Today is International Women’s Day! Happy Day, everyone!
Today I celebrate all the fabulous women in my life–my daughters, Michal, Maggie, and now Alex– my McKinney sisters, including Cynthia and Lahny– my Indiana sisters, including Katy, Diane, Marie, Julie, and Karen– my mothers, Becky and Anne– and my life sisters, including Andrea, Bridget, Dina, Debbie, Monica, Elizabeth, and Pat.
In this blog, however, I will focus on my new Indian sisters, younger and youngest– my fulbright sister and daughters Shveta, Aarza, and Seerat– my RGNUL faculty sisters, including Geetika, Gurmanpreet, Jasleen, Brindpreet, and Gagan– and my student daughters, including Nehmat, Ritika, and Shivani (among others).
The evening before Holi, Shveta, Aarza, and Seerat took me to Gurudwara Sri Dukhniwaran Sahib, a famous Sikh temple in Patiala. I offered prayers to all my Indian sisters and daughters (whether Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, or other).Both Seerat (pictured above) and Aarza assisted. They showed me how to wash my bare feet (after we removed our shoes in the car and walked to the temple) so we could walk on the spotless marble terraces. Dr. Shveta, Hindu by birth but Sikh by marriage, educated me on Sikh traditions and beliefs, including the presentation of the daily prayers from the holy book.
As customary, I bought a pan of prasad (literally a gracious gift–here, a moist, sweetened, warm wheat cereal), a food offering for the temple and then received our share of the communal offerings in molded leaf bowls. We toured the temple in which the beautiful music and chanting accompanied prayers (but in which we did not take pictures), made our bows, said our prayers, and paid our respects.Outside, we touched the water where the carp and other fish swam– water with healing properties. Then we rested on a blanket to listen to the drumming, chanting, and music to say more prayers while the sun set. While there, several women came up to us to share more prasad or khoya sweets. We bowed our heads offering up open cupped hands and once we had the offering, touch hands to lips and ate. Shveta explained that families who are grateful for blessings, such as the birth of children, come and give offerings to all pilgrims, Sikh or not, at the Gurudwara.As we headed out, the days’ closing prayer began so we stood in silence at the gate while the smiling sentry with his fierce javelin behind us offered periodic supportive exclamations at appropriate intervals. There was no movement in the temple and you could almost feel the beat of the drums in the gentle wind.