One of the first questions that people usually ask me when they find out I am married to a Punjabi Sikh, is if I converted to his religion. When I explain that I was raised Christian and still practice Christianity, they wonder how we balance our religions, especially in regard to our daughter. Honestly we never really planned how to do anything in our relationship, it just fell into place.
I have always felt a deep connection with religion. I was raised Christian. As a teenager I attended religious summer camps and youth groups. I have always found myself searching for God. In College I took enough religious studies classes to have a minor in religious studies just for the fun of it. I took classes on the Old and New Testament, Introduction to Islam, Jewish studies, and a class on minority religions in the United States that covered religions like Wica and Vodoo. I joined a Christian organization on Campus during my sophomore year. I enjoyed the community service and sense of fellowship. It was an election year and the topic of Gay marriage was on the ballot as well as other issues. I soon discovered that the people that I was worshipping with were actually quite hatful to people who were not exactly like them. I believe in Christ, and my goal is emulate him. Christ was a loving, kind, passionate, forgiving son of God. Who sometimes had a temper and no patience for bad behavior or hatefulness. He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes. He healed the sick and the sinful. He gave his life for us all. These Christian I worshipped with had so much hate and none of the love that Jesus taught. In my book they were not Christians. They hated gays and Muslims and anyone that was not like them. I tried to stick around and change their views but that did not seem possible, so I took my leave of them and worshipped on my own.
When I first met husband I was attracted his deep devotion and spirituality. I knew nothing about Sikhism at the time, but I started to research it when we were dating. I discovered that it was a monotheistic religion that believed in one supreme omnipotent indescribable God. Sikhs believe in community service called Seva, and complete equality of all people and genders. Guru Nanak Dev Ji was the first of ten Gurus( teachers). Sikhism stood apart from other religions in India because it rejected the caste system and the idea that women were inferior. Like Christians there are many Sikhs that do not follow the Sikh religion fully. There are some that still use the caste system and participate in femicide, which the killing of female fetuses, a serious social problem in India. Sikhs are known for their turbans, which cover their uncut hair and they also wear long beards. Sikhs believe that hair is a gift from God and should never be cut. This description of Sikhism is really just a summery, and I urge my readers to continue to research the religion on their own, because it is really quite beautiful. Basically there are levels of devotion in Sikhism. There are those, like my husband, that have cut their hair but continue to worship. There are others that have kept their long hair ( Kesh) and tie a turban and they are called Sardars. There are some who take the big commitment and become baptized Sikhs (amritdhari). These individuals are very devout and follow all tenets of the religion.
When I met my husband he had already cut his hair. He came to the USA from India in 2007 as a Masters student in engineering. He had never cut his hair before and had not planned to ever cut it. As a foreign student his tuition was double that of the normal students and so he had to work to support himself. He was limited to campus jobs due to his Visa restrictions. He applied for job after job and did not get a single one. He was concerned that his turban was the cause of this. He was still determined to keep his hair (Kesh) and started putting it under a baseball cap instead of a turban. One day at a mall, him and his friends were taking pictures of each other and someone called the police. They had said that the men looked like terrorists and were taking pictures of structures. He was questioned by the police and they finally realized they were just some guys hanging out at the mall. My husband was feeling very judged. My husband became frustrated with the lack of a job and the frustration of the racism, and in a moment of desperation him and his friend cut off his hair and he sent it home to India. He got a job shorty after cutting his hair. This decision still haunts him, and he wants to grow his hair long once again and tie turban, but is concerned about how this may affect his ability to get a job.
My husband is very spiritual just as I am. When we first met we talked a lot about our religions and our belief in God. It became evident that we believed the same thing even though we were raised to believe in different religions. We believe that God is Universal! There is no one path to God and no one correct religion. We both believe that God sent messengers to every part of the world and we all just worship in different ways. If you look at most religions, they teach the same ideas, be kind, don’t kill, don’t lie, do community service, be a good person. All the major religions teach these same ideas.
I believe that we were meant for each other. That God brought us together under some divine plan. My husband’s name is Gurucharan, which means “ At the foot of the Guru” ( Religious teacher), My name is Tina which is short for Christina which means “ Follower of Christ”. Both our names show our connection to God. When we got married we had both a Christian and Sikh wedding, it was important to each of us to be married under our traditions. We both see the beauty of each other’s religious beliefs and traditions. We celebrate both religions’ holidays. We attend both a Sikh Grudwara and a Christian Church. Our daughter Nasreen who is three loves both the traditions. She knows that you say Amen in Christian Church and Waheguru at the Gurdwara. She loves covering her head with a chunni and wearing a Punjabi suit and bowing in front of the Baba Ji in the Gurdwara. She loves wearing pretty dresses in Christian church and participating in functions. She has books on both religions that we read her. We celebrate all our holidays. She loves Christmas, Diwali, Easter, Vaisakhi, and all the others. We have agreed that we will not cut our daughter’s hair. It is such an important part of my husband’s religion and I respect that. If we have son we will tie a turban on him. I do not think that it is a requirement from God, but it does represent an important identity to Sikhs. My only requirement is that if we have a son then my husband must also wear a turban, to be a good example. Which he completely agrees with. We have never had a disagreement about our religions or practices which is really a blessing. I feel that our life is enhanced with the beauty of our two religions. We have two very distinct ways to worship and celebrate God. I feel blessed by God, and that is how I know we are doing the right thing. Our daughter is growing up knowing that God loves you know matter what religion, color, gender, or economic situation you in it. Through God everything is possible.
This was a long explanation of a simple concept. In summary we never planned for our religions to merge we both just followed our hearts and this is where it has led us. It is only when I write and reflect on it now that I see how it all happened.