Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh
Sat Nam Readers!
We all have a best friend or we had a best friend at one time in our lives. If that person is still in your life, then appreciate that blessing. If that person is not a part of your life any longer, then be grateful for the blessing that was. I’ve been blessed with more than one in my life, for which I am ever grateful. Do me a favour ji, close your eyes for a minute and imagine that person, remember how he or she looks. Remember their smile. Remember their laugh. Remember the connection that drew you to him or her. Take another moment to be grateful that he or she showed up in your life.
Now let me tell you about my best friend. His name is Pal, or at least that’s the diminutive that I use. I love that name because it means “Beloved cherisher/protector”. It suits him. He’s also a Sikh and is working hard on being a good Sikh, like I am. He makes me laugh a lot, which was, until recently my favourite thing about him. He is a good man who loves his family very much. He’s very good to his friends. He’s honest and he works very hard. He makes the best butter chicken that I’ve ever tasted and the best curry chicken too. I tell him he should open a restaurant instead of driving his taxi. He has an infectious laugh and tries to make those around him happy. What more can you ask for in a best friend, right?
I didn’t tell Pal right away that I was thinking of adopting Sikhi. The fact that he came into my life when he did was a strange but awesome coincidence. I told him eventually. Right before I changed faiths.
I adopted this faith while I was traveling in Calgary. I wanted to go to gurdwara and talk to a few more Singhs and Kaurs before I was sure enough. I was sleeping in the hotel room when the phone started ringing. Heart stops a little, because no one calls me in the middle of the night. Pal is on the other end. He’d just been assaulted by a drunk passenger. A 44 year old drunk passenger who took offence to Pal’s turban, said obscene things to him and then assaulted him, trying to rip his turban off. My heart sank listening to his voice on the other end of the line.
I didn’t know it then but Pal showed a tolerance that is unimaginable in the circumstances. He stayed calm, kept telling his attacker that he would drive him home. Pal referred to him as brother and asked him repeatedly to calm down so he could be taken care of and taken home. He had every right to use enough violence to defend himself. Every right. The law would have backed him on that. Basic morality would have backed him on that. But here’s this guy, facing racist violence and he stays calm and deals with it, more concerned for his attacker than for himself. Why do I know this? Pal’s humble so it’s not like he told me himself. I heard about it in court.
Because eventually the criminal charges ran their course and buddy entered a guilty plea. He was sentenced the other day. He had sought out a member of the Sikh community to learn more about our faith, more about our culture. He learned that “a Sikh would rather have one of his arms removed than give up his turban”. He was, quite genuinely I think, ashamed of his ignorant, drunken behaviour. I would like to believe that Pal’s patience with him, his tolerance made the difference in buddy turning this corner.
Pal wasn’t at the sentencing. He’d already forgiven buddy and moved on with his life.
His patience, forgiveness and tolerance have made a difference for me as well. We face challenges everyday for being who we are. There are some people out there who think it is okay to be ignorant or even hateful, and a few of them can get violent about it. I deal with it with humour. Pal deals with it patiently and then forgives. In the end, he may have no idea how much he helped change buddy’s thinking, and it doesn’t matter. His approach to life inspires me, gives me hope that we don’t always have to respond violently and violence can remain a last measure for us.
If it is at all possible, I have more respect for Pal than I’ve had even before and I’m inspired in my efforts to continue learning.
Sat Nam Readers