A big youth gathering was held at gurdwara Sukh Chain-ana near Phagwara during the late seventies. At that time, there was a joint government of Hindus and Sikhs in Panjab as it is today (1997). I was working as a professor at the Panjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. The youth invited me to address that important gathering. A large number of adults were also present because two ministers were to grace the occasion. The total count of the audience ran into the thousands.
I was to be the first speaker to talk regarding Sikh heritage. The purpose of the lecture was to motivate Sikh youth to feel the self-esteem of adopting the Sikh way of life. After telling them the purpose of the meeting and giving other information about the function, the stage secretary announced, "I now request Dr Gurbakhsh Singh, Professor, P.A.U., Ludhiana to come to the stage and deliver his lecture to you."
The secretary, a local student, had not met me earlier and did not know me by face. My appearance, kurta pajama, flowing beard and Kirpan in a sling over my shirt, was not his expectation. Therefore, he did not notice me, though I was sitting just next to him near the microphone. The image of a university professor in his mind was a well-dressed gentleman, wearing a nice suit and a tie, with his beard rolled up.
After hearing my name when I was getting up, the secretary was amazed to look at me. While getting down to sit, he whispered in my ear, "Doctor Sahib, be careful; do not say anything which may create a problem, a Hindu minister is also sitting here."
When waiting for my turn to speak, my mind was repeating the teachings of the Guru, which I had planned to share with the audience. "All human beings are God's children. Do not divide them into Hindus and Muslims." Having been drenched with this lesson of Gurmat, the instruction given to me by the secretary, "Be careful, a Hindu minister is here" struck me hard. I found the stage well set for starting my lecture. What I said may be summarized as below :
“Friends, before I say anything else, let me share with you what the secretary whispered in my ear. The message is really important; he had to tell it to me just before I straightened myself to reach the microphone. He cautioned me to be careful and not to say anything, which displeases the Hindu minister sitting here.
Well, may I tell all of you that anything, which displeases a person because he is a Hindu or for that matter a Muslim, is not the message of Guru Nanak. He preached his faith, not to the Sikhs (who did not exist at that time) but to the Hindus and the Muslims. Both communities accepted his message. The folk song, "Nanak Shah Fakir, Hindu ka Guru Musalman ka Pir", summarizes the people's response to his teachings. If a Sikh feels that Hindus, Muslims or people of any other faith are different and not his brothers and sisters, he is ignorant of Gurmat. We must remember that all of us are children of our common Father, God. To support this statement I quote Gurbani:
Lord (God) you are the common Father of us all.Guru Granth Sahib, p. 97
Do not label (identify) me as a Hindu or a Muslim. My body and soul were gifted to me by Allah and Ram respectively. (Therefore, who can say whether I am a Hindu, disciple of Ram or a Muslim, disciple of Allah).Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1136.
Further, Gurbani says no one can claim a franchise on God; anyone, irrespective of the faith in which one may be born, whosoever loves Him realizes Him.
Guru Granth Sahib, p. 658.”
The above introduction to that lecture is remembered by many even today. Unfortunately, our community is not known to practice it in their daily life. The result is that we fail to earn due respect for the Sikhs from people of other faiths. It is again the need of the day that we re-dedicate ourselves to the Sikh faith. It is time for us to live the Sikh way of life and enjoy the honor of being Sikhs, and share this happiness with the rest of the world.