Kids Corner

Above: Wild elephants graze in the shadow of the towering Mount Kilimanjaro.


Postcard From Kenya





An invitation to do kirtan for the Gurpurab of Guru Nanak at Baba Ishar Singh Darbar in Nairobi, Kenya, came as a pleasant surprise. We were there as a full 'jatha' eleven years ago and I thought, perhaps Sikh-Kenyans did not like us!

The 'team' this time around comprised of trusty Dheeraj Shrestha on tabla, our oldest daughter Jamel on management and support vocals, and Quentin Eyers from Adelaide, Australia,  on didgeridoo, guitar and 'sound'.

We arrived on 30 October 2014 for 10 days of kirtan and two days at Amboseli Game Park at the foot of majestic Mount Kilimanjaro.

Flying into Nairobi airport has always been exciting - there’s every chance of spotting a zebra, impala or even a giraffe as the flight comes in! Nope! Not this time. We did see a giraffe the last time.

Hospitality by S. Ravinder Singh and family was as good as it gets. A sprawling mansion on one acre with two guest houses at the back, it is a dream abode with all the trappings of comfortable living.

Special mention must be made of their son Ramnik who does some exceptional seva at the Darbar and was our main contact for this kirtan trip. He organised everything for us, a consummate professional liaising between us and his committee.

The programmes were well organised and publicised leading to eight days of nightly kirtan and two programmes in Kisumu on the Kenyan edge of the vast Lake Victoria. This also happens to be the hometown of Bhai Sahib Mahinder Singh of the Nishkam Sewak Jatha.

It was a pleasant surprise to be jointly welcomed by the presidents of both the Singh Sabha and the Gurdwara Board of Kisumu.

We must have done well because we have already been invited back for next year!

We were also lucky to be able to do a small programme for the Australian High Commissioner, His Excellency Jeff Tooth, for Remembrance Day. He reciprocated by gracing the Gurpurab service at the Darbar on Sunday evening, accompanied by his wife, Joanna.

Amboseli Park lived up to its charm with elephants, lions, hyenas, giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, various species of deer, water buffaloes, hippopotami and a large variety of birdlife, including huge brooding vultures and smart secretary birds.

Entrepreneur Jas Singh Rai took us on a day road trip to Nkuru to visit a couple of his timber mills and a stop at the historical gurdwara there. We left the famous Kericho Gurdwara Sahib and seaport Mombasa for next time.

The last time (eleven years ago) there appeared to be a greater sense of doom and gloom and security fears with armed guards in front of gurdwaras and also around Sikh households. This time there appeared to be a marked difference, with industry sprouting everywhere, new roads and highways and a sense of optimism.

If there was a drawback it was the alarming increase of traffic on the roads leading to long jams and delays.

Kenya has about the best temperature I have witnessed in any country - around 26 degrees C. during the day, with pleasant sunshine and cool breezes and a cool 15 degrees at night. You sleep well. It cannot get any better.

My daughter adopted an elephant at the famous elephant orphanage (David Sheldrick Wild Life Trust) just outside the city - our small contribution towards saving wild animals, especially as majestic as an elephant.

My salutation to Sikh-Kenyans who are discerning about the kind of kirtan they enjoy; their desire for 'naam simran' and gurdwara etiquette (silence or singing along and no children running wild in the gurdwara); their ability to adapt to changing times with screens to display shabads as they are sung - in Gurmukhi and English, with simple translations; tables and chairs in langar halls; benches for the elderly inside the gurdwaras; wheelchairs being allowed into the gurdwara; sticking to time constraints and catering to the needs of the younger generations.

For Kenyan friends living outside Kenya, we expect, with Waheguru's grace, to be back for the same gurpurab next year. It will be nice to see you in your former beloved country, especially my field hockey colleagues in the United Kingdom.

By the way, I met hockey legend 'Tari' Avtar Singh who played and captained Kenya in four Olympics and played for Kenya in major world competitions for over 20 years. He now coaches the national Kenyan Ladies team. Incidentally,  his lovely wife, Ripudhaman Kaur has done sterling seva at Gurdwara Reetha Sahib in the Himalayan foothills over the last twenty years and visits every year. Originally a small shack, this gurdwara is now a beautiful darbar fit to remember Guru Nanak Sahib, with good residential arrangements for visitors.
'Reetha parshad' which Bhain ji gave me with great shardha (devotion) had to be shared immediately amongst group members because I would have faced quarantine problems if I had tried to take some back to Australia!

Our next foray into kirtan is in Punjab -  at the Basant Panchami Mela at the Baba Buddha Trust premises in 'pind' Dakoha, just outside Jullundhur on 23 and 24 January, 2015.

Some Kenyan friends have already expressed interest in attending. Anyone interested in coming, please

December 1, 2014

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh  (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), December 03, 2014, 1:45 PM.

An important aspect of Daya Singh ji is that he reaches out to the youngsters and inflames them with love of gurbani and kirtan. He is our modern day Pied Piper and has the whole sangat following him in the sing-along. His lovely daughter Jamel was able to accompany him to lend her voice, which add a special dimension. Dya is a passionate teacher. Stay in the Guru's service. "Kaljug meh keertan perdhaana" [GGS:1075.19] -- 'In this dark age, Waheguru's praises are sublime and exalting.'

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