An old Sikh joke…

For most of us religion begins not as a matter of belief, but from the accident of birth and subsequent upbringing. Some make positive decisions to be born again, or to convert. Others drift off to something vaguer or all the way to none-of-the-above.

If I could choose, starting from scratch, all cultural and racial baggage to one side, the Sikhs might be the boys for me.

Blame the various Sikhs I’ve lived with. They’ve all been good advertisements – cool or hip or eccentric – they’ve been without exception open-minded and good-hearted. And darned good-looking. (The women weren’t bad-looking either.)

I know, I know. I shouldn’t generalise. Nor gush. I may just have been lucky.

They’ve all been of the small slick turban or baseball cap variety too. I wouldn’t fancy having to sport a Hardeep Kohli-type blancmange on my head.

Hardeep Singh Kohli. His turban: NO. His show, Meet the Magoons, a surprising YES.

They’ve all liked a drink, though apparently that’s not the done thing, according to Exploring Sikhism. (In fact, I’ve never known a teetotal Sikh, male or female. See, I told you I was lucky.)

And speaking of rules, or doctrine. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but the thing Sikh doctrine appears to be missing is all the offensive small print you get elsewhere. So, as a (very patient) leading Sikh spokesperson told me at one of Britain’s major temples: “Yes, you could have a lesbian leading the ceremonies here. People might not like it, but there’s nothing in doctrine against having a woman in charge, whatever her sexuality.”

How refreshing. Catholics take note. I’m not suggesting all Sikhs are paragons of mellowness and tolerance, as thespians will know already. And the chances of this hypothetical lesbian running the show are slim to zero at the moment, but at least any obstacles of prejudice are not founded on religious rules.

So what’s holding me back from signing up? Two things.

Sikhism does seem a bit culturally specific. I appreciate that the turban is a sign of belonging. And I even like that it seems awkward and contrary to common sense at times. (Sometimes a helmet does seem the better option.) But, whereas Christians, Muslims and Buddhists come in all colours of the rainbow, Sikhs do tend to be Punjabi somewhere down the line. I suppose I could be the one to help Sikhism break out from that narrow pool, but I don’t think I have the energy.

The other thing is that Sikhism seems so straightforward. You should be self-reliant and work hard, but help others if they need it. Woman, as far as I’ve seen, are treated equally. They’re opposed to castes. You should respect the planet. All seems fairly normal and straightforward. Very Dutch. And that’s the other reason why I haven’t signed up – I don’t need to. It appears to be a sensible state of mind rather than a religion. (Maybe that’s why the arbitrary trappings are deemed so important. Quick! Chuck in some incense and beard rules or no-one will take us seriously.)

Which brings me to this post’s old Sikh joke. I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering if all of the above was just a lead-in to the joke. Hey, what can I say? You could be right.

So here’s my mate Chen’s old Sikh joke:

George Bush was sitting in his office wondering whom to invade next when his telephone rang.

‘Hello, Mr. Bush!’ a heavily accented voice said, ‘This is Gurmukh Singh from Phagwara Village, Punjab .. I am ringing to inform you that we are officially declaring the war on you!’

‘Well, Gurmukh,’ Bush replied, ‘This is indeed important news! How big is your army’

‘Right now,’ said Gurmukh, after a moment’s calculation, ‘there is myself, my cousin Sukhdev, my next door neighbor Bhagat, and some of the hockey team from the temple. That makes eight’

Bush paused.. ‘I must tell you, Gurmukh that I have one million men in my army waiting to move on my command.’

‘Arrey O! Main kya..’ said Gurmukh. ‘I’ll have to ring you back!’

Sure enough, the next day, Gurmukh called again.

‘Mr. Bush, it is Gurmukh, I’m calling from Punjab, the war is still on! We have managed to acquire some infantry equipment!’

‘And what equipment would that be, Gurmukh’ Bush asked.

‘Well, we have two combines, a donkey and Amrik’s tractor.’

Bush sighed. ‘I must tell you, Gurmukh, that I have 16,000 tanks and 14,000 armored personnel carriers. Also, I’ve increased my army to 1-1/2 million since we last spoke.’

‘Oh teri…..’ said Gurmukh. ‘I’ll have to get back to you.’

Sure enough, Gurmukh rang again the next day.

‘Mr. Bush, the war is still on! We have managed to get ourselves airborne…. .. We’ve modified Amrik’s tractor by adding a couple of shotguns, sticking on some wings and the village’s generator. Four schoolboys from Malpur have joined us as well!’

Bush was silent for a minute and then cleared his throat.. ‘I must tell you, Gurmukh, that I have 10,000 bombers and 20,000 fighter planes. My military complex is surrounded by laser-guided, surface-to-air missile sites. And since we last spoke, I’ve increased my army to TWO MILLION!’

‘Hhmm….’ said Gurmuk, ‘I’ll have to ring you back.’

Sure enough, Gurmukh called again the next day.

‘Kiddan, Mr.Bush! I am sorry to tell you that we have had to call off the war..’

‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ said Bush. ‘Why the sudden change of heart’

‘Well,’ said Gurmukh, ‘we’ve all had a long chat over a couple of beers…

…and we decided there’s no way we can feed two million prisoners of wars!’

NOW THAT’S CALLED CONFIDENCE ..

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10 Comments

Filed under Influences, life

10 responses to “An old Sikh joke…

  1. Haha very funny! Personally, I don’t know any other than the guys that run our quickie mart and all I can say about that is they’ve changed it from a grubby, germ infested supermarket into a spotless Indian grocery, wonderful to have access to such authentic foodstuffs. We have a massive temple near us and frankly, they seem to have a darn good time worshipping and well . . . partying!

  2. Pingback: An Old Sikh Joke

  3. Sikhs tend to be Punjabis because (like Jews) they’re not really into the whole missionary thing; they don’t believe that followers of other faiths are going to hell, so they don’t try to convert them. But I believe you are allowed to be a Sikh if you ask nicely.

    The best Sikh joke, however, was from the Basil Brush show in about 1975. Basil and Mr Billy are in a doctor’s waiting room. A man with a turban comes in.

    “Hope your head gets better,” says BB.

    “Basil,” hisses Mr Billy, “you mustn’t say that. He’s a Sikh man!”

    “Of course he’s a Sikh man,” says Basil. “That’s why he’s at the doctor’s.”

    BOOM BOOM!

  4. blackwatertown

    This comment came in via email from “A Sikh”:

    Like it! Spot on, esp the bit about need to have the beard/incense. Seriously, a lot of debate at the mo within Sikhism about how ritual/’uniform’ take away from the spiritual underpinning of the faith, and that – plus 95% Punjabi roots – makes us suffer the curse of most religions, ie tribalism.

    We also retain the benefits and problems caused by no priesthood, so that my view on sexism and caste could be seen as non-Sikh by another Sikh! Egalitarian, but confusing.

    The 5% who are not are mainly American converts – and they kinda shame the rest of us with their calm, thoughtful non-drinking ways. Always been bit mystified about why some would chose to become Sikhs in the West, not least as we don’t proselytise, but apparently the one-time drummer of the Animals is one now…will never hear ‘There is a House in New Orleans’ the same way again.

  5. Swazi

    We’d be more than happy to welcome you Paul, but just a correction if I may be so bold.

    There are a fair number of Californian Sikhs who are white Americans and some in England too. Admittedly as Sikhism does not approve of proselytizing we don’t go in for conversion, so tend to be born into the faith. It’s a fairly closed shop in that sense, but my hubbie has been made very welcome as a Sikh’s spouse and you know we’re all about sharing, be it food, drink or terrible jokes!!

    The interesting thing will be what our child chooses to be as by birth he will be considered Sikh by my family, but it is ultimately his choice.

    Really like the joke by the way :o)

  6. blackwatertown

    Michael emails to say:
    Good article, terrible joke: alone enough to contemplate any other religion apart from Sikhism.

  7. Chen

    Thanks for the article Paul, that and the the comment reminded me of something thats increasingly troubled me about religious identity.
    These days Sikh baptism (or rather, confirmation) tends to be reserved for adults so they can make a mature choice of their own.
    It’s always led me to never really wonder if a child -of any religion – can be termed to ‘belong’ to it, until they can make their own informed decision?
    Not something i feel strongly about, but an issue that perplexes me somewhat…

  8. rummuser

    BWT, I doff my turban to you. Yes, I have been known to wear one on occasion.

    You will find that all the Eastern religions, all originated in India incidentally, do not proselytise in the normally understood way. They have just grown organically as it were.

    There is casteism among the Sikhs though not as virulent as among the Hindus. http://www.asiantribune.com/node/18221

    http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2009/05/26/is-caste-behind-the-killing-in-vienna-and-riots-in-punjab/

    And, politics in the Punjab revolves around such casteism, both among the Sikhs and the Hindus. Incidentally, the Akali Dal, a Sikh entity and the BJP a right wing Hindu nationalist party are coalition partners at the Punjab and the national level.

    Like in all matters pertaining to India, issues are very complex and not easy to simplify. But, by and large, if I had to write this post, I would stick to the same plot.

    • blackwatertown

      Thanks for the links – especially the Asian Tribune piece detailing different sections of Sikhism. I notice that, unlike many other religions, the official Sikh line is much more reasonable and tolerant than people’s actual behaviour. (Usually it’s the other way round – Catholic teaching v actual behavious on contraception, for instance.) Is this heartening? I choose to see as so.

      I also take on board your gentle suggestion that things pertaining to Sikhism, India and life even, may be more complex than they first appear.

  9. rummuser

    This is just to leave a notification option to get your response.

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