When Tripat Singh and Jasmine Marwaha were growing up together in North Seattle in the early 1980s, there were only about 20 other Sikh families in the area and a single gurdwara (place of worship). They fell in love while Jasmine was studying law at Harvard and married soon after. The Central District couple are now raising their 4-year-old son, Kabir Singh, and 4-month-old daughter, Sahiba Kaur, in a large, dynamic Sikh community.
Sikhism was born in the Punjab region of northern India during an era of extreme class inequality. “The turban used to be worn only by kings and royalty,” says Singh, a clinical practitioner of Eastern medicine. “Sikhs started wearing it as a way of giving the finger to the government. The circumstances you are born into aren’t what you have to be relegated to for the rest of your life.”
Over winter break, Singh and his family play board games, go sledding and get cozy. Kabir is most looking forward to eating sweet and spicy nuts and spending time with his baby sister. “He’s super sweet to her,” says Singh. “He used to sleep over with his grandparents, but now he won’t leave her.”
The family will also commemorate the Siege of Anandpur. To get into the spirit, Singh and his family will share potluck meals with friends and sing call-and-response songs known as Shabad Kirtan: The music of infinite wisdom. Singh describes the singing as “a tradition which allows us as humans to have a divine experience of interconnectedness and general bliss.”
According to Sikh history, Guru Gobind Singh, one of the first Sikh leaders, built a city called Anandpur founded on equitable policies of ruling. The people of Anandpur were empowered to revolt against the reigning empire, but an army was sent in to quash the movement. As the siege persisted, the leader and his family fled, but his two youngest sons were discovered and killed, along with their grandmother.
“It reminds us to cherish our loved ones and appreciate our time together,“ says Singh. “After all, who knows what the next year will bring?”
For Kabir’s sake, hopefully more sweet and spicy nuts.