Nanak Dev Singh wasn’t the only adult in India to inflict abuses on us children. The list of “guides” is long and exhausting, each person accountable for some loathsome memory of mine, be it neglect, indifference, public humiliation, emotional abuse or coercive tactics.
I’ve spent many sessions with my family recounting the rediculous and immature behavior of the “Singh Sahibs” and “Bhenjis” in India, and at summer survival camps. While my own parents lamented poor behavior and treatment, they have never actually confronted any of these “guides”, or taken personal responsibility for their roles. What they have been good at however, is creating drama: sometimes they cry, sometimes they say “I’m sorry you think I was such a bad parent”, sometimes they get overly angry at us – but in the end, it’s usually me feeling bad for them.
There was a narrow time in my pre-teens that I felt that my own family loved me for who I genuinely was: a creative, fun and easygoing kid. I was encouraged artistically, I was given affection and care. I was fed amazing food and watched cool old movies and listened to good rock n’ roll (with them!). To sum it up, all of my positive memories involved NO religion – I was genuinely a secular kid – as most kids are. I wasn’t interested in the supernatural, the metaphysical or the mystical, or being a “shakti” or any of that.
Later, I can now recount, Yogi Bhajan clearly felt his grasp on us, the “future of the Khalsa”, slipping. He tightened his control, he used more coercive tactics and abusive language. With me, he first tried to reign me in as an “insider”, someone who maybe would feel special with extra attention, and would stick around to do his bidding. When that didn’t work (thank god!) he verbally assaulted and abused me and then cast me out. He made the community see me as someone who was “troubled”. Even though I had won, I felt like a castaway and that I had lost everything. And he made my whole family ostracize me – those who I had loved so dearly and looked up to so much, now proved themselves at that time to be trite individuals – they may have loved me and nourished me for a brief period, but it was only because they had hopes of me carrying out their religious agenda. Then it turned into resentment towards me when I openly and publicly disagreed with Yogi Bhajan.
Now I know that it wasn’t just me as a kid who was genuinely secular. I am still that person today, and I’m often surprised at how, in spite of numerous attempts to reign me in with emotional abuses and threats of falling apart and failing, that my own will power and tenacity had kept me autonomous. Honestly though? Will power and tenacity are exhausting – and I’m ready to live a life in which the anxiety and self doubt don’t creep up anymore, a life where I’m genuinely confident in my self, my actions and my behavior.