Kids Corner


Sikh Women Named By TIME Magazine As Two Of The World’s 20 Next Generation Leaders:
Gurmeher Kaur & Lilly Singh

TIME Magazine





It all began when Gurmehar Kaur decided to raise her voice.

In February 2017, she and other students at Delhi University’s Ramjas College in India decided to protest campus violence involving the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (’ABVP‘), a right-wing student organization linked to the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules India.

Gurmeher posted a photo of herself on social media holding a placard reading, “I am a student from Delhi university. I am not afraid of ABVP. I am not alone.”

As the image went viral, an earlier picture surfaced from an unrelated online campaign to promote peace between India and Pakistan. In it, Gurmeher Kaur held a placard about her father, an Indian army captain who had died fighting militants in the disputed region of Kashmir.

“Pakistan did not kill my dad,” it read. “War killed him.”

In the context of her challenge to the BJP-linked group, those were seen as fighting words.

Suddenly, Gurmeher Kaur was a target for online trolls and thrust to the center of a national debate on free speech and dissent in an increasingly nationalistic India. She was mocked by a leading cricketer and criticized by a Bollywood actor. Kiren Rijiju, a junior minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, tweeted, “Who’s polluting this girl’s mind?”

In the months since, Gurmeher Kaur has been targeted with verbal abuse and death threats. But still she refuses to be silenced, and has a memoir, ‘Small Acts of Freedom‘, that is due to be published next year.

“Why should I keep quiet?” she says. “While I never asked for it, I was pushed to the forefront. I realized that people listen to what I say. And if I have something positive to say, why shouldn’t I say it?”

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For proof of just how creatively Lilly Singh can make a point, look no further than “How to Make a Sandwich.”

The five-minute YouTube clip at first seems to be a standard cooking tutorial, with Lilly Singh cheerfully offering advice from behind a kitchen counter. Except she’s talking directly to a commenter — who wrote that “women aren’t funny” and asked why Lilly Singh wasn’t “in the kitching [sic] making me a sandwich.”

As the sandwich is dressed, he gets dressed down.

Try using fresh vegetables “to make up for your expired thought process.”

When you’re cutting onions, “you’ll notice [they have] layers — just like your insecurity.”

This is humor as Lilly Singh believes it should be: smart, irreverent and unapologetically feminist. It has made the 29-year-old Sikh-Canadian a star on YouTube, where her sketch-comedy videos — tackling everything from relationships to racism — have logged more than 2 billion views and lured guests like Michelle Obama and James Franco.

Growing up as the daughter of Sikh immigrants, Lilly Singh says, “it was definitely embedded into my upbringing, like, ‘Indian girls shouldn’t do this’ or ‘Girls shouldn’t do that.’”

Now “Superwoman,” as she’s known to her fans, presides over a multimillion-dollar brand, comprising live tours, film and TV roles (she’s slated to appear in HBO’s Fahrenheit 451) and a best-selling book.

Like any budding comic, Lilly Singh has her share of critics. But none have distracted her from her larger goal of empowering young women — not just by making them laugh but by working with groups like UNICEF and the Malala Fund to ensure that they have equal­opportunity, especially in education.

“If I can have an impact,” says Lilly Singh, “it seems like a waste not to use it to have some kind of positive influence on the planet.”

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[Courtesy: TIME Magazine. Edited for]
October 15, 2017

Conversation about this article

1: Jaimal Singh (Mumbai, India), October 15, 2017, 12:33 PM.

Harjit Singh Sajjan, Astronaut Jasleen Kaur, Tanmanjit Singh, Rupi Kaur, Khalsa Aid, Lilly Singh, Jagmeet Singh, Waris Singh Ahluwalia, Navdeep Singh Bains, Amarjit Singh Sohi, Gurmeher Kaur, Bardish Kaur Chagger, Jus Reign ... these and so many others simply cannot be dismissed as mere flashes in the pan. There's something happening around the world - a resurgence of Sikhs as nation builders. If we stay on focus and do not allow ourselves to be distracted by our detractors, we'll truly help make the world a better place for all of humanity.

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