Amritsar, Punjab

The reported marriage of Alexandra Aitken, daughter of former British cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken, to Sardar Inderjot Singh is only the latest instance here of a woman from the West seeking spiritual bliss in Sikhism.

There are at least three recent instances of high-profile Western women converting to Sikhism after marrying amritdhari Sikhs and choosing to settle down in this city.

K. Peterson, hailing from Fairbanks, Alaska (U.S.A.), married Amritsar-based businessman Hardip Singh last year. She not only converted to Sikhism but also listens to the gurbani daily and maintains a Khalsa way of life.

"She is perhaps more devoted to the religion than me. She regularly recites shabads and visits the gurdwara," said Hardip, who met Peterson during a religious discourse as her mother also had a strong leaning towards the religion.

Peterson, now renamed Amrit Kaur, lives with Hardip's family in the city.

"She left for Fairbanks on January 18 to complete her Major in Languages in the University of Alaska. She is immersed in Sikhi and also wears a turban. She is so devoted to the Sikh tenets that she was not even ready to pursue her studies back home. It is on my insistence that she has gone back to Fairbanks, where I will be joining her shortly," said Hardip.

He further said that they married in an Anand Karaj wedding ceremony here last year and the entire Peterson family was present. "She adjusted so well. She speaks Punjabi now and eats and prepares Punjabi food too. She wept profusely when I saw her off two weeks back at the airport. We talk to each other daily and she recites hymns from Guru Granth Sahib every day in her hostel," said Hardip Singh, whose family is also happy to have such a devoted Sikh at home.

Amritsar also hosts a Miri-Piri Academy, geared mostly to Sikhs from the diaspora, and many of the students here are children or grandchildren of converts to Sikhism and live in the Khalsa discipline.

"There are many women marrying amritdhari Sikh men, including Nihangs, these days. They are devoted to a life of Sikhi. Some couples go back to the U.S. and other countries, while some settle here. Those on our campus lead their life as per the teachings of the Sikh Gurus and Guru Granth Sahib," said Kiran Singh, Director of Miri-Piri Academy which was founded Singh Sahib Harbhajan Singh ji Yogi, known worldwide for having inspired many Westerners to Sikhism to convert to Sikhism.

The longest wedded mixed couple in the city is former cricketer Swaranjit Singh and his German wife, Irmengard. They first met at Cambridge University where they were students, and later fell in love and married. [Manmohan Singh - now Prime Minister of India - was a student at that time and as a friend of the couple, attended their wedding.]  

"I was a cricketer and Irmen got a job in the Cultural Affairs Department of the Government of Germany," explains Swaranjit. "We have lived in a number of places, but finally decided to settle here," adds Irmen with pride writ large on her face.

She said although she is not a very religious person, she attends the gurdwara regularly with Swaran and she appreciates the devoted her husband has for Sikhi. Their son Ranjit lives in Germany but often comes here to stay with his parents.

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Comment by Amarjit Singh Gupta on February 18, 2011 at 10:23

Dear Indra Kaur Ji,

                              I 100% agree with you when you say,

(they can be happy if they share the same values and mission in life, and love and respect each other of course).

A happy married Sikh couple is one who despite being Gora  or a Gori, Indian or an American have a common goal in life, to be the dust at the feet of the Sadh-Sangat, and share a relationship of being friends with each other throughout their lives and also where husband doesn't dominates his wife and his wife always feels incomplete without her husband.

Comment by Indra Kaur on February 18, 2011 at 8:50

Dear Amarjit Singh Ji,

thanks for sharing the above article. It puts everything into a wider context. Let's not forget though that especially as Sikhs why should we care if anybody is "high" profile or whatever. And Amritsar is not the only place either where such intercultural marriages occur. The interesting bit in this for us is the reminder that despite cultural / traditional differences which can be challenging for the couple (and their families) they can be happy if they share the same values and mission in life, and love and respect each other of course.

I just came across the biography of Veronica "Rani" Sidhu, who shares many of her experiences (and her love for Punjabi food!) on her blog/website:

 

Menus and Memories from Punjab

 

Enjoy ! (don't look at the website if you are hungry LOL)

 

 

 

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