The Year 8 lesson focussed on Guru Gobind Singh, the last of the human gurus in the Sikh tradition. As well as the formation of the khalsa, “the pure ones,” the committed core of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh was responsible for the introduction of all Sikh men taking the name “Singh” meaning “lion” and all Sikh women taking the name “Kaur” meaning “princess.”
The names created a sense of identity, a feeling of belonging to an extended family, a feeling that all who shared the names were equal.
“Does having the same surname make people equal?”
One boy raised his hand. “No, sir. The Queen’s name is Windsor, and no-one is equal to her.”
“You’re right,” I responded. “There was a farmer in our village whose name was Windsor. He wouldn’t have thought himself equal to the Queen.”
Pondering my words afterwards, I thought about Percy Windsor, a quiet, softly-spoken and gentle farmer who had lived in our village. Percy Windsor would undoubtedly have been very traditional in his views and would have thought the Queen as occupying a far higher station than himself. Percy Windsor would have grown up in an England where society was very stratified and where social mobility was a concept from the future.
Yet remembering Percy Windsor there are memories of a man who stood equal with anyone in the esteem of the people of our village. For those of us at the village school, it would have been unthinkable that he was not the equal of anyone in the country and we would have been sure that the Queen herself would have agreed with us.
Percy Windsor would have been one of the special guests at the primary school Christmas dinner, sitting with Miss Rabbage and the other guests at the table in our school dining room. Anyone who was a special guest at our school would have been automatically thought the equal of any VIP.
Perhaps Guru Gobind Singh’s idea of creating equality through shared names was an aspiration that went unfulfilled, but if the names Singh and Kaur are sufficient to prompt people to ask questions about human respect and dignity, then his attempts were not in vain. If the use of a person’s name is enough to remind people of human equality, then the names have been successful.
Perhaps an equivalent development in England would be for everyone to include Windsor in their name, standing at the level of both Elizabeth and Percy Windsor.