blog 29 my munshi

Singh was always surprised I could actually learn but I was not stupid. It was just impossible to learn things in the classroom when the teachers are drunk and you are being bullied. But one on one with Singh I discovered I was not stupid at all. In fact Singh not only taught me Greek and History and Mathematics but also some Sanskrit and Indian geography and literature. I loved sitting next to Singh as he told me the grand old stories of India. They filled my imagination. I would dream of India. I would dream I was Rama or some other heroic Indian demigod. Or else I dreamed I was an ancient Greek epic hero. Singh was leading me by the hand almost literally through the Iliad. For some reason the story of a tragic city under siege, sacked, and set on fire quite entranced me.

It was most strange but Singh and I kept finding words that were strangely alike. For instance the Indian word Arya meant India. Homeland. But it echoed Iran too and also Erin or Ireland. But how could that be? Singh found other words too. Pitar meant father in Indian but in Latin there was a similar word for father too: Pater. The German word for father was Vater. From that English got Father. The Indian word for metal was Ayas. Latin was Aes or bronze. German was eisten. That became in English Iron. The Indian for anger was Iras. Latin was Ira. English was Irascible. That described me quite tidily. The Indian word for foot was Pets or Pat. Latin was Pes. Guess what? English words for Pedal or Pedestrian appeared! Singh even found numbers that occurred. The Indian word for 100 was Satam. Latin was Centum. English said Century or Centennial. Singh could not explain how far away Sanscrit, the ancient way of writing down Indian Hindustani, could echo Latin or German or even English. I asked Singh what the Indian word for Love but oddly, he said he could not.

However Singh explained that a lot of Mathematics in the West came from India along with chess which we played all of the time with gravel , stones, pennies, and wads of paper on a board drawn in the dirt. The Zero for instance. “The Arabs claim they invented the Zero but they just looted the word like everything else. They scattered Greek knowledge to the winds of history and then reaped the harvest of the work of others reinterpreting it and developing from it. But the only thing the Arabs did was invent Jihad.”

“What is Jihad?”

“Religiously blessed warfare on the Infidel and all Unbelievers. Jihad Razzias or Raids blessed by their Allah allow them to attack anyone and plunder, loot, rob, ravish, destroy, and enslave.”

“But slavery is illegal.”

“The American South” John.

“Yes. But only there.”

“No. In Arabia and everywhere there is the Muslim Religion there is slavery. Their Allah blesses it. The Arabs are the great enslavers of the world John. Who do you think gathered up the slaves all over Persia, the Ottoman lands, Eastern Europe, Russia, Poland, Egypt, North Africa, Afghanistan, the Punjab, and India and as far as the Pearls of the Pacific itself. Wherever there is the Muslim Religion there is Slavery.”

“That is illegal” I said naively. “But are you not Muslim?”

For the first and only time I noticed that Singh almost lost his temper. His small hand clinched his ruler. “I am Sikh” he replied with a tense little voice. “That is totally different! We believe in the One God no less than you. We are a religion of peace – or at least until the Muslims tortured and butchered every single one of our Gurus or Wise Men. They drove us into the Punjab and forced us to unite to fight them! We were forced to form the Sikh army and found the Sikh Nation and to fight the Muslims! We were forced to wage war in our own self defense! Because the Muslims declared Jihad against us and vowed to exterminate us off the face of the planet!” Singh’s small hand made a tight fist. I put my big hand over his hand. “The Muslim Terrorists may have bombed the Golden Temple but they will never destroy the Sikh Nation!”

“I am sorry Singh. Why do you wear a silver bracelet?”

“It is part of my religion like uncut hair and my comb and my small symbolic knife the headmaster took away from me.”

“But I gave you another knife. Isn’t that better? It really works. It cuts. You can kill with it.”

The smaller hand eased. “It is not quite the same thing John” Singh replied in his soft, still voice. “To be trained to wage war in self defense is not the same thing as thuggery. What the other boys do here is thuggery. It is not the principled act of careful, deliberate, chosen, battle waged only in self defense. Our religion was suppose to solve the problem of Jihad which was tearing India apart, causing Hindu to fight Muslim and Muslim to fight Hindu. It was suppose to unite everyone in a universal religion of peace. Instead the Muslims called us the Jews of India. The Western Jews are called monkeys. Christians are called dogs. Hindu are called pigs. And we Sikh are called jackals.” the small hand clinched. “We tried to bring peace!”

“Like that Buddha fellow?”

“Yes. Rather. But The Buddha saw a vision of world peace through the philosophy of Enlightenment. He did not really worship a god so much as a concept of goodness obscured by illusion. The Buddha discovered a discipline through which one can be emancipated from illusion to allow one to reach Nirvana. We seek that one universal godhood through the worship of God through self meditation, which is introspection and contemplation, and the living of disciplined lives.”

“Sounds like the same thing. I like your songs. Can you teach me more of your songs?”

Singh shrugged his thin shoulders. “It is related but different. But we are not rivals or competitors John. We are respectful equals all searching in our own unique ways for Enlightenment and the One Godhood.”

“And will you teach me more songs?”

“Of course John. Songs help one to focus. It is an exercise of the mind. Oh yes. I too have a gift for you.” Singh gave me a small packet and I unwrapped a comb. “It is not so much to comb your hair John” Singh said as he gestured to my unruly black hair. “Rather it is to comb out the tangles in your thoughts and the knots in your heart.” Singh pressed his small hand over my chest which made my heart pound. “When you feel frustrated John, angry, and vexed, then stare on the comb and imagine the comb combing away frustration and vexation and anger.”

I nodded and smiled but the idea sounded most strange. “Mother says there is only the kirk or damnation. I am going to be damned.” I could no explain why my heart was pounding but when Singh put his hand on my chest my heart started pounding. It was as if his small hand left an imprint on my heart. It was most strange.

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