I leave my comfort zone today to experience something new. In my heart I am an American, as I was practically born in the United States everything about me, my education my thought system is pretty much in line with the average American. I am however very much aware of one big difference. There is a longing, something connects me to another part of the planet called India and that connection is one of spiritual reality. What I identify within myself, my religion my way of thought all originated there and though the location itself is not holy, there is something there for me to learn. I want to go and see what Sikhism is at its root, closest to the epicenter of this ideology. What similarities will I have with those Sikhs who live so close to our historic sites, what differences will I have?
There is also the matter of trying to understand a part of myself which has never fit into the ‘American’. The side of myself which is rooted in eastern philosophies and structure. In a sense like every immigrant I am torn between two realities, within myself. As I hit an age where I want to know more I find it increasingly important to investigate what causes these dualities within and how they can be tolerated and eventually mesh into one uniformed person.
The only way to do this for me was to travel back to my native land. Away from my family and comfort zone, disconnecting almost entirely from the world I have made for myself to a world that I left behind. The land of my ancestors and fore fathers which whom I have only met in history books and passed down stories. It is time to go to those sites and find something a deeper understanding of who they were and what messages they have for me, what can I take back within myself and for my children.
So with the support of my family, particularly my wife I am setting off on this quest. Unsure and also anxious to what I may encounter, what I may learn, and most importantly what I may feel on this journey.
It will be me, my thoughts, and that historic ground from which everything I am, everything I believe and hold dear and close to my heart originated. It will be there that I will contemplate and hopefully construct some real understanding of what this all means and what purpose it serve.
After so much dreaming and planning the day has finally arrived to depart on a very interesting journey. I figured I would be traveling very light, but my friends and relatives ensured the meaning of ‘light’ for an Indian traveler, it means slightly light’er’ than the maximum weight limit for luggage! It feels a little surreal as I am all packed and ready to go to but the reality is settling in. As I was planning this trip it seemed like a dream to visit so many locations that have shaped who I am from my beliefs to and what I connect to as an individual.
When pen hit the paper I was forced to cut back and only ended up with 75% of what I originally wanted to do however, now that its on paper even that seems like a lot! On the itinerary are locations such as Kartarpur, Anandpur, Nankana, Patna and many other historic spots.
A few have asked if this is a pilgrimage and the answer is simply no. As a Sikh I truly believe there is no spot that is ‘holier’ than another, we look at all people, places and things as equal in creation. Pilgrimage infact can be had mentally from within, as a state of mind and being, it need not be physically going to a location to reflect, this can be done from anywhere.
So then what is this for? This almost 4500 km tour to spots which historical events transpired, where a new philosophy was born and nurtured during its infancy. This is not really a trip that I want to ‘see’ things, it is not even anything I really want to ‘do’ at these spots, the only desire is to go there and FEEL. As learning can be done in the classroom, spirituality can be developed from within, still there are supplemental factors such as field trips organized for students, if anything I would classify this not as a pilgrimage but a field trip for the soul. It is a supplemental factor for me to feel and understand what messages/lessons are there for me at these locations.
I am not going with any great plans or agenda, I am going as a clean slate, clean sheet of paper opening myself to whatever may happen and however it may unfold. That is the beauty of this introspection that it will have its freedom to just happen. I will keep a camera and my tablet in which I can write for documentation and also capturing the feelings which come honestly. What becomes of that documentation, how it may help me or others is not my real concern, it’s just about living in that moment and experience. Wish me luck, I’m going to need it!