My summer started off like any other typical summer. My family and I went to India, where I spent time with family and coped with the brutal heat of Punjab. Then my summer took a turn. My mother had told me that my sister and I were going to attend a gurmat camp at Baru Sahib which was meant for youth that lived in USA, Europe, Canada, and Britain. I was 13 and my younger sister was 11. To be honest, at first the thought of taking cold showers and doing paath at 5 AM in the morning didn't excite me. My aunt and I tried to convince my mom to get us out of this camp. We all thought that my mom had gone mad.
My mom volunteers for the Kalgidhar Trust in the USA. She raises money by going to gurdwaras all around the US and encourages people to donate. Kalgidhar Trust is an organization which improves the world through education and spiritual awakening. They have 130 academies all throughout India which provide a quality, value-based education in rural areas.
The headquarters of the Kalgidhar Trust are located in a valley surrounded by seven mountains. The place is called Baru Sahib. I had been there before, but I had never went as a camper. As soon as we came to Baru Sahib, we were given warm food to eat and a room to stay in. The people are very hospitable and always checked on us to make sure we were doing all right. We were the first people to arrive at the camp, but our classes started right away.
The next morning my counselor, Param Didi, woke us up in the morning for Nitnem at 5 AM. I was surprised when my mom told me there was a water heater, and that we didn't have to take cold showers. In the beginning getting up early in the morning was hard, and often times I would doze off during Nitnem. My body wasn't in the habit of waking up early in the morning.
After Nitnem ended at 6 AM, we went back to sleep and woke up again for breakfast at 8AM. The cook rang a bell to signify that breakfast for the campers has been served. At breakfast, I met a family from Michigan which consisted of three sisters. The older daughter was 15, the middle daughter was 10, and the youngest daughter was 8. We also met another family from the UK which consisted of a father and two brothers. The elder brother was 19 and the younger brother was 16. These people were my closest friends throughout the camp. We were like brothers and sisters. The first thing they did was take our kirtan and punjabi aptitude tests to see which level we are at. I have been learning kirtan and punjabi back in the states, so I was placed at a higher level. Based on your level, they give you a teacher. Every camper gets a personal teacher that them teaches punjabi, santhya, and kirtan classes. Every camper gets personal, one-on-one teaching.
I was given a teacher named Manpreet Didi who had just completed her MA in Music at the Akal College of Divine Music in Baru Sahib. She has made a huge impact on my life. My voice is not naturally gifted with a ability to sing high notes. I had developed a fear of trying to sing high notes. My teacher told me that she believed in me and that Guru will bless me with a good voice if I ask him for his blessings. Manpreet Didi also told me that she had the same problem when she was doing her BA in Music.
She said that she practiced more than anyone else did, and now she has a harmonious voice. This gave me inspiration to overcome my obstacles. At the end of camp, my voice had changed so much. I was able to reach keys that I was never able to reach before.
Manpreet Didi would also teach me about Gurmat. She was very passionate about Vaheguru and his wonders. She would tell me everyday: "If you have any problems, take a Hukam and Guru ji will take care of you." We shared our own personal problems with each other. She started calling me her younger sister. We still call each other every week to check up on each other. She became the older sister that I had always wanted.
After Punjabi and Kirtan classes, we would have Santhya classes. Santhya is learning the pronunciations of bani. In Santhya, I learned how to take a hukam by reading and singing it fluently. The biggest accomplishment I had in Santhya was starting Sehaj Paath for the first time. Mr. Ranbir Singh Attwal, co-founder of Sangat Television in UK, was in charge of campers from the UK. Attwal Uncle told us that 98% of sikhs don't read the whole Guru Granth Sahib ji once in their life. The 10 gurus have worked so hard and given many sacrifices to us to be able to have the Guru Granth Sahib, but 98% of us haven't even bothered to read it once. This staggering statisic inspired me to start a sehaj paath of the Guru Granth Sahib ji, which I started at the camp and continued even when I got back home.
Then the time came for my favorite class of the day: Gatka Class. Gatka was my personal favorite because I have been practicing Gatka for almost 5 years. While the other classes required mental effort, Gatka was the only class which required physical effort. One time in Gatka class, I got so fierce into kirpan fighting, that I accidentally broke my teacher's glasses. Although I felt bad that I broke his glasses, I also felt proud of myself that I won against my teacher in a kirpan fight.
After Gatka class we would have Lunch. In Lunch they would serve pizza and french fries, or anything else the campers requested. Dr. Purvi was in charge of the music aspect of the camp. She was the dean of the music department in Baru Sahib. Dr. Purvi was so caring and would make these mouthwatering chutneys everyday for all of the campers to try. She kept great care of us throughout the whole camp. Lunch would follow with a 2 hour rest period. If campers were tired from getting up in the morning for nitnem, they had a two hour period to rest. Most of the campers wanted to spend more time with each other so we would take a walk, practice kirtan, or talk with friends.
After rest we would have history classes. Our history teacher would talk to us about who Vaheguru is and how we can get closer to him. He would also tell us the stories of Bhagat Prahlad, Bhagat Dhruv, and the Chaar Sahibzade. After HIstory, we would have two more classes of Punjabi and Kirtan.
In the evening we would do Rehraas Sahib before the Akal Academy kids entered the diwan. The beginning of Rehraas Sahib was sung in a beautiful tune by the girls studying in the Divine School of Music. Rehraas sahib would usually follow with kirtan by the campers. After Rehraas Sahib, we would go to the park for sports time. This was one of my favorite parts of the day because we would get to be active, and get to know our fellow campers and teachers better. During this time I would play tennis with a dedicated teacher who taught my friend and I with such patience. I would also play badminton and volleyball with local kids who lived in Baru Sahib. My favorite thing to do was walk with my teacher around the park. I would teach her new words of English and in return, she would teach me new words in Punjabi.
After going to the park, I would be drenched in sweat. We would then go have darshan of Baba Iqbal Singh ji. Baba Iqbal Singh ji is the chairman of Kalgidhar Trust. We would go there and have a conversation with him, ask him about sikhism, share our views, and ask for his views as well. It was a humbling experience to meet Baba ji and see his seva, dedication, and vigour even at such an old age. After meeting Baba Iqbal Singh ji, we would go eat and eat dinner. Dinner was followed by another history class which focused on the gurmat aspect of Sikhi. Before going to bed I would take a shower. Param Didi would come to our rooms and make sure that we did Sohila Sahib before going to sleep.
On Sundays we would go to tourist places near Baru Sahib such as the Mist N' Meadows Resort and Paonta Sahib. Mist N' Meadows Resort was located in Rajgarh which was 15 miles away from Baru Sahib at an elevation of 5,102 feet. I loved looking outside to see breathtaking mountains surrounding you. There was always a river or a small waterfall around the corner. The Mist N' Meadows resort gave a outstanding view of the Himalayan Mountains. The temperature in the mountains were refreshing and cool. It was a nice way to escape the scorching heat of India in the summer. We would go on hikes in the mountains which was quite a workout, but it was totally worth it when you reached the top. After going on a hike we would eat warm, delicious food and absorb the serenity of the beautiful Himalayan Mountain range.
My favorite memory of camp was when I was in the Mist n' Meadows resort with all of the campers. There was such a feeling of bliss at the resort. All of the campers felt like brothers and sisters to me. Everyone that I met in Baru Sahib felt like family to me. When you are a sikh in a foreign country, sometimes it can be hard to assimilate. Many people fall into peer pressure, and cut off the kesh that Guru ji sacrificed his whole family for.
Camp has made a huge impact on my life. Before camp, I didn't do paath, I was unaware of the Guru's teachings, and I didn't feel comfortable being a sikh. After camp I have noticed a huge change in my attitude and behaviour. I have felt the spiritual experience by absorbing the beautiful vibes of kirtan. I am aware of the teachings of the Guru which is written in the Guru Granth Sahib ji. I was taught the importance of respecting my parents.They explained to me that respecting your parents is vital in order to start respecting Vaheguru. Doing paath has brought bliss to my mind. When I came back home to America, others around me have noticed a difference in me and my demeanor. A family friend came up to me in Gurdwara and said that she noticed a new glow on my face. I have developed a connection with Vaheguru, and whenever I do paath, I feel like I am talking to him.
No matter how many more words I write about how camp's impact on me, it would not be enough words. I can't describe the experience that I had for camp. At first I didn't want to go to camp, now I would do anything in the world to go back. To truly understand the experience of Akal Camp, you have to go there yourself. All in all, I recommend that every sikh kid that lives in a foreign country should go and attend this camp to truly experience oneness with Vaheguru.
If you are a parent or a young person living in a foreign country, you should definitely come to the 2019 Akal International Youth Camp. You will have the greatest summer in your life, experience the connection with Vaheguru, deepen your knowledge about Sikhi, and make lasting friendships.
For more information on the camp and registration please visit www.aiyc.in.
If you have any questions, please contact me by my email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sahib Kaur is thirteen years old student in eighth grade in Texas. She enjoys photography, basketball and singing Kirtan.