Kids Corner


Bullet Proof




Sometimes, my hair speaks. 

I never cut it off.  It is confident, because it hasn't been dyed four different colors. It knows what it is: black, with brown tints in the sun.  I have nurtured it in a positive environment - refraining from entering a barbershop to protect it from the trauma of watching its counterparts be murdered with scissors. 

I allow it to flow in its natural form: curly, long, and obvious.

It used to be an impediment, it weighed down my head, dragged itself along in the form of a braid wherever I went.  It became the subject of probing questions:

Why is it so long? 

Because I don't cut it. 

Why don't you cut it?

I don't know. 

Why don't you know why you don't cut it? 

Look, I never wanted to say this, but you forced me to.  I was abducted as a child by a gypsy who blessed me with it because it had parapsychological powers that I could use to repel people who are incompetent in discourse, like you.

I clearly had no idea what I was talking about. 

I just avoided the questions as best I could because they annoyed, embarrassed, and insulted me. In short, I was self-conscious. 

In accordance with the principles of my religion, Sikhism, I am required to keep my hair unshorn. But I never understood why. I bore my hair like a burden, with the belief that I was born to struggle. 

Until the incident at the shopping mall. 

It had been some months since 9/11, the country was reeling, and racism surrounded the Sikh community like a lethal enemy with better weapons. Sikhs - mistaken for Arabs, Muslims - were looked upon with contempt, harassed in airports, murdered in gas stations.

But I never thought it would affect me.

My father and I were walking through a Los Angeles shopping mall and, in passing, a man yelled, "terrorist," clearly and loudly enough so that everyone could hear and then stare. He screamed it at us, but we never saw him. We only quickened our pace. 

My father wears a turban and a beard: he looks different, so he must be a terrorist. The jump from snap judgment to concrete action takes only seconds.

But my father's resolve was astounding. He never wavered, turned back, or acted angry. He was as calm and composed as I had ever seen him.

The blazing bullet of hate was fired at him point-blank, but he was bulletproof. His identity, self-respect and pride protected him. And no bullet could have pierced that.

So I adopted his philosophy.

I realized that my hair is my identity, it separates me from the herd, reminds me that I am beholden to something beyond myself, bigger than myself.

It displays my dream to be distinct.


[Kanwalroop Kaur Singh is 17 years old and resides in Cupertino, California, U.S.A. She has written for Stanford University's weekly newspaper, is the founder and editor-in-chief of her school literary magazine, and the copy editor of her school newspaper. She looks forward to attending college in the fall.]

April 5, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: T. Sher Singh (Guelph, Ontario, Canada), April 05, 2010, 9:34 AM.

Kanwalroop: Reading your lovely piece assures me that all is well with the world. As long as there are the likes of you and your wonderful Dad, the world - and the Sikh community - can handle all the evil in the world. Including all that we have to put up with every day both within and without Sikhdom! Please keep on writing!

2: Roopinder Singh Bains (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), April 05, 2010, 1:28 PM.

If I had been there, I would have responded to being called a terrorist with: "No, I'm SIKH!"

3: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), April 05, 2010, 2:44 PM.

Like what Laurie Bolger, now reincarnated as Manjyot said: "You are mind stretching - soul elevating, a spark-kindler" and might yet drill some sense in those rustic self appointed priestly 'lathmar' who have just displayed their peanut brains and quite successfully dragged the ideal 'Sikhi' image through dust. This dejects me and reminds me of Guru Nanak poignant words: Ha-o bhal vikunni hoi/ adharai rahu na koiâ'[GGS:145] - "In this darkness, I cannot find the path." Unfortunately these unlettered louts [Referring to the 'vultures' in another story on] know only 'lathi' language and to twirl their moustaches. Prof. Puran Singh remains a lone voice in the wilderness. Who understands his language and the "joy of new dawn - when Guru Gobind Singh gathered the waves of the ocean of consciousness as a mother gathers the hair of the child." Kanwalroop, you give us hope that all is not lost yet. We will be watching you as a new star of hope for teaching some lessons to the old fogies. All I can say is that 'May Waheguru be with you.' Keep wielding the pen, and it may yet prove that it remains stronger than the sword. With lots of love, 'Beta'.

4: Gurjeet Singh Bains (Brisbane, Australia), April 06, 2010, 6:58 AM.

Good article by Kanwalroop Kaur. It occasionally happens with all visible Sikhs living in the West. We all know it won't be easy to budge any of us from our identity by such road-side comments. But there is another side to this story - that we have never exposed the depth of Sikhism to the local or wider communities. We are too busy cooking our own Langar and eating it to satisfy our own hunger. We must reach the needy and let others know about this blessing.

5: Devinder (Australia), April 06, 2010, 7:42 AM.

Well done, Kanwalroop. I hope we can stay as strong as you.

6: Sonia Pahwa (Greenwich, CT, U.S.A.), April 06, 2010, 8:44 PM.

Kanwalroop - I always knew you would be a great writer =) Beautiful article.

7: M. Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), April 06, 2010, 10:49 PM.

Study hard, Kanwalroop, and best of luck in your future endeavours.

8: Jasmeet Chawla (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), April 07, 2010, 4:29 PM.

Well written article. I look forward to reading more from Kanwalroop.

9: Sukhindarpal Singh (Penang, Malaysia), April 07, 2010, 8:46 PM.

Balle ni Punjab (Amrika?) di-ay sher bacchi-ay! I am printing copies of this excellent piece from your heart for distribution during our local Vaisakhi celebrations and shall hold it up for and to the sangat when I do kirtan during the Vaisakhi Jor Melas. My 8-year old Sohayl shall read it to the sangat. Thank you, Kanwalroop, for a providentially timed article on faith regarding an Article of Faith. How I wish more of us would spend time surfing OUR FAITH BOOK instead of the facebook. Guru Rakha.

10: Manjit Singh (San Jose, California, U.S.A.), April 13, 2010, 5:55 AM.

Great piece, Kanwal. Well done!

11: Kharag Singh (New Zealand), April 18, 2010, 3:53 PM.

Well written, Kan. May WaheGuru bless you ... keep it up.

12: Iknoor Singh (New York, U.S.A.), June 21, 2010, 11:40 PM.

Very well written. This would be very helpful in my school where people assume I am a Muslim, Arab, or a terrorist, where they have never heard of the religion, Sikhism.

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