A special honoring took place during the Opening Ceremony of the Baisakhi 2013 Khalsa Council meetings, in recognition and appreciation of 40 years of service to the Chancellor’s Office and Ministry of Sikh Dharma. On April 24, 2013, in the gurdwara at the Hacienda de Guru Ram Das, the body of the Ministry and the sangat honored Sardarni Sahiba Ek Ong Kar Kaur Khalsa (Los Angeles) for her long years of dedicated and devoted service to the Siri Singh Sahib ji, Sikh Dharma and the Ministry.
SS Dr. Sat Kaur Khalsa, Secretary of Religion, spoke about her twenty-two-years’ association with SS Ek Ong Kar Kaur serving the Ministry. MSS Guru Terath Singh Khalsa, former Chancellor of Sikh Dharma International also gave a lovely oratory on the gifts and commitment of this beautiful sevadar of the Guru.
Dr. Sat Kaur presented Ek Ong Kar Kaur with a Tantric necklace and a plaque on behalf of the Khalsa Council for her service, followed by a rousing “bole so nihal” from the sangat.
A Diamond in the Rough
by MSS Guru Terath Singh Khalsa (former Sikh Dharma International Chancellor)
Once in a very great while you can find something that is very precious in a place where you least expect it – sometimes in a very familiar place. Most people commonly refer to this as a diamond in the rough. For us, it is Ek Ong Kar Kaur Khalsa.
She is simply remarkable and one of our great secrets. While there is much written and talked about doing Seva, Ek Ong Kar Kaur has lived it.She has been the Executive Secretary for the Chancellor’s office since it opened its doors over 40 years ago. In that capacity, she has been at the center of Sikh Dharma and the other non-profits during their development and ongoing activities.
For the first twenty-plus years, the Siri Singh Sahib created the administrative structures of the non-profits, and especially of Sikh Dharma, through a series of Proclamations. While others prepared the initial drafts of these documents, Ek Ong Kar Kaur was the last to review and edit the Proclamations. She was the only person who took each one to the Siri Singh Sahib for his final approval and signature. Because she was the person who took them to him, he signed them because he knew that after her input, they were exactly what he wanted.
After the initial Sikh Dharma and 3HO corporations were formed, many other local Sikh Dharma and 3HO corporations were put into place all over the country. Ek Ong Kar Kaur was involved in all of these corporations, kept copies of the corporate documents in the Chancellor’s Office and monitored each one to be certain that the annual reports were filed with the respective state Secretaries of State. Many of our local Sangat leaders would get calls each year from her, reminding them to file the reports or they would be in a position to lose their non-profit status. And she did this every year for every corporation.
The Siri Singh Sahib created the Panth Khalsa, the Ministry of Sikh Dharma, and had it administered by the Secretary of Religion in cooperation with the Chancellor’s Office. As we all know, annual renewals were required – photos needed to be submitted, renewal questions had to be answered and submitted and yearly membership cards had to be issued. Ek Ong Kar Kaur was the person who coordinated all of these activities.
From the early 1970s until after 9/11, the Chancellor’s Office was continually involved in controversies involving discrimination against members of the Sikh faith – from employment discrimination claims to child custody cases, and Ek Ong Kar Kaur was involved in all of them. As an example, she developed a professional relationship with the Chaplain of the Federal Prison System in the United States, as a result of claims of discrimination made by Sikh inmates.
After 9/11, the Chaplain called her, asking for guidelines for the proper way to have Sikh visitors pass through security checkpoints. She also worked with the Chaplain over the years as he implemented guidelines that described the Sikh faith and its practices.
For many years in Los Angeles, she would regularly coordinate the making of langar for the Sunday Gurdwara, collect, account for and deposit the offerings that were made to the Guru, attend Gurdwara, and then spend the rest of her Sunday cleaning the Siri Singh Sahib’s living area at the Ashram and attending evening chanting at the Ashram. And this was on her day off!
SS Ek Ong Kar Kaur has just recently retired from her service to the Chancellor’s Office and the Sikh Dharma Ministry. She has lived a life of devotion, honor and service. She is a daughter of the Guru and continues to be an inspiration to all of us who have been blessed to know her and to have worked with her.
The Technology of Service
by MSS Ram Das Singh Khalsa (former Assistant Sikh Dharma International Chancellor)
One of the things that most of us take for granted is how technology has simplified our lives. The computer, the laptop, the iPad and the smartphone are devices most of us use every day. But, if you can think back to the early 1980s, when the Chancellor’s Office was given the responsibility for maintaining the records of the Sikh Dharma Ministry, none of those items were available. Every record was maintained the old fashioned way.
Ek Ong Kar Kaur, in addition to handling all of the documents for the various legal matters that were flowing through the Chancellor’s office was also taking care of updating information on each and every Sikh Dharma Minister. That meant that each and every envelope that went out in the mail needed to be addressed by writing or typing a label and affixing it to the envelope. The office had an electric typewriter. Eventually, it was upgraded to one that had 64K memory, which was virtually no memory at all.
Each time a Minister called Ek Ong Kar Kaur to double check if his or her information was accurate, she would need to pull that person’s Minister file and also flip through the stack of cards on which each Minister’s ledger was maintained, in order to let whomever was calling know that “this” was what we had on record.
As Baisakhi Day approached each year, and Ministers from all over the world would be mailing in their checks, their written requests for renewal, their photos and their bi-annual exams, Ek Ong Kar Kaur was the one who opened each envelope, examined its contents to see if everything that was required was actually there, update that Minister’s ledger card and file, and then prepare the letter for the Siri Singh Sahib Ji’s signature and the Minister’s card. And, she’d take care of the banking, making a photocopy of each check “just in case.”
Back then, Minister cards required that a photo be trimmed to fit and then glued in place. When it was all ready, Ek Ong Kar Kaur would again be addressing envelopes. In other words, the whole process was labor-intensive, and Ek Ong Kar Kaur did the labor. Over the decades, some of the process became somewhat automated.
The office finally got a computer and found software that helped in the maintenance of Minister records. The software was rudimentary and the biggest advantage was that it permitted printing mailing labels all at once rather than one at a time. Still, even with this modest advance in technology, Ek Ong Kar Kaur did everything that was done.
Another part of the process at that time was creating the bi-annual Minister’s examination questions. The Chancellor and I would come up with a list of questions. Then Ek Ong Kar Kaur would go over those questions with us, giving her input, which more often than not resulted in our changing or significantly rewording all of those questions. Only when she was satisfied with our list of questions, and that the wording of each was flawless, would we be able to present those questions to the Siri Singh Sahib to see if he approved use of any of our suggested exam questions.
Even with the continuing improvements in technology, a great deal of effort was needed to keep the Sikh Dharma Ministry records up-to-date and to provide each Minister with his or her annual renewed Minister’s card. For all of these years, Ek Ong Kar Kaur has been the person who has taken care of all of this. Now she has passed the torch. The process has become a bit more automated over the years thanks to the hard work and dedication of Ek Ong Kar Kaur.
So, any time you examine your Sikh Dharma Minister’s card, please be reminded of the years of dedicated service that Ek Ong Kar Kaur put in to make sure that the records for each Minister of Sikh Dharma was maintained accurately.
Ek Ong Kar Kaur and Her Service to the Ministry
by SS Dr. Sat-Kaur Khalsa, Secretary of Religion
Up until the mid-1970s, the administration of the Ministry was handled by MSS Nirinjan Kaur Khalsa through the Secretariat. One day, the Chancellor’s Office was informed that the Siri Singh Sahib wanted all the Minster’s records moved to the law office. There were well over a 100 Ministers at that time.
Sardarni Sahiba Ek Ong Kar Kaur was given the job of organizing, cataloguing and managing the critical clerical tasks of the Ministry as instructed by the Siri Singh Sahib.
Initially, she was handed reams of paperwork. She had to create a system for everything. The good news was that she was well qualified to do the job. Trained as a legal secretary, she had the skills needed for this task. A major component of this responsibility was to issue Minister ID cards and send out the annual renewal.
The Siri Singh Sahib wanted the cards to be renewed annually, with a current photo of the Minister. He wanted Ministers to re-dedicate themselves each year at Baisakhi. He wanted the legal status of the Ministry maintained and he set yearly renewal requirements. In Ek Ong Kar Kaur’s meticulous, steadfast manner, she has delivered this request year after year after year.
In 1991, when the Siri Singh Sahib made me Secretary of Religion, the administration of the Ministry including Minister development became the responsibility of the Office of the Secretary of Religion in co-operation with the Chancellor’s Office.
Without Ek Ong Kar Kaur, I would not have been able to insure the steady administration of our Ministry. She has been the voice of consciousness, clarity, and service from day one. She has been my right arm, steady light and selfless servant of this Dharma. She is a precious jewel who quietly holds a space of integrity, character and commitment. She is a living example of dedication, devotion and delivery.
Now, after 40 years of serving the Siri Singh Sahib, the Chancellor’s Office and the Ministry, she is retiring. I honor her work and person. She is truly a devoted servant of the Guru and will be deeply missed. I wish the very best for her. May God and Guru always Bless and guide her. Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa! Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh!
Photos courtesy SS Jivan Joti Kaur Khalsa, Espanola NM