Kids Corner


Writing About Love





At a gurdwara in Modesto (California, USA), writer Meeta Kaur is warmly welcomed by all the women preparing langar, the communal meal. She’s never met them before but she calls them her aunties.

“If I look at auntie and auntie looks at me and we identify as a ‘Kaur,’ then we automatically know there’s a bond,” she says. “And we’re equal. And she’s here to guide me.”

“Kaur” is the traditional last name Sikh women take. It’s one way they can immediately recognize each other.

Kaur then shows her aunties a copy of a new anthology she’s edited. It’s called “Her Name is Kaur: Sikh American Women Write About Love, Courage, and Faith.”

Gurpreet Kaur Sandhu stops flattening the dough for rotis long enough to ask a few questions and set up a future book discussion.

“I’ll give you a copy,” says Meeta.

“Yes, give me a copy and then you can come back,” Gurpreet replies.

Followers of the Sikh faith have lived in California for a century. They’re originally from Punjab and settled mostly in the Bay Area and the Central Valley. Although they’ve been in the United States a long time, Meeta says, they’ve recently become victims of hate crimes across the country. Her anthology is in response to these acts of violence, an effort to show who Sikhs really are.

Of the 25 women writers in the anthology, 10 are from California, including Meeta. The stories address love and the resulting joys, complications, even disappointments – love for a place, a man, a woman, a career. When we share our stories, Meeta says, we break down walls of prejudice.

“We may be distinct in our outward appearance spiritually,” she says. “But on the inside we too experience heartbreak, we too get jealous, we too ache when our children are hurt.”

That outward appearance has recently made them a target of violent prejudice. At a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin two years ago, a 40-year-old white supremacist killed five men and one woman as they were gathered for worship. The men all wore turbans as part of their faith.

And just this August, New Yorker Sandeep Singh was run over by a pickup truck driver for wearing a turban.

“Two weeks ago I nearly lost my life when a man in a pickup truck called me a terrorist, told me to go back to my country, and then dragged me over 60 feet,” he explained.

“There’s been a lot the community has been enduring, especially in a post-9/11 country,” says Meeta.

One goal of the anthology is to show how universally similar Sikhs are to other Americans -- like the chapter that illustrates the classic tension between married women and their mothers-in-law.

“And then as the story goes, both characters grow out of these roles that are pitted against one another at the start, into human beings that genuinely care for each other,” says Meeta. “And I think the lynchpin there was both women let go of judgment.”

At a discussion of the anthology in Fresno, Guddi Kaur Ranu says she understands this dynamic. She tells the group she had trouble watching her married son do his wife’s laundry.

“I’m really giving you the feelings of my double standards, I’m talking very frankly here,” she says. Guddi grew up in a traditional household in India, and her own marriage was arranged.

Other housework was OK, she says, “but it was going through my mind, ‘Why can’t she do the laundry?’ ” At this point, all the women start laughing. “But then I thought, ‘No, I should be happy if she’s working right now, he’s home,’” she says. “I corrected myself. It’s so hard to change the thinking, but with the process you can change over time.”

Simran Kaur works for the Sikh Coalition, a group that fights discrimination. She contributed to the anthology and reads to the group from her chapter about her mother’s activism after the 1984 Sikh massacre in Delhi.

“My mother never spoke to me about her actions because for her it wasn’t activism. It was her identity inspired by faith. It was only when I went on a school trip to a museum many years later and came across a picture of my mother with her fist in the air surrounded by her children and other Sikh women that I really felt the importance of her role in formulating what activism looked like for me.”

Lawyer and activist Harjit Kaur says she couldn’t put the book down. The name ‘Kaur’ inspires her, she says, especially now after an abusive marriage.

“My relationship was very, very physically and emotionally abusive,” she tells the group. It took strength and courage to leave it, but when she was in the midst of this horrible time, a friend reminded her that the name ‘Kaur’ really means empowerment.

“And getting myself out of that, he was like, ‘You know, that’s your Kaur, that’s your heritage, the resilience that’s in that Kaur name is within you,’ ” she says. “A light bulb went on, like you know I can do this.”

At the end of the evening Harjit tells the other women, “This book is a starting point for a conversation. And what we hope is when we all go away tonight, we recognize we all have a story to tell.”

Stories that, if heard often enough, can help people see how alike we all are, says editor Meeta Kaur.

She also has another anthology in the works -- this time of Sikh-American men writing about love.

[Courtesy: KQED. Edited for]
November 8, 2014

Conversation about this article

Comment on "Writing About Love"

To help us distinguish between comments submitted by individuals and those automatically entered by software robots, please complete the following.

Please note: your email address will not be shown on the site, this is for contact and follow-up purposes only. All information will be handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy. Sikhchic reserves the right to edit or remove content at any time.