The Deaths of Two Little Boys

Today I hold in my heart two boys who were bricked alive in 1705. Zorawar (9) and Fateh (6) were the youngest sons of the tenth #Sikh teacher Guru Gobind Singh, killed by captors when they refused to give up their faith. They are shown in paintings hung in gurdwaras, their faces serene and stoic as men with scowls build brick walls around them.

Today Sikhs around the world commemorate them as martyrs called “Chotta Sahibzade,” our little sons. A few years ago I visited the place in Fatehgarh Sahib, Punjab where they were killed, parts of the brick wall still standing, and the cartoon images in my mind fell away. I imagined them, two little boys surrounded by men who have decided to kill them, bricks stacking taller, sky disappearing, shortness of breath, air thinning, their resolution and their pain.

Today I want to honor their suffering even as we sing songs of their heroism. For standing up to tyranny is the breaking of bones, the cutting of flesh, the emptying of lungs. And nothing we do can bring them back, these children whose lives are crushed by grown-up brutality. Not the black boy in a park with a toy gun. Not the little girl in Aleppo. Not the trans girl who left the suicide note. We can only learn their stories — and open our eyes to the children still living, waiting for us to fight…