Can we ever imagine the life of Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji without the active role of his sister Bebe Nanaki ji. Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji was a reformer of the world, but within his own family, he was not properly understood by his father. His mother Mata Tripta ji, being a woman and of course being his mother understood him a lot better than his father initially did. But his best and most loyal friend in the blood relationships was his sister Bebe Nanaki ji. After leaving his home in Sheikhupura district, Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji lived in the garrison town of Sultanpur Lodhi more than a hundred miles away with none other than his sister Bebe Nanaki ji.
According to Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji, men and women are made equal by God all mighty, they are the two wheels of the chariot that pulls the family along. During one of his famous sermons Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji remarked that it is improper and unjust to criticize womanhood, which gives births to great and virtuous men like the kings and the emperors. However practically in this world, a man in the society of course has a different and dominant role to play than his by birth equally important partner, the female of the house. Perhaps Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji did not mean it to be a perpetually male dominated world, he was much ahead of his times.
Like mother earth, which carries the entire load of living beings, the woman carries the off-spring in her womb for the entire duration before giving birth. During this period she undergoes tremendous suffering and pain, but does not refuse to carry the child. During the laborious and painful phase of reproduction, the woman becomes the embodiment of sacrifice and selflessness. Can we ever expect the same kind of sacrifices from her male counter-part. When the parents grow old, they naturally expect to be served by their sons. But, in most cases, the daughters end up caring for their ageing and infirm parents more than their sons do.
In the Punjab, the land of Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji, unfortunately there has in recent times been a marked tendency to kill the female child in the womb of the mother. The female child feticide has been going on in rural and urban Punjab for decades. This unfortunate tendency has adversely disturbed the sex ratio in the state. In most of the countries, the female population slightly outnumbers the male population, but in some areas of Punjab the male to female ratio is in the vicinity of 1000 males to 750 females. This lopsided ratio means that out of 1000 eligible male bachelors as many as 250 will not be able to get female partners from within their own community. In such cases a lot of male Sikhs will remain unmarried to the girls of their faith and culture. At present a lot of Sikh youths are bringing poor women illegally from far off places such as Bangladesh for marrying them. Culturally and religiously these women have nothing in common with the people in Sikh faith. How will their off springs turnout to be is any body’s guess. No other community in India is in such a precarious demographic condition.
When we go into the reasons of female feticide prevalent in the Sikh community, the main reason, as quoted by some, is the exhorbitant expenditure incurred on the weddings of the girls. But if we explore the teachings of our great Gurus, the Gurus never recommended high cost marriages. They lived very austere lives and they wanted their Sikhs to lead simple lives.
If we go into the cost of the weddings, the major expenditure is incurred on preparation of dowry. Dowry, in the past has never been a tradition in the Sikh community, it is a custom prevalent in the Hindu society and the wealthy amongst the Sikhs have copied it from the Hindu business community. The major component of expenditure during the weddings is related to the preparation of gold and other jewelry. This reminds me about an old English saying “Beauty needs no ornaments”. The jewelry does not enhance the beauty of a woman, rather it is a drag on it. The beauty in fact comes from within, from young age, from good health and from the woman’s state of mind and soul. During the “Singh Sabha Movement” of the 1920s, the Sikh leadership was insisting on austere weddings. The bride-groom’s party was recommended to take very few guests to the homes of the brides. The parents of the bride were asked not to give ornaments in the marriage. Subsequently proliferation of the wealth amongst the rich led to the demand for dowry. I thing time has come to ban dowry in order to save the female child.
There is a popular adage “Behind every successful man there is a woman”. It is very true. In my childhood my biggest advisor was my mother and after my marriage my main advisor is my wife. I have also observed that many times the men give us very aggressive advice, but it is the women who always give us cool, balanced and sobering advice. If we kill the females in the womb, then who will give us the most prudent advice? I have also personally observed that there are some very bright and intelligent women, whom you can groom into excellence. You impart knowledge to them, but when it comes to giving a practical shape to what you taught, they most of the time exceed your teachings and expectations. That generates a unique sense of elation in the teacher. Should we kill in the womb those bright females who go on to outperform the boys and their tutors. A great music director S. Mohinder once remarked, “Whatever tune I compose for Lata Mangeshksar, while rendering the song she always exceeds my expectations and those of the other music directors. Should we ever kill such bright females in the womb? The answer should be a unanimous no. The females are the Guru’s gift to the Sikh community, they deserve respect and nice and caring upbringing, but not killing in the womb. Killing of one female in the womb of the mother impoverishes our society a lot more.
Harjap Singh Aujla