Yesterday, I was reminded by my good friend Raj, of a post I had written about Bandi Chhor Divas two years ago. The post (which I’ll share further below) still resonates deeply with how I am feeling at this moment in time.
This year has brought its own challenges and placed different or higher barriers for many people. Access to affordable health care and food security has been a privilege that not everyone has been able to enjoy. 10, 828 Canadians have lost their lives to Covid, 1.3 million human lives have been lost worldwide. Then there is education – even though the Ontario government announced an investment of $25.5 billion for the 2020-21 school year, I’ve been left wondering whose voices were heard during the allocation of these funds. Learning at home has required extensive support for our young person – a privilege that I am able to provide because of my teaching experience. I think about parents, caregivers (especially those whose first language is not English), students with an IEP like our young person and of course the teachers who are trying to figure out new ways to reach their students, every single day.
Our mental and emotional health has been stretched to what feels like capacity this year. And yet, as we follow the relentless work of those behind movements like Black Lives Matter and Indigenous rights, we see there is so much work that needs to be shared collectively, not just for a single moment in time. The struggle for voting rights has been brought to the front and centre of our attention in recent months, and we are reminded of the longer struggle to suppress those very voting rights.
To liberate our communities involves ongoing action, using whatever power and privilege we have on hand to propel change.
So, this Bandi Chhor I share my message from two years ago, but with additional knowledge gained from so many souls over the last several months. This sikhia, or ongoing learning, goes hand-in-hand with a commitment to continue advocating for Sarbat da Bhalla (the Sikh ardaas, or as our family calls it, our wish for today and tomorrow) – for the liberation of all – through my work here at Saffron Press.
To all of those celebrating – Happy Bandi Chhor Divas and Happy Diwali!
To learn more about the story of Bandi Chhor Divas, please read the post copied below.
From the blog @saffronpress:
First published November 7, 2018
This has been a year of advocate voices rising. It’s been a time of people recognizing that change can only happen through action. We have been reminded to step up because allyship is not supportive from the sidelines. It has been a time of solemn awareness – a time that has demanded our strength for healing and action.
Sikh communities around the world remember Bandi Chhor Divas today.
Our sixth Guru (spiritual guide) had been imprisoned at Gwalior Fort in 1619. The emperor had been advised that Guru Har Gobind Sahib had gathered too great a following and it was rumoured that he intended to attack political power. These opinions were based on stoking fear of the unknown.
While held in prison for no proven crime, Guru Har Gobind Sahib heard stories from Hindu rajahs (princes) who shared social and political opinions, which differed from those of the standing emperor. They feared for their communities and their people faced many forms of injustice. They felt defeated.
When the emperor did order the release of Guru Har Gobind Sahib, thanks to the tireless advocacy of Mian Mir – a Sufi Muslim – and community strength, the rajahs pleaded not be left behind. Guru Sahib refused his own release unless all political prisoners could leave with him. The emperor denied the request. After much back and forth, the emperor was advised on what was considered the perfect solution – Guru Sahib could leave with as many rajah prisoners who could hold on to his chola (long coat/shirt).
That night, Guru Sahib sent out a message. The next day, when Guru Sahib left the prison gates, he did not leave alone. He had had a chola tailored with 52 tassels hanging from it, one for each of the princes.
Guru Har Gobind Sahib’s chola is a metaphor for what we are still trying to achieve today. Liberation does not belong to any one person, or to a single community. True liberation takes place when you ensure that your freedom is tied to the freedom of every person you meet along the way. It’s a reminder that allyship is about recognizing privilege and then not being afraid to use it to uplift those who need it the most.