At a Crossroads: I.J. SINGH, GURMIT SINGH & RAVINDER SINGH
Granthis & Gurdwaras
A recent essay by one of the authors of this article (IJS) described how a granthi at a gurdwara was caught in a vortex – a psychologically downward spiral of loneliness, depression, alcohol abuse and hopelessness – so severe that he committed suicide.
Not surprisingly, the piece attracted a good deal of attention within the community and a fair number of comments, many of which were quite thoughtful. Obviously there is much more to be said on the matter.
In this collaborative attempt amongst the three of us, we will draw upon the comments of many readers of the earlier essay to formulate our opinions. They will remain unnamed since our interpretations integrate their views in ways that may not be easily ascribed to any one person.
Sikhs have been in North America for over a century. Our first gurdwara dates from 1906. Now, there are over 200 gurdwaras on the continent, most of them founded in the past 40-45 years.
The issues surrounding gurdwara granthis - their recruitment, selection, and appointment, as well as on-the-job working conditions - are rife with matters of both management and human concern.
The challenge is to find a solution so that the community gets its money’s worth and the granthis find fulfillment and satisfaction in their employment.
Unquestionably, a granthi’s job (if we can be clear on what it should be) is very different from other jobs that we engage in to put food on the table, and that only adds to the challenge. But that, too, is a necessity that can’t be swept aside.
True, we have not formally surveyed gurdwaras in the diaspora about their practices and expectations regarding a granthi. But based on our own experience and anecdotal evidence, we believe that a minuscule minority, if at all, has in place a written, legally sound and enforceable contract between the granthi and the gurdwara.
We are aware of a gurdwara in Columbus (Ohio, U.S.A.), for example, where a contract is currently being negotiated, and of another one which has a written contract and job description specifying expectations of employee and employer, conditions of employment, issues of remuneration, vacation, and related issues between the granthi and gurdwara management.
These are standard provisions for any kind of employment anywhere.
Before we run too far with this, keep in mind that granthis are not clergy (priests) and have no inherent ecclesiastical authority. But we seem to be creating a class that approximates priesthood, for which there is no provision in Sikhi. We need to ensure that granthis do not morph into a new breed of brahmins despite clear Sikh teaching that admits no middleman between God or Guru and the Sikh.
With that said, the logical question is: do we need granthis in the first place?
Ideally a gurdwara, which serves as a training ground for a Sikh, should be self-managed by volunteers from the sangat. This is how individual Sikhs connect to the fundamentals of their faith as well as hone their skills of collaboration with each other for a bigger cause. That is how true kinship and communities develop.
But we must also recognize that granthis are an organizational necessity in today’s world. How, then, to define their role?
Are granthis mere employees, a class of people who function as caretakers of gurdwaras and the Guru Granth? Or are they, in fact, as we would like to see them - as a curator or scholar of the Guru Granth and a teacher of the Sikh worldview, playing a larger role than one who serves at the whims of the gurdwara management committee, and remains at their beck and call.
Let’s examine briefly the current relational dynamic between granthi, sangat and management committee.
Granthis in most North American gurdwaras are overwhelmingly Punjab-based, that is, they come directly from Punjab. Many, but not all, are reasonably well schooled in the Guru Granth and related Sikh literature, and adept in mythological lore as well – with varying degrees of competence in Punjabi and Gurumukhi, and, on occasion, a few other languages and traditions.
Such qualifications and skills are probably sufficient to serve the newly arriving immigrant community of Punjabi origin. And indeed granthis fulfill an emotional and cultural need for large segments of the sangat.
But being largely Punjab-based, granthis also bring cultural baggage that does not always resonate with sections of the sangat. We have surging populations of young Sikh men and women either born or largely reared outside Punjab and the subcontinent. Their primary culture is less Punjabi or Indian and more American/ Canadian/ British/ Australian – or any of a variety of additional possibilities.
The mélange of languages that the youth command may have widely varying levels of Punjabi intermixed with the local argot where they live. Significant and overwhelming parts of their lives are spent outside the Punjabi cultural ambit. Interfaith issues impact them on a daily basis, at work or at play.
This reality tells us that we need granthis who are equally adept in Western societies - their values, the Judeo-Christian traditions, as well as the language and culture of the countries in which we have created our presence.
We need to evolve a new professional approach to the matter that is sorely lacking at this time. Management committees, on the other hand, bring their own cultural – and feudal - baggage rooted in Indian norms. This is best reflected in current hiring practices and the master-servant model that prevails once a granthi is hired. When management committees appoint a granthi, chances are that there is no job description. If there is one, it might describe the role of a person who is a scholar, at least on Sikhi and somewhat knowledgeable about the faiths of our neighbors.
The first requirement is often partially met, the second almost never.
The reality is that granthis are reduced to survival wages and their role can at best be described as gofers at the mercy of management committees - hardly ever as mentors and scholars in their (chosen?) profession of granthis.
What exactly, then, should the elements of a social and employment contract with the granthi be - given the constraints under which gurdwaras operate and the marginally adequate background that many granthis bring?
In appointing granthis, the main provisions that deserve our close scrutiny are:
1 A written agreement formally accepted by both employer and employee.
2 Educational qualifications and professional experience as well as language skills of the ountry where posted, etc.
3 Duration of employment
4 Probationary period.
5 Remuneration – weekly, monthly, yearly or some other time span.
6 Periodic adjustments as per changes in the Consumer Price Index.
7 Payments and deductions for Income Tax or other payroll taxes, as per local laws.
8 Number of hours: fixed/ flexible/ daily / weekly services as prescribed or feasible (when they may or may not exceed 40 hours).
9 Entitlements on death of employee, or severance package at termination of employment.
10 Eligibility for return airfare to country of origin.
11 Annual recreation leave, including weekly off periods.
12 Policy on paid vacation and sick leave.
13 Education of children under 18 years of age (high school graduation?).
14 Boarding & Lodging – residential accommodation, including utilities.
15 Medical and dental expenses.
16 Additional income from akhand paatth and ardaas duties, functions and specially sponsored programs held within or outside of the gurdwara premises.
17 A sabbatical every seventh year. (Not uncommon for scholars in academia)
These issues are largely self-evident. Most of us are familiar with how the world of independent contractors and employer-employee relationships works. And, of course, laws and conventions exist in every nation and even in the smallest levels of communities to guide us. That’s where the controlling legal authority would rest.
A major caveat is that neither of us three is a lawyer. But the time for lawyers will come later. Now is the time to try and define what exactly we think our community needs and what exactly is available out there. First we should construct a framework that the lawyers will then parse.
At a minimum, such an agreement establishes equality in the eyes of the law and will help educate management committees to shed some of their cultural mindset. It also ensures that an equitable contract will meet the basic needs of a granthi.
Before we examine possible solutions it would be important to understand the extent and the substance of the problems in the diaspora. A recommended first step in this direction would be to gather granthi data. This could be done by surveying the over 200 gurdwaras that exist just within North America today. The survey could gather data around numbers, qualifications, skills, current roles, and employment agreements. Requirements from a granthi's perspective could also be gathered.
A well-defined employment agreement would then be the next logical step in establishing a clear and equal relationship in the nexus of the management, sangat and granthi.
The other requirement – a granthi as a scholar who is equally versed in the mores of the West – is a long-term issue that would require more sustained planning.
In other words, the question is, how do we go about balancing the granthi’s worldly material needs and desired spiritual role with our needs as a community and as individual Sikhs in finding our way in and around the teachings, traditions and history of Sikhi.
There are a couple of steps that we can pursue and they must run in tandem.
An obvious suggestion would be to develop an academy to train granthis with an expanded curriculum for our needs of today and tomorrow. But that will take time and resources. Yet, the process should start yesterday.
In the meantime while we await the new breed of granthis, we have no choice but to continue with the granthis that we have but supplement them with part-time associate granthis who can span the cultural and linguistic divide comfortably.
Where are we going to find such people? We think this is not so easy but it is definitely not impossible.
Our community has many Sikhs who migrated 30 to 40 years ago. Their numbers then were negligible and gurdwaras were sparse. Faced with the challenge of having to explain their faith they self-learned the fundamentals of Sikhi and how to interact with non-Sikhs in the wider world.
Hiring this group of people or requesting them to come in and work as associate granthis would be a step in the right direction. Some of them are retired. This will increase their availability and give them a new lease on life. It will solidify the community. (With tongue in cheek, we would recommend the three authors of this essay although they are not all retired yet.)
Gurdwaras need to develop functioning libraries and useful literature. In much of North America, continuing education courses in language arts and other skills are freely available.
Granthi contracts should require a granthi to take a certain number of courses and help in the building of a functioning library. Also, a part of the granthi’s job is scholarly writing that a granthi must do to remain a curator of the Guru Granth that he is. And develop the skills to be able to participate in interfaith forums, etc. as a representative of the Sikh viewpoint.
Encourage and help granthis to form an association where they can communicate and socialize. Granthis need to develop a life outside the four walls of the gurdwara. We need to acknowledge that a granthi is not a gofer and we can’t pay or treat him as if he is. A granthi is the way for us to better connect with Sikhi. The existing unreal, almost toxic relationship between granthis and gurdwaras has to change – the sooner the better.
We recognize that in this essay we have used a broad brush to paint a large canvas. We request that our widespread communities take it seriously and add caveats, conditions and requirements as needed to formulate professional, serviceable and useful policies.
The relational dynamics between the granthi, management and sangat needs to be clearly understood and augmented. Without a strong tripod of these three, any gurdwara will at best remain wobbly and dysfunctional.
We reiterate: the first step forward is to survey the existing gurdwara granthis across North America to amass reliable data on the granthi- gurdwara- sangat nexus – on existing numbers, qualifications, duties, expectations, and remuneration along with other administrative policies and guidelines, etc.
The Sikh Research Institute (SRI) would be ideally placed to collate such information because of their ongoing programs and activities aimed at internal development of the Sikh community, and also because they have an embryonic initiative in place that focuses on education and development of granthis in the diaspora. (Disclosure: Two of us, IJS and RS, are closely affiliated with the activities of the SRI.)
And then it would be the time to bring out a coherent and well-defined employment agreement that would provide us some minimal standards in qualifications and expectations.
For starters, please explore the “Granthi Training Initiative” of the Sikh Research Institute.
The authors: I.J. Singh is based in New York, U.S.A.; Gurmit Singh in Australia; and Ravinder Singh in Ohio, U.S.A.
June 28, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Jaipreet Singh (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), June 28, 2012, 1:38 PM.
There is a simple way of doing this. By doing it! Every year or two, someone writes a piece and repeats the same old homilies. However, nothing gets done. Just get a draft granthi employment prepared, with room for necessary variables and contingencies to be inserted, put it in a kit with full instructions and guidelines, and send it off to all the gurdwaras around the world. You don't need conferences and seminars and workshops to do something every employer in the world is required to do, or should be doing, or does every day as a matter of routine. Just pick up an employment agreement kit from Border's and adapt it.
2: Pritam Singh (Leeds, United Kingdom), June 28, 2012, 2:08 PM.
I think you have gone off the track right from the start. The granthi is primarily meant to be a caretaker of the premises and the mundane, routine things that need to be done for the upkeep of the place and the conduct of routine chores and duties. Just because he is called 'granthi' doesn't mean that his role is around the Guru Granth. The role you are ascribing to him is to be fulfilled by the sangat ... always the sangat, and only the sangat. What you're proposing is akin to having hired help do the langar duties. It subverts the entire concept and ethos of Sikhi. The problem you need to be solving is not how to pass on all of the gurdwara duties to a granthi but how to train ourselves and our children regularly o take on the protocol around the conduct of a gurdwara service, etc. Having a contract and giving a decent salary to a gurdwara employee is an absolute given and the right way to go, but you're now throwing in (instead of out) the baby with the bath water. The authors seem to be stuck in the old and out-dated mind-set and all they are able to do is tinker with it, instead of looking at things afresh to see what's really wrong and how to fix it. More of the same old, but merely a little bit better tuned, will get us nowhere. Sorry, guys, but back to the drawing board!
3: Puneet Kaur (New York, U.S.A.), June 28, 2012, 3:01 PM.
Not a well-thought out piece. You are making a mountain out of a mole-hill. Here's how I would solve the problem: The applicant should be over 35 and married. Should be offered accommodation (and live there with own family, not alone, not with other relatives) and $60,000 annual salary, plus medical and dental benefits. Local citizen. Must have Gyani certificate from Punjab and BA degree from North America. Should pass the TOEFL test. And complete a 6 month internship/ training with Sikh Research Institute geared to prepare a granthi. That's it. You'll find this will address all the granthi issues. Re employment agreement, purchase a kit from the local bookstore - it will cover local laws and regulations. The granthi should be accountable to one person on the management committee - no other. It's as simple as that. The authors are approaching it all as if they're living in India, for heaven's sake. T-H-I-S IS UMREEKA!
4: Karam Singh (Chandigarh, Punjab), June 28, 2012, 3:09 PM.
Sabbatical, my foot! You haven't even dealt with basics, and you're talking about giving a whole year off for a sabbatical. Great idea, but given the context, a fatal suggestion! Sounds like you guys have had no experience with reality. It's all airy-fairy!
5: Harjit Singh (Oregon, U.S.A.), June 28, 2012, 3:14 PM.
Build a decent salary ... and good granthis will come.
6: Gurmukh Singh (London, United Kingdom), June 28, 2012, 3:16 PM.
I am the eldest son of a gurbani kirtania and Punjabi teacher who also did the duties of a granthi in smaller gurdwaras. There were other well respected kirtania parcharaks like him in post-WW II Malaya. They condemned ritualism, did not take kirtan bheta and tried to make ends meet within their very low salaries. Then came a wind of change in the early nineteen-fifties as the next generation parbandhaks closer to S. Pritam Singh's way of thinking (see above) came in and started treating granthis like gurdwara caretakers and no more. One such management clashed with our Bapu ji when he refused to allow the raising of the Indian flag next to the Nishan Sahib. The local sangat sided with him. Soon afterwards, he was given 24 hours notice to leave as they found a new arrival from India who was more docile! (I retain the 24 hours notice in English.) I was 15 years old at the time doing well at a local English school (1953). Even though some tried to persuade Bapu ji to stay on for a few more days, he refused and we left our accommodation within 24 hours. Bapu ji had done 6 years outstanding service and those who studied before him kept links with him for many years. The experience was so traumatic and distressing that my first article in Punjabi, about the treatment given to gyani-granthis appeared as "Laik Sajjan" in the national Punjabi paper. The position today is very different. We need gurdwara "employees" with proper employment contracts and decent salaries, to do different types of duties. I am aware that an organisation, "Sikhs in England," produced draft proposals like this article about 12 years ago. I also prepared a list of diverse duties in a gurdwara for informing the UK Home Office regarding immigration related assessment, etc. The need is for co-ordinated action.
7: Harnam (Rochester, New York, U.S.A.), June 28, 2012, 3:23 PM.
What I would like to know first is what each one of you has done with your own local gurdwara on these issues. First, please do all that you tell us to do, within your respective gurdwaras, thus test the ropes in achieving what you think should be done, no matter what it takes, THEN give us step-by-step guidelines. Look forward to hearing back on these very pages from each of you, individually.
8: Pritam Singh (Leeds, United Kingdom), June 28, 2012, 3:37 PM.
Re S. Gurmukh Singh ji's comment - my own comments relate very narrowly to the role of a granthi; in my mind, not to confused with the role of a kirtania and/or parcharak. This article is trying to address the mistreatment or predicament of a granthi. Issues around parcharaks and kirtanias are equally, if not more, important, but need to be addressed separately.
9: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), June 28, 2012, 3:47 PM.
The gurdwara at South Shields (UK) is seminal in that it deliberately does not have a granthi! The whole sangat is involved in all aspects of the gurdwara, and the reasons explained to me is absolutely fine with my psyche and limited knowledge of Sikhi.
10: Bobby Singh (New York, U.S.A.), June 28, 2012, 4:14 PM.
In my opinion, here's our dilemma: why does one of the most affluent ethnic communities in the U.S. pay its church workers the lowest of all the communities? The duties that need to be done by volunteers - paatth, vaak, ardaas, langar, etc., are best done if they are done by those who are not paid for their services. Jobs that need to be done by paid workers - routine and mundane chores, maintenence, cleaning and upkeep, daily errands, etc., are best done by those who are paid really well, even higher than the market rate. The rest you experts can figure out!
11: Harleen Kaur (Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.), June 28, 2012, 4:24 PM.
I am puzzled: you make it sound like you have found the holy grail in the 'Employment Agreement." Isn't it the first thing you reach for when you hire an employee - any employee? Why do you make it sound like you three have been thinking about this real hard for months and have come up with this brilliant 17-step plan? You can buy a better version, simpler and user-friendly, for $2.99 at any corner bookstore - or online, free. You know, our problem is we have no one who is willing to do SOMETHING, everyone wants to offer solutions. From a nation of saint-soldiers, we've turned into a nation of managers ... and we treat our community work as if it is a hobby and a pass-time for evenings and weekends. I share the concern raised by some of the readers above.
12: Ujjagar Singh (New Delhi, India), June 28, 2012, 4:31 PM.
Have you read today's "Daily Fix"? You may want to check out "The Midas Touch" - it might give you some new ideas for a change!
13: Manpreet Kaur (Florida, U.S.A.), June 28, 2012, 4:55 PM.
You haven't told us all the facts. Either you have decided to remain blind to them, suspecting what they'll be, or decided not to reveal them. What I want to know is, how much are the granthis actually being paid today, across the country? And to do what? Without these two bits of info, your whole discussion is meaningless. Let me stick my neck out a bit here ... I wouldn't be surprised that what many granthis are being paid is so low that members of many a management committee would be up for criminal charges if the facts were out. Is that true? If you have the info, please tell us what it is. If you don't have the info, why are you wasting everybody's time?
14: Baljit Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), June 28, 2012, 5:01 PM.
It's all about money. Just think, if your job offered $15,000 or $20,000 every year - and I wonder if some gurdwaras even pay that much - who would be filling up the position? You, with all your education and skills, or those with far, far less to offer. What is it they say in Punjabi? The more sugar you put in it, the sweeter it'll be.
15: Onkar Singh (London, United Kingdom), June 28, 2012, 7:21 PM.
Nothing will get solved until we treat our gurdwara workers with the utmost respect and give them the dignity they deserve. It begins with a proper salary, good accommodation, etc., followed by our demanding, in return, compatible education, training and skills. The employment contract and other details come into play only after we have crossed this line.
16: Harcharan Singh (Singapore), June 28, 2012, 9:13 PM.
Interesting issue brought up again and again. There are millions and millions of things that we need to do in Sikhi and for the Sikhs. But if we do not solve the root problems first, these problems will linger till the end of time. Besides gurdwara reform, what is most pressing is that all Sikhs in each country must be united in one organisation set up on Sikhi and modern lines. It should be a congress of gurdwaras as well as other organisations like United Sikhs, Sikh Research Insititute, etc. These organisations should send nominated representatives to this central organisation. All organisations should have a part to play depending on their size, capability and other criteria. I know there will be much politics or dirty politics in this endeavour but over time these problems will be settled if we have already thought before hand on how to stop the fight for kursis (chairs). Next, this organisation should be the one that will come up with reforms and improvements not just in gurdwaras but in other areas as well where Sikhs are lacking. We must start behaving like United Nations in all countries where we are. This will solve funding issues as well as there could be a common pool and business people and other leaders could help in making this organisation a truly profitable and efficient organisation like a multinatioanl corporation. Then we can handle and solve issues and problems more meaningfully, efficiently and 'profitably.' My take is that if Sikhs do not do this, we will always be fighting fires and not be putting them out at all. What we lack since we do not have a country of our own must be substituted by creating political entities within the countries we live in. Or else we are wasting our time.
17: Labh Singh (Kenya), June 29, 2012, 12:56 AM.
If a gurdwara management committee has to be told by an international panel of experts that, a) it should enter into an employment contract with its employees, and 2) what should go into it, then the real issue is: what's wrong with the management committee? Who is sitting on it, that is, what qualifications or experience do they have, if they don't know these basics? In my view, our problem lies not in uneducated or untrained granthis, it is in uneducated and unskilled management committees. Somehow, it 's the riff-raff in the community which is usurping the role of running the gurdwaras.
18: Gursharan (San Diego, California, U.S.A.), June 29, 2012, 1:43 AM.
It is imperative on each one of us to report to the authorities any management committee which is not observing the employment and labour laws of the land. The suffering granthi won't for he's being blackmailed because of his visa status. Therefore, the sangat must demand full public disclosure, in the open divan, as to the terms of employment and the status of each employee. Sadly, a few WILL be sent back. But we need to bite the bullet in order to clean up our gurdwaras. If we allow our places of worship to be dens of inequity, what are we going to get from them? Peace and serenity? I too am disappointed in the authors who appear to have wasted our time with mere inanities.
19: Gurjender Singh (Maryland, U.S.A.), June 29, 2012, 9:23 AM.
A new engineer from Princeton University joined the company where I worked. This young engineer is Christian and comes from an affluent background. He went to India and Haiti a few times to do mission work for his church. After one year he resigned from his job and a few months later, I received an e-mail from him that he is working for a church in Washington, D.C., because he loves this and also gets a better salary than he did as an engineer. Something for us to learn from all of this?
20: Jagpal Singh Tiwana (Halifax, Nova Soctia, Canada), June 29, 2012, 3:09 PM.
Situations in all the gurdwaras are not the same. It all depends how much the sangat participates and is prepared to do the voluntary work. We here at our Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada) gurdwara do all the work of the gurdwara ourselves. We have no formal granthi or raagi. Everybody can act as granthi if one is knowledgeable enough. There are many who are eager to sing shabads. There are quite a few who can recite an ardaas well. Mrs. Satpal Kaur Sodhi does it very smoothly. She has also written a book on ardaas. We encourage women to participate in all gurdwara activities. Then there are others who can take a vaak. Gurmeet Singh performs wedding and death ceremonies. He is well organized, very punctual and finishes his duties properly and on time. In his absence, Satnam Singh Randhawa can do his work equally well. Ravinderpal Singh Arora opens the gurdwara at 4 am, takes a vaak and writes the daily hukam on the board. In the evening Prajeet Singh, Kaur Singh and Harjot Singh take turns in going to the gurdwara. After reciting Rehras paatth, they do the sukh aasan ceremony. Gurmeet Singh, Jasbir Singh Bajwa and Jarnail Singh Bhullar organize akhand paatths. Volunteers arrive at the gurdwara to recite paatth according to their duty-time posted on the notice board. The chola for the Nishaan Sahib is stitched and changed every year on Vaisakhi day by Mohan Singh Bhogal. Normal size dishes are arranged in the dish-washer after langar by men or women, but heavy containers (pateelaas) are washed by Piara Singh Randhawa. We have hired a gora janitor for cleaning the kitchen, vacuumimg the floors and removing garbage, as well as for minor repairs and maintenence. So far the volunteers are running the gurdwara very well. The only drawback is that the gurdwara is not open all day, only in the morning and evening. But if the need be, somebody can run to the gurdwara to open it on weekdays too. It is open all day on Sundays.
21: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), June 30, 2012, 10:38 AM.
There is no authority over the management committee of gurdwaras, even the SGPC has no control over the functioning of gurdwaras in India or around the world. The same is the situation with the parcharaks as there is no authority over them anywhere in this world. They rarely live spiritual lives; their life style is seldom in line with what they preach. Some of them are not even knowledgeable, many of them speak only of saakhis on stage, convey the wrong message to the sangat. They even lie and sometimes emotionally blackmail the sangat to get it to disgorge money. All this is confirmed in gurbani by Guru Amar Das on GGS, page 160 and also by Guru Arjan on page 380. The granthi however gets scolded by all the members of management for mostly the wrongs of others. The main purpose of gurdwaras was to share and elucidate gurbani and convey the message of gurmat to the sangat. Today by and large most of these gurdwaras are turning into deras and personal fiefdoms as they are all engaged in celebrations of barsis and birthdays of pakhandi or anaarree sants and other such functions to attract the sangat and fill up the golak. There is no sign or chance of any improvement to these situations as our intellectuals are engaged in controversial arguments. The sangat, in the meantime, blindly goes along with being treated like gulls.
22: S. Singh (Millis, MA, U.S.A.), July 03, 2012, 1:45 PM.
Some good points. However, as someone else pointed out, the root cause of the problem is money. I have traveled in North America and UK, and so far yet to see even one granthi, sevadaar, etc. who is not somehow in tie-up with the management committe as an uncle, cousin or relative, etc. These poor granthis (all male, generally from rural Punjab) want to come to the US, for example, get their Green Card and want to move on. Once they have immigration, then the rest of their immediate families get sponsored. Their basic job description currently is: a) speak, read, write Punjabi; b) don't ask for benefits, Health Care is unheard of; c) don't ask for accomodation; d) do everything asked of you; e) make money from sangat offerings, they probably get paid $1000-$2000 per month, maximum; f) be able to sing kirtan when needed. At least this is how I see the majority of the granthis in N. America today. These granthis are pawns in the hands of 3-4 influential (read wealthy) people. (It doesn't matter where and how they made money. Some even use gurdwara charity as a means of converting their cash transactions into legit money. On a positive side, some of the parcharaks from established kathakar schools (Nirmalias, e.g.) tend to be more organized and can talk with appropriate words to even have a dialogue with youngsters ...
23: Sukhindarpal Singh (Penang, Malaysia), July 04, 2012, 5:18 AM.
My father was employed as a clerk-in-charge of the Wadda Gurdwara in Penang. He took the job for economic reasons. Due to his love for gurbani, he did vichaar. This was helped in no small way by his love for languages, having done his Matriculation from Khalsa School, Jalandhar, Punjab, in 1935. On his passing, my mother, for the same reason, stayed on and did the duties normally done by a granthi. Both my parents couldn't do kirtan. That was held against them. Today, my brother and I and all our 5 children do kirtan. Today I am the granthi of the local Bayan Baru Gurdwara. By the grace of the Guru and my parents I can do all that is usually required of a granthi. Besides that I help children learn and do kirtan in the gurdwara. The younger ones are allowed and encouraged to perform seva: Ardaas, sukhaasan, serving deg, etc. They grow in and with Sikhi. My day-job is that of an "attorney-at-law". My vocation gives my labour of love credibility. To me every Sikh needs to be a granthi. And yes, the members of the sangat do all that is required to maintain and run the Sikh Centre of Excellence, as we call our gurdwara. 47 students attend Punjabi classes every Saturday and Sunday in the present premises, a 2-storey dwelling house. At present we are preparing to build a 4-storey Sikhi Centre for our tomorrow. All of us are granthis.
24: Sukhvinder Singh (Walsall, United Kingdom), July 04, 2012, 8:36 AM.
There are a number of gurdwaras in the UK that have a number of policies in place that are required by law or are good practice in terms of management: i.e., re Health & Safety, Food Hygiene, Employment Contract (for all gurdwara employees, including granthis), etc. The Sikh Council UK has collated these and is in the process of preparing standard template policies for any gurdwara in the UK to adapt and use.
25: Christine Kaur (Houston, Texas, USA), July 19, 2012, 11:17 AM.
I don't understand why this article got so much criticism. Any one who has read Dr I.J. Singh's work should know that he doesn't write to tell us what to do, he writes to make us think. I thought this was a very insightful and thought-provoking piece that we should seriously look into. Obviously the current granthi/ gurdwara situation in America is not working too effectively, so it's time to make a change. But to make a change we must first open our minds to understand different options and different schools of thought.
26: Bhagwant Singh (Manchester, United Kingdom), December 05, 2012, 11:38 AM.
I think the article and the comments that followed have covered the issues relating to granthis very well. Thank you for raising the issue. Now for solutions: I believe the the best answers lie in sangat-based management with a professional approach to the practices and standards at the gurdwara. We should not go for the easy option of paying someone a few dollars/pounds and get the chores done for us. There should be no immigrant employee at the gurdwara, as all of them are only coming here for resident visas for themselves and their families while their knowledge of gurbani borders on being mythical and totally irrelevant to our communities and activities in our social and economic lives. Let's learn and do it all ourselves and make our immigration departments happy because we are not acting as a conduit for parasites into our communities. We have a moral obligation to do what is right for us and our wider community as well. The approach from Penang seems a good one, but it has taken a generation. That is the crux of the matter. Let's think hard and evolve the solutions that would fit our local needs while remembering that the easiest or most convenient is not the right one over the longer term.