You have heard many people speak of our grandfather today; people who celebrate his love of Sikhi, and the simplicity with which he performed his seva. I see in front of me a great, big canvas, onto which many have taken their brush and illustrated how he made a difference. And we, his grandchildren, ask only this: that we too are allowed to paint a tribute to him.
I may be speaking these words, but they are not just my own. They have been stitched together, piece by piece, from the memories and emotions of his grandchildren.
You may know him as Giani Ji, or a sevadar of Sikhi, or a carrier of the Guru’s message. These are great things, wonderful things. And yet to us, before any this, he is, most simply, our grandfather. Our Nanaji, our Babaji.
moment captured by Angad Singh - thank you again :)
If you ask us where we grew up, many of us will say, right here, in Ulu Yam. Every school holiday, every long weekend, this is where we congregated. We made pacts with our cousins to ensure the whole clan was going, we packed our tiny toothbrushes, we pulled out the little bit of pocket money we had hidden away.
Ulu Yam to us meant playing at the Gurdwara, sneaking out to the village on Nanaji’s bicycle to buy junk food, lighting fireworks at night, at least one waterfall visit where we came home with our pockets full of sand, Nanaji sitting at his desk reading, or writing, washing busses for pocket money, enjoying Naniji’s delectable cooking, an endless supply of fresh milk, homemade Kirtan Darbars and Akhand Paaths, and swinging on our swing, on which generations have rocked, back and forth, back and forth.
You may say, that perhaps as a child, Ulu Yam was just an escape from our parents and homework. But no. Our Nanaji had a magnetic presence – and his energy was so expansive that he encompassed this entire little village. Ulu Yam was, and still is, a mythical place to us. It is where we come, and the rest of the world does not exist, and we are healed.
It is our grandparents who have created this sanctuary for us – they built this space, verse by verse, Baani by Baani, and have sealed it with boundless love. This space is where we first understood sanggat, this is what we were to each other as children, and continue to be to this day. This home that our grandparents have built, is, right here, our training ground, our Samelan, where we come to recharge our batteries. To us, our sanggat IS our family.
Our grandfather was our godfather – he made it his mission that we should grow up to love Sikhi.
For just as he took us to the waterfall on hair wash day, his hands holding ours with a shampoo bottle tucked under his arm, every morning in his home began with a walk to the Gurdwara where we had darshan and did our Paath.
Just as he took us for rides in his school bus down the village road, where we stuck our heads out of the window and waved at our neighbours, every meal time in his home began with one of us leading the thanksgiving prayer, Dadda Dataa Eyk Hai, Sabh Ko Devanhaar.
Just as he allowed us to cause a ruckus in his living room during our Play Station league games, every evening, that same living room transformed into a Darbar where we sat together and read Rehraas.
Gentle eyes, deep laughter, and God’s name on his lips. Jap Man Satnaam, Sadaa Satnaam. That was our Nanaji.
As we learned to sing Kirtan, in him we found our biggest fan. Even when our short arms could barely hold the pakha, or the tabla dwarfed our little fingers, even when we forgot our lines or missed the beat, he sat there, listening to us, singing with us, making us feel as if we were God’s own gift to sangeet.
Only when we grew older did we understand that glow in his face as he watched us. It did not matter to him that we were off beat, or off key, or probably both. His heart was made light just knowing that there we were, sitting, and singing Gurbani.
And when we grew a little older still, and learned to read Paath, most of us spent time learning from him, bringing our seynchis with us during our holidays and sitting with him while we read, and he corrected.
Baani was his anchor, the centre of his being, and growing up in Ulu Yam means it has also become a part of ours.
They say this is the age of kal, of darkness. And it is the light of the Guru that will carry us across.
This we know; that in our family, Guru gave His light to our grandfather, who held it, and planted a wick in each of our hearts, that Guru’s jyot may always shine our path.
Just as we are blessed to be born in the house of Nanak, we are doubly blessed to be born into our gentle Nanaji’s home. It is not possible to not love him, which we did, and do, very much. And at the same time we were afraid, not of him, but of disappointing him. When he would ask: did you read your Paath today, we knew that it was not us he was judging, but himself – he wanted to know if he had been able to pass on that love for Gurbani to us.
Each Shabad, each Ang, each Baani that he has invested in us, we hope to nurture and let bloom, that the seeds of our flowers will go on to bloom in our children’s gardens, that they too may know him as we do.
To end, we offer a humble prayer. Dearest Guru, please hold near, our darling dear. We know he has journeyed to You, but still, his absence leaves a shadow in our hearts, one that we hope to illuminate with the very light that he planted in us – the light of Your Naam. On days that we forget, help us remember all that we have learnt from him: kindness, humility, grace, and above all, love, love, love, and only love, for You.
Thank you for listening.
P/s: Hargobind and Manpreet, thank you for doing this together. Happy tears now :) xx