Sikh encounters in happier times

So sad to read about the carnage in Wisconsin.  Although there aren’t very many Sikhs in the US (.1%),  for some reason I’ve been interacting with them for 52 years. I like them.  My personal physician is a Sikh,and as a retired doc, I could have pretty much anyone I wanted.   So instead of some more chemistry or molecular biology, here are a few Sikh stories.

52 years ago I met my first Sikh in grad school.  There were perhaps 2 Asian Indians in my college class of 700+.  Balwant was something else — turban, full beard (never shaven), gold rimmed John Lennon glasses (this before John Lennon).  A very nice guy.  All the grad students liked him.  After about a month he disappeared.  No one had any idea where he was or what had happened to him. A month or so later, a dapper little guy came up to me and said “Don’t you recognize me? It’s me Bali !”  He’d gone western and had been there the whole time, but we were all oblivious.

For some reason the Harvard chemistry department back then had lots of Sikh post-docs. I liked them a lot.  Vigorous guys who kept telling me to grow a beard, that I’d look good.  I took their advice in 1970 when I got out of the Air Force.

Fast forward to 1990, when I shared call with a Sikh neurologist, a Coptic Christian from Egypt, a Philippino, a Palestinian and an (American) Irish guy. The Sikh invited me to her son’s wedding, and an incredible daylong affair it was. Parts were extremely formal, as when the families of bride and groom basically formed lines to officially greet each other.  The bride was completely covered in beautiful fabrics (mostly red and gold) so that her face (and everything else) was hidden.  Then she was led around their holy book 7 times in this condition.  I asked why the complete coverage.  It apparently dates back to the time when beautiful brides to be were carried off and raped on their wedding day by  conquering Muslims.

The ceremony was fascinating and lasted several hours.  There was marvelous food in abundance before and after. Showing how accepting the Sikhs are, the man leading the ceremony was clearly a nice Jewish guy from Long Island (he’d converted).

That evening there was a reception.  Certainly one of  the best times my wife and I have ever had at a wedding.  Lots of the groom’s college friends (all anglo) in attendance. He was  basically an American kid, and had rowed crew in college.  Everyone having a blast — all without a drop of alcohol.

There were video cameras mounted on poles 12 feet beaming the proceedings back to India, apparently.  There was also large contingent who flew over from India.

Then a troupe of Sikh acrobats from Canada exploded out of nowhere to entertain.  Amazing.

Tons of great food.  They had a DJ that played the most kicking rhythmic music that  just made you want to get up and dance (most did). It went on for hours.

So there will be good times again.  But a terrible thing just happened to a bunch of good people


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