35. God Guided Me Many Times
After the Sikh Youth camp at Vancouver was over, my host asked me to visit his friend’s house. On the way, he told me, “The invitee intends to give up drinking. He will feel encouraged by your visit.” We had a cup of tea at his house. After the usual chitchat, we returned home and I forgot about it.
During the summer of 1999, we held a seminar, “Role of the Sikh Youth in the 21st Century.” During the break, a parent came up to me and said that his children wanted to speak with me. Casually, I agreed. When I reached his house, I remembered my earlier visit there in 1993 which I had totally forgotten.
The gentleman had invited me to tell the thrilling episode of his life. The change came because he sent his children to the Sikh Youth camp. He described his experience in emotion-filled words. It was a long talk, which is briefly mentioned in his words as below:
“I came from Punjab in 1975 and got a job in a lumber mill. The money I earned was saved and invested in real estate in America. In a few years, with the grace of God, I became a joint owner of a multi-million dollar property. I had the money and there was no shame in drinking, even among the Sikhs in Vancouver. It made me to start drinking and soon I became a regular drinker. My friends motivated me to take drugs as well. I forgot my real value and the responsibilities of a father. Alcohol and drugs were my daily entertainment.
I got many DUI tickets (fines for Driving Under the Influence of alcohol). Once, even my driver’s license was revoked for repeatedly committing this offence. I met many accidents and two of them were very serious. In one case, my life was barely saved. Sometimes, I would go drunk even to the gurdwara. Once, after dropping off my mother at the gurdwara, I was involved in a head on collision. I had to undergo major surgery and it took me a long time before I could go back to work.
Every time I had an accident or received a ticket, my inner voice would say, “Look, God is telling you not to drink. No more alcohol for you.” After a few days, however, I would again start drinking. Even though God guided me many times to get my life back on track but I failed to listen to Him.
Almost every weekend, we drove to our restaurant in America to have fun and attend to our office duties. I signed office papers without going through them because I considered it below my status to read them. It was assumed to be the responsibility of my manager. We failed to manage such a valuable property, virtually a gift from God.
Unfortunately, the manager cheated us. She found us irresponsible drinkers and easygoing people. Instead of paying the loan installments, she misappropriated the funds. Within a few years, everything was gone and the banks auctioned off all of our property. Millionaire of yesterday was back to square one, a laborer in a lumber mill.
For many days, I remained severely depressed and considered committing suicide. However, by the grace of God, today, I am happier than when I was a millionaire. Now I listen to God and I recite Gurbani. I am a teetotaler. There is peace and happiness in my house.
With my low wages, I could not afford drugs. They are really expensive. You cannot possibly guess how costly they are. Drug withdrawal caused me a lot of pain. I suffered for one week and stayed in bed feeling totally helpless. However, I was determined not to do drugs. Finally, I could quit drugs, but drinking continued to be my problem. It was very embarrassing when my daughters would urge me not to drink and get into problem. They were ashamed of my drinking, but were helpless. I, therefore, started drinking secretly or when they were away to the gurdwara with their mother.
Sikh youth camp was a God-sent relief for me. When the girls were there, I could pick up the bottle without the fear of being seen by them. When they returned home, they would ask me everyday, “Daddy, you should attend the evening open session. Many parents come. Why don’t you join us?” I had seen a change in their behavior after they started attending the camp. To encourage them, I agreed to attend the open session. When I returned, I was a changed man. After that, there was no more alcohol for me.
Another episode brought me back to my heritage and made me a practicing Sikh. I was visiting my cousin when a genuinely committed Amritdhari Sikh from our village also arrived there. Pointing towards me, he asked, “Who is he?” When he was told about me, he felt very much hurt and lost his temper. Looking towards me with disbelief, he questioned, “How can he be your cousin? Just see him. Does he not look like a Mexican? His father was a great Gursikh, a role model for the whole village.”
I felt very low and my conscience cursed me. By cutting my hair, I lost my identity and brought dishonor to my father. Such incidents reminded me of having been derailed from my correct path. I started attending Sunday evening classes conducted by the Canadian Sikh Study and Teaching Society, Vancouver. I was the only participant without a turban. Their association encouraged me to keep my hair uncut, and I started wearing a turban. Later, I took Amrit. Now I have started studying Darpan(translation of Guru Granth Sahib in Punjabi by Professor Sahib Singh.)
When I look back, I remember that the Sikh youth camp attracted my daughters. They motivated me to take an abrupt turn in my life. I am now preparing to be a teacher myself for the future Sikh youth camps. I wish to share the true peace, which I enjoy now. I will tell my story to the youth to save them from the wrong path that ruined valuable years of my life.