kenya, sikhs

sikhing to learn


this morning, a gurudwara in nairobi invited students of arya high school as part of their school curriculum to do a field trip and learn about the sikh faith. these students are studying the sikh faith as part of an examinable gcse exam. we were approached by the gurudwara to assist in making a presentation to the students and since i have conducted past tours as well, i was ever ready to grab the opportunity to play a little role in presenting our faith to the students.

about 100 students, most of them hindus and a few sikhs and christians were taken through an interactive talk, questions and answers and in the end, a quiz to test their general knowledge on the sikh faith. i usually do not have any idea how to go about these presntations, but i believe that if you are representing your guru, he leads you through and you don’t even feel it.

i was particularly surprised about the way the presentation went because in the end, the students felt charged up, the teachers were impressed and it turned out to be a successful one. while keeping the focus on the sikh faith, i added in alot of inter-faith elements, to encourage the students to feel proud of their faiths and not to give them the impression that ‘singh is king’ – everyone was special and that was supported by the sikh beliefs and practices.

as they were being introduced to kirtan, i invited them to exhibit their knowledge of the musical instruments. one hindu student played the tune of a hindu bhajan to show everyone how the harmonium. two others also played the tabla for the others.

one particular incident that caught everyone by surprise was when the sikh students were asked to explain the meaning and significance of the kesh. one turbaned sikh, however, said he only wore the turban but had cut his kesh. calling him forward, i ecnouraged him to tell everyone the reason behind this and explained that he had no particular reason. he then said that he would keep his kesh back again after having learned that the sikh and his/her kesh are an integral part of their faith.

one singh also did not know the meaning of ‘kaur’ and he was lovingly taken to task. i asked him if he had a sister and he replied in the affirmative. i then told him to treat his sister like a princess because thatis what a ‘kaur’ is.

as much as these kind of interactive learning seasons are eye-openers for the non-sikhs, i have realised that such one-to-one talks are much needed with our own, too, because they are losing out to liberal parents and inappropriate examples within the community.

overall, the teachers were happy and the students left better informed and more aware about the sikh next door.


kenya, sikhs, website

kenyankalasingha – raising curiosity already


having posted on a few discussion boards about the kenyankalasingha website, we were pleasantly surprised to get responses from ex-kenyans who now reside in other countries. it is heartening to notice that despite their absence from kenya for many decades, they still hold a soft spot of their former country of birth / residence. even as we try to weather the current political storm sweeping through kenya, many of us still love the country just as much. there is something magical about this place that makes us adore this land so much. only got holds the mystery of that secret, because as far as we are concerned, we simply have no clue why!

check out of the comments made on the kenyankalasingha project across various discussion boards:

lakhvinder singh writes: many years back i was in mombasa, kenya. while walking on the road i was also called kalasingha by africans. i enquired about it and was informed by local sikhs that in early 1900s there was a sikh called kala singh who came to kenya. he was a merchant and in the beginning used to peddle his goods in remote areas of kenya. while on tour he used to take life saving drugs for first aid in treating some illnesses such as malaria, diarrhea etc. he used to distribute these drugs free to the needy persons. in other words, he was a moving red cross for those who had no access to medicines in those parts. he became a sviour for them. africans started loving him. that is the reason he is still adored. all sikhs in kenya are called by that name. Continue reading

kenya, sikhs, website

letter from switzerland


jambo! jambo, sana!
sat sri akal

congratulations from me, a kala simba, a swahili-speaking sikh living in switzerland. i have just logged in onto your website and wish you all the very best and chardikala.

kama una taka, unaweza kuandika jibu lako kwa kiswahili, kwa sababu (mimi) nasema kiswahili, kijerumani, kizungu, panjabi, hindi na urdu. mimi ni mwalimu ya kizungu hapa switzerland. na vaa kilemba na ndevu mrefu pia! haya
kwaheri ya kuonana.

will continue to surf your website for further information about sikhs (simbas) in kenya and the rest of east africa. you brought old memories of my times there 44 years ago! i’m in touch with a few dozen wananchis [citizens] here. keep up your excellent work.

siku njema.


gurbani, kenya, politics, sikhs, website

sanjhi ardas – a rare event in kenya’s sikh history


the sanjhi ardas smagam pulled in the sangat in the numbers rarely witnessed in modern kenya. with over 26 different gurudwaras in the country, for the first time ever, everyone got together and offered a single petition to Waheguru – please, Lord, save our beloved kenya! the sight was one to behold – with over a thousand devotees filling the darbar, the sukhmani sahib recited in unison was powerful. during the ardas, the image of ragis and gyanis from nairobi’s gurudwaras, joining hands together as the sangat stood in reverence, was one we have never seen before. what a humbling ocassion . . .


the full official report, pictures, kirtan tracks and some videos are now being prepared for upload on the kenyankalasinga website. what a day it was . . . truly blessed . . .


kenya, politics, sikhs

makhan singh: the forgotten son of two continents

makhan-singh.jpgMakhan Singh, an unsung Sikh hero of Kenyan and Indian freedom struggles, who has been forgotten by Kenya, India and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), has been portrayed in a play Mungu Comrade (Mungu is a Swahili word for God), by noted playwright Atamjit.

Few Indians know Makhan (1913-1973) and other India-born persons who had made sacrifices in the freedom struggle of Kenya. He was born at Gharjakh village in Gujranwala, a Sikh majority area in the province of Punjab (now in Pakistan). At the age of 13, he moved with his family to Nairobi in 1927. In 1935, Makhan Singh formed the Labour Trade Union of Kenya and in 1949 he and Fred Kubai formed the East African Trade Union Congress, the first central organisation of trade unions in Kenya.

A Sikh by faith and true Communist leader, Makhan Singh was the founder of East African trades union movement. He spent 17 years in prison during the struggle for Indian and Kenyan independence. Alas ! Makhan has been virtually forgotten both by India and Kenya after their independence. Continue reading

kenya, politics, sikhs

kenya’s minority report

kenya-sikh.jpg i awoke this morning, looking forward to yet another challenging day at the office, but found myself turning back halfway through the journey. what appeared to be impatient drivers on the highway who were turning back, ended up in breaking into the sad turn of events that again created tensions in the city of nairobi. the road i was using – around 8.30am – was suddenly clamped close by the anti-riot police who turned out of nowhere. it’s only when i got home that i saw on the news that just after midnight this morning, an elected opposition m.p. had been brutally shot dead right outside his home. this led to the city erupting into chaos – roads and schools and offices getting hurriedly shut. what an interruption of life we are now going through. what used to be africa’s most stable country is now on the verge of collapse as the politicians continue to bicker for their own selfish ends. the plight of the common man is now in the hands of God.

when an oak tree like kenya begins to burn, it’s the smaller leaves that tremble first. Continue reading


praying for peace in kenya

sukhdaata.jpg it’s been close to a month and unrest in kenya has failed to subside despite the current mediation efforts. within days of the eruption of chaos following the disputed electoral results of december 2007, kenya has been brought to its knees by the political divide. thousands of kenyans have lost their homes and hundreds have been killed. as the violent outbursts (which is no longer political, but ethnic) spread like wildfire throughout our beautiful land, we feel helpless as the peoples have lost their leaders to the play of power. kenyans no longer know what to do, who to turn to and how to make kenya the garden of eden it once was. in these moments of crisis, many have turned to divine intervention. as humanitarian aid flows generously from across the country, prayers are being held in churches, mosques, gurudwaras and mandirs to beseech the ALMIGHTY to help bring kenya back from the brink. Continue reading