As a graduate of Sidak 2011, I want to share my experience to motivate and inspire whoever reads this to attend, so that you too can join the ranks of people who have enriched and developed their understanding of Sikh culture and history.
The annual retreat, based in Texas may seem daunting, particularly for me it being my first trip to the US I arrived with a feeling of trepidation, not fully aware what awaited me in the two weeks ahead. Suffice to say, I was not disappointed.
Sidak provides you with an arena for reflection and introspection; in those two weeks where I gained a meaningful understanding of the application of the Sikh canon, Guru Granth Sahib, to my life as a 19-yr old from Scotland.
I was enrolled on the Sikhi 201 course, which comes with a fair bit of reading (some 500 pages if I remember correctly: not to be taken lightly!) The other two tracks, Sikhi 101 and Gurmukhi 101, are equally interesting and challenging and are pitched perfectly for those at different stages and areas of interest in Sikhi.
Day 1 began with a session led by Harinder Singh, who introduced a topical and controversial question, designed to stimulate and spark debate amongst fellow students. At the end of the session, it was quite clear: the aim of the question was not to find an answer, rather to elucidate the process of reaching one. The framework provided was that of the Gurmat triad: Tvarikh, Bani, Rahit, a recurring theme which is the foundation for all the classes and discussions throughout Sidak.
Sessions could either be joint, amongst students from other tracks, or separate classes, specific to each track. Daily sessions were held on a variety of topics, from the composition of the Guru Granth Sahib, to 1984 and the Panjab Rivers Crisis and each of these were designed to challenge conventionally held beliefs and promote discussion to develop our critical faculties
Engaging in academic debates with your peers leads you down paths of new understanding…..a sort of enlightenment in itself.
Interwoven among all these activities are evenings full of kirtan and bani which provide a rich spiritual experience, bringing you closer to the Guru and building that crucial relationship which numerous Sikhs of the present and past have held dear. It was at these divans where listening to the divine Sabad, you get the opportunity to assimilate the knowledge you amass and link it to something more profound, something greater.
Supporting the daily activities are the wonderful local sangat of San Antonio where each day sevadars work tirelessly to produce culinary delights, and complemented the rich discussions that take place around the dinner table with students from other tracks.
It is evident both in Panjab and the diaspora that leadership is sorely lacking in modern Sikh institutions where young people who cannot channel their energies into their community, struggle with conflicts of identity and try helplessly to engage. At Sidak, the whole team succeeded in creating an inclusive, welcoming atmosphere and participation is encouraged, especially in those basic aspects like ardaas, kirtan and langar seva, which today are regarded as the reserve of the ‘Giani’, but in actual fact are core to building the essential relationship with the Guru.
Sidak isn’t just a camp, but a leadership development program, where you discover your heritage, connect with your Guru and become empowered to not only think and speak about Sikhi, but to live it!