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Sikh to a 'T'

by MANJYOT KAUR

 

Looking for a meaningful and fun way to express your love for Sikhi, or your connection to Punjabi culture?

Check out the TurbanInc.com website and say it with a T-shirt!

TurbanInc.com was established in April 2008 by a group of young East Coast Sikh-Americans: Jagmeet Singh Sethi, Jasjeet Singh, and Karandeep Singh. Harmeet Kaur is the group's Secretary.

I recently had the opportunity to meet up with Jagmeet and Karandeep and spend a very pleasant couple of hours in their lively company. The time flew by at an amazing pace - their energy is highly infectious and their devotion to Sikhi is absolutely awesome!

Why "TurbanInc" for a website that sells T-shirts?

The credit goes to Jagmeet's screen-name on Facebook: "White Turban," in honor of his signature dastaar color.

In the site's own words, it is a "unique youth orientated apparel company," whose shirts bear messages that "bring awareness to the community and beyond," letting the general public know that "we too are unique and special and we are not afraid to show it."

The group's desire to "promote Sikhi and Punjabi culture in a fun and unique way that no one has really done before" is enthusiastically echoed in their motto: "Get your turban on!" (Yes, they do indeed practice what they preach!)

TurbanInc's launch - a collaboration with a local Connecticut screenprinter to make 250 bright blue "Bhangra Evolution" T-shirts (featuring an ape that, in five steps, morphs into a human Bhangra dancer) - was a sell-out success at New York City's 2008 annual Sikh Day Parade.

Word quickly got around, with friends who missed out on buying the tee at the event wanting to know how they could get one. And so, the idea for a website to sell them online was born!

True to the group's ongoing business philosophy, this initial venture was aimed at having a fun bonding experience, rather than making money. For them, school definitely comes first; TurbanInc is in second place.

Karandeep, a freshman Finance major who aspires to a career in investment banking, attends New York City's Baruch College.

Jagmeet, who hopes to become an attorney, is a sophomore majoring in Political Science at Southern Connecticut State University.

Jasjeet is a high school junior, while Harmeet is a first-year university student in Washington, D.C.

Not surprisingly, TurbanInc's major target audience is between 16 and 25 years old. What's more, they are role models for many boys and girls, who not only look up to them, but are as keen to buy the shirts as their older brothers and sisters.

One young fan owns tees in eight of the company's twelve designs!

It is also important to the TurbanInc crew to give back to the community, which they do in various ways, such as through their sponsorship of Sikhtoon's caption contest.

They proudly confirm that their parents are "100% supportive" of their efforts, and that they are faithfully backed by a large sangat of friends, many of whom are committed, Amritdhari Sikhs.

They also credit attendees of Sikh camps (Jagmeet went to Camp Chardi Kala, Karandeep to Baru Sahib Camp), and Sikh conferences such as "Surat," along with members of Sikh Student Associations, with helping their products succeed and sparking ideas for innovative designs.

The impressive results of their first offering, "Bhangra Evolution," (especially popular with school Bhangra teams), has made this T-shirt their best-selling item, eventually spawning a red version, as well. I was told that the "your mom makes the best roti" design - with a white rolling pin on a mango-colored background, gets the most laughs, especially from "the aunties."

And, speaking of mangos, a similarly-hued shirt featuring a "mango + tall glass = smiley face" equation and the caption "mango lassi fixes everything," is another of their most popular offerings.

Much inspiration for their designs comes from mass media. Song lyrics provided the "don't you wish your girl was punjabi like me?" and "when I move, you move" motifs. Another tee touts the Facebook website.

Their newest shirt, which asserts "i am a slumdog millionaire" comes from the current blockbuster movie. The wording for a top specially made for Chardi Kala campers, "Sikhs Run on Chardi Kala," was taken from "America Runs on Dunkin'," the punchline of a well-known donut shop advertisement.

Punjabi music and dance-themed shirts take top billing, with the colorful "Giddiya Di Rani" joining the three others that feature Bhangra-related subjects.

Sikh devotional music is also represented, thanks to a tee emblazoned "Kirtan (written in Gurmukhi script) - The Beat of My Life," complete with very convincingly depicted -  albeit one-dimensional -  headphones.

Additional inspiration for living a Sikhi-oriented life is given by the "SIKHISM - My Anti-Drug" design, as well as my personal favorite: the one that proclaims "Hottest Turban" on the front, with an arrow that points up to the wearer's head (adorned with a real-life dastaar, presumably) and, on the reverse side, has seven well-chosen "My Turban is ..." phrases, such as "... a crown of dignity" and "... a promise of integrity."

Deliberately absent from TurbanInc merchandise are motifs of a hard-core, polarizing or controversial nature.

They intend to keep to what they consider a fun-filled, "middle-of-the-road" approach: "anything that promotes mainstream Sikhi," and is "religious but funny."

They want their T-shirts to be attractive conversation-starters that would entice all sorts of people to approach someone wearing one and be motivated to learn a little about the positive attributes of the Sikh faith and Punjabi culture.

All twelve of TurbanInc's current designs can be viewed and ordered on their beautifully produced and extremely easy-to-navigate website. ("The shirts are right there," promise Jagmeet and Karandeep.) In addition, the site features various sections that are really entertaining to look at, such as the one devoted to promoting the custom-made designs the company also makes (with some wildly imaginative examples); the TurbanInc Blog; and the TurbanInc Facebook page.

Not to be missed is the highly appealing "Gear-In-Action" area, which includes lots of eye-catching photos (wearers of the shirts are expressly invited to submit them) of good-looking Sikh teenagers and twenty-somethings having a blast showing off their TurbanInc T-shirts.

It is quite notable that an impressive number of the guys have unshorn hair/beards and turbans, and dastaardhari young women are included, too.

Pictures of personages such as Gurumustuk Singh of SikhNet.com, Pops of the Bhangra group Tigerstyle from Glasgow, Scotland, and Manj of the British Bhangra band RDB - all sporting TurbanInc tees, of course - add to the attraction.

So, what's TurbanInc's vision for the future? How do they hope to build upon the considerable accomplishments they have already achieved?

The group certainly have some very creative plans in mind. Karandeep and Jagmeet spoke of expanding their product line to include thirty to forty T-shirt designs, as well as other items such as turban cloth and fiftys, in colors to match the shirts; creating tees for toddlers (is "PatkaInc" in the works?); and obtaining more celebrity endorsements.

They also hope to eventually open an actual, walk-in shop to give locally-based customers an in-person alternative to online ordering. They are even dreaming of some highly ambitious spin-off ventures, such as getting together a TurbanInc team of DJs; setting up a TurbanInc photography company; and forming a TurbanInc movie production outfit.

Do you have any ideas for them, or comments on the TurbanInc website?

They would really like to receive your feedback, both positive and negative. ("Especially if it's negative, so we know if we're doing something wrong," they told me.)

So, please take a leisurely look at the site, let your imagination run free, and contact them at info@turbaninc.com with your thoughts!

Whatever great things await this talented foursome - and it truly seems a sparkling future is in store for them - Jagmeet Singh, Karandeep Singh, Jasjeet Singh and Harmeet Kaur intend to stay devoted to Sikhi, enjoy their Punjabi culture, and ... stick to their signature catch-phrase:

"Peace. Love. TurbanInc."

We wish them every success!

 

March 10, 2009

Conversation about this article

1: Kiranjot Kaur (New Jersey, U.S.A.), March 10, 2009, 4:08 PM.

You're the best T-shirt people ever! I love you guys :)

2: Jasmeet (Canada), March 10, 2009, 8:43 PM.

Wow!

3: Prabhu Singh Khalsa (Española, New Mexico, U.S.A.), March 11, 2009, 8:41 AM.

Nice kids doing something positive.

4: Jasakaran Sarao (Bellevue, WA, U.S.A.), March 11, 2009, 11:10 AM.

Wow! I will order some today ...

5: Amrita (Connecticut, U.S.A.), March 11, 2009, 6:10 PM.

Keep up all the hard work and you guys will go far! I am hoping to see the t-shirt store soon!

6: Dilraj Chawla (Seymour), March 12, 2009, 5:24 PM.

Welldone! Keep it up.

7: Prabhjot Singh Walia (New Delhi, India), March 22, 2009, 7:19 PM.

Maybe it's time to come up with some good slogans on T-shirts dealing with Sikhi.

8: Shagundeep Singh (India), April 07, 2009, 10:30 AM.

This really make us proud. You guys are unique.

9: Jasmeet (California, U.S.A.), June 11, 2009, 11:15 PM.

I'm so proud of you guys! Keep up the good work, and set high hopes and goals! You will all get there soon!

10: Sanjeet Singh Anand  (Delhi, India), September 15, 2009, 10:49 AM.

Keep up the good work, guys. God bless you all for keeping the the spirit alive. PROUD BY BIRTH, SIKH BY RELIGION!

11: Harmeet Singh (Kuwait), September 15, 2009, 11:50 AM.

Brilliantly done. Keep up the good work. Keep rocking ... Raj Karega Khalsa!

12: A. Singh (Los Angeles, Californisa, U.S.A.), September 15, 2009, 12:14 PM.

These guys are awesome.

13: Prabhjot Singh Jolly (Nagpur, India), September 27, 2009, 12:54 PM.

Wonderful. Simply wonderful!

14: Khush Amrita  (Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.), June 14, 2010, 7:11 PM.

Wow! I'm gonna order some right now!

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