On Wednesday 19th October I had the honour of being asked to present at the Bedford Museum on a topic entitled Sikhism the presentation being part of a special exhibition that will celebrate the traditions and principles of the Sikh Community in North Bedfordshire. Its aim is to bring communities together in an effort to raise awareness and understanding of the Sikh culture and fill in the gaps in peoples knowledge of Sikhism.
I was asked to present by Mr Tirath Singh of Guru Nanak Gurdwara, Bedford. Mr Tirath Singh, Norman, Kamaljit and many volunteers (sorry for not remembering all the names) had worked hard the previous weekend to set-up a fantastic series of displays. Included amongst the exhibits one can find, musical instruments, original painting, artefacts and rare coins. The team have been successful in getting private collectors and other museums to lend their items for this exhibition.
During my preparation for the presentation I wondered what gave me any right to talk about the theme. After some thought I concluded that the best I could do was to offer a short insight into our religion, discuss openly the effects of 9/11 (I call it the ripple effect against those that are unaware of who we are. I mentioned the unfortunate and ignorant killing of Sodhi Singh in the USA) and some personal life episodes. The latter focused on how as a child I had faced issues local neighbourhood kids throwing stones or institutionalised educational bias. Although much has changed I suggested that until the media and story writers could place realistic characters into the mainstream greater awareness would be constrained. There is a need for us to be accepted as British Sikhs. I ended on a positive outlining how many Sikhs in the UK are involved in charity work.
When Mr Triath Singh kindly picked me up from Bedford Station, during our conversation he mentioned that he is also involved in chaplaincy work with some prisons sitting, talking, praying and having langar with Sikhs that may have unfortunately committed crimes. There are so many unsung heroes that do perform such work; they in my view are the true givers of good to humanity. The same applies to many volunteers that give their time up to work in hospitals, giving confidence and hope to patients.
The audience I presented to were school teachers and this is a great place to start to promote greater understanding between communities. Children can enjoy a hands on experience with playing instruments and making badges.
The Sikh awareness exhibition is free admission event and is being held at the Bedford Museum, Castle Lane, Bedford, MK40 3XD http://www.bedfordmuseum.org, firstname.lastname@example.org for more information contact: 01234 353323- The event will run until 12th January 2006 and is strongly recommended. If you have time you can do what I did pop along to the Bedford Gurdwara and view the development of the new Gurdwara right next door. Im sure you will be impressed with the dedication of everyone there.