Letter 89

DAY 89

Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh

Crawford Professor and Chair of Religious Studies
Colby College
April 18, 2021

Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,

Amidst this season of new beginnings in nature and the religious calendars of many faiths, it is reassuring to have you at the helm of our nation.

Attracted by Disneyland and American education, I came to the USA as a teenager from India. I thrived in this new world, the land of liberty and equality. It was here that I discovered my Sikh heritage and my passion for Sikh literature and art, which I am fortunate to share with my wonderful students at Colby College.

“May we plant flowers for a public park … and enjoy arabesques of mutuality and love.”

But in the last four years, American democracy and decency were undermined; truth and knowledge were abandoned by many, even in the highest echelons of power. Education is about knowledge, and religion is about truth—and both of these pillars of American society were threatened. For many, this has been a time of terrible anxiety, confusion, and dangerous polarization. With a new administration, many are starting to feel comfort and relief.

At this time of transition and new beginnings, the Sikh sacred text Guru Granth can inspire us:

To imagine the one infinite reality (ikk aon kar). This is the same one thread on which each of us with our unique light is beaded.

To live perpetually alive to this One in our actions (karam kamae). This is “love in action,” the maxim of civil rights leader John Lewis.

To speak and hear the language of infinite love (bhakhia bhau apar). This is the “radical empathy” championed by Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson.

To rejoice in the wondrous plurality of the world. This is the idea that there is only One Being, “and yet, marvel of marvels, no two entities are alike” (koe na kis hi jaisa).

President Biden, we at Colby were profoundly touched by your passion and compassion when you visited us in 2017. We are confident that under your leadership, we will be able to get rid of toxic hate. May we plant flowers for a public park where we can come together with all our ideological differences, our diverse complexions, genders, and sexualities, and enjoy arabesques of mutuality and love.

Mubarak! (“Congratulations” in Punjabi from Arabic),

Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh

Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh, Ph.D.
Chair of the Religious Studies Department &
Crawford Family Professor of Religion
Colby College

the author

Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh is the Crawford Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at Colby College. Dr. Singh has published extensively in the field of Sikh studies. Her books include The First Sikh (Penguin, 2019), Hymns of the Sikh Gurus (Penguin, 2019), Birth of the Khalsa (SUNY 2005), Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent (Cambridge University Press, 1993). She has served on the editorial board of several journals including the History of Religions, the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Sikh Formations, and CrossCurrents. She is the Vice-President ΦBK, Beta Chapter of Maine.