Twin Ambassadors: NEHA SINGH GOHIL
Arzoe Kaur & Aekash Singh of San Carlos, California
Earlier this year, California’s lawmakers declared November to be Sikh Awareness & Appreciation Month.
Teachers were encouraged to celebrate the occasion with “commemorative exercises.” Sikh groups distributed flyers and videos at schools and community meetings.
But the Singh family in San Carlos needed no help to get the word out. They had already been observing this tradition for several years.
Aekash Singh and Arzoe Kaur are 10-year old twins who live in San Carlos, California.
Despite growing up in a diverse Bay Area community, they were constantly faced with the challenge of maintaining their Sikh identities. In an early effort to make the transition easier for them in second grade, the family convinced their school to have a Punjab booth. Everyone got in on the fun. The kids’ grandfather, "Nannu," applied henna tattoos. Students from ages five to nine played with Punjabi dolls, examined Punjabi kitchen utensils and tried out classical musical instruments.
The idea was a hit!
Yet, every year, the holiday season was the most isolating for Aekash and Arzoe.
With all their friends chattering about Christmas presents, the twins felt left out.
Last year, they decided to do something about it.
Aekash and Arzoe shared the tradition of singing kirtan with their classmates. Arzoe sang and played harmonium, while Aekash wowed the entire fourth grade with his tabla skills.
When asked by fellow classmates what they liked most about the holidays, Arzoe said: "We feed the hungry and give clothes to the poor."
Though they don’t celebrate Christmas, they had understood the spirit of the holiday and its connection to Sikhi so well.
Since the terror attacks of 9/11, Sikh organizations, attorneys, professionals and politicians have been working to represent Sikhs in the halls of power. But the tragic killing of Sikhs at Oak Creek this year has highlighted the need for similarly excellent representation at the community level.
After the shootings, the twins joined other Sikh children in drawing and sending get-well cards to each of the Oak Creek victims, including injured Lieutenant Brian Murphy, who had responded to the scene of the attack whith bravery.
For Aekash, the activity allowed him to express emotions that had been building up since the family had discussed the incident at home. The children’s seva culminated in their attendance at a community-wide vigil in San Jose a few days later.
At that event, Aekash was inspired when he realized that he could actively participate in the vigil by helping pass out the U.S. flags and candles to the attendees. Both twins graciously took on their roles as ambassadors for Sikhs in the larger, multi-faith community that had gathered to express solidarity that night.
Watching Aekash and Arzoe perform kirtan for their friends, it is clear that they feel secure as both Sikhs and Americans. Their initiative in exposing their friends to Sikhi is necessary not only for our own children to feel safe in their identity, but also to help win the hearts of our neighbors during these challenging times.
December 18, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Pert (Syosset, New York, USA), December 18, 2012, 9:30 AM.
My mother always told me when someone behaves or acts in a desirable manner, two questions often get asked: Who are the parents and what religion does the individual belong to? In this case, the parents and Sikhi can hold their heads up high in pride.