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Why I Became A Sikh, Writes Former UK Minister's Daughter

Alexandra Aitken, the daughter of former Conservative minister Jonathan Aitken, had a reputation  for being a  hedonistic party girl. She has now married a Sikh Inderjot Singh in Amritsar, changed her name to Harvinder Kaur
PTI February 11, 2011 17:52 IST
Alexandra Aitken, the daughter of former Conservative minister Jonathan Aitken, had a reputation  for being a  hedonistic party girl. She has now married a Sikh Inderjot Singh in Amritsar, changed her name to Harvinder Kaur Khalsa and adopted Sikhism, reports Daily Mail, London.

Here is what Alexandra writes about her transformation: 

"Frankly, if someone had told me ten years ago, when I was living the party girl ­lifestyle in London, that a decade later I'd be a teetotal vegan, I simply wouldn't have believed them.

"If they'd gone on to tell me that I'd also have converted to Sikhism, changed my name to Harvinder Kaur Khalsa and be married to an Indian warrior whom I fell in love with before we even exchanged a single word, I'd have laughed my head off.

"After all, I was positively allergic to organised religion. It just seemed so grey to me. But then I don't really think of Sikhism as a religion, more a path for anyone who is looking for something more spiritual.

"We live in a computer age where life is increasingly stressful and the world is speeding up, and people are desperately trying to find a way to relax, to escape from everything.

"As I see it, you've got one of two options; you can either find a drug dealer, or you can find something that's going to give you a natural high. Everyone's looking for something — I've found it in Sikhism.

"But I didn't just jump on the first bus going. I did my homework. I've read just about everything.  

"I looked at Kabbalah — the fashionable offshoot of Judaism — I read about Islam, about Buddhism, but it wasn't until about four years ago when I went to a Kundalini yoga class in Los ­Angeles, after I moved out there from London, that I started to look at Sikhism.

"I'd tried various different types of yoga before, but never Kundalini, which comes from the Sikh tradition and incorporates mantras or prayers into the classes.

"The people I met through Kundalini just seemed to be so amazingly happy that I felt compelled to ask why. And I heard the most amazing stories; wild drug addicts whose lives had been completely transformed, cancer sufferers who'd had miraculous recoveries.

"Even though my life wasn't nearly that extreme, it was an appealing prospect. Put simply, if someone told you that you could change all the things that made you unhappy, just by reading something, or chanting something, and that you could get to a point where every part of every day — even the grim commute to work — is just really nice, why wouldn't you want to try it?

"Because most people just want to be happy. We only do what we do — put the hours in with work, chase the man, take the drug — because we think that thing will make us happy.

"I know some of the richest people in the world, some of the most famous people in the world, some of the most successful people in the world and some of the most intelligent people in the world.

"But the happiest people I've ever met are those who follow a spiritual path; you've got to think that they might be on to something.

"Of course, none of this happened to me overnight. It was a very gradual process. I compare it to someone who's never been to a gym who eats chips and chocolate cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

"If that person starts to exercise, then they'll find that their body wants different foods, that they start to eat more healthily because they work out how to ­sustain their body and feel better.

"That's how I feel about Sikhism. Everything has been a very natural and organic process, things evolved step by step.

"Part of that process has been meeting Inderjot Singh, the man I've called my husband from the day we met — though of course it's only just become official.

"I first saw him, about a year ago, on the roof of the Golden Temple in Amritsar and just knew we were going to get married.

"Six weeks later, I flew back to Los Angeles and we'd still not said a word to each other, but somehow I was in love with him.

"I just knew I had to go back to India to find him, so I did. I can't really explain it. I was just praying he didn't live in a tent on top of a mountain, because I knew that even if he did I was going to marry him anyway. He doesn't, thank goodness.

"He's actually one of the Nihang — it's the warrior tribe of Sikhism, the SAS, if you will, of the religion. And I suppose it's inevitable that people will assume that I've ­converted for him, but that's just not true.

"My friends and family only really care about the fact that I'm happy. My new name — which is a symbol of the new life I've started as a Sikh — has been tricky for people to get their heads round. My twin sister, Victoria, said to me: ‘What am I meant to call you?'

"Well, people can call me whatever they like, whatever is easiest for them. I don't expect my friends to stop calling me Ally.

"As for my parents, Mum has always been a very spiritual person anyway, and the first thing that Dad said to me about it was that my great-grandfather — Lord Rugby, who spent time in the Punjab where Inderjot is from, and was the chief commissioner of the North-West Province in the 1920s — would have been very proud.

"But I'm sure that for people who don't know me, it's hard to work out how I went from being the sort of person who gets drunk and falls out of clubs to being the sort of  person who wears a turban and meditates, and I'm sure there are people who will judge me, or misunderstand my motives, but I completely understand that. I was like that, too.

"Years ago, I remembered seeing a Sikh girl wearing a turban and thinking that she must be a bit crazy. I just couldn't understand why someone would do that. It just wasn't a part of anything I was familiar with. I just didn't get it.

"But I think if I'd carried on living my life the way I had been I would have been a very unhappy person. I would have been unfulfilled and, basically, empty.

"I don't judge people who want to live the way I did, I'm just much happier like this".