THE LONGING FOR KES
by Manvir Singh Khalsa
4 years ago I stopped cutting my hair and kept my Kes.
What made me keep my hair?
What made me feel the yearning to accept my Guru’s image?
What made me want to become close with my Guru?
As a child I was encouraged to read stories and sing shabads at the Gurdwara.
As a child I was introduced to sewa and was made to distribute langar and parshaad with my brothers.
As a child I was made to sit in the Sadh Sangat and listen to Keertan and Katha despite not always understanding.
Going back home from the Gurdwara, my parents or family members would ask “what did you learn today?”
We would discuss what Giani ji talked about
We would discuss the meaning of the shabad sung.
We would discuss the meaning of things we do in Sikhi.
'Telling the stories of one's ancestors make the children good children.' (Ang 951, SGGS)
I would look around the Gurdwara and Nagar Keertans at all the Singhs and Singhnian.
I would look at the beautiful dastaars (turbans) of my Sikh brothers and sisters.
I would look around and see little children with Kes.
They looked like Guru Gobind Singh Ji & Mata Sahib Kaur Ji.
They reminded me of the Singhs and Singhnian of the past, in the stories I was told about.
They looked like true princes and princesses who were crowned with their royal turbans.
Why don’t I look like my Father – Guru Gobind Singh Ji?
Why don’t I look like my Brothers – the Four Sahibzaade (Princes)?
Why don’t I look the Saint-Soldiers which I read about?
At school my English friends would ask:
“What religion are you?”
‘I am a ‘Sikh!’’ I would reply.
‘But where is your hair and turban’ they would say.
Should I say that only our Granthis keep Kes?
Should I say that only really religious Sikhs keep Kes?
Should I say that only backward Sikhs keep Kes?
I felt ashamed.
I would feel proud of being a Sikh!
But the pride did not go beyond the boundaries of my heart!
Muslim classmates would ask ‘are you a Hindu?’
‘No! I am a Sikh!’ I would say.
‘But Sikhs all drink’, ‘All Sikhsl cut their hair’
And ‘unlike us Muslims, Sikhs are not true to their religion!’
What reply should I give?
Why don’t they see the Saint-Soldier in a Sikh?
Why don’t they see the love of Guru Nanak Ji and the royalty of Guru Gobind Singh Jee when they look at Sikhs?
Why don’t they see the compassion, humility and righteous character of a Sikh?
I planned to go to Panjab in the summer holidays in 2000.
I wanted to keep my Kes, so I didn’t have a hair cut for a long time.
Before I went on holiday I was told, ‘have a hair cut, you look scruffy!’
But I didn’t want to, because I wanted to fulfil my dream of accepting my true identity.
In Panjab I was asked:
“Do you want to get a haircut from the village Barber?”
“No!” I replied,
“Not on the land where Guru Gobind Singh Jee sacrificed his four sons, and family for us!...
Not on the land where Bhai Taru Singh refused to have his hair cut and instead accepted his scalp to be scraped off!...
Not on the land where Singhs and Singhnian who gave their heads but not their Sikhi!”
How could I cut my hair on that ground which was stained with blood of the Gurus and Shaheeds (martyrs) who died for our Sikhi?
I thought what would my family think of my keeping Kes.
I thought what would the relatives, who have a negative image of Singhs think of me keeping Kes.
I thought what would people at my school say or do if I kept Kes.
I decided not to cut my hair and started to tie a turban in the Christmas holidays during Year 11.
My dad told me that by becoming a Singh I would face numerous problems and that am I willing to face those challenges.
“Singh’s find it difficult to get married!”
“Singh’s struggle to get good jobs because of racism!”
“In a town where there aren’t any turbaned Sikh children, you will be face with racism!”
I replied, “The Guru’s whose path I have chosen will look after me”.
I would find good and beautiful wife with the Guru’s grace.
I would rather work in a factory and be proud son of a Father, rather than work in a high flying job but with no self-respect.
I would rather people swear at me than turn my back on my Beloved Guru.
“Take one step to the Guru, and the Guru will take millions of steps forward to welcome you.” (Bhai Gurdas Ji)
My Kes is the wires of electricity, which link me to my Dear Father – Guru Gobind Singh Ji!
My Kes is my Nishaan Saahib, my flag and the stamp of my Sikhi!
My Turban is my crown; my Turban is my honour; my Turban is the image of my Beloved Father – Guru Gobind Singh Ji!
With God’s grace, I received support from my family, respect from my school and love of my Guru.
‘Khalsa is my Special Form; In the Khalsa, I reside.’ (Guru Gobind Singh Ji)
Be inspired and inspire others! May Waheguru bless you!
Manvir Singh Khalsa