Kids Corner


Standing Out and Out-Standing




I was in the gurdwara when I first saw it.

The thought, I mean.

It hung suspended in the air, like a drop of water. Then, it latched on to the bottom of my salwar, followed me home, ran circles around me as I washed the dishes, hid under the surface of my daal, lurked inside the folds of my bedsheets-it was inescapable. Slowly, it began to manifest in different forms.

Sometimes it was the message of an article, sometimes the aura of someone I saw, sometimes the subject of my daydreams.

The longer it stayed with me the more I imagined its feasibility.

And then it was inside my brain: a pearly white bead rolling through dark annals and whirling vortexes, speeding down alleys and over murky bridges, deep into gutters swirling with sewage, and over discarded ideas on empty sidewalks. It navigated the swarming city in my mind with hound-like precision until it finally tumbled past all the filth, clean as a lotus, and out into the cavern of my mouth.

Then it was no longer an idea, it was real. It was an action which Itook, a statement that I made. Such a small thought as this, when finally uttered by unsuspecting lips, wrought complete havoc on my ordinary life.

What it led to was this: I, Kanwalroop Kaur Singh, a somewhat shy Sikh woman, began to wear a turban.

But ... why?

Permit me to answer.

Only fear had stopped me from wearing a turban before. Fear of not living up to the standard image of beauty, fear of others and what they would think, fear of standing out, fear of responsibility.

And fear was not a good reason.

I had not let fear come in the way of my decisions before, so why was I taking the backseat now?

The Sikhs before me were not burned in cauldrons, torn limb from limb, bricked alive, doused in oil, lit on fire, slayed in battle, their children severed and strung about their necks, so that I could sit here today in my cocoon of cowardice unable to do a simple a thing as cover my head with a turban.

As I thought more and more, the contents of my brain churned like butter.

Why is it that when my family is out and about in the world, my father must cover his head out of respect for God, and for me, it is optional? Don't we believe that God is everywhere?

Why is it that my father is easily recognized by others as a Sikh, and I am not?

Why is it that he has become a representative of my religion and I have not?

Why is it that he must deal with the stares and jeers that sometimes come with the turban and I do not?

As a woman, I have the same right to cover my head in the presence of God, to be recognized out of thousands as a Sikh, and to shoulder the burdens that come with being one.

I knew that it would be hard in the beginning. But so what? Studying is hard, exercising is hard, writing is hard, getting up after eating a huge meal is hard. If I can start to wear a turban now, what is there, in the whole wide world, that I cannot do?

So, it has been a week.

I have worn my turban everyday. Sometimes it comes out lopsided, sometimes my dad helps me tie it, sometimes my head begins to itch.

A week ago, no one would take notice of me if I walked through a store. Now, I have received hidden furtive glances, long unashamed stares, shocked double takes, and even two compliments.

I feel that I cannot ignore my religion anymore. I cannot just be a Sikh whenever I feel like being one. I cannot forget who I am at will, blend in among the crowd. Now my identity is written in the bold folds of my dastaar.

I cannot escape it, hide it, ignore it - I can only wear it with grace.


[Kanwalroop 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.]  

August 14, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: Devinder Kaur Bains (Australia), August 15, 2010, 6:12 AM.

Articles like this make us feel brave and very proud of our religion. At the same time, it is a lesson for all of us ladies and I could not believe your excellent thoughts. Must be Waheguru's grace on you. Keep up the good work and may be we will follow your footsteps.

2: Amardeep (U,.S.A.), August 15, 2010, 12:23 PM.

I need some knowledge here. As far as I know, the turban is a great tool for personal and spiritual growth but is no way achievement in itself. That is why, spirituality is walking on a double edge sword. We should adopt these tough disciplines but at the same time there is no achievement in merely doing so, other than that one has started on a noble path. Good luck and God bless ...

3: Satwinder Singh (Dublin, Ireland), August 16, 2010, 10:34 AM.

Thanks for this beautiful piece of writing. It's indeed very inspirational!

4: Max Pommier (New Haven, CT, U.S.A.), August 16, 2010, 2:44 PM.

Your writing is taking on a life of its own, and the result is breathtaking. The words, the emotions, the flow and syntax, the thoughts behind the prose ... it's enthralling. And this journey of faith and discovery you're embarking on is even more fascinating to follow. I wish you the best of luck as you forge your path through life ... please continue to update me :)

5: Baljinder Kaur (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), August 16, 2010, 11:47 PM.

Your article is very insightful and shows much compassion at the young age of 17. Reading this personal narrative restores my faith in our youth in general, and young women in particular, that will make sure Sikhi flourishes in generations to come. Thank you for sharing this very personal experience.

6: Preeti Kaur (Canada), August 18, 2010, 3:18 AM.

Congratulations, Kanwalroop, on taking this brave step forward! It was commented earlier that tying a turban is not itself an achievement - the implication being that it should not be celebrated as one. I respectfully disagree and would argue that every step we take on our spiritual journey is beautiful and worthy of celebration. Your article is heart-warming and a source of inspiration for me and Sikh women everywhere - thanks for sharing with us, and good luck :)

7: Balmeet Singh (Delano, California, U.S.A.), August 18, 2010, 1:59 PM.

For me, wearing a dastaar was never a decision, it was like breathing. I grew up wearing it; as I'd joke with non-Sikhs who asked about the experience, "I came out of the womb with my dastaar on". Through your writing, I now examine what it means to make the decision. I look forward to the continued expression of this journey. Thank you.

8: Manpreet Singh (San Jose, California, U.S.A.), August 20, 2010, 12:24 AM.

Sikh history has prominently recorded the role of women, portraying them as equal in service, devotion, sacrifice and bravery to men. I congratulate you for taking this beautiful decision and definitely you will be recognized in the crowd of millions. I would also like to say that you portrayed brilliantly that "idea" around you in the first paragraph. The choice of words and their phrasing was first rate. May Akal Purakh always keep you in Chardi Kalaa.

9: Manjeet Singh (San Jose, California, U.S.A.), August 20, 2010, 1:44 PM.

This article is awesome. Congratulations, Kanwalroop. You have set a very good example to our young generation who just do not care about the kurbaniyaan done for Sikhi and want to look trendy, trim their hair, drink liquor, etc. I particularly liked the following paragraph from your article: "The Sikhs before me were not burned in cauldrons, torn limb from limb, bricked alive, doused in oil, lit on fire, slayed in battle, their children severed and strung about their necks, so that I could sit here today in my cocoon of cowardice unable to do a simple a thing as cover my head with a turban."

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