Dr. I.J. Singh writes about the case of a Granthi (literally, ‘reader of the Guru Granth Sahib’, these are Sikhs – often from India – who are hired by Gurdwaras to run religious services) in the United States who took his own life in despair:
Their language skills are rudimentary; their ability to navigate the cultural landscape of America non-existent. Their skills in music, singing of the liturgy (keertan) and exegesis of Sikh teachings and history are, at best, minimal. Often they know no language but Punjabi.
When hired, they usually get no job description, but if they did, it might speak of a person who is a scholar at least on Sikhi and somewhat knowledgeable about the faiths of our neighbors. The first requirement is often partially met, the second almost never. In the overly busy lives of the congregation these granthis are reduced to survival wages; their role best described as gofers at the mercy of management committees, and hardly ever as mentors and scholars in their (chosen?) profession of granthis.
There is little they can do beyond the four walls of the gurduara where they might have a small room of their own. They do not drive, are unable to engage non-Sikhs in conversation. All that they can do is to wait for the weekend to come when the community will walk in for another service. Since many small gurduaras have only one such employee on board there is no one at all to talk to all day – for days.
This tragedy is a shameful indictment of our Sikh community. While this case might be extreme, there is enough general truth here about the living conditions of many of our Granthis – particularly in the West – that should make each of us reflect about our disregard of the people we put into servitude to perform our religious services on our behalf.
Read the full story at SikhNet.