Satwant Kaur stayed on for some time to watch Fatima's progress. She was glad to note that Fatima looked happier day by day. Her speech lost its harshness, and her manner towards her household changed dramatically. She was no longer arrogant and demanding in her orders to her servants. She also began to involve her young son by waking him early and teaching him simple prayers.
During her conversations with her husband, Fatima would gently point out how unjust were the raids made by him and his soldiers on Punjab, and being so harsh and cruel to innocent people "Kings should be like fathers who protect their people. Wars should take place only when one nation is attacked by another," she said to him.
On another occasion Fatima suggested to her husband not to cut their son's hair as it was so soft and beautiful.
In this way two months passed. Satwant Kaur was now convinced that Fatima was firm in her faith and would continue on the path confidently. One day she told Fatima about her plan to leave. When Fatima resisted, Satwant Kaur said, "I will have to sneak away then, since you won't let me go happily."
The next day, Satwant Kaur awoke at 2 a.m. and got dressed. She had come to this house as a slave, but was now ready to leave after showing her mistress the right path to spiritual freedom. Fatima had insisted on giving her two hundred gold coins to help her on the journey, but Satwant Kaur left the bundle where it lay. Eating a handful of grapes, she made her way through the tunnel into wilderness beyond.
Satwant Kaur soon reached the clearing where the holy person was staying. In the dim light of an earthen lamp, Santji was sitting in meditation. Bowing to him, Satwant Kaur sat down quietly.
Towards dawn he opened his eyes. Seeing Satwant, he smiled and said, "Tell me, child, have you completed Guru's task?
Satwant Kaur's eyes filled with tears, "Maharaj, I have tried to do as you advised me. On my own I would have made many mistakes. By Waheguru's grace and your guidance, Fatima has started on the spiritual path with a heart full of sincerity and devotion."
Santji was very pleased at these words and blessed Satwant Kaur, "You are a good soul! May Waheguru grant you greater nearness to Him! But remember always that pure love for the Almighty must ever be tinged with awe. This keeps a check on one's ego. The Guru has said:
Nanak bhaiy vinn jay mraiy muhe kalaiy utth jaiy
(Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ang 149)
Says Nanak, the person who dies without the loving fear of the Lord, dies in disgrace.)
Satwant Kaur thanked Santji for his kindness and advice, then said, "Maharaj ji, I wish to return to my motherland and want your permission."
Santji: Your plan to accompany the old gentleman, Baba Ladha Singh, has got slightly delayed but don't worry. The next caravan will be leaving in fifteen days time.
Soon Baba Ladha Singh arrived and was pleased to see Satwant Kaur who was now in the disguise of Jaswant Singh. Santji told Baba Ladha Singh to take good care of the young lad. He also told him that he would reach Amritsar by Diwali and asked the Baba to wait there for him.
Satwant Kaur was not happy to mislead her companions by this pretence, and felt that she did not deserve their kindness and respect. Silently she thanked them and God for these blessings.
Dear friends! In the older days when a Sikh received praise, it did not make him feel that he was superior to his brothers and sisters. Due to this, warm camaraderie and mutual love for Sri Waheguru united the panth. Today, the scene is very different. The moment praise is lavished on a person, he accepts it as his due and his behaviour towards others changes. He forgets that the foremost quality of a wise man is humility.
So, Khalsaji, feel that you belong to the Guru and be a friend to all. Let your soul be in the care of Waheguru, but let your heart believe in
Sagal charan ki eih mann ralla
(Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ang 384)
(I am the dust under the feet of others)
The Guru has clearly stated that he respects the Sikh who remembers the Lord and teaches others to do the same:
Jan Nanak dhoorh mangaiy tis Gursikh ki
Jo aap japaiy, avraih Naam japavai
(Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ang 306)
(Nanak craves for the dust of the devotee’s feet who contemplates himself and makes others contemplate the Name of the Lord.)
The Caravan with which Satwant Kaur was hoping to reach her country finally took to the road. She and the old Baba along with a young servant were the only ones going to Punjab.
However, they had gone barely a few miles when the Amir’s soldiers came thundering up and called a halt. They began to make thorough search. Each and every box, bundle and bedroll was opened and gone through carefully.
The bewildered travelers were told that the Amir had lost a valuable diamond. In fact, the thief was one of the courtiers, and to direct suspicion away from himself, he had advised the Amir to stop the caravan, in case the thief was escaping with it to Hindustan.
The soldiers took full advantage of the situation to purloin valuables for themselves. They also began a personal search of the people, though this was not ordered by the Amir. The women were separated from the men and searched by women guards.
Satwant Kaur was in a dilemma. Had she been dressed as a women all would have been well. But, she was dressed as a young man, and was now herded along with the other men.
As the search continued, Satwant Kaur’s mind worked frantically to find a solution; all the time praying for divine help. Night fell and only half of the job was done. So a camp was made and the caravan was surrounded by soldiers on all sides so that the search could be resumed the next morning.
In a village in far-off Punjab, daylight was fading and as darkness began to spread, the birds retreated into their nests, and the people to their homes where earthen lamps brightened the interiors.
Stars began to twinkle in the dark sky. Slowly the moon arose, casting a cool, silvery light all around. It was a scene to soothe the eyes and bring peace to the soul. But for one person, it was a time of stark suffering. A woman sat lost in her thoughts, tears flowing from her closed eyes. She wiped these occasionally as she desperately prayed for some semblance of peace and restoration of faith in God’s will. But the love and longing for her daughter brought a fresh wave of emotion and she began to sob uncontrollably.
After a while, she wiped her eyes, looked up at the sky and began to talk to her missing daughter:
My darling daughter, sitting in some strange land, may be you too are looking at the moon. This is the only contact I have with you. Alas! This separation is breaking my heart. When will it be over? O my Lord, how my faith wavers! I am not able to accept Your will, nor have I been able to cut my emotional ties. May be if my child had died, I would have been able to swallow this bitter pill, and learnt acceptance with Your grace- Oh God! Why have I not received any news of my daughter? Child, you have left me so bereft-captured and taken to a land form which no one returns. Please someone, bring me news that my daughter died, pure and innocent as the day was born! I would rejoice, and compare the event to doing ishnaan (taking hold dip) at Sri Amritsar or going to Hazoor Sahib for darshan. But who is to tell me whether my daughter is suffering untold miseries on this earth, or is in the high heavens? Blood of my blood, heart of my heart-ah! How she was torn away from me! What untold pain!
And she began to chant a lament of her unbearable sorrow and need to see her lost daughter’s face just once to get some solace. At the end, she again burst out crying, and finally closed her eyes form sheer exhaustion.
In the next instant she saw a hillside, and a stream flowing nearby, the water making soft rippling sounds as it ran over the pebbles. On one side of the stream there were a number of trees covered with vines. Through the think green leaves, bunches upon bunches of black grapes were visible. Under one of the trees she saw Satwant Kaur, sitting with bowed head. At times she sighed deeply, then tears rolled down her cheeks. She began humming to herself and her mother heard the heartbreaking words of a song about a girl separated from her parents, brothers and sisters who remembers the small daily incidents shared with them, and conveys her loneliness and deep long to be back with them.
The mother moved forward and eagerly tried to take her daughter in a tight embrace, but there was nothing-no warm and loving daughter- only the empty courtyard, the same courtyard where her child grew up, running around and playing games! The scene vanished, and with it the beloved face. The mother heaved a sigh and said:
Ah, it was only a dream! But child, are you alive? Oh God, what am I to do? So many days have I waited without news; even Santji has not sent any message. Guruji, please guide me. Should I go to Kabul? Can I find her there? My instincts will surely lead me her, and if I am unsuccessful, I shall die in the attempt. Oh Lord, either send back my child or send me death.
“What? Asking for death? What kind of thankless words are these?”-a deep, serious voice spoke from the doorway. Startled, Basant Kaur stood up and quickly moved forward to greet her husband. He came up to her and placed his hand on her shoulder, saying,
My dear, why this loss of faith? The Almighty creates and destroys, it is as He wills. Who are we to dictate to Him? Is our thinking wiser than His? You have always been very patient and strong, and were accepting this loss with full faith. What happened to make you lose control like this?
Basant Kaur: Forgive me, Sardarji. A woman is emotional and that makes her weak. We are like animals and as Guruji has said,
Chunay soyna paayeeaiy chun chun khawaiy ghaas
(Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ang 143)
(Even if gold is offered to animals, they will eat only grass.)
Even if we are educated our basic beliefs remains the same.
With your company, I had learnt a great deal. But since you were away, my patience and tolerance deserted me, my faith wavered, and left me feeling weak and helpless. Like ordinary women, I have cried and lamented for my daughter today. I have seen her crying. I have cursed my fate and myself and left life to be too bitter and have wanted to die. I realized that in all this I have shown the gravest disrespect for our ever-loving Lord. I am not fit to be the wife of a true Sikh. Send me to Kabul please! Let me try and find my daughter. And if this does not happen, I’ll break my head on the rocks and kill myself (and she began to cry bitterly).
He continued in a gentle voice:
Just think, dear, we have already lost our daughter, and now we are turning our back on our faith as well. You know that she was a gift from Waheguru, and now He has taken this gift back. The pain we are feeling is for the suffering she must be undergoing. But if we think for a moment, we don’t know what condition she was in before she came into our family. If we could not know nor do anything about it then, the same situation exists now. We have tried everything possible to trace her and have failed. The constant worry is only for her physical and moral purity. If she is alive with her faith intact, then it is a matter of joy, and if she had died with her faith and purity intact, then that too is a matter of joy.
I have full confidence that she will never show any weakness. She cherishes the pride of being a Sikh. You too must have this faith.
You must keep your thought positive and remain in charhdikala. If you begin to think that your daughter has lost her purity, these negative thoughts will surely reach her and create negativity in her thinking. Trust in the fact that your child is strong and facing the challenges staunchly. Then pray with complete faith to the Guru to come to her aid.
Jahan jahan Khalsa ji Sahib
Tahan tahan rachhya riayat
(Your protection reaches all places wherever the Khalsa resides).
With these actions you will help your daughter’s spirit to remain hopeful and positive.
Don’t limit your perceptions to the visible world only, because what we cannot see is much larger that what we can. The principles of the unseen world are more subtle, but extremely strong. Your wishes and thought have a definite identity in the invisible world. Like arrows they fly in the space, find their mark and make an impact to uplift or bring about a downfall, to create or to destroy, depending on our state of mind.
Because of your unhappiness today, you saw your daughter weeping in her distress. Now when you think about her, picture her as being in Charhdi Kala! Send her the blessing-Child, may you never lose your optimistic spirit.
Every day we perform the ardas for those women and children who are lying in captivity in far-off lands, that they may hold on to their faith. And we firmly believe that not even one of our children will from grace. Why do you let your spirits slide into disbelief?
Remind yourself of the numerous Sikhs who were captured along with Baba Banda Singh. Some were part of his troops, but quite a few were mere passers-by. Yet, not one of them compromised in the matter of his religion. We remind ourselves of such incidents not to become arrogant but to keep doubt, fear and disbelief away from us and strengthen our faith that if it is Guru’s will then our wishes shall be fulfilled.
Basant Kaur: What you say is so true, but at moments I feel overwhelmed by a sudden wave of emotion. When I sit down to eat, the thought comes unbidden. Has my daughter eaten or is she sitting hungry? Before I sleep, I wonder if she is lying on the cold ground in some lonely place, and while churning butter I remember how she used to sing asking for stale roti and fresh butter.
My dear husband, I get a lot of strength and comfort from your wise words. It makes me contemplate how the Lord makes provision even for the new-born child. In the same way, He must have planned for my daughter. I know she is brave like a lioness and will face all troubles courageously. I also tell myself that some good will come out of this because we believe that whatever Waheguru does is for our good. May be something needed to be done in Kabul, which only Satwant could do and that is why she has been sent there. How can we know why things happen? For us it is enough that we keep faith. With these thoughts, I feel strong.
This morning I began to realize that I was so unhappy because it was my daughter who was missing. So many raids have occurred and so many young girls carried away. I have felt a pang but never this heart and misery!
I remembered these lines from Sri Guru Granth Sahib:
Jab lay meiri meiri karaiy
Tab lag kaaj eik nahi sarai
(Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ang 1160)
(As long as one is caught in the web of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, nothing worthwhile can be achieved).
Himmat Singh nodded and said:
It’s true that pain is caused by our ego and possessiveness, but it is not easy to control these. Also, there is another aspect to remember. There is a very fine distinction between ‘ego’, which causes suffering and ‘pride’, which is the core basis of a human being. If this is given up then there can be no happiness.
Some people take their weakness to mean that they have conquered their ‘ego’. In fact, what they have done is to give up their right to make decisions and to take action accordingly.
The cause of your pain is self-respect or self-worth which refuses to accept and give in to the evil actions of another. We Indians had lost this spirit, and Sri Guru Gobind Singh revived it.
You wish your daughter to die with her self-respect intact. This arises form a higher love, which is supported by strength of character and true religious fervour. This is something to be proud of.
As to the conquering of the sense of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, one cannot get rid of it merely by talking. In spite of great efforts, it raises its head again and again.
The Guru has therefore shown us that the cure for it is through a deep and abiding love for Waheguru. As our love for Him increases, we shall feel closer to him. A sense of belonging will fill our souls. ‘I am His and He is mine’-this relationship will become all-encompassing, drawing us away from the ephemeral attractions of this world.
And as we continue to remember Waheguru, a day will come when we shall feel His love being showered on us. This will wash away the fine veil of our ego, and enable our purified soul to become one with the all-loving Father. Strengthened by His touch, it will form an external bond with Him which can never break.
We are at the stage of effort, of trying t uplift ourselves to reach for oneness with the Lord. The way of the world is to believe: ‘everything is mine, only the Lord is not’. But the Guru’s path is of loving devotion which forges close bonds with Waheguru. When these bonds are weak, the love of others pulls us away to non-belief.
You must fight this. Don’t listen to the complaints of wordily people. Also be careful not to be influenced by words of hollow wisdom.
The effort should be to start at the bottom rung and gradually more upwards. Begin by reminding yourself daily, as many times as possible. Waheguru is ever-present even though I can’t see Him, so that slowly the awareness of His presence remains with you at all times.
Next, ask yourself, ‘Where is He?’
And tell yourself: ‘He is with me, and all around me’.
Then think, “What is His relationship to us?’
To this you reply: ‘He is our Father and He loves us’.
Once you are convinced of his love, then your devotion and love for him will become absolutely firm. You will feel that you are constantly surrounded by the radiance and joy of His presence. Your spirits will always be uplifted.
In this way, a person who has conquered his ego creates an aura of goodness. Whatever he does benefits others. His mind stays at a higher level; he respects and relies on himself, and becomes alive in the true sense of the word. But this happens only after the mind has been cleansed by reciting Gurbani and by the love of ‘naam simran’.”
Basant Kaur: It is so true that when a vine clings to a strong tree, it can rise to the same height as the tree. In the same way a person of weak faith can rise to great spiritual heights by the satsang of his companion. You have done so much to help me shed my weakness but I still need your help. I am extremely foolish. I have not been able to achieve the state of mind when I can feel the presence of Waheguru all the time. But I know that your kindness and optimism will make me strong.
Himmat Singh: I myself have not achieved that state of complete faith, but we are blessed with the gift of satsang. So we must not worry. Guruji will himself lead us to the goal.
(to be continued...)