A lot of Sikhs are outraged by the audacity for some Gurdwareh, including Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall, to support Narendra Modi on his tour to the UK. They are appalled that Sikhs could agree to have our institutions included in the ‘Modi Welcome Committee’. But why is supporting the new Indian Prime Minister the worst decision ever?
Yesterday I was listening to BBC Radio 4’s Digital Human series and its first episode which was about secrets. A definition of secrecy given in the introduction really caught the attention of my ears and inspired this article; described by a contributor as “the decision that there is more to be lost than gained by revealing information“, I wondered how much we as a community have to gain if we can learn to be 100% honest with each other and ourselves.
The past week marked 30 years since the start of the Sikh Genocide which originated in Delhi. One of the key conclusions many Sikh thinkers have made, including my fellow writer here Ranveer Singh, is that in order to destroy State propaganda, we must create our own narrative. Film is not the only medium for story-telling, but globalisation through outlets such as YouTube has allowed us to share emotively to the world like never before. Film educated me, and I’m confident it can do the same for others.
Maybe they’re right. According to lots of new research, we are officially the generation of distraction. The mass appeal of memes, vines and tweets on social media is indicating how data is rapidly getting more and more condensed for our easily distracted young minds. Before the internet, we blamed the television for wasting our time, so is it the media itself that’s the problem, or are we unable to switch off and spend time doing what’s truly important to our development as individuals and as a society?
I’ve often heard Sikhs refer to the mighty Guru Gobind Singh as being a ‘warrior-poet’. We’ve been patronised to death with the ‘martial-race’ term, but what’s all this poet stuff?! Aren’t they the wishy-washy middle-class types who drink expensive coffees musing the problems of the world from afar? Or perhaps poetry is some dated, unused, form of communication, no longer needed since WhatsApp arrived? Poetry is a literary art form that we admire from really far away and we often brag about how the Guru Granth Sahib is written in poetic verse, but what is the significance?
There’s a vacuum created by lovelessness. As a community, we aren’t the best at talking about love, in our relationships, our families and even our homes. When we do, it’s mentioned as a magical vague ‘thing’ in the air brought into our lives through luck and yogic pixy dust. What is love, does it exist in our lives and what is its importance?
We’re the lucky ones. Thanks to the hardworking generations before us, we’re in a position to travel like never before. We’re given the time to look up at the sky, to dream up an adventure, and if you have what it takes, you go out and make it happen. “I got some time off from work and want an adventure… thinking of going Dubai.” Sorry made up desi-dude, but Dubai is not an adventure and is likely to bring as much culture to you as staying at home. Not to mention the exploitation of immigrant workers you’d be supporting by travelling there.
On a recent trip to my local leisure centre, I overheard two unconnected women speak to their children on separate occasions that hit me harder than my first ever dive into the pool. One told her son, “if you don’t get in the big pool, you’re gonna be black and blue” following his refusal to leave the children’s pool because he wasn’t feeling ready and was too scared. The second mother dropped the standard “watch when I get you home” line as her kid wasn’t brushing their hair fast enough in the foyer area. I had gone to the pool to relax, but was left assessing how to avoid child violence, and instead encourage growth and freedom.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been expected to behave and interact with the world in an aggressive way. I have no idea where it came from, but my first obsessions included the colour blue, playing with WWF figurines and Van Damme flicks. Looking back, my fixation with wrestling is probably the most disturbing. Nothing seemed more manly to me than to have long hair, shout constantly, degrade women and ‘open a can of whoop arse’. My family circles reiterated the importance of ‘whoop arse’, reminding me that “if anyone hit me at school, I should hit them back”. If I didn’t like a situation, violence was always an option, and sometimes even actively encouraged. Every male I saw in movies and TV reinforced this with the importance for men to dominate and retain power in relationships.
For a long time, I’ve been pondering over where our community has strength and what we’re known for in society. We often brag to others how Sikhs are the most law abiding, the strongest, or how we earn the most money out of the different minorities in the West. The last example stands out considerably whether you go to North America or here in Europe. But does financial wealth come at a cost far higher than just monetary?
Whenever I’m asked about my patterned turbans, I usually spit some waffle in an inaudible manner which leaves the questioner regretting that they ever asked. It’s not something that I had expected to be an issue – the colour and style of my turban is my choice, surely? But sadly, being judged and interrogated for my colourful and patterned turbans is something that I face quite regularly. And what’s worse is that it’s mostly fellow Sikhs who bring it up.
There’s a strange whiff in the air. At first I thought it was the dirty smell of burning garbage from the recent Divali celebrations but it’s something a million times more refreshing and clean. Some local folks and I are inhaling a deep breath of fresh air and it tastes sweet. We plan on exhaling it into a new voice that our community has solely missed.
Wootz brand is a recent addition to the ever-growing clothing designers who have a Sikh or Punjabi audience in mind. Azadvir Singh, the founder of Wootz describes it as “a brand which celebrates Sikh martial history“. He hopes it can inspire people to get “back to their wootz“.
Singh Street Style is a fashion blog centred around photography of Singhs (male Sikhs) wearing fun and colourful clothing. It has been refreshing to see images you rarely see otherwise – we’re all bored of seeing the devolved-looking ‘caveman-Singh’ that somebody seems to have gone out of their way to make look butters!
While the majority of blokes are matching their shirts to their turbans and ladies are matching their chunis to their handbags, let’s take some time out to appreciate the simplicity of the reliable t-shirt. This fool-proof garment has been around for thousands of years since caveman times (maybe not that long) and in the last decade has been adopted by Sikhs in the Diaspora as their number one must-have article of clothing (after the Kacchera obviously!) In this series of articles, i’m writing about the various t-shirt makers to find out what drives them, starting with Canadian company B-Coalition who make some of the most popular tees for the Punjabi/Sikh masses.