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Becoming True To My Name:
Kaur/ Princess

by Gupt Kuri

 

 

It is easy to brag about how our last name means 'princess' but it takes hard work to become that princess.

All my life, I have explained to people what 'Kaur' means but I never understood myself. Does a girl become a princess by perfectly styled hair, jewelry, make up, dress and an attitude to match? Or does a girl become a princess by her actions? What is more important - look, actions or both?

I spent 20 years of my life chasing after the beauty queen look so I can be a princess, just like my name suggests. Fortunately (at the time, unfortunately) for me, my parents were against make up, cutting hair, revealing clothes and just about everything that I believe would make me glamorous.

My parents were against it but that didn't stop me from trying; after all, I had to live up to my name.

For 20 years, I tried to do whatever possible to look like a princess. But I never achieved anything more than becoming daddy's little princess, just like every other girl.

Then I met a true Kaur who taught me what being a princess is all about.

Tall and proud, she stood in a crowded room where no one else could even compare to her. She was one of the three turbaned women in the room that day but yet, she was nothing like the others. She had on the simplest white bana, turban (no ornaments) and an easy smile.

I knew I wanted to be like her and approached her to ask her secret, how did she become a princess? I asked question after question and she just smiled, laughed and answered each question. I quickly learned she had discovered Sikhi less than a year ago, and had immersed herself so deeply into it that she wore her bana and turban at all times.

I had been a Sikh for 20 years and had never worn the bana or a turban. She was going to take amrit after having been a Sikh for less than a year. I had been a Sikh for 20 years, considered taking Amrit but had never been so passionate about it, not like her.

Talking to her that day made me realize she was the true daughter of Guru Gobind Singh and I was just an imposter.

I too wanted to be a princess, a true daughter of Guru Gobind Singh, but I knew I couldn't do it alone.

I asked this princess to give me a crown, a turban of my own. The next week, she showed up at the gurdwara with enough turban material to tie turbans on the whole Punjabi class. That day, only two students had the desire to receive the beautiful gift she brought; luckily, I was one of them.

After that, she came just one more week and helped me tie my turban. In those two weeks the sangat got used to seeing me in a turban and I got scared of going turban-less to the gurdwara for people might think I was just doing it to impress my new friend. So, every Sunday for about a month or two, I would tie a turban and if it didn't work out nice, I would just cover it with my chunni. After gurdwara, I would head to work in my bana and talk to my customers about Sikhi and the turban. I became the Sunday Sikh.

The sangat didn't mind but my customers quickly caught up and questioned my Sunday Sikh appearance and attitude. I was still an imposter, still not a princess. So, I started wearing the turban a couple times a week. I figured it's hard to wear a turban because it comes with great responsibility. Every time I tie it, I have to always smile, be kind, live up to Sikhi like our Gurus wanted us to and pretty much be the perfect princess.

It is not easy work being a princess and I just wasn't ready for it. It is easy to look like a princess but hard to become a true princess. As I struggled to wear my turban every day and act like a true princess, the good Sikh sangat in my life began pestering me about reading my nitnem. Slowly but surely, with the help of the sangat in my life I incorporated nitnem in my life and with the encouragement from the customers at work, I incorporated the turban as my daily wear. I took a big step towards becoming a princess by doing that.

The nitnem brought a change within me and the bana supported the change on the outside. Without even realizing it, when I least expected it, I became a princess.

I am not a full-fledged princess of Guru Gobind Singh yet because I have not received the blessings of Amrit to officially proclaim me a princess. But I am a princess in training who is almost ready to be blessed.

Today a random stranger came up to me and said I looked like a princess because of the beautiful turban on my head.

Here was a random stranger who had not a clue who Sikhs were, or what the turban meant, but still knew it transformed a simple Kaur into a Princess.

I am sorry, my Guru Ji, that I came so late to you and wasted 20 years of the precious life you gave me being the false princess. Please bless me with Amrit soon and allow me to remain a true princess for life.

 

August 11, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: A.J.S. (San Jose, California, U.S.A.), August 11, 2010, 10:21 AM.

Very inspiring.

2: BMe Kaur  (Fresno, California, U.S.A. ), August 11, 2010, 11:18 AM.

Amazing. This article is my inspiration.

3: Navraj (London, United Kingdom), August 11, 2010, 2:46 PM.

Can someone explain to me why women have taken to wearing of a turban? Our grandmothers and mothers who were very religious never wore any. They always had their heads covered with a 'chunni'.

4: Plate (U.S.A.), August 11, 2010, 4:20 PM.

Navraj: The way I understand it culturally and historically, Sikh men are required to wear a turban. This does not mean that men without turbans are not Sikhs (Sindhi community goes to gurdwaras as well). Women, on the other hand, do not have to wear turbans as far as I know; they can, if they wish to. This is how it was and is (to some extent) in Punjab, both culturally and socially. Some would argue religiously both men and women have to wear turbans in Sikh religion, but I am not qualified to comment on that.

5: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ), August 11, 2010, 7:31 PM.

We all have to earn our spurs, and allow the dormant seed of Sikhi to sprout and grow. The first thing ordained is the birth in a Sikh 'parvaar'. The growing pains and asserting one's individuality is part of normal growth. Remember what Mark Twain said: "When I was 18, my father was the most ignorant man. When I was 25, I was surprised he had learnt so much in such a short time." Glad you found the real values that come with 'Gurparsad'. When you are ready, someone will appear to help you. That's Guru's blessings. Walk tall, dear princess, you were born to stand out.

6: Harinder Kaur (Seattle, U.S.A.), August 12, 2010, 10:54 AM.

Those 20 years were not wasted; they were necessary for your growth and development. I had a similar experience after the traumatic events of 1984. For 20 years I ran away from being a Sikh and did just about everything I could think of to be unSikh. It didn't work. I had given Guru Ji my head and he refused to give it back to me. A patit Sikh running around headless must have been quite a sight to see. This is not the place to tell the story of my return. But return I did and Guru Ji and the sangat welcomed me back. Those 20 years were necessary for me; I'm a slow learner. Not a single second was unnecessary. Sometimes the hukam of Waheguru is hard or impossible to understand, but whether we know it or not, it is perfect.

7: Sukhmandir Kaur (U.S.A.), August 12, 2010, 1:59 PM.

Absolutely beautiful!

8: Prabhjot Singh (U.S.A.), August 13, 2010, 3:20 AM.

For some reason, I thought "Kaur" was the masculine form of the word "prince" rather "princess." Would be worth verifying because the implications are thought-provoking.

9: Manpreet Singh (San Jose, California, U.S.A.), August 13, 2010, 1:41 PM.

Just beautiful. It's an inspiring story. May Waheguru keep you in chardi kalaa.

10: F. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), August 14, 2010, 1:02 AM.

Being a 'princess' has nothing to do with external appearance. Who says that the Sikh female youth need to don turbans to be accepted into the faith? This certainly wasn't the case in the past by any account. This story only serves to mislead an already confused and vulnerable segment of our population.

11: Shauna Singh Baldwin (Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.A.), August 14, 2010, 7:12 PM.

I am outraged that any woman would make you feel less than a true daughter of Sikhism. My Nani and Dadi didn't wear turbans - they were both Kaurs and princesses to me, and excellent "daughters of Guru Gobind Singh." They were also excellent daughters of Guru Nanak. Who decides who is a "true" daughter of Sikhism and who is not? You would be true to your name if you stood behind your words instead of writing anonymous articles as Gupt Kuri. You can be true to your name if you stand behind your actions. You seem to think changing your appearance makes you a better Sikh than before. I'm so sorry that someone made you feel so inadequate and unworthy. Your article does, however, explain the appeal of orthodoxy to an impressionable young woman and the creeping descent into binary thinking: this person is a true Sikh/ this person is not. The comfort of such certainty is seducing but temporary. The world is ambiguous and complex - I hope one day you engage with it directly.

12: Raspal Singh (Hyderabad, India), August 15, 2010, 1:46 AM.

Awesome. Inspired. I wish Waheguru gives you all the power and strength to withstand any deterrence if any comes in the way to His glorified lap! Be blessed and keep inspiring!

13: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada.), August 15, 2010, 6:19 AM.

Turban is not compulsory or necessary for an amritdhari woman. Somehow, based on the shabad of Guru Arjan - [GGS:1084] - 'Purify what is impure, and let the Lord's Presence be your religious tradition. Let your total awareness be the turban on your head', some one got into it and the tradition started. But this shabad has reference to Islamic traditions and Guru ji is saying: let your awareness be your turban.

14: Kamaljit (Canada), August 15, 2010, 8:52 AM.

It's all about personal freedom and choices, and as it has been stated many times over, Sikh women have the 'choice' to either wear or not wear a turban.

15: J. Kaur (U.S.A.), August 15, 2010, 9:24 AM.

Shauna: The women of your 'nani and dadi's generation who didn't wear turbans were also the women of a generation who tolerated second marriages by their husbands ... as you have captured so vividly in your novel ... is that not true?

16: P. Kaur (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), August 15, 2010, 10:24 AM.

Excellent read. May this article inspire other girls in our community. As for the comments above, I'm appalled by some of the people who are offended. This personal story shouldn't make one think that they or anyone else is less a Sikh than any other person. Though, on the other hand, there is truth in this article. Whether it be Guru Nanak or Guru Arjan or Guru Gobind Singh, all our Gurus' teachings are equally important to us. But, our Tenth Guru Sahib did give us a hukham of taking amrit, so it is his words that this person holds true to. Again, no one here is saying that someone is more Sikh than another. Follow the Guru's teachings and words instead of pointing fingers at one another about who has the right to decide whether one is more of a Sikh than another. Secondly, about the dastaar. I think you are all clear on the responsibility of covering your hair when you take amrit. No one said its required, but taking amrit comes with a responsibility to yourself and your Guru. So, dastaar isn't a requirement for a Kaur, and an individual choice, as long as she covers her hair. As for our grandmothers, mine never wore a dastaar either, but one of my grandmothers is amritdhari and does cover her hair with a chunni. So, wearing a dastaar is an individual choice. For me personally, I wear a dastaar because, as a young woman, it not only reminds me of Guru sahib's bana, also ... living amongst a diasporic community in Toronto, it's not hard for someone to mistake you for a Muslim girl. So, because of this, my dear friends, I wear it because as our Gurus preached to us about our identity, in a crowd of thousands, you can distinguish a Kaur or Singh from a mile away id he/ she is wearing a dastaar. So please, before attacking the Kaur who has shared her story with us all, take a minute. I'm tired of hearing people arguing that amritdhari people, girls or boys, look down on others and judge them. Not saying they don't, we all make mistakes, we all judge others, but as my dad says, it takes two to clap a hand. The Kaur above shared her experience of another Kaur sharing the teachings of Guru sahibs words.

17: Shauna Singh Baldwin (Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.A.), August 15, 2010, 12:31 PM.

Sure ... but did they have a choice in the matter? But don't call them or any women who doesn't wear a turban less of a "true" Sikh. No woman should be told she is less or more of a Sikh or "not a true daughter of Guru Gobind Singh" just because she does/does not wear a turban. It's her choice.

18: Harminder Kaur  (U.S.A.), August 15, 2010, 4:28 PM.

Shauna ji: A thousand salutes to your Nani ji and Dadi ji. I am not judging them any less than any other daughter of Guru Gobind Singh because I am no one to judge or to decide. Moreover, a Bibi wearing a turban is only living up to her personal commitment, and that the Guru's daughters are NO less than His sons who wear turbans, that His daughters can and will stand up to the same level of Sikhi as His sons, and that His daughters can and will NEVER shy away from making the greatest sacrifices just like His sons. A Bibi wearing a turban would then indeed look like a daughter of the Guru who Himself wore a turban. The reason I keep my name GuptKuri is to avoid any unnecessary attention that could inflate my ego by those who may seem to like what I write. I feel sorry for you if your definition of Sikhi revolves around a mere change of appearance. Sikhi, just to let you know, is a spiritually developmental growth process of one's soul that has embarked upon a journey towards Waheguru. What you call as "outward external appearance" is in fact a Guru-gifted blessing which everyone may or may not value or even realize. No one is inadequate or unworthy, but yes, my dastaar makes me realize the adequacy and worth of my responsibility I need to stand up to as a Sardarni. It makes me realize every moment that I am to be the best person wherever I might be because I wear my Guru's uniform gifted to me. It wakes me up to the fact that I am out here to serve humanity, rather than judge who is a better Sikh than who.

19: Harminder Kaur  (U.S.A.), August 15, 2010, 4:40 PM.

Also, Bhenji, I would like to point out I called her a true Sikh because her love for Sikhi, not her turban. If you re-read the article carefully, you will notice there were three women with turbans on that night but I was attracted to this particular person and called her a true princess. You know why? Because she keeps her nitnem, is dying to take amrit and at every moment remembers Waheguru. I was not a true daughter because I lacked that love, the burning desire for Amrit. I asked for the turban because for me when I wear a turban on my head I remember that it does not come free. I knew if I wore a turban, I was going to be asked by the sangat if I am doing paatth and truly walking the path. The people I work with constantly questioned me on the turban and what Sikhism was. It was like once I got the turban on my head I had to begin living like a Sikh. It forced me to get my act together. The day I started living like a Sikh and started doing paatth, I became the princess. A turban alone does not make a person anything, it is when you become a true Sikh, inside and out, you become a princess or lion.

20: Jasmeet Kaur (Toronto, Ontario, /Canada), August 15, 2010, 5:59 PM.

Shauna ji: She is trying to express her experience with how she became close to Sikhi. Wearing a turban allowed her to realize something within herself.

21: J. Kaur (U.S.A.), August 16, 2010, 12:11 AM.

I find it hard to accept that if they were 'daughters' of Guru Gobind Singh, then they had no choice. A very lame excuse considering that they (and not only the men) were given a choice way back in 1699 to accept freedom or to remain slaves for the rest of their lives. I believe these women, like the generation of women before them, 'choose' to be slaves ...

22: Balmeet Singh (Delano, California, U.S.A.), August 26, 2010, 11:37 AM.

Shauna - rather than focusing on technicalities of dress requirements for Sikhs, I want to ask what keeps you from wearing it. Why don't you wear a dastaar?

23: Shauna Singh Baldwin (Milwaukee, U.S.A.), September 01, 2010, 8:56 PM.

What do you mean "*rather than* focus on the technicalities of dress" - we are focusing on the technicalities of dress, the subject of Gupt Kuri's anonymous article. As to your question, I don't wear a dastaar because the turban is a cultural convention, not a religious requirement. Kesh is the requirement, remember? Now you can say I'm a lousy Sikh because I don't wear kesh, but not because I don't wear the dastaar. The turban is a huge responsibility and sets you apart and I'm not suggesting for a moment that it's an easy thing to wear. It's not a hat or a scarf. However, I am pointing out that anyone who tells a young woman she is not a true Sikh for NOT wearing one, is attempting to draw her down the path of binary thinking - X who wears a turban is a TRUE Sikh and Y who don't wear turbans are FALSE. Poor Gupt Kuri hides behind anonymity - she doesn't have the confidence to own her own words. And in addition, her new-found "friend" lays conditions on her being a "true" Sikh and makes her feel, she says, like an "imposter" for not wearing one. Well - many Sikh women don't wear turbans and don't feel like "imposters." Being a half-way decent Sikh is difficult at the best of times without someone telling you you're not a good enough Sikh. Good luck to you, Gupt Kuri. May you some day find the courage to stand behind your words, and the courage to face complexity.

24: J. Kaur (U.S.A.), November 26, 2010, 12:00 AM.

You've certainly struck a chord with others since this thread has spawned so much discussion. Whatever your experience, it is Yours alone. Revel in it. And keep sharing and inspiring others to reflect and introspect!

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Kaur/ Princess"









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