime Minister Kaur!' Calgary Sikh students act out visions of Canada's future

'I actually want to be Prime Minister when I grow up' — Lakshpreet, Grade 6

 
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Fabiola Melendez Carletti · for Canada 2017 · 
 
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Two Grade 6 students at the Khalsa School in Calgary's northeast perform The Struggle of our Ancestors, a black light performance that culminates in a bright vision for the future. (Khalsa School Calgary/Trickster Theatre)

"Make some noise for the prime minister of Canada!" 

Perched atop a neon blue parliament building, Lakshpreet Kaur Sumal waves to a cheering crowd. It's the Khalsa School of Calgary's first ever school-wide performance and the 11-year-old has been cast as Prime Minister Kaur — the first Sikh woman to ever head the government of Canada. It's a vision for the future dreamt up by her Grade 6 class.

"Everyone was clapping for me," Lakshpreet recalled to Baninoor Kaur, a teacher at the school. She says the performance made her feel good and important. "I actually want to be the Prime Minister when I grow up!"

 
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Lakshpreet Sumal, a Grade 6 student at the Khalsa School, plays the newly elected Sikh prime minister of Canada in 2019. (Khalsa School Calgary/Trickster Theatre)

A travelling show

The schoolgirl is among thousands of young Albertans acting out Canada's rich histories and possible futures with Trickster Theatre. The Calgary performance company is marking Canada's sesquicentennial with week-long residencies at over 40 Alberta schools. Their travelling show is called Canada 150: Our Many Faces

Participating schools have chosen a theme to reflect, educate or inspire their student body — from First Nations health at Ermineskin School in Maskwacis to mixed ability at Emily Follensbee School in southwest Calgary to French-Canadian culture at École les Cyprès in Medicine Hat.

 
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Grade 3 students perform a theatre piece about Gatka, an ancient form of martial arts developed by Sikhs. (Khalsa School Calgary)

"We're not building a play. We're building a series of pieces united by a common theme," says Trickster Theatre founder and director David Chantler. His company sends a travelling rig and a small team of artists to each school. The "tricksters" arrive armed with costumes, crash mats, pool noodles, parachutes and a flexible formula for an original show.

Each classroom has a week to work with a performer, blending props, choreography and A/V effects into their own unique piece. 

And although the residency is meant to be interactive and fun, there's room to explore more difficult themes — from climate change to suicide prevention to discrimination.

"It's definitely a more balanced picture than when I went to school," says Chantler. 

'A place for everybody'

 

Khalsa School's theme, Sikhs in Canada: Past to Present, brought together the school's 400-plus student population — from kindergarten students to ninth graders. Collectively, they explored the highs and lows of the Sikh community's time in Canada. 

Kaur, the Grade 1 teacher who helped bring the show to the school, sees a growing role for the arts as younger generations explore a greater range of opportunities.

"With theatre there's a place for everybody," says Kaur, adding that Canadian Sikhs of times past were just trying to get by. Now, as high-profile Sikhs like entertainer Lilly Singh and Humble the Poet continue to rise, she hopes to see more programming rooted in drama and the arts. 

"I think it's crucial, actually."

With theatre there's a place for everybody.- Baninoor Kaur , Grade 1 teacher

The teacher's not alone in her assessment. Trickster Theatre's model has captured the attention of academics at the University of Calgary, who have studied the project as an example of Socially Empowered Learning

They found that programs like Trickster's "significantly increased" engagement, empowerment and entrepreneurial spirit among students. 

This model is also supports "the kids who get in trouble," says Chantler. Suddenly there's a role for students who want to shout out and move around. 

Memorable lessons

The students at Khalsa School certainly seem to have enjoyed their time in the spotlight. 

Grade 5 student Guramrit Singh said the week-long project was "the best thing that happened in my life ... I had a lot of fun!"

 
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Children were among the asylum seekers denied entry to Canada in 1914 and forced to return to face violence in India. Canada formally apologized for the incident in 2016.

Older students were able to recount lessons in detail, like Grade 7 student Gurshaan Rai. 

"We learned about our ancestors and how much they struggled in Canada. We learned that they came a long time ago and they were discriminated against and judged by their turbans and how they looked," Gurshaan told Kaur, pointing to high-profile Sikh leaders like Harjit Sajjan as evidence how far his community has come.

(The defence minister actually made a brief cameo in one of the performances, via recorded video message.) 

"Sometimes we say that our parents work at only Walmart, but we know how much it took for them to get to the better jobs they have today," adds Rai.

"The culture in Canada is starting to get used to Sikh People."

It was the best thing that happened in my life. I could show my acting skills in front of so many people. I had a lot of fun!- Guramrit Singh, Grade 5

 

Interest in Trickster's program has ballooned far past early goals, says Chantler. Roughly 15,000 Alberta students are involved in the 150 project, not to mention teachers, parents and other volunteers. 

Although a few months have passed since the tricksters left the building, Kaur still gets charged up describing the show, which the school has posted online in its entirety. 

"Honestly, I didn't hear one negative comment. Not even one. Not from anyone," says Kaur.

 

 

"I've already had so many students asking: 'when are we doing this again'?" 

Trickster Theatre's Canada 150 residency program is ongoing and will continue throughout the 2017/2018 school year. 

Are you creating art for, about, or because of Canada 150? Share your paintings, photography, music, poetry, or local event with us at 2017@cbc.ca.

 

 
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Prime Minister Kaur's supporters surround her with positive signs, including one that reads: "Open your eyes, hearts and minds. Equality for all." (Khalsa School Calgary/Trickster Theatre)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 
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Fabiola Melendez Carletti

 

Fabiola Melendez Carletti is a journalist and digital storyteller. She is currently lending her talents to Canada 2017, the CBC's year-long sesquicentennial project.

 

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Not gonna ever happen no matter what

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8 minutes ago, Singh123456777 said:

Not gonna ever happen no matter what

If Trudeau has his way, they'll be something along those lines really soon, lol.

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1 hour ago, MisterrSingh said:

If Trudeau has his way, they'll be something along those lines really soon, lol.

Trudeau is a good guy but no way in hell would there ever be a sikh prime minister. There is still more racist white people in canada than we know.

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Guest Jacfsing2

Support your people definitely, but don't be that m-o-r-o-n who is going to vote for someone just because they claim to have faith in Dhan Dhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, (key-word: claim), also don't vote for someone simply because they have a certain sex part that's below which unless your the spouse you shouldn't really be looking at, (I apologize, I can't keep that pg).

2 hours ago, singhbj singh said:

It could happen soon if this Bibi transforms into a Kaur 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bardish_Chagger

 

This person one by a plurality, not a majority, if her own district is conflicted how would the rest of the nation feel?

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The topic is about giving hope to children but I'm sceptical about writers agenda to write such an article.

Sikhs governing Canada can make natives envy Sikhs.

So it's better for Sikhs to stick with organic growth & disregard inorganic approach.

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Guest Jacfsing2
1 hour ago, singhbj singh said:

Sikhs governing Canada can make natives envy Sikhs.

I thought Canadian Sikhs were the tough guys and girls? The Liberal Anti-Whites woild easily vote for a Sikh regardless what their position was. This happened in 2008 and in 2012 when a bunch of Gora-haters voted for Obama in the U.S. over Ron Paul, (yes, we know he wasn't the major candidate), but rather vote for a man based on his skin color, even though Ron Paul was a much better canidate. 

The point being you don't need the Aboriginal vote to win in Canada in the same the Indians learned that they don't need the Non-Hindu vote.

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On 07/04/2017 at 0:34 PM, Singh123456777 said:

There is still more racist white people in canada than we know.

I don't see how they're racist for wanting their majority White Western country to be led by a fellow white. 

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7 hours ago, MisterrSingh said:

I don't see how they're racist for wanting their majority White Western country to be led by a fellow white. 

What i mean is there are a lot of closet rascists in canada even though its not noticed, but in the 2019 election you will see them in force cause of the trump wave.

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Even if there was a prime minister kaur or a singh of canada it would make zero difference to the condition of western Sikhs apart from obvious media and general public awareness of who Sikhs are and they are different to muslims.
The ethnic and religious minority politicians have to follow what the census majority view is and needs of their constituents rather than what their own religion says for them to do.

Besides having a Sikh western prime minister or president could have more negative view of Sikhs than positive as we when wrong or bad decisions are made people are often quick to label someones background to find fault. And we have seen already in India we had a Sikh president Zail Singh and Sikh prime minister mohan Singh both were puppets of the hindu brahmin establishment they couldn't do anything positive for their own community they only did bad or had limited positive impact.

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  • Topics

  • Posts

    • As per usual,  our openness and tolerance is seen as weakness for others, and they take full advantage. 
    • This is nothing new. I tried setting up an initiative to defeat this trend; happened a good few years back on this forum, but some of us decided to establish a body of sorts which would publish and distribute literature regarding the falsity spread by other faiths vis-a-vis Sikhi. Because we were based in different countries we used to stay in contact via email to exchange ideas and finalize publications in our own respective countries. I wrote and dispatched a particular article on the falsity that Bhagat Fareed was a hardcore Muslim and by incorporating his Bani into the Adi Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikh Gurus proved their respect for Islam and hence all Sikhs should become Muslims. Here are some examples of what I wrote: "For Bhagat Farid, and Sufis in general, life is but nihilistic. Such a perception, logically, leads to renunciation and asceticism. Farid asserts:

      'Farid, had my throat been slit on the same day as my umbilical cord, I would not have been prey to trouble nor weathered such hardship. Farid, I alone thought I was in pain, but the whole world is in pain. I ascended my roof and witnessed each and every house in flame.' 
      -Saloks 76 and 81, ASGGS, Ang. 1381-82.

      When Guru Nanak Dev Ji had entered Multan, the local Sufis had tried to eject him on the pretext of his criticism of the Sufi order. The Guru had rejected their renunciation and described their acts of obeisance as charades. With this particular incident in mind, Guru Arjan Dev Ji elected to reply to Farid with the following:

      'The world is akin to a garden, Farid, in which poisonous plants take root. They for whom the Master cares suffer not at all.' 

      And:

      'How sweet be this life oh Farid! With health the body blooms, but they who love their dear beloved Lord are rarely found.' 
      -Mohalla 5, Saloks 82-83, ASGGS, Ang. 1382.

      The writings of Farid were incorporated into the Sikh canon to refute the notion that life, in general, is painful. For the Gurus life is what one makes out of it. Ignorance, naturally, leads to pain whilst knowledge leads to joy. By positing their views below Farids', the Sikh Gurus refuted the Sufi notion of life being suffering in toto.'   "The Sufi path of asceticism is best summed up in the following conversation between Sayid Muhammad Gesu Daraz and a suppliant. Daraz was the acolyte of Shaikh Farid Nasir-u'd-Din-Chiarg-i-Delhi, the disciple of Nizam-u'd-din Auliya who was the successor to Baba Farid. This conversation is recorded in the 'Jawama-u'l-Kilam' and focuses on the physical suffering weathered by Baba Farid in his search for the Divine. Pledging his mind to the Lord's path, the latter Farid hung upside down in a well for forty days and nights. 

      'Then one day when Sayid Muhammad Gesu Daraz was recounting the pledge of (Baba Farid), a man queried: "how is it that blood does not run out of the eyes and mouth of the person who undertakes it and how is it that foodstuff and other bodily elements do not come out of him?" The Saint explained that in a body as emaciated as that of Farid, the question of food and blood no longer lingers as austerities have reduced such a body to mere skeleton.' 

      Bhagat Farid writes:

      'Farid, if one were to hack my body, not a drop of blood would ooze from it. Those who are imbued with the Lord's love have no blood left in their beings.' 
      -Salok 51, ASGGS, Ang. 1380.

      Guru Amardass Ji comments on this Shabad in the following way:

      'The body is all blood, without blood it cannot exist. Those who are imbued with the Lord's love have not a single drop of selfish blood in their bodies. When the fear of Divine enters one's being, it becomes emaciated, and the blood of greed departs. As flames purify metal, so too does the fear of the Divine cast out impure inclinations. They alone are beautiful, Nanak, who are dyed with the love of the Lord.'
      -Mohalla 3, ASGGS, Salok 52, Ang. 1380. 

      Farid's ascetic undertones are sidelined, by the Guru, to provide a more rational interpretation of his words. Farid's "blood" becomes "selfish blood" and the external is transformed into the internal. It is not the physical frame which matters but the internal, the spiritual. Only through spiritual austerities can inimical inclinations depart; physical austerities only invite weakness and prolonged suffering."   "Now, we will look at the Bani of Bhagat Farid along with the relevant commentary by the Sikh Gurus. 

      'Farid, she who did not enjoy her spouse when black-haired, will she enjoy him when grey-haired? Love the Lord with such love that your hair's color will never change!'
      -Salok 12, ASGGS, Ang. 1378.

      Bhagat Farid holds that youth is conducive to following the spiritual path, in old age it is a lost cause. Guru Amardass Ji, who became the third Nanak at the age of 72, provides a commentary on this shabad:

      'Farid, whether one's hair be black or grey, the Lord is ever present if one remembers him. True love does not come from one's own desire, that cup of the Master's love he himself gives to whomever he desires.'
      -Mohalla 3, Salok 13, ASGGS, Ang. 1378.

      Bhagat Farid believes effort to be necessary vis-a-vis the spiritual path; the Sikh Gurus concur but to an extent. All transpires due to the Divine Will and man's efforts have a limit. Divine Will is more pontificate than man's efforts; man should elect to reside in this will and recognize where effort ends. From a Nanakian perspective effort is necessary in the temporal paradigm, but in the spiritual paradigm success depends on the Divine initiative. Guru Nanak Dev Ji states:

      'Does it matter if one is a swan or heron on whom the Lord casts his glance? Sayeth Nanak that if he so desires, crowns turn into swans.'
      -Mohalla 1, Salok 124, ASGGS, Ang. 1384. 

      The Lord is supreme in all that he does.

      Bhagat Farid then utilizes martial scenery:

      'One who is not welcome by her in-laws, and who has not place at her parents' house; and whose spouse does not care an iota for her, is she truly a happily married wife?'
      -Salok 31, ASGGS, Ang. 1379. 

      The 'parents' house' symbolizes societal life, the 'in-laws' spiritual life and the 'spouse' the Lord. Bhagat Farid is commenting on those spiritualists, those devotees, who desire the best of both spiritualism and societal living. He feels that by pursuing both concepts, one ultimately fails in all that he/she commits to. Guru Nanak Dev Ji comments:

      'At her in-laws and at her parents' house, she belongs to her spouse, the Divine beloved who is inaccessible and unfathomable. Oh Nanak! That one is indeed a happily married bride, who pleases the indifferent one.'
      -Mohalla 1, Salok 32, ASGGS, Ang. 1379.

      In contrast to Farid, the Guru elaborates that via Divine Grace both the temporal and spiritual paradigms become successful for the devotees. The true spiritualist is one who pursues both fields rather than renouncing one over the other. Nonetheless, hypocrisy in both fields should be avoided."   "In Suhi Lalit, Bhagat Farid forewarns:

      'You could not construct a raft when required. Now that the ocean is full and overflowing, it is hard to traverse. Do not touch the saffron flower for it's color will depart, my beloved. Rahau.
      The bride is weak and her husband's command is too hard to bear. As the milk does not return to her breast, nor will the soul return to the body. Sayeth Farid, friends, when the spouse calls this soul departeth crestfallen and the body is reduced to ashes.'
      -Suhi Lalit 1, ASGGS, Ang. 794.

      Guru Nanak Dev Ji, prior to Farid's verse, expounds:

      'Make meditation and restraint the raft via which to traverse the flowing stream. Your pass will be comfortable as if there is no ocean or overflowing stream. Your name alone is the unfading matter with which this cloak is dyed; my Beloved Lord, this color is perennial. My dear companions have departed, how will they meet the Lord? If they are united in virtue, the Lord will unite them with himself. Once united the mortal does not separate if the union be true. The cycle of birth and death is nullified by the True, Eternal Lord. She who removes her own self-centrism sews herself a garment to please her spouse. By the Guru's words, she obtained the fruit of the nectar of the Lord's word. Sayeth Nanak, my companions, my spouse be dear to me. We be the Lord's handmaidens; he our husband.'
      -Mohalla 1, Suhi 4, Ang. 729.

      Bhagat Farid provides a picture of doom and gloom by lamenting lost opportunities. He focuses on old age, where mental and physical faculties are too frail to be attuned to Divine contemplation. Guru Nanak Dev Ji, instead, expounds that it is never too late to focus on the Lord (one should remember Guru Amardass Ji here) for the Beloved is not harsh nor his commands. Via the saffron flower, Bhagat Farid warns of the fleeting pleasures of the world -here today, gone tomorrow- Guru Nanak Dev Ji instead elaborates that all pleasures belong to the Lord and via merging with him, all pleasures become permanent for he is the highest pleasure of all. 

      For Farid, death is the final test; even the faithful, in his view, should fear it for the soul never returns to the body. Guru Nanak Dev Ji however believes death to be a joy and a privilege of the valorous, for it is via death that one perfects his/her union with the Divine.

      From a Nanakian perspective, Farids's words apply to the manmukh and not the Gurmukh. But even a manmukh is worthy of Divine Grace, provided he recants at the ultimate moment."   "Bhagat Farid, a Sufi, informs us:

      'My physical frame is oven-hot; my bones are the firewood. If my feet fail, I shall walk upon my head to meet my Beloved.'
      -Salok 119, ASGGS, Ang. 1384.

      Bhagat Farid utilizes the metaphor of a kiln to depict his love for the Lord. A Sufi, his ascetic concepts however were not in line with Gurmat. Guru Nanak Dev Ji refutes his call for such asceticism by commenting:

      'Do not heat your physical frame oven-hot; burn not your bones like firewood. What harm have they committed that you torture them such? Rather behold the Beloved within your soul, Farid.'
      -Salok 120, ASGGS, Ang. 1384.

      Bhagat Farid is of the mind that the human body is but a prison and the soul it's captive. The Sikh Gurus believe that the human body is a temple, a locus where the Lord resides and awaits his devotee. By utilizing this Shabad of Farid, the Gurus desired that their Sikhs imbue the same zeal as the Sufi did whilst also discarding his asceticism; hence the refutation. Throughout Bhagat Bani we find a similar concept at play. The Sikh Gurus initiate a written dialogue with the radicals of their time and provide an unalloyed picture of the Divine Truth. For Farid, creation is a falsity; for the Gurus it is a truth. Farid's asceticism renders the body as simply an object; the Gurus however perceive it to be divine and encourage their Sikhs to employ it in the service of the Divine by societal living." I printed all this out in pamphlet form and took it to a local Nagar Kirtan when I was in Australia and man, some of the Muslims burned. A few confrontations occurred, "how can you say Guru Nanak was a non-Muslim?!" "Gobind Singh made you anti-Muslim." "Your history is a lie, all Gurus were Muslims and they even married Muslims!" Basically they were clutching at straws. The pamphlets were enough to make the Sikhs ignore these idiots and they grew worried and left the scene. Later a famous attendant Gyani, from Taksal (and who I will not name), got hold of one of the pamphlets. After having it explained to him he called me over and asked me what jatha I belonged to. I told him none. Then he asked me where I got this information from. I told him my sources. Basically his problem was that I was not crediting any jatha on my pamphlet. He asked me to mention Taksal in them but I refused. Few days later all the pamphlets were thrown in the trash and I was told to abstain from publishing such (and here's how they described them) lies. The youth wanted more, but the Gurughar committee would have none of it. The main problem, here, is the liberal fuddu attitude our qaum has that respect all faiths at the expense of your own.  After this some of us decided to stick to the social media. There was veer Bijla Singh Ji with his Search Sikhism page which, back in the heyday of grooming, forced several Muslim preachers to quit their anti-Sikh proselytizing. There were a few more who set up Tisarpanth. Then there was The Truth of Sikhi and Shamshir Publications. Bijla Singh Ji advised us but out of the three initiatives set up, only one is going strong and the others were forced to close down. Why? Because they had to hit the streets and they faced the same problem which I did- our own elders were and still are shooting us down. If we had claimed affiliation with some jatha, then we would have been lionized.   
    • In that way you're right. It is a big deal. My heart would pain to see anyone lost to Islam especially on a large scale. And your cautionary message is well founded.  But in the fake news, shame Sikhi, propaganda way I feel it was being used. Pfft. In that context I feel more a response of "And? Big deal. Who gives a ****"
    • That's her father in law Tarsem Singh of Hushiarpur, he is the village Granthi.   Her father's name is Monohar Lal of Delhi and her name is Kiran Bala. Sikhs don't have names like Lal and Bala. These are typical Hindu names.
    • I'm surprised to learn there are differences in Bani. If Ram rai can be excommunicated for changing the meaning of a verse (to please the emporer), then it should be impossible for a Sikh to change the words or spellings of Bani. Apart from layout differences (which would occur due to variations in handwriting style and page size), the Bani should be identical in all versions. To allow variations can lead to questioning the authenticity and hence validity of Bani.    Yes it can lead to attacks from without by muslims and others looking to destroy Sikhs faith in Bani, but it can also lead to disruption from within. 
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