Welcome to New to Sikhi community
by Alessandra Khalsa
It was the summer of 1998 and I was lounging in the passenger seat of my friend’s car. Spots of sunlight touched us as we made our way through the winding road of trees. I looked up at the bright green, waving leaves and was suddenly struck by the most vivid vision I had ever experienced. Smiling green eyes looked down at me from a round little face, framed by very straight strawberry blond hair. My breath caught and my heart swelled and as quickly as she had appeared, she was gone. My parents had always told me that the souls of children and parents choose one another, and I believed that such a profound experience had just occurred. For years I was left to wonder when she would come. Who would her father be?
When my husband and I joyfully discovered we were pregnant, her image reappeared in my mind as it had many times since that day. I almost didn’t dare hope if this was she. My husband and I both have green eyes but dark brown hair, and it was hard to imagine us having a light-haired child.
There is a belief common in several Eastern traditions where it is said that the soul of the unborn child enters the body on the 120th day of pregnancy. I believe that before that time, the soul’s consciousness drifts between the physical and ethereal plane, visiting and acclimating to the body and family it has chosen. In my local Sikh community, the 120th day of pregnancy is a big celebration. Not only are the festivities attended by the immediate family but also many members of the larger community, the Sangat, gather to welcome the new soul. This baby is not simply embraced by the family but by the whole community.
Our 120th day fell on a charming summer day. My in-law’s house was filled with people dressed in their finery. The little pink and gold flowers on the long kurta shirt of my new salwar kameez were slightly stretched, the fabric satisfyingly tight around my middle. Our family had prepared all day, cooking and setting up. My mother-in-law had built, as is the tradition, a little throne of pillows and silks for me, where I sat in meditation facing the crowd and chanting along with everyone. Flowers flanked each side of my throne and perfumed the air with a spicy tang. The day had grown stormy and electricity filled the air, raising the hairs on my arms and my anticipation of being a parent. We all chanted and sang Mantras to welcome our new soul. I opened one eye to peek out at everyone sitting serenely and I thought my heart would drive away the storm clouds as I noticed my husband’s expression of joy and pride. It was very powerful to realize that so many wonderful people had come to welcome our new little one.
After the chanting, the meal was served and I received many gifts. The presents on the 120th day are intended to soothe the mother-to-be and make her feel more comfortable and pampered throughout the pregnancy. Among the generous gifts were lovely scented creams and perfumes, silk scarves, bangles and a delicate silver pendant. Yes…pretty nice! Sikhs usually have a baby shower as well, but often closer to the due date.
Our little daughter Amrita arrived almost hairless, with the whitest eyelashes and no eyebrows. I watched as every lash grew in and the arches above her grey eyes began to take shape. It was like watching a Polaroid picture come into color very, very slowly. Amrita’s eyes turned green, her strawberry blond hair flowed long and smooth across her slender shoulders. And one day, I found myself smiling back at the same face I had held in my mind and heart for so long.
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