Recently I came across a campaign to ask ‘Asda to recognise and celebrate Vaisakhi in their stores with signage, decorations and offers.’
Now, before we promote this please can we all step back and look at the wider implication this could lead to.
Having Vaisakhi recognized in stores like Asda, is a good idea initially but later down the line the public will start calling Vaisakhi a ‘Sikh Christmas’ like Eid is now known as. Where-as in fact Vaisakhi, to us, is more than Christmas. To me Vaisakhi is about remembering the morals that our father, Sri Guru Gobind SinghJi, gave us:
Daya – Compassion,
Dharam – Discipline,
Himmat – Strength
Mokham – Determination
Sahib – Royalty
and not a celebration in terms of giving presents, having a party and buying new clothes.
I, personally, feel that by asking Asda and stores to give offers near Vasiakhi would undermine the real reasons behind the day.
The letter asks that Asda celebrate ”through banners, signage, Vaisakhi cards and Vaisakhi offers.”
Now if Asda begin doing Vaisakhi cards with the Gurus photos on, or with Waheguru and/or Ik Onkar – which they will think are words. Are we going to ask them not too? Asda and stores will be looking to make a profit not be respectful and since they are able to use words like Eid Mubarak, their greeting (salamalaikum) in Urdu/Arabic on cards and Om, Divali in Hindi – they will automatically assume that it is ok to use pictures of the Guru Sahib and waheguru/Ik-Onkar/our fateh in gurbani. They may even use the tuk ‘Lakh Kushia Pathsahia’ in gurbani as that is used many times in ‘wedding cards.’ Where do we draw the line when it comes to respect v publicity?
Asda will most likely offer discounts on food and drinks too if they take up ‘celebrating Vaisakhi’ which means they will offer discounts on only vegetarian products and soft drinks? Personally, I doubt that. Asda and stores will offer discounts on alcohol, meat products, toys, presents, more or less anything in the name of ‘Vaisakhi’ which, personally, I think would be wrong.
Vaisakhi isn’t about celebrating. Its about remembering the morals we should be living by. Its the time in the year where we get together as a khalsa family and hold keertan programmes to help our spirituality.
Last year Sky News did a poll to ask what Christmas was about – the majority of responses was ‘Father Christmas’ and ‘presents.’ Less than 1% of people replied Jesus Christ.
Do we want in a few years that the public think Vaisakhi is about celebrating and music/dancing. Some of you may remember Ed Milibands ‘Happy Vaisakhi’ wishes last year. He said Vaisakhi was a time to dance and play music. Do we want to be promoting this?
I agree, that the public doesn’t know what is happening on a Nagar Keertan (I could argue that some of our own community doesn’t know but thats another issue) – but this is a wider issue than Bradford. Its a fault on our part that we have not gone out there and been educating the public.
When I say educate – I don’t mean leafleting or preaching — we need to be getting involved in the public light. Such as getting involved in politics, charities, talking to news people like Sky News and BBC news, speaking up about ‘British’ issues that affect us alongside the Sikh issues. Until we start doing this and people recognize who a Sikh is, we will always get this problem.
Lets say, that this does go forward. What’s to stop them doing something like ‘the Psych mental patient’ halloween outfit or the ‘Osama Bin laden’ outfit? Asda did both of these a few weeks ago and they were removed from their shelves. What guarantees do we have that they would not use any gurbani or picture of the Gurus?
Commercially, the image of a Sikh is at the moment a punjabi. Someone who eats meats and drinks, someone who likes to party and get together with friends/family. This is backed up by NHS stats which say 70% of patients in need of a liver transplant identify themselves as Sikh and/or Indian.
This is what sikhi is about – not being known/recognized or our ‘special days’ being advertised. But the small act of kindness (seva) that helps one person.
A benti from me, as your younger sister, is lets not let Vaisakhi turn into a ‘Sikh Christmas’ where we forget what it really means and instead follow the world in wanting to celebrate with presents and offers.
Please forgive me if I’ve said anything wrong.