I was born in a Sikh family and raised according to its tradition and culture. All my family members regularly visit the gurudwara and believe themselves to be devout Sikhs. I’m writing this to reach out to Sikhs all over the world so that they can see how far they’ve come from what our gurus taught us.
This is fueled by the feeling I got when another Sikh man got into a minor argument with me on the roads of Delhi. I had just smoked a cigarette, and I believe he saw me. “You are the gandus (ass) in Sikhism,” was albeit a small and unintelligent remark, but was enough to enrage me into writing this. What also followed was, “Katwa lae enu veere” (“Cut your hair brother”).
I wasn’t wearing a turban that day. It was a Friday night, and it was right outside a club that served liquor, one that he was entering with his wife who had given me ‘the look’ just seconds before her husband’s remark.
So you’re telling me that because I’m smoking a cigarette, I don’t deserve to be a Sikh. You’re going to a night club, to drink alcohol and you just parked your car so that means you are most likely gonna drink and drive too. You might have even served alcohol at your wedding, and might you drink quite frequently. But yes you’re right, smoking a cigarette completely makes you a non-Sikh while drinking alcohol is appreciated in the granths (the holy book for Sikhs). I thought our religion was a progressive one, having read what our religion teaches us – the banning of Sati and the caste system at a time when it was normal, was progressive. At the end of the day your habits fail to define you as a person. A person who drinks or smokes everyday but is kind, honest and helpful is not gonna be fried in a pan of hot oil on judgement day. I believe our gods to be way above our way of perceived thinking, because when I’m drinking or smoking, I’m hurting myself, my own body but what’s way worse is hurting someone else. What’s way worse is, indulging in extra-marital relationships or ignoring that person with disability at the traffic signal who begged for food. What’s happening now is completely hypocritical. Either we are too uneducated to realise the logic behind this argument or we are educated enough but choose to ignore this.
I know this might get a lot of hate and cynicism. But it is one that is logical and can’t be countered by religious replies. Drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes are equally bad and that’s what most Sikhs fail to realise. The instinctive reaction of Sikhs to mock other Sikhs about their smoking is one that has been in place for years. I am proud of my culture and just as you ask for forgiveness for drinking when you visit your God, I ask for forgiveness for smoking the same way. I am in no way worse than you are, and most of all, you don’t have any right to preach religion.
Religion is personal. I could have included teachings from our religion that give us the message of kindness and betterment of the world in their crux but certain people would just go ahead and counter my article with some religious sayings from the Guru Granth itself. What our Bani teaches us the most is, that never judge anyone by their religion and respect their gods, choices and preferences. And hencereligion is actually personal faith. You don’t have the right to force me into doing something just because you think we both share a religion. This makes me sad as a Sikh. It is a personal message to Sikhs around the world, a plea to look deeper into the question and wonder if what you just read is right or wrong.
I don’t, in any way, mean to endorse the use of cigarettes, it is now a habit I am on the way to quit because of prospective health issues, not because some ignorant idiot mocked me about it.
The following video shows a turbaned Sikh being beaten and harassed because he was smoking a cigarrete in a country that gives you the fundamental right to choice. This makes me sad, this makes our religion look ancient and ignorant when it is one which has been the latest, and the most progressive one.