Sardar Tujhe Salaam


Vijay Nair

is an organisational coach, consultant, fiction writer, critic and theatre director. A collection of his plays and a novel have been published

Dr. Manmohan Singh
Nothing has saddened me more in recent times as the brutal slaying of the two Sikhs by the Taliban and their subsequent vicious gesture of sending the mutilated bodies to a gurudwara in Pakistan. Sikhs have always been a part of my life from the time I was growing up in a cosmopolitan town. We had Sikh neighbours, Sikh classmates and Sikh friends. Bad jokes about Sardars were our staple diet and we usually cracked the Barah baj gaye ones in their presence. It’s all kind of baffling in retrospect. For I have never met a dumb Sardar in my life.

I have known hard working Sardars, Sardars with business acumen, mild and affable Sardars, sturdy and macho Sardars who opted to be in the police or armed forces and Sardars who own dhabas that serve yummy food. And yes, I know of a Sardar who is undoubtedly the most civil and upright Prime Minister this nation has known. You can have difficulty in comprehending some of Manmohan Singh’s policies, but I doubt if even the opposition parties can find fault with the gentleman’s personhood. A Sardar is also an integral part of the literary background of this nation and sometimes we find it difficult to separate him from the history of Indian writing in English. I am talking about the irreprisible Khushwant Singh of course, who at 95 continues to be an icon and his book, Train to Pakistan, a must read for any aspiring novelist.

It’s difficult to understand when and why other religious affiliations started alienating the Sikhs, not just as it turns out in this country but in the sub continent as well. We all know about the festering couldron Punjab had turned out to be in the 80’s and the bitter aftermath that resulted in Operation Bluestar and the assassination of Indira Gandhi. But surely the policy of the ruling Congress party that created a Frankestein like General Bhindaranwale was responsible for the misguided aspirations. And then of course the plot played out in familiar ways.

The separatists received training across the border and yet the government of the day displayed little patience and understanding as compared to what fundamentalists and separatists of contemporary times seem to enjoy. The recurring argument to counter all this is the horror of the two bodyguards gunning down the Prime Minister to retaliate against the descration of the Golden Temple . But the entire community paid for it with the son of the slain leader egging on the rioters with statements like “When an enormous tree is felled, there are bound to be tremors.” Some secular statesmanship that!
Despite the persecution, the Sikhs have continued to pour into the public and armed services and do their bit towards strengthening the country.

We only need a bit of history to understand and value this community. The first hymn of the Guru Granth Sahib, the revered holy text of the Sikhs, says, “There is one supreme eternal reality; the truth; imminent in all things; creator of all things; immanent in creation. Without fear and without hatred; not subject to time; beyond birth and death; self-revealing. Known by the Guru’s grace.”

The Gurudwaras welcome non Sikhs and members of any religious affiliation or socio economic background to participate in all their ceremonies. Can there be a better testimony to the inclusive nature of this religion and its members?

The paradox is the ninth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Tej Bahadur Singh lay down his life to protect Hindus from religious persecution in this country and the Hindus turned against the Sikhs a few centuries later. What is not as well known is that during the numerous Hindu-Muslim communal riots this country has witnessed, the Sikhs have very often risked their lives to give shelter and protect their Islamic friends and neighbours. And now the Islamic terrorists are targeting them. A community that evolved to settle differences between two feuding religions now finds itself at the receiving end of the ire from both of them.

The Sikh gurus were mystics. They preached affection and tolerance. The community has internalised it. They are charitable, fun loving and gregarious. They also have one unique quality other Indians don’t have. They can laugh at themselves. Since we Indians are masters of subversion, we have used this commendable quality of theirs against them by evolving a set of jokes in bad taste against them. Little do we know the joke is on the rest of us.

After all what is more heart warming in this country than meeting a young turbaned sardar burdened by his school bag and smiling at you in your child’s bus stop?

Courtsey of




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