Q: Where and when did you first meet your husband?
A: It was in 1951 in New Delhi when his parents and my parents arranged for us to meet for the first time. At the time I did not know that the purpose of the meeting was to consider each other for marriage, but he knew. It was a good, happy meeting and we socialized as families. His father privately told my father, “We will let you know tomorrow.” By the time we reached home we got a call from his father who said, “My son went to Sisganj Gurdwara, did the Ardas (prayer), and said, ‘I like the girl. I will marry her.’ He said, ‘I have seen in her, the depth and how she will grow up (I was only 17 years old at the time). I see she will have strength to sacrifice and to be a dedicated companion in whatever I do in life.”‘ My father was very happy and immediately announced my engagement to the entire household—I was the only one who did not know. In those days the daughter was not even asked to give her consent. The next day I came back from college and discovered a party going on in my home. When I asked what was happening they said, “This is your engagement party.” I replied, “Oh, you mean to that boy I met yesterday? I didn’t even look at him with the thought, ‘Am I going to marry him?”‘ But then I started remembering that he was so handsome and powerful in his Customs uniform and I became so happy that my parents picked him. My father said when he announced my engagement, “I have seen the power in this young man. He is going to rise in his life and do great things and the world will remember him, and that is why I did not even consult my daughter.”
Q: What were your first impressions of him?
A: After a few months his family arranged for us to meet several more times, once in his office and once at my college. I had a little fear because he was so powerful and I kept thinking in my mind, “This is going to be a very big challenge, to live with this man,” but on the other hand he looked very kind and very loving. I was shy and didn’t talk much, but we connected through the language of the eyes. It felt to me like we had been in this relationship for many, many lifetimes. My parents wanted me to complete my college education so after a two-year engagement we were married. There was no courtship in those times and we saw each other only one time during the engagement. Just a few months before my final exams, he decided he did not want to wait any longer so we were married in November of 1953. I finished my exams after our marriage and graduated in Political Science and Economics in 1954.
Q: Did you know him to be a yogi?
A: When I met him he was 23years old. I did not realize that he was a yogi until after we were married. Every morning he would teach yoga before he left for the office and on weekends there were yoga sessions for several hours at our home. I remember telling him on the first night of my marriage, “Okay you are my teacher. Now you have to teach me everything.” Soon after, I began taking yoga classes from him.
Q: Tell us about your daily life in those first years of marriage.
A: We had an excellent marriage. We both came from wealthy families. We had all the comforts in life with many people in our household, but we still lived a simple life. We took care of people. We fed people. Helping people became second nature in our life style. Even though the cooks in our household would cook for the family, I always liked to cook for him. I would prepare his food with my own hands with lots of love and send his food to his office. I read my nitnem (Sikh prayers) religiously each day from childhood. When I married, I began reading Sukhmani Sahib (a Sikh prayer) for him every day. In the evening when he came home, I would be all dressed up, ready for evening tea and snacks or to go out to socialize with friends.
Q: When were the children born?
A: In the second year of our marriage we had our first son, Ranbir Singh, and that was the happiest occasion: to have a child in the house. Siri Singh Sahib was a most loving father. He had all the qualities of a good father, good husband, good teacher, and good provider. Then, each two years apart, we had another son, Kulbir Singh, and a daughter, Kamaljit Kaur. One of his favorite things to do was to play at home with the children and carry them on his shoulders. In the evenings, we would put them in a big stroller and take them out to eat and enjoy our time together. He believed that when the parents give a lot of love and care to the child, the child becomes secure and strong. Mother gives the nurturing and father gives the security, he would say. He taught them how to recite their prayers in the morning and evening and before eating. Slowly they built their spiritual foundation.
Q: When were you first struck with the power and potential of the man who became the Siri Singh Sahib?
A: His office asked him to select a preferred place for his next transfer and we decided to go to Amritsar because we thought we would be blessed to visit the Golden Temple* every day. Our daughter was not even one year old at the time. We made a pledge that we would never miss a day going to the Golden Temple and washing the floors at the House of Guru Ram Das. After a while our circle of friends started changing. We would always have spiritual people visit us. We started doing more spiritual gatherings, such as all-night kirtan programs rather than parties. We would enjoy the kirtan and serve the sangat. Life became more like an experience of the Sikh way of life. This was the time when his consciousness began to change. From being an officer he started dedicating more time to his spiritual practice. Our whole lifestyle changed. Our children started meditation on their 108-bead malas* and we took their malas wherever they went so they would be sure to finish their recitation. The Siri Singh Sahib upheld his commitment and went to the Golden Temple to wash the floors each morning. No matter what responsibilities he had in his work, or how far he had to travel, he would not miss this seva.*
After three years in Amritsar, we moved back to Delhi. It was clear that Guru Ram Das had blessed him with spiritual powers. He would tell people what things would come. He started guiding people more and more. He was very involved with teaching meditation to the youth. He also started teaching Kundalini Yoga to ambassadors and other people visiting from foreign countries. Our sons would demonstrate the postures as he taught. At work, he would teach his colleagues and friends how to meditate and tell them how to heal their physical problems with traditional remedies. On the weekends our house would be filled with students, one of whom was Mr. James George, the Canadian High Commissioner in Delhi.
Q: When Yogi Bhajan went off to America, you stayed behind for a time. What was that like for you?
A: In 1968, he accepted an invitation from the High Commissioner of Canada to come and set up a Kundalini Yoga course at Toronto University. That was the first time we were going to be separated. This was the hardest thing for me, to send him away to Canada. But when he arrived in Canada, the man who invited him had had a fatal accident and things did not work out as he planned. Soon he received an invitation from Dr. Amarjit Singh Marwha to visit him for a weekend in Los Angeles. Dr. Marwha introduced him to the East West Cultural Center, where he then began teaching Kundalini Yoga, so he did not return to Canada. It took three years for him to get his green card in America. That was the most difficult time in my life, living without him for so long. The children and I finally joined him in 1972.
Q: What were your first impressions of America and the community your husband was building there?
A: I arrived in America with a deep longing to be with my husband again. By then he had already become a very well-known yogi and teacher of thousands of students. He was so busy, and there was so much he wanted to cover and establish, that his time was dedicated to this mission.
The culture shock was very heavy. One of my first experiences was when I went to the Atlanta Pop Festival and had the shock of my life. There were thousands of people walking around in the nude! I had no idea that in my life I would ever see such a scene. I begged my husband to return to India, but my destiny was here. He convinced me to stay and serve people in America.
I started teaching women how to live a more healthy and happy lifestyle. I taught them about being a householder and learned many things about American society. At that time there were many yoga students but only a few of them had adopted the Sikh way of life. So I decided, if I am staying, I would dedicate my life to this mission. That day I declared my commitment and I told him, “I will help you. You teach yoga and I will teach the Sikh way of life.” I started teaching the students how to read the scriptures. I taught vegetarian Indian cooking classes. I would feed everybody. Some days there were hundreds to feed. I taught the students about langar and the blessing of serving food that nourishes the soul as well as the body.
Q: As with all great men-Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and others-who had to give so much of themselves to the world, sometimes there was less available for the family. Was it difficult for you at times, having to share your husband with so many souls?
A: Every leader has to give up comforts in his life to become a leader. He gave up his comforts and, as his wife and partner in the mission, I also gave up my comforts. He used to travel to teach Kundalini Yoga and White Tantric Yoga courses and I would travel to teach women’s courses, Sikh Scripture courses, and lifestyle courses. He pushed me to go out into the world to meet people and speak publicly at events or on the radio. I resisted this at first because I loved to be in the house with him. He would say, “Your destiny is to go outside, people are waiting for you. Leaders are not made sitting at home. Leaders are made serving people.” Sometimes I would come home after teaching and I’d tell him how shocked I was that wisdom was flowing out of me as I spoke. He would just look at me and give me a big, beautiful, ‘I told you so’ smile and tell me that he never had a doubt. Later on I got my M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Psychology and Counseling and my license to practice.
Q: What are the happiest memories you have of your husband?
A: The best part of our lives was the connection that we had together, even though we were traveling in different parts of the world. He would call me two or three times a day wherever he was, from every corner of the world.
When he got sick and no longer traveled, I also stopped traveling and stayed home to cook for him again. Those were my happiest days, the most fulfilling days. I used to tell him, “There is so much to learn from your patience.” In three years he never once complained about his sickness. He always tried to entertain people who came to see him, to guide them, and counsel them and still check to see if they had been served food. Though I would hide my worries and fears about his health, he was so connected to me that he could sense the slightest stress on my face and would tell me not to worry, Guru Ram Das is with me. Throughout his life Siri Singh Sahib ji recited his banis every day.
Then, when he got sick, he couldn’t sit and do his daily prayers, so I would sit with him and read his nitnem out loud at 2:00 a.m. every day, because that was his usual prayer time.
Q: Do you feel his presence now?
A: Yes, I do feel his presence. From the day I got married (52 years ago), he entered my heart and will always remain there till the end of eternity. I feel I was the fortunate one to be married to him. He has not gone anywhere. He is still here.
A couple of days before he passed away, he said, “After I am gone, carry my mission and don’t mourn for me. Nobody should mourn for me. I am going home and everybody should celebrate my life.” The night before he passed away I was at his bedside deep in prayer. He looked at me with really open eyes and held my hand. His grip was so strong. I know it was his way of saying goodbye. Though he is gone, I still feel him holding my hand and guiding me to carry on this mission.
This article originally appeared in the winter 2005 Aquarian Times. It was the first issue after the Siri Singh Sahib left his physical body.