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Sikhs love peace-loving Kochi

Shyama Rajagopal

For the 30-odd Sikh families, city offers attractive educational avenues

Photo: H. Vibhu

SOLACE FOR THE MIND: A scene from the Baisakhi day celebrations at Gurudwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha at Thevara in the city. —

KOCHI: “People here shirk away from taking an aggressive stand, but out in Punjab, every other person likes to flex his muscles”, said Mohan Singh Beragi, who is the main singer of Shabad kirtans at the Sikh community’s Gurudwara in Thevara. Whatever clashes happen here are mostly politically mooted, he added.

Compared to other communities, the Punjabis are relatively new in the cultural mix of Kochi as the third generation is yet to grow up. Taking to the Malayali culture was not difficult at all, said Mr. Beragi, who came to Kochi first for his professional training in the Navy in 1960. “I kept coming back to Kochi during my service and when I retired in 1988, stayed back so that my children could complete their studies and make a career”.

It is the call of the children who have left the State to their native place that is beckoning him to go back to his native place in Hoshiarpur. But, the Sikh community here is reluctant to let him go as he was among those who had been in the forefront of establishing a Gurudwara.

Satwant Kaur, who is in her seventies, never found the city a strange place. Probably because she had her family nearby in Coimbatore. Wife of the late Harbans Singh Sethi, who came here as a civil services officer, they were perhaps among the first Sikh family who established themselves into the cultural melange. For Mrs. Sethi, it came naturally to be part of the society. Being a mother to four boys and a girl brought home a lot of local people with whom she mingled freely.

“Many of them come home to talk to me,” she said. When Mr. Sethi decided to give up his career because of illness and an operation, the family took to business in Coimbatore and later on set up in Kochi the Bombay Auto Agencies.

It has been over 40 years and the family is now part and parcel of the Kochi cultural mix.

For Giani Kulwant Singh, the chief priest at the Gurudwara, the people in Kochi have made him feel very much at home, even if he has been here for only two years. But, he had been in the South of India for most part of his life since he left his village Dasuia in Hoshiarpur district in 1979. Having found a job in the Army, Mr. Giani never thought he would be picking up the tradition of his grandfather who had been a priest. But fate decided otherwise, he said.

His singing of Gurbani probably made the people of his community offer this devotional duty for life.

He feels that being in the South, his children are able to get better education. Rural Punjab offers little opportunities for students. Here the standards are high. His wife Joginder Kaur too finds little problem to interact with the people as most of the people know Hindi, said Mr. Giani.

Having come from Mysore, the family feels more at home here as the Gurudwara beckons all the 30-odd families here and the floating population in the Navy.

No one wants to miss out on the Sunday gathering at the Gurudwara as most of the people in community would be present to be part of their own traditions and that gives them an identity in the society.

Punjabis, who are known to love food, find the State very expensive compared to the prices in Punjab, where vegetables and grains are much cheaper.

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