My Papa, the perfect Sikh of the Guru

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A Sikh in Maharashtra

My Papaji

The Khalsa epitomises the pure love of Guru Gobind Singh for all mankind. That this statement is inherently true cannot be more amply evidenced than the following experience, as narrated to me (in a sentimental and emotional way) by a young Marathi woman, merely because I shared the outward appearance of a Singh as dictated by Guru Gobind Singh.

Once when I had gone to a village in Maharashtra for some work, I was pleasantly and tearfully astonished to witness the love for a Sikh. I had spent an hour or so with my contacts, when a young Marathi lady of that village, wearing modern sophisticated clothes, knocked on the door and told the man of the house that she had come with a specific purpose.

"Is your visitor a Sikh? If so, I want to meet him. I want to tell him about my Sikh Papa who died recently but, because of what he did for me, he always lives with me." I happen to understand Marathi although I cannot speak fluently. My interest aroused, I paid full attention to their conversation until the man said, "Come on in, meet my friend. I am sure, he will also be glad to meet you."

Forgive me, Sir," she began

"Forgive me, Sir," she began tearfully, "for pushing in like this, but I could not help paying my respects to you and sharing my harrowing tale of woe, which because of the affection, paternal concern, love and attention (lavished on me) by 'one of your samaj (faith)', my life became so much less painful and so much more bearable, (that I can now) remain composed."

I felt elated not because I have anything to show to my credit, but to hear her praise of a Gursikh was a treat for me. The lady was in her early thirties, full of sweet memories not only of her husband but also of her Sikh father. "Both have died", she said, "and although I have become a widow at this young age, with three daughters to look after, I cannot forget my Sikh Papa who was my support for nearly six months from the beginning of my husband’s problems till his death."

I now leave her own narration uninterrupted, because her own sentiments are far more valuable than my comments.

Her sad story begins

I quote, "Papaji, when I saw you in the village even before you came to this house, I decided to meet you in the belief that I am meeting my Papa I had met him at my home many, many times, given him tea invariably and had sung bhajans (kirtan) with him; when he came frequently to meet my doctor husband. But I had never been as close to him as to call myself his daughter."

"Today, I can say that I never experienced the love and association of my own father, who died when I was just fourteen, as I experienced my Papa’s love during the six months of my husband’s disease. My Papa and myself were the only attendants during the first night at the hospital. When one person needed to be awake, my Papa would ask me to rest while he cared for my husband."

"On the 3rd day, the doctors said that my husband should be removed to Nagpur. They said that dialysis was required immediately and that was possible only in the Government Medical College, Nagpur."

"With tears in his eyes, my husband and with assurance in my heart, I, asked Papa to accompany us to Nagpur. He did not need persuasion. He said all he knew was that his Guru had put him on duty".

The husbands health worsens

"As we reached C.M.C. Nagpur, Papa was told by the attending doctor that there was not much hope". Instead of playing false my Papa held me in attention and said, "You have to face things as they are. I am told that his condition is critical. All that we can do is to pray. And in prayer, too, we must not ask for his survival. We must pray that we must get the strength to accept the Lord’s will".

"I had never heard such clear language in the past and although I cried and Papa immediately caressed me by saying. ‘No child, not like this- you may hay have to look after you children.’ I could stabilize myself. From then onwards began the practice of service outside and the lessons of acceptance inside."

"For three days, they kept my husband on peritoneal dialysis continuously and Papa and I had to sleep on the floor in the corridor. It was summer and there were no fans: there were difficulties about getting even drinking water; toilet facilities were also not there. Papa did not mind all this, his only attention was that my husband should receive proper treatment and I should remain in a balanced condition. Goonda (thugs), drunkard elements being there among the ward boys, my Papa told me to call him immediately for anything when I slept against the wall just half a feet away from where he slept against the same wall."

Husband becomes attached to Papaji

"After 7 days, we were told that he had to be taken to Mumbai to get a kidney transplant. My husband had got so used to Papa that he would say. ‘Papaji, please do not leave me’. Indeed I needed Papa too. But Papa said, do not worry at all. I shall not leave you until you tell me that I can go. I am on the duty of my Guru and although amritvela prayers are important, yet this duty now is more important.’ And Papa would cry to believe that Guru had chosen him for this work."

"KEM Hospital, Mumbai, admitted my husband and both of us stayed in the corridors but we had to make some arrangements for toilet facilities and for privacy to change our clothes, etc. I had never seen a Gurdwara before, but I agreed when Papa suggested he would try for a room in the Gurdwara at Dadar. Indeed we got a room for stay; for bath and for washing clothes, we would go to the Gurdwara, one at a time, sometimes have langar also there, but we roughed our time in corridors. The doctors had told us that my husband would live only for a short time, unless the kidney transplant could be arranged. In any case chances for a complete successful transplant were 50% in the case of a donation by a close relative, and much less if the kidney was purchased from outside. "

Looking for a kidney

"Although I felt sometimes that we could go in for a kidney from the "market", my husband and Papa felt it would be risky. In any case, taking my feelings into consideration Papa took me to a big hospital near my relations’ home to enquire about the availability of the kidney. We found that, like pandas, an agent tried to hook us by giving hopes of all kinds, but just as we were waiting, a doctor of Papa’s samaj (i.e. Sikh specialist) came to the hospital and went into his room.

Papa thought it would be nice thing to get his opinion. Papa did not do anything without my specific consent and approval but tried always to minimize the expenditure, sometimes even used to walk to save transport charges. He took me inside and we jointly consulted the doctor. He strongly advocated that we should not go in for a kidney from outside and unless there was a donor who was a close relative, we should think only of the maintenance dialysis."

End of the line for the hospital treatment

"Completely satisfied that there was now no way out, when the doctors discharged my husband for being brought to Nagpur for maintenance dialysis, we came to Nagpur. But in the Mumbai hospital, Papa would ask me to get up early and sing bhajans with him at amritvela, pray for Naam to settle my heart, build my internal strength to face whatever God sends."

"I now regret that I did not pay much attention, although I believed Papa to be perfectly right. He would sometimes get annoyed that I could not give him satsang but he would always tell me, "My daughter, I cannot be angry with you. What I am doing is my duty and even if later on you were to abuse me I would not be annoyed because I am not doing anything for you. I am at the service of my Guru, but please, my child, learn to fall at the Lords feet, let His name settle in your heart and for that Amritvela is the best time to pray and seek His presence."

"We came to Nagpur - for a few weeks my husband did not deteriorate, but soon was on the road to complications. There was a feeling that perhaps my husband would live for quite some more time."

Papaji urges me to pray and meditate

"My Papa would goad me to pray with him at amritvela, or pray alone at home, and maybe, if God wills, there would be a miracle and my husband would live - with bad kidneys. If I loved God, He would have to look after his daughter, he would say.

Everytime he would come home, he would ask both my husband and myself to pray. The only connection he kept with us was of (i) prayer, (ii) regular treatment of my husband, (iii) repeated advice about which medicine to be given when, (iv) psychological support to me in case of my husband’s death, and (v) spiritualised living. Ideally, I should have listened to him, but I didn’t."

"Since doctors had already warned us that my husband would not live long, my Papa, at my request, guided me, helped me and looked after me in arranging things so that in case something happened, I would not fall flat. And the inevitable happened. Papa had guided me how to conduct my life after death, if it came; Papa had reared me like, a little child to think of my three daughters and build a source of strength within myself; Papa had guided me to live in prayer and be careful about onslaughts from hoodwinkers who could be after me when I am alone. Papa had also taught me to calmly face the situation, not to follow the worldly hypocritical advice and live in God’s Name."

"Although I did not care much for his advice, Papa’s repeated advice did come to my rescue when my husband breathed his last. Papa was not present for he had work elsewhere. Papa was informed along with others."

Batta ji, Do not cry

"I vividly remember and cannot hold my tears to remember that when I lay desolate by the side of my husband’s body, having cried the whole night, with relations and neighbours. Papa took me in his arms, wiped my tears and sat on one side close to me. On the other side was my sister.

Papa pleaded with all the people to pray for both my husband and myself; I remember he said that others had to cry for a minute or two but I had to cry with them for hours. In any case, crying was no use. Let me, he said, quietly pray."

Papa ji, senses my feelings!

"Indeed, I was left alone and was grateful. Papa went with others to the cremation ground and when, on return, he was about to go, my heart began to churn. I wanted to ask him to stay but could not as due to tradition, nothing could be cooked at home. Finding me silent, Papa suggested that although he had brought nothing with him, he could stay if I wanted, I at once got up from my desolation and said "please, if you can!"

"Until the last day that Papa lived, he looked after me as his daughter. I had gone and lived with my three daughters at his house for a few days and he said fondly that my children were his grandchildren, and he was glad to see them play at his home. Indeed I had felt I was living at my father’s house. Papa went on trying to get my dues settled, get me employment and help me to tie loose ends in my new existence as a mother with three children with their father no more."

The beautiful acts of the Gursikh

When the young lady had finished her extremely touching account, I began feeling the warmth of this girl - just 32 and I promised her that she was my daughter too. Could I do anything for her? Yes, she said, she wanted satsang from time to time and, if that was possible, she would welcome it. A short conversation followed:

Had she met Sikhs before she met her Papa? She said she had seen them, but had never talked to anyone before. In fact, she was afraid, and had believed that they would harm her at the earliest opportunity. Did she carry the same fear? No, not at all.

In fact, she remembered, Papa had repeatedly built her strength. "How did you feel being all alone with your Sikh Papa, when your husband was ill and you were totally dependent on Papa?", I asked wanting to know her inner feelings now that her Papa was no more.

The Guru's warmth

"Perfectly safe and in the safest hands. In fact, Papa had asked me if he were to rob me of money or play mischief with me, what would I do?", she said nonchalantly. "What I replied would surprise you. I told Papa he could never do anything like that. He was always with the Guru and the Guru would never let me do such a thing. I had complete confidence."

But she came out with something more wonderful. Wherever she was with her Papa, she had been asked by follow Maharashtrians who this Sikh was. And she had proudly said, "My Papa". And she said the way Papa used to look after my husband surprised the doctors, the nurses and the visitors.

The young lady could be humorous too. She said: "When my husband was a little better, my Papa used humorously to say that he (my husband) had two wives, one was myself and the other was my Papa. We had slept between the shoddy, dirty, spaces in the corridors, in between the hospital beds with urine, excreta around; we had collected the vomits of my husband together, we had lived as one family and my Papa never hesitated to do anything for me or my husband. But he would always say.

"mein aap par koi ehsan thori karta hoon;

mein to apne Guru ke hukam mein hoon."

The Greatness of the Guru

My eyes were wet and, in devotion to Guru Granth Sahib, I was elated to "see" a Gursikh in the pen-picture of her Papa that she had drawn. Just when she was about to leave, she left the following words with me to ponder over:

"OK, I leave now, I have re-lived the warmth of my Papa in my days of distress. Indeed my worldly problems are not over, I carry the advice of Papa with me, I am no longer hopeless, for Papa has convinced me that God looks after everyone. Indeed, in many ways, God has come to my rescue in my days of agony. I remember God, that’s why I remember Papa who introduced God to me through his preaching and practice. Are all Sikhs like my Papa?"

Let us ask ourselves, in the memory of that unknown Sikh, the question that this lady asked.