Sikh Encounter

Ninety to ninety-nine percent of the taxi drivers at the Del Norte and Richmond stations are men wearing turbans. I knew the headgear was for a religious purpose. One ride the driver was playing some kind of chant in another language, I heard similar sounds over and over. I knew it was a prayer.

The other day I got in one of these cabs and the driver asked me how my day was.


“It was OK then?”

“Yes, just OK but I’m reading an interesting book about the soul. Serving is important but I thought how am I going to be of service when I’m at a desk in an office all day? But this morning, waiting for the train, there was a woman wearing a backpack with two suitcases. I thought that she would need help. There was a strong black man nearby. I thought he would help her. When the train approached, he didn’t move. Oh, right, he’s a black man in America, someone might misunderstand if he approached her. It might  be a dangerous thing for him to do. So I offered to help her. I pulled a suitcase on wheels about 15 feet, then lifted it up onto the train. She was so appreciative and thanked me and I thought thank you to her but I didn’t say it because I thought it might confuse her. What I had done was next to nothing but it was something.”

“I’m Sikh,” he said.

I had let the race horse loose on the track.

“Do you know what that is?”

“Is it some kind of Hinduism?”

“NO. They say we are but we are not. You must google it.”

The  correct answer to his question would have been for me to say “no.”

The rest of the ride he told me as much as he could squeeze in about Sikhs. When we got to my house, he kept on talking for a few minutes – the meter was off. For now, there were two things he told me that were most important.

“You know, you can get closest to God between 2 and 5 am in the morning.”

“No, I didn’t. But I wake up every night around 3 am and I just lie there and try to go back to sleep.”

“Oh, no, no no. You must get up and pray.”

Get up and pray? At 3 am? I usually thought of getting down to pray. And never at 3 am. Why not intentionally stand up to pray? Hmm, maybe I’ll try this.

He also told me that some Christians had converted. He pointed to his head and told me that one is a famous brain doctor.

So I did google the Sikhs and learned a lot more. And I googled that brain doctor.

Dharma Singh Khalsa, born in Cleveland, used to be Chief Resident here at University of California San Francisco, an expert in  Alzheimer’s, interested in mind/body, integrative medicine. Now in Arizona. What interested me most was that he had asthma as a child and eliminated all signs of it by doing yogic breathing exercises.

I wondered if something like that would work for allergies, in particular related to a cat, so I looked up yoga and allergies. I’ll be trying: shoulder stand, plow, bridge, and fish poses with three part yogic breathing. First I’ll watch how-to videos on YouTube.

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