How the return to faith did miracles for a US-based computer engineer.
It was the summer of 2005 and I had one semester left for completing my bachelor’s in computer engineering in Detroit, Michigan. My younger brother and I had not been to India for five long years. No wonder then that we decided to take the summer off for a three-month vacation in India.
At that time, I used to shear off my hair and even though I was a member of the college’s Bhangra team, I never sported a beard, which usually looks good with the turban in a Bhangra performance. Some friends of mine had been to the inaugural Akal International Youth Camp at Baru Sahib, the previous summer. Considering that it would be a good break from the hot weather of Punjab, we decided to spend four weeks in the Himachal locale, at Baru Sahib. We knew the weather would be great in the hilly state.
However, well before we left for Baru Sahib, my parents spelt out the rules for the vacation: ‘yes’ to learn gurmukhi, if we so wished, but a big ‘no’ to growing kes (hair). Since I personally never wanted to grow hair, the injunction was fine with me.
We arrived at Baru Sahib in the evening. The very sight of the place set our spirits soaring. I felt like exploring the salubrious surroundings of the verdant green campus. However, when I looked at myself in the mirror, I felt the need to shave. But to my utter horror, I discovered that my electric razor, which I had used in the morning in Punjab, was not functioning. I was indeed disheartened. I was supposed to stay at this place for a month and without my razor, I was bound to grow a beard.
Anyway, we started with the four-week camp. A very hectic and aggressive schedule was lined up for us. The classes ranged from Gurmukhi to Sangeet; Sikh History to Gatka (Sikh martial arts); open discussions to Yoga etc. The most amazing thing was that there was a teacher for each student; this one-to-one interaction boosted the training’s efficiency.
Yet more surprising was the inspiring sight of Baba Iqbal Singh, retired Director of Agriculture, Himachal Pradesh, involved in selfless sewa at the ripe age of 82. The most interesting class, too, was an hour of open discussion with Baba Ji. I had scores of doubts and uncertainties about Sikhism, especially the importance of keeping unshorn hair. So, here was an excellent opportunity for me to clear all my doubts as, unlike ever, I had access to a ‘Baba’, who was educated in both, worldly and spiritual affairs.
Here on, began my quest for understanding Sikhism. I used to ask the nastiest questions one could ever imagine. Baba ji kept on clarifying all the doubts to my fullest satisfaction.
Meanwhile, I was observing the lifestyle of the students of Akal Academy, the flagship 10+2 English-Medium Public School at Baru Sahib. In USA, I had encountered plenty of preachers giving lectures about Sikhi. However, to my dismay, I found that they were themselves embroiled in the five evils of lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego.
Nevertheless, things were different at Baru Sahib; students here actually practised the tenets of Sikhi. They would not merely preach the efficacy and utility of nitnem but would themselves wake up at amritvela (the ambrosial hour) and recite the five Banis at 4 O’ clock. Truly, their lifestyles resembled those of the ancient Sikhs, who would sleep on horsebacks in the jungles, eat raw vegetables and leaves and still be in a state of bliss. I was astonished to learn that each student conducted a sehaj paath before going back home for the annual vacation. This company of the students of Akal Academy and the teachings of Baba ji inspired me to engage in sewa. I started cleaning dishes in the langar, plying the hand fan in Darbar Sahib and sweeping the floors outside.
Finally, towards the end of the camp, I sought Baba Ji’s permission to partake of Amrit. Baba ji smiled and suggestsed me to take acquiescence from my parents in USA. When my brother and I called up home, all hell broke loose. Mother started crying, while dad started cursing us. It was ironical that the children were explaining to their parents the significance of Amrit. However, our parents gave us the green signal following two days of persistent persuation by us. Perhaps they had presumed that we would give up our newly acquired convictions, as we would be unable to bear the restrictions of Rehat Maryada once back in the US. (As time would tell, that was not to be.) Ultimately, by His grace, we managed to partake of Amrit.
We returned to USA. The classes started again. Reciting the Nitnem early in the morning and keeping the hair unshorn, increased my will power and concentration and kept distractions at bay. Consequently, I devoted myself to studies in all earnest. The results were astonishing. It took me a quarter of the time to finish off the course. After finishing my bachelor’s in computers, I completed my master’s in a couple of semesters.
The most extraordinary thing was that before partaking of Amrit, I used to be an average student but now I stood first in the University with the highest grade point average from among 50,000 students. Meanwhile, after observing the changes in us, our mother decided to partake of Amrit and dad desired to keep the kes.
Within days of graduating, I received an offer of $ 55000 per annum as an Oracle Business Analyst. Baba Ji always used to tell us to treat our work at par with performing Guru Nanak’s sewa. Any job pending completion in the office was as significant as a task assigned by the Guru, so to say. Official work performed with this spirit was akin to sewa and simran. From a worldly point of view, it increases one’s competency and credibility. Thus I started finishing any assignment given to me right away and would recite Sukhmani Sahib in the remaining time.
My American employer was overwhelmed with my performance and was driven to conclude that my colleagues were sluggish. Within three months, my salary was increased to $ 65000. I stayed at the place for about six months and went again to Baru Sahib for a month. On returning to USA, I got a job offer of $ 120,000. It was almost startling. All the time I believed that it was the power of Amrit and Baba ji’s blessings.
I had graduated only six months ago. People four to five years senior to me were receiving almost half my salary. After understanding the business model of the organization, I wanted to move on to a better position and company. Opportunely, I got an offer from a multinational firm. It offered to pay $ 150,000 in salary plus all my expenses, which would add to $ 60,000 per annum. This was a miracle as I was one of the youngest workers in the company’s history. Most of my co-workers had children of my age.
Babaji desires the youngsters to get together and establish a Computer Company. Daswandh would be donated from the profits of the company for establishing more Akal Academies in North India. For that Babaji wants us to learn as much as possible. Hence on receiving an offer from a smaller firm, where I could learn about ten times the work I knew, I never thought twice. The company offered a subsistence allowance $ 1000 while I was on training for two months and then a salary of $ 70,000. Once I get some experience here, I know I can get a job worth 3-4 times the amount elsewhere.
Conclusively, my fate is altered after partaking of Amrit and success is at my doorstep. Education can take one only to a particular level, rest everything is the magic of Amrit.
Essence of Sikhi
Enthusiastic about ways of the world but indolent in attending to the hunger of the soul, such is the common pattern of life. It brings no comfort physically; it starves us spiritually. We are losers on both counts.