There are many good reasons why any award or honour for community "seva" is a humbling and spiritual experience. The obvious reason is that Waheguru gave us human birth, body, mind and wealth (tann, mann and dhan). In gratitude, we should be serving Waheguru by serving His creation, including fellow human beings and the environment - this temple of God called the earth - with humility and without expectation of any award or honour. However, regrettably, human nature is such that despite protestations to the contrary, hao-mai (ego-centricity) creates a desire for recognition. It is that realisation that makes one humble when honoured in anyway for what is supposed to be "nishkam seva". An award detracts from one's spiritual credit.
The other reason for humility is fact based. That there are hundreds of truly dedicated sevadars working through Sikh charities doing seva in the field, outside Gurdwaras where most needed. I have followed the progress of some e.g. Khalsa Aid since 1999, and have also been aware of the great seva being done in diverse fields by others. I have had a special interest in Sikh heritage and better understanding of Anglo-Sikh relations.
All these sevadars are much more deserving than some pen pusher like me, who happens to come to the notice of the establishment. So, any award is really received not for self but on behalf of these unsung Khalsa heroes. I have had the satisfaction of working "with" many, but not "for" any organisation, because, only the Khalsa Panth is my organisation.
I have always focussed on the two aspects of Sikh British identity: how to be a good Sikh and how to be a responsible British citizen. Both parts of that identity are complementary. For interfacing with the Government departments effectively, I have always promoted the idea of a "round-table" of UK Gurdwaras and organisations, first as the open British Sikh Consultative Forum started in 2002 - not to be confused with a membership forum set up later by the same name - and more recently the Sikh Counci UK. Sikh charity work outside Gurdwaras is essential for promoting Sikhi ideals and identity.
It is a matter of great satisfaction personally for me, that the concept of "Sikh Education Welfare & Advancement (SEWA)", was first conceived at the family farm in Riverland, South Australia in March 1999, on the tri-centennial anniversary of the Khalsa Panth. S. Raghbir Singh Bains of Canada was visiting and I wrote the long essay, "Vaisakhi: the high point of Sikh tradition" for circulation to Australian politicians and others. The concept has worked well: that individuals with experience and special skills should serve existing Sikh organisations and not set up own organisations to promote themselves or to compete with other organisations.
It was with above thoughts in mind that I accepted the Queen's New Year 2016 award of OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire).
© Copyright Gurmukh Singh (U.K.)
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