Ever since I can remember, I have attended Nagar Kirtans (Sikh processions) in the Midlands. In fact, the Midlands has the highest number of Sikh processions per capita in the Western world. There are countless small ones: Dudley, Walsall, Willenhall, Wednesfield, Tividale etc but growing up there were three large ones: Wolverhampton, Smethwick and Handsworth (Birmingham).
Politics split the Wolverhampton one into two and it was also a factor in the Smethwick one closing down after a decade. However, the Handsworth Nagar Kirtan has continued to grow in size and is one of the largest annual gatherings of Sikhs outside of India.
There are other large processions in England; Southall, Slough and Glasgow are particularly famous. Recently Canada has taken a leading role in Western Sikh culture, with Brampton and Surrey hosting two of the largest processions in the North American continent and by some measures as large as the ones in England.
However, the Sikh community in the United States has until very recently been very quiet and relatively small, at least on the East Coast (the West Coast has an established community based around Yuba City). Organisations such as the American based United Sikhs and the Sikh Coalition have begun giving American Sikhs a more global voice but when I heard about a 'Sikh Day Parade' in New York City, I didn't expect much, however, what I saw surprised me.
I recently gave a quick interview to a popular lifestyle website on the concept of The Travelling Singh blog, discussing amongst other things difficulties encountered by Sikh passengers and the backlash Sikhs have faced globally as a result of mistaken identity,
I was keen to highlight the various sacrifices Sikhs have made in both World Wars and the economic contributions of Sikhs today.
I also spoke about my adventures, some of the places I have visited and my future bucket list.
You can read the full interview here.
Don't forget to follow The Travelling Singh on Twitter @travellingsingh and you can also follow Suzannah Sylvian (who conducted the interview) on Twitter @suzannahsylvian
I have seen all else, but nothing as beautiful as you...
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My recent trip to Panjab was my first since I was much younger, and my first as an adult. My mom had moved over to England in 1985 as a 19 year old, against the backdrop of unrest in Panjab. Operation Bluestar had begun a decade of fighting in the state, with the police using heavy handed tactics against anyone they felt was a threat (all Singh's).
My mom recounts one story as a young girl during the martial law period building up to the events of 1984 where she was caught in the crossfire of a gun battle between a local police force and some Singh's. Hearing the bullets getting closer and no means of escape she decided to hide, only for a large Singh to run over, pick her up and move her out of harms way. Not coming from a particularly religious family, this is the event where she first felt she wanted to raise any future kids as Singh's.
With those events in her mind, she had always made me a little weary about going to see Panjab, always telling me to be particularly careful about the police. However, there comes a time when the curiosity becomes too strong, so I decided to go and visit for myself.
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.