Updated: Jan 29
My stint at studying Engineering at MIT, Manipal was very enriching educationally, intellectually, socially, emotionally and spiritually, whose fruits I enjoy even today for I continue to learn and evolve so much by my continuing interaction with many amazing college mates.
One of my senior friends was a tall, strong and fearless Khalsa Sikh, Ragnath Singh Kooner. Like all Panjabi people he is passionate and witty, only a lot more so. In addition he was an excellent student.
Initially Ragnath's classmates would joke with him and pull his leg, then by and by it got out of hand. All and sundry, every Ram, Tik and Hari classmate jumped on the bandwagon and the jokes began to get mean and increasingly disrespectful.
Each day at noon they would taunt Ragnath Singh 'Sardar ji ke baraa Bajj gaye' (It's 12 O'clock so beware the Sikhs will go crazy).
At first Ragnath shrugged it off, then he requested them and then he warned them. But no one took notice of the protestations of the gentle giant.
This phrase 'Sardar ji ke baraa Bajj gaye' was actually a warning issued by Mughal, Afghan and Persian leaders to their own men, out of great fear. Fear of the insanely courageous Khalsa Sikhs, though outnumbered would use high speed guerrilla tactics, to attack, wear down and finally defeat the much larger and more powerful invaders. The Sikhs would appear, almost out of nowhere from the dark, charge, attack and decimate the enemy and melt away into the night.
The invaders grew terrified of the Sikhs and would warn their soldiers to remain alert, for the Sikhs will make insane and brutal attacks in the middle of night, so 'beware of the Sardars'.
Sardar ji is a term used for almost all Khalsa Sikhs which literally means leader.
Not only Indians but many in the entire sub-continent owe their very existence today because of the sacrifices and contribution of the Khalsa Sikhs.
Many acknowledge this fact but some stupid and arrogant people may be forgiven for being ignorant of their own history.
The magnificent Sikhs are a proud and noble people, who will gladly die for friendship and a noble cause but are unlikely to tolerate or forgive injustice, cruelty nor disrespect. Ragnath was no exception and one day he made that point to his classmates.
So one day in 1975, there was a brief lull between lectures as the clock struck 12 at noon, some of Ragnath's classmates started taunting him again chanting in unison 'Sardar ji ke baraa Bajj gaye'.
Suddenly Ragnath Singh appeared to have lost his mind. He leapt out from behind his desk, shouting.
Ragnath started kicking, slapping and punching those class mates, who habitually taunted him. To each person he assaulted he would bring his palms together in the classical 'Sat Sri Akal' greeting/apology saying 'Please forgive me, I don't know what has possessed me' he would then give the poor chap another tight slap.
Fearing for their safety, some cowered in the corners of the class room and those who could simply fled the classroom.
The faces and bodies of all those who had been disrespectful of Ragnath and the Sikhs, were badly bruised, as they crept and crawled out of the classroom.
After 2 minutes, a calm and composed Ragnath sat down. Not surprisingly he was the only student in attendance for the next lecture.
News of the incident spread like wildfire. Some admiring folks came to congratulate Ragnath and most gave him a wide berth. But none ever disrespected or taunted him nor any of the other Sikhs again as long as we studied there.
What are the lessons I learnt from the incident.
1. There is a huge difference between, joking and disrespecting.
2. Decency is often mistaken as timidity and weakness.
3. We humans will try and bully and torment anyone, even a lion if they feel we can intimidate and dominate them.
4. The true Sikh respects himself or herself and is therefore respectful towards others and always showing great restraint.
5. Many timid people hide within the mob or group and become emboldened. They begin to behave in a manner unlike what they would dare to do so when alone..
6. One should never underestimate the fury of honourable and patient men when pushed to the extreme.