SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 285: “Ik Onkar (Gurmukhi)”

On the Western front of the Famous Route 66 lies the California coastline. Route 66… 2448 miles of changing pavement and dirt, that since 1926 it has reigned strong as an iconic starting / stopping point (all depends on the direction of your travel) for a driving journey of grand proportion.

And standing as a pinnacle marker is the end of the trail sign that stands… welcoming… above the Santa Monica Pier, famous for not only it’s fun in the sun attitude, but for its magnetism in marking one of the greatest melting pots of ethnic and cultural diversity in all of Southern California.

For this reason I have chosen this spot for our exploration this afternoon.

I walk the pier, and as expected… I am overwhelmed.

Men, women, couples and families of every age, faith, ethnicity and language scurry around in a bliss of summer fun. Restaurants, games, rides, storefronts and consumption of colorful food are all common agenda’s.

Yet, amidst the storm of activity I see a united people, a macro view of what things could be. So I stand quite, in the center of the thunder of sound and movement… observing and listening…

…Thousands of individual people… Thousands of stories… Thousands of smiles… And thousands of brief moments of stranger interacting with stranger. In basic terms, a global society slammed together in a confined area. That in itself could bring the worst out of a situation… But today it does not. All are on vacation or an escape of some type or another… I’m sure.

I have to ask, “Why does it take leisure to break down the barriers we all put up?”

I’ll tell you, I’m blank for a response. It is beyond me to figure. Maybe it’s stress relief, or living out a fantasy. Perhaps the kindness is evoked by the overwhelming count of activities or by the distance from the expectations of home communities.

Whatever it is, “Why does it happen to a lesser occurrence in our everyday lives?

Like I said, I’m blank for a response. The reason escapes me.

So I meander to the end of the pier… still looking… still pausing… still listening.

In a way, I begin to find myself on sensory overload. Not via fear, not by distraction, and surely not through any self-cast profiling. But driven by my mind heavily questing to know its neighbors. Amidst the deafening sound of diversity, it screams like it’s internal voice, “I want to know who these people are!”

The only way to explain it, “A restlessness to understand…” To know the names, the stories and the wisdom’s of all those are surrounding me this day. An impossible task for one man, but a task that united we can mirror as a whole. And this thought is pouring like an unstoppable river into my brain as I explore the vastness of the faces that pass on every side of me.

Absolutely, there is no way I can befriend all on the pier. That would not only be pompous, but a superhuman initiative far beyond my ability. But what I can do is open my mind to an awareness of the humanity that I so casually stroll through this day. And in that, challenge myself to be receptive to whatever, or whomever I do engage with.

It’s a funny thing how at times the Universe listens to us. The louder the crowd gets… the more silent my thoughts become, and at the instant of my deepest release of quest, I hear the sound of laughter growing, “Will you take our photo?” creeps through the laughs.

I focus my attention, and before me stands two remarkable individuals, Kanwarpal and his brother-in-law Amandeep. I am smitten by their joy… and something about these two gentlemen is enlightening.

Kanwarpal has two points to living a fulfilled life, and by the happiness the glows from him, it is apparent that he lives by his words.

“Don’t ever do anything that causes you to lose your smile… and don’t ever regret anytime in your life… anything that even once made you smile.”

Amandeep adds his take, “’Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t observe a person for what you see. The phrase, ‘Don’t judge a person by their cover.’ Realize and recognize everyone else.’”

The fact alone that Kanwarpal and Amandeep are wearing turbans and beards would be cause for many to profile. The fact is that they are together on a touring excursion for Amandeep whom is about to marry Kanawarpal’s sister. That is why they are on the pier.

Neither are from any radical cell, or have any agenda other than the love their neighbors. A view that is at the very core of the value system that they adhere. So much so that the main direction of their lives is working with youth; something that both of these fine men dedicate much of their time to.

Further both are American citizens, engaging with the society that surrounds them and bottom line, are wonderful contributors to the world.

Amandeep hails from California and Kanwarpal is visiting from Maryland tell me, “We are Sikh and believe we all share a common God, We have a saying Ik Onkar (Gurmukhi), meaning God is one…” Amandeep explains… “It does not matter what color your skin is, we are all in one place… any religion…

…We should live life to the fullest, treat other people fairly, be fearful of God, and know that everybody is going to the same place.

As Sikh’s we make sure our arms and our hands are always open to everyone else.

That’s why we are here.”

Kanwarpal elaborates,

“We are not from any radical group, our turbans and our beards are like uniforms. Only they are not like the uniforms of command. They are to let people know of our beliefs and a symbol of our respect and of our values. When you see us, you know we are here to help each other and others, not to hurt one another.”

Amandeep talks of the future, “90% of the time whatever you hear on the news you have to take it with a grain of salt.

I’m hoping that everybody starts taking a healthier approach to life; that we start looking not only within ourselves, but overall, towards our community. Lending a hand where we can. Making sure that we are physically fit, so that the overall diseases as far as diabetes, cardio vascular and all that, they decrease. But at the same time looking to make the earth a more pleasant place to stay. Cutting down on the smog and everything else. Because we’re still young we want to make sure that our planet is safe for our kids and our grand kids and their kids. That’s what I’m hoping for. Will that every happen within our lifetime… I hope so.”

Kanwarpal looks ahead, “We are going to become more aware. Right now too many are about me, I’m doing this… this is about me. That is going to start approaching to we and our. Technology helps to that point. But also I see that everyone is on they’re mobile phones and Facebook and Twitter. It’s just a phase. It is only doing its part to get people connected around the world. But I think that is going to fall down and then the real synergy is going to start-up.”

I know now why the noise was broken by the sounds of laughter. And even though I meet my new friends, Amandeep and Kanwarpal, through the invite of a smile, lighthearted they are not. For on the end of a busy tourist pier, and within the endless movement of humanity in vacation mode, I find a temple of sorts.

A temple not of brick and mortar construct, but a sanctuary of worship to a higher power. Non-the-less; a power that through the unconditional friendship of two kind gentleman has transformed my afternoon.

Who would have ever have conceived that in the fast pace of amusement park ambience that the quietest of subjects could be discussed?

We are truly all in this thing together. And in the word of our two new friends of great wisdom, I can only quote, Ik Onkar (Gurmukhi).

Talk tomorrow my friends.