There is no definitive way to run a university Sikh society, nor is there a universally accepted criteria to determine a successful year. Each individual’s needs cannot be catered for; similarly, meeting the needs of the many over the few is not the most Sikh-like way to do things. The ideas postulated below are presented for you to consider incorporating into the timetable of your university Sikh society. As they are only ideas, you are free to adapt and operate them as you see fit. Should you choose to implement any of these ideas, we would be grateful to hear how they were received and would happily publish such feedback on SikhSocs.com for the benefit of other Sikh socs and future officers.
Click on an idea below to read more about what it might entail. If you have any ideas that you would like to add to this section then please send us a message stating your name, university, officer role (if appropriate) and as much detail as possible.
Punjabi language class
Almost all young people of a Punjabi background in the West have had some exposure to the Punjabi language by the time they reach university. Whether it is with family, music, the Gurdwara or films, it is hard to avoid the joys of ‘oora-aara’! Today, many schools, Gurdwaras and community centres offer Punjabi language classes leading towards GCSE and ‘A’ level certification. But as that time can be a busy one with school studies, family life, part-time work and extra-curricular pastimes, it isn’t always possible to devote time towards study of the Punjabi language.
At university, where most students are on campus and masters of their own time, offering Sikh soc members tuition in the Punjabi language is a beneficial service and one that can be provided quite easily. Punjabi teachers come in all places and guises around the UK. Keeping in mind that we believe tutoring students in a higher education setting should only be undertaken by those with experience of such, we would advise you to approach your university language department first to see if an appropriately skilled member of staff already exists. If this does not produce anyone, look to tutors and lecturers within your own university whom you know to be of Punjabi descent or similarly linked with Punjabi affairs in some regard, such as from an environmental or historical aspect. You could also look to other universities within your surrounding area and ask if the Sikh soc there has an appropriate suggestion; or perhaps within your Sikh soc membership there is a highly skilled and suitably qualified student; or feel free to contact us and we can make some enquiries within your locality on your behalf.
A book club can be a novel way to learn about the Sikh way of life. There is a wide range of Sikh literature that provokes great discussion and insights into Sikhi through the printed word and can cater for any duration you might want to implement. Alternatively, you could opt to read non-Sikh works of fiction, but remember that as a productive Sikh soc you want to provide a link to the reason your members signed up! Sikh works of fiction are regularly promoted on shows at Naujawani.com and so we have a list of appropriate works that you might want to consider. Take a look at the Discussion section for our Book Club guide.
Who doesn’t like to kick back with some popcorn, dim the lights and watch a film?! Well perhaps not everyone, but movie going has been the cultural activity of choice for practically the last fifty years. Establishing a monthly movie night within your Sikh soc facilitates greater socialising, broadens members’ experience and encourages healthy debate. You can choose to either visit your local cinema or set up a private screening purely for your membership. With the latter, be sure not to fall foul of copyright protection and public broadcasting laws. The selection of films is likely to be your biggest concern: just what do you choose to watch? No doubt you will be inundated with suggestions, but which film will work best? Obviously you are free to choose what you like, but to make the decision even harder, we have compiled a list of our favourite films at Naujawani.com along with discussion points that should make for interesting conversation after the film. Take a look at the Discussion section for our guide.
Amateur dramatic societies have long been enshrined into the university set-up and there are few if any universities that do not offer a Drama Club/Society of some sort. Offering experience to those who wish to work in production, acting or the myriad of other trades that help to bring theatre and film to life, drama clubs are a hive of activity, socialising and opportunity. So why should a Sikh soc offer a separate drama group to members?
A quick search for ‘Sikh play’ or ‘Sikh playwright’ on the internet does not make for joyful reading. Instead of discovering the wondrous Professor Puran Singh or Sant Singh Sekhon we find, quite literally, bezhti. In the 1980s, Sikh children were often encouraged to act out plays for performance at community centres, summer camps and Gurdwaras. These were rarely exquisite performances or indeed of high production value, but they were based on recognised plays, unlike many of the trite, thinly-veiled political offerings that can be found these days on Youtube. A play based on a historical account can be popular to gain support, if somewhat difficult to produce, but again is another option. If you have a drama group within your Sikh soc and are interested in performing a Sikh play, we can send you information about different works along with a brief synopsis. Simply contact us in the usual way.
Learning to tie a turban at home can be a great way to cement that personal relationship with a member of your close or extended family. It can also be a way to get stuck tying just one style of turban or picking up all of the mistakes of someone else! For some people the option to learn at home just isn’t there. For all of these reasons, a great activity your Sikh soc could host are turban-tying workshops. These are easy to organise, provide a useful service and will help to encourage your members to socialise in a very practical way! There are a number of things to consider:
- Make the workshop open to all Sikh men: Every Sikh man wears a turban at some point in his life, whether he has uncut hair or not – usually on his wedding day if no other time! There is nothing like tying your own dastaar so why not encourage all young Sikh men to learn now?
- Make the workshop open to Sikh women: A Sikh woman should know how to tie a turban just as much as a man! Most Sikh women do not wear turbans and make a personal decision to do so or not, but regardless, one day might be called upon to tie it on an elderly relative, a brother, husband or son. A great time to learn and show the boys how it’s done!
- Welcome non-Sikhs: This can be a great way to teach people of the importance of the dastaar to Sikhs. Although you don’t want to lose sight of the reason for the workshop – learning how to tie a turban – you should welcome any non-Sikhs whoa re interested in learning more and be prepared to talk about the history and meaning of the dastaar.
- Sourcing your turbans: Ask your members to volunteer bringing extra turbans for people to try on, but make sure you have a way of recognising which belong to each member! Advise attendees to wash their hair earlier that day for hygiene purposes, or better still to wear a clean patka or bandana throughout the workshop. If you need more turbans than you can source get in touch with us and we can help provide you with some.
- Tying different styles on yourself and others: Encourage attendees to tie a turban on another person as well as themselves. This can sometimes highlight a better way of tying the turban on oneself as well as teaching the useful skill of tying a turban on someone else. And try to learn different styles! If you don’t have the expertise or experience within your membership for this get in touch with us and we’ll do our best to help.
- Treat the dastaar with respect: Make sure you have large clean bedsheets or unused tablecloths to put over tables so a turban is placed somewhere clean whilst being tied. And source as many mirrors as you possibly can!
University is a great time to grow as a person and what better way to provoke those deep, inner questions that will lead to self realisation than taking in a cultural experience along with your peers? Whether it is a trip to a museum, a visit to an art gallery or an evening at the theatre, you will find lots to stimulate the mind and encourage a greater sense of socialising amongst your members. A trip to the museum might be to see a specific exhibition or to generally meander – best days of your life can be spent in a museum digesting thousands of years of existence – but most importantly entry is still free at many museums. This can also be the case at many art galleries particularly smaller showings of work by lesser-known artists which means the only costs will be from travel and meals, both of which are the responsibility of the individual member, not the society.
If you are going to travel together with a rail discount or by minibus, arrange to take a deposit payment from everyone who expresses an interest to travel by these means in advance so the society is not left out of pocket should they fail to travel.
Theatre trips to see a play, opera or musical can also be a fun and insightful excursion for your membership. Again, be sure to take deposits from members who wish to attend before you book any tickets and remember that travelling in a group may reap a considerable discount. If you find it hard to gather willing participants, why not invite a nearby university Sikh soc to join you and make it a collaborative event?