It is a story worth narrating. A child studying in the village school of a dusty village in Punjab picked up abusive phrases and expressions without any objectivity. He thought that being born in that average household, it was his privilege to claim rights without any duties and responsibilities and had scant respect or patience for anyone. His parents were resigned to his waywardness and moods, as a trend of generation gap and peer-pressure. They were afraid to talk to him about the company he kept, of hard drinkers, drug addicts which is the common scene in the rural Punjab. Helpless, they poured all blame on the modern youth and their antics.
Then the land prices soared up and the family found a ready purchaser for a piece of their land. The first thing they did was to send the youth away to a boarding school with the Sikh curriculum, mainly as a respite from his boorish presence. A miracle happened. During the winter holidays, the prodigal son had to go back to his parents, but it was a totally changed person. This young man who used to be forced from deep slumber as a daily routine was up and about early in the morning, did yogic exercises, had a bath and sat down to prayers. He was polite to his parents, whom he greeted with respect and wanted to chat on societal as well as spiritual matters. The parents usually had no clue to his searching questions. In the reverse situation, the generation gap was awkwardly poking a searching finger at the parents’ inaptitude. It exposed their negligence of essential study of various angles of a purposeful life, the great Sikh events which created the distinctive Sikh culture and traditions, being helplessly tied to the rampant Vedic tri-guna moods flashing through life. They were ignorant of Guru Nanak recommending instead the fourth stage of turiya path!
It may be a symbolic case in point about the majority of families in rural Punjab or even in more sophisticated urban households. It is known to all of us as a malady which stretches its long shadow over our future generations and one anxiously poses the question: Are we preparing our children to carry our rich heritage to the next generation? The youth, in spite of their apparent arrogant stance are in search of a mentor and guide to understand the complexities of a fast moving world. The moot point is whether we are competent enough to play a positive role in their lives before we complain of their disinterest. Sorely missing is the soothing role of a grandmother and/or mother-link in arousing fidelity of the little ones by telling the tales from the Gurus’ lives with a moral and pride in belonging to a glorious tradition. That is replaced by the Pogo, Mickey Mouse and other TV serials. The vital bond of confidence building in the family is shredded by the indolent young parents of a nuclear family, placing their own pleasures over the psychological needs of their children. They argue that children must decide for themselves without imparting to them the awareness of the moral issues of ‘make-or-break’ of a whole culture and society. The story raises vital issue of negligence of aptitude of a whole generation. How and where does the problem begin? Parents’ lassitude in giving the right direction to the children in a gurmukh atmosphere, or, the parents not being correct role models themselves? Neglect of morality in the cultural environment of the household? In short, is their behaviour grossly inapt and lacking, in the vicious grip of manmukh-sakta mould and erosion of basic Sikh values?
Lack of proper school discipline in villages and towns is another rampant deficiency. It pressurizes the uncensored peer group influence without any resistance or hindrance. And there is no effort or program in view from the civil authorities or our community elders itself to correct the tardy situation.
The rot started when the pressure and challenge of the waning Mughal and Afghan raiders eased in the last quarter of the Eighteenth Century and the Sikh Misls consolidated their hold in Northern India. It is a set behavioral pattern that the sacrifices of the martyrs are followed by indolence of depressurized and full freedom of the coming generations. Relaxation in discipline of the Khalsa code brought the disintegration of the splendid Lahore Durbar when the Sikhs showed their utter incompetence to run the government except through repeatedly cajoling with the fully exposed perfidy of the Dogra brothers to take charge and so with the wily purbias.
Another point of view holds that the late Nineteenth Century saw a bold bid at opening schools by the Sikh institutes, alarmed about the dwindling Sikh ethos which progressed well to start with, in competition with the Christian missionary or Hindu DAV schools. While the intensity of the other communities continues in zeal, the Sikh effort has dwindled to almost non-existence in this field. With a government established on the incontestable strength of the majority community policies and the confusing definitions of secularism, spiritual essence has been mostly removed from the Sikh schools’ curriculum, dependent on government grants and misplaced secular values at the cost of ethical lassitude. Large numbers of Sikh institutes do not consider it essential to provide provision of spiritual training to the young minds, blaming peer pressure as the only reason for the worsening of the morals of the Sikh youth. Pray, how has the adverse peer pressure come to such strength, except by neglecting the moral and principled welfare of the young minds which require strong discipline in the Sikh schools? The Sikhs continue to vacillate between the Sikh ethical values and the vulgarity of rampant exhibitionism passing as Punjabi culture, by the waning influence of the Gurdwara. The priests employed must be seriously concerned about their dwindling role and influence of religion, including its content of social welfare of the community.
The Sikh youth may not realise it but there are more than 70% drop outs at pre-matriculation stage with a bleak future. There is some welcome effort by some NGOs and philanthropists in foreign lands who feel concerned about the present scenario, but they are like a drop in the ocean. The spiritual regeneration should be the theme of the Twenty First Century Sikhs. More people feel alarmed by the present obliquity in the Panth and seek to rectify the downward slide of the community, particularly in Punjab. Let there be a meaningful heart searching to find a tangible solution. Mere histrionics on the stage and passing resolutions will not find the right results. A gigantic wave should emerge in correcting the present waywardness. For, more than our monuments, the Sikh children are our Heritage.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2012, All