From Copper to Gold

May 20, 2021 |

Categories: Our Stories


When the Ranch in Espanola was purchased, it was very different than the Ranch you see today.  One of the first projects was to build a new residence on it for the Siri Singh Sahib.  I am not entirely aware how or why, but the geodesic dome was chosen to be the main room.  At the time geodesic domes were very trendy.  They were being promoted by Buckminster Fuller, used for everything from shelters in Antarctica to large public pavilions.  When you hear “the Dome” used at Hacienda de Guru Ram Das, it usually is referring to the Siri Singh Sahib’s private home.

Guru Meher Singh was in charge of building the Dome.  His finishing touch was to hang a Mexican style handmade copper-work chandelier from the center of the ceiling of the Dome. Guru Meher Singh left us early, while doing firearm training for Khalsa Women’s Training Camp in 1974.

Very few people got to visit with the Siri Singh Sahib in the Dome.  It was his private place, where he could spend time on his own.  Meetings with people would happen in the Ranch main house.  The dome was where he could meditate, or at night, make phone calls to different time zones.

He filled the Dome with his collections.  There were carvings, weapons, holy relics and royal trinkets; things that he found while shopping, and gifts that he had been given out of love.  It seemed like every surface that could be covered, was covered.  The rooms themselves were small, and yet the collections never seemed to be cluttered, or take up that much space. Everything had a place.  It was as if everything was in reach and belonged in exactly its right home.

The Dome was his physical sanctuary.  He talked about the Dome when he was gone from it, as a place that gave him an internal comfort.  It was the place that grounded him and brought him stability.

After his kidney implant, when the Siri Singh Sahib was to return from India, it was natural that his convalescence would be at the Dome.  So, with the best of intentions, the Dome was converted to a much more sterile environment.  Most of the collections were removed.  The wall to wall carpeting, which was usually covered in rich handmade oriental rugs, was replaced with wooden floors.  The custom in ground tub, covered in handmade tiles was replaced with marble.

It was not that the Dome was no longer the Dome; it was just somehow a new reality.  As graceful as he was, and as grateful he was for everyone who was standing by him while he was physically weak, there was never a word uttered by him about the new state of the Dome.

One day, word circulated that the copper-work chandelier placed by Guru Meher Singh was going to be removed, because, the thought being, it collected dust and germs.  An opportunity of destiny appeared when the Siri Singh Sahib was scheduled for two days of medical testing.  A special unnamed co-conspirator let me in the moment he was gone, and I absconded with the lamp.

From time to time, the Siri Singh Sahib would have me cover seemingly ordinary gifts with gold. Whenever that happened, the gift became extraordinary in the eyes of everyone who saw it.  This was my intention with the Dome Lamp.  The handwork was expertly done and its construction of copper, in and of itself, made it pretty special. It was totally fitting for the lamp to be living where it was living, but when it was returned and re-suspended from the ceiling it was spectacular.  Now that it was totally gold, no one would dare consider touching it again.

Before a week was up, I got to visit to set up the Gurdwara Lecture.  As it had always been, his bed was arranged so that all day, every day the Golden Lamp was in his line of sight. When I sat next to his bed to handle the phone, he looked at the lamp, looked at me and said, “I know what you did.  Whenever I look at this lamp, I will think of you.”

Then the Siri Singh Sahib did something amazing and unexpected, he offered me; “Whatever you want is yours.”  There was no need to think or consider, I immediately answered,

“Then, Please Sir, when you look at the Chandelier, instead of me, think of Guru Meher Singh”


Mukhtiar Singh

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