Building sangat is something that was always a priority for my parents when I was younger. As the lone Sikh girl at my school in Wisconsin, though, sangat seemed to be reserved for Sundays at Gurdwara and our time at camp. Twice a year, we would attend Camp Sikh Virsa (formerly Camp Fateh), as well as any other camps my parents could get us to: Houston Sikh Youth Camp, Camp Gurmat, SYANA Camp, and more. My sangat started to build across states, and even nations, as we took part in international speech competitions and attended smaagams. It became our network of Sikhs; regardless of where we went, we knew that there would be someone to take us in, act as our family, and make us feel at home.
Still, something was amiss. There were times in school where I felt alone, unsure on who to ask for advice when I felt that my friends and my Sikhi were going in opposite directions. I felt myself unsure of which path to follow, and in a school where I was the only Sikh, I wasn’t sure where to turn, knowing that no one would truly know where I was coming from. It was hard for me to have the support from a sangat that was long-distance in the moments I needed them most. Phone calls, Google hangouts, and Facebook chats became my greatest allies, but I still knew I wanted something more, a sangat that could be there for me 24/7.
That’s why, when I heard about the launch of Kaur Life, the premier Sikh women’s publication, I was thrilled. Finally, a space for Sikh women to be lifted up by their Sikh brothers and sisters, to explore their identity, and to question and grow as a community. Kaur Life will create opportunities for Kaurs of all ages to connect and live through each others experiences, creating a larger support system than ever before. As Kaur Life Associate, I look forward to reflecting on key Sikh issues and the Kaur identity, and engaging in discussions with Sikhs across the globe. This website will hopefully be the launch of a larger discussion for the role that Kaurs should play in our community, and the need for both Singh and Kaurs to take ownership over the Sikh panth.
The reason I find Kaur Life so pivotal and necessary is because of my value for sangat. Although I can’t see my sangat daily or weekly since moving to Michigan, and then to college, the support that they gave me growing up was critical, and made me who I am today. My understanding of the need for sangat is why I’m so thankful for projects like Jakara’s Bhujangan retreat project, which exist to create that valuable support system for Kaurs and ensure that the mothers of our Sikh panth are strong leaders and visionaries. If you value the leadership of Kaurs in our community as much as I do, I encourage you to visit Kaur Life, and to donate to projects like the Bhujangan retreat. The future of Kaurs is the future of Sikhs, for our community will be its strongest when we are all at our strongest.
Harleen Kaur is a rising senior at the University of Michigan, where she is studying English with a minor in Community Action and Social Change. Harleen is actively involved in the Sikh community as an organizer of Camp Sikh Virsa in Wisconsin, a volunteer advocate for the Sikh Coalition, and SSA President at the University of Michigan.