Friday, September 19, 2014

Sindhi Sikhs in Hong Kong Traditions changing

Sindhi Sikhs in Hong Kong  Traditions changing  Younger Sikhs cut hair, traditions

The world is changing as we are not communicating the the language of Love and Understanding.

By EMILIE ZHONG, SARA WUStudent-Reporters
HONG KONG — On a studio stage, Gill Bobo, an Indian actor, is playing games with other five local actors for a recorded show. He now and again grabs the microphone and unleashes a succession of tongue-twisters, arousing spasms of laughter from the mostly Chinese audience. His tongue-twisters are not only in line with current topics, but they’re spoken in such fluent and pure Cantonese, even locals find it hard to rhyme like that.
Gill Bobo, whose real name is Gill Mohindepaul Singh, was born into a traditional Indian Sikh family rooted in Hong Kong for three generations. Singh said he hasn’t experienced any difficulties integrating into Hong Kong society. However, he did cut his hair in high school, which conservative Sikhs say violates communal traditions. “As long as I am faithful in my heart, I don’t think it is a problem,” Singh said.
Singh, though, represents a growing trend: young Sikh men who, rather than wear a traditional turban that contain hair never cut since birth, now feel they want to stand out less from other Hong Kongers. Some Sikh youngsters, locally born and educated, are no longer inclined to stick to Sikh traditions such as keeping hair long and wearing turbans and daggers like their fathers and grandfathers do*.
Batra Singh, manager of Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Educational Trust, says he is concerned that Sikh young people in Hong Kong who cut their hair are losing their culture**. This even applies to the heirs of community leaders working in Sikh organizations now. The son of Amarjeet Singh Sidhu, a senior member of the committee of Khalsa Diwan Sikh Temple, cut his hair before entering college and visits the temple less and less. The similar situation also applies to the family of Gulbir Singh. Singh says he tried to persuade his son not to cut his hair after entering college, but his son still cut it because his classmates teased him. “I got angry about it, but I have to bear it,” Gulbir Singh says. He explains that if he forced his son to follow the tradition, his boy might not want to talk to him anymore. “It is better to have a good relationship with him than asking him to do so,” Singh says.
The Sikh ancestors first came here as part of the British Armed Forces in the 19th century, taking occupations as guards, police officers, watchmen and soldiers, most of which are governmental jobs. A booklet from the Sikh temple says Sikhs have “distinctive personalities,” which are embodied by five symbols as Kesh (long and unshorn hair), Kara (a steel bracelet), Katchera (pair of shorts) and Kirpan (a sword), among which Kesh (hair) signifies saintliness and Dharma in ancient times. In the booklet, it is emphasized that keeping hair is an indication of living in harmony with the Will of God and whoever shaves would be construed as interference in nature’s way and superiority over the God.
Batra Gulbir Singh says there are about 15,000 Sikhs in Hong Kong today. Sikh community, being the third largest religious group back in India, constitutes two percent of India’s population. According to Amarjeet Singh Sidhu, things have become different since Hong Kong’s return in 1997. The Sikhs come up with difficulties to find a job in government agencies ever since the turnover because the ability to read and write in Chinese has become a must. Sidhu says that the Hong Kong government now belongs to People’s Republic of China and they don’t offer jobs to the Indians anymore. “Language is their biggest obstacle,” Sidhu says, “and for them it is a pressure.” Batra Gulbir Singh says young Sikhs are trying hard to prepare themselves for a better entrance into local society by taking a second language course***.
A 13-year-old boy with short hair sits silently on the bench right outside the main hall of the Sikh Temple, which is called Gurdwara, where usual Sikh sacraments are delivered. His name is Bobby Singh, a Sikh Hong Konger now studying in Cognitio College, a local middle school in which most of the students are Chinese. “I won’t come to the temple voluntarily,” Singh said. “Sometimes, even my father asks me to come I still refuse, because I don’t like coming here.” He also said that going to temple is bothersome, for one has to take off shoes and wear headpieces before entrance. He knows very little about the Sikh religion or even no impression of India.
Looking to the future,  the older generations still holds  hope their youth will preserve their roots****. “When young Sikhs approach 40 or 45, they will probably come back to tradition,” said Gulbir Singh, “because Sikh belief is deep inside their heart.”
Editor’s Note: In response to complaints by the interviewees and members of the Sikh community in Hong Kong (please see comments below) that this article did not accurately reflect the views of the Sikh community, the reporters and editors of this article have amended the original story and apologize for any embarrassment that may have been caused. Please see below for details.
Amended from: “A majority of Sikh youngsters, especially who are locally born and take educations in local schools, no longer stick to Sikh traditions such as keeping hair long, wearing turbans and daggers like their fathers and grandfathers do.”
The Sikh community emphasises that this is not a majority trend and it should not have been reported as one.
**Amended from: “Batra Gulbir Singh, manager of Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Educational Trust, says when Indian Sikh young people are getting more and more involved in Hong Kong society, the Sikh culture is meanwhile fading away.”
This sentence has been amended to accurately reflect the direct quote.
*** The original sentence ended with “and having their hair cut.”
This was an observation by the reporters and not a direct quote by Mr. Singh, so has therefore been removed.
**** Amended from: “Looking to the future, Sikhism in Hong Kong is disappearing; while the older generations still hold out hope their youth will one day rediscover and preserve their roots.”
This was an overstatement and has been amended.

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