Kids Corner


Some Soul Searching

by M. J. KAUR




I’ve called it my existential crisis.

I’m too young to have a mid-life crisis. I’m feeling a burden. It wasn’t a burden 12 years ago, but today what has changed?

Now, I want to take the “crown” off my head and just melt into the crowd.

There are so many reasons for these feelings.

Sometimes I wonder if it is a copout. But I’m tired of being judged. I’m tired of Sikhs behind me assuming that I must be some conservative holier-than-thou type of person and I’m tired of the Sikhs ahead of me expecting things from me.

I actually don’t want to be equated with most of the amritdharis I see. I don’t want to be equated with the judgmental hypocrites you see running our gurdwaras and elsewhere in the community.

If they represent Sikhi, then call me something different.

I don’t know how this started, but here I am, in a quandary. What do I do?

I am in no way losing my faith. I will always be a Sikh; I will always take refuge in gurbani; I will always stand up for Sikh rights.
I don’t see this as a question of whether I believe.

But I am concerned that in my heart I don’t represent all that I am supposed to with that “crown” on my head. I have always said that if you want to smoke, drink, do drugs, then do all of us a favor and take the turban off and be who you want to be.

But, I realize, even though I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs, I still do not live up to the ideal that the dastaar represents.

I think I’m also just plain tired of being judged.

Not by my non-Sikh friends. Actually, they have always been the most supportive and least judgmental.

It’s all the Panjabis out there that are so harsh and so quick to pounce on you. The new rigidness - some sort of rigor mortis - within many in our own community is staggering. If someone sees me eat meat then I’m misrepresenting; if someone sees me enjoying some Rihanna then I’m misrepresenting (why is kirtan on all the presets of my car?); if someone sees me out with friends who do drink, then I’m misrepresenting.

I’m tired of the burden of misrepresenting.

Either way, there's always judgment.

And it is harsher because I am a woman.

First, I wasn’t even supposed to go and be like a man and wear the dastaar. After I did, the expectation level rose about 500%.

As a woman the experience is so completely different. Women are not required by the rehat maryada to wear a dastaar. Culturally it is not completely accepted. No one will dare say anything to a woman who makes the choice because that would not be PC, but in their minds they’re all thinking the same thing: no one’s going to marry her now; gosh she’s lost all her feminine charm; who does she think she is … better than the rest of us?

I’ve heard the whispers.

I’m immune to them now.

As a woman in some pockets if our community you learn to get a tough skin. But I have weathered all of this and persevered.
I have been wearing my dastaar for 12 years and today I don’t feel the same as I did so many years ago when I made the choice.

I need to decide who I am. That means I need to decide if I am going to go out into the world screaming my identity, when inside I know all my true flaws. I’m not sure I like myself with my dastaar on anymore; 'cause in my heart I’m just like all those other amritdharis who are hypocrites.

I’m taking my time in making my final decision. I’m not sure where this existential crisis is taking me.

Somewhere along the way I have changed. This change is now manifesting itself in how I want to be perceived. And the more I think about it I just want to be able to be me, without such a burden of representing and misrepresenting. I want to be free from the judges out there that are ready to pronounce my sentence with the slightest move I make.

But then, again, who am I kidding?

I’ll be judged either way.


January 28, 2012

Conversation about this article

1: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), January 28, 2012, 8:54 AM.

Perfectly put. And an important subject. This article is perhaps the truest indictment as to how our community has been brought into disrepute by ignorant egomaniacs.

2: Surjit Singh (Hounslow, England), January 28, 2012, 9:13 AM.

I am not sure that if you are amritdhari? Since you are wearing a dastaar, I assume you are. I feel what you are going through. It takes strong will power to become an amritdhari. Sometimes we are in the illusion that the mere act of taking amrit makes us better, and that we don't need to do any more. On the other hand, one day you will realize, when you are living a life free of the boundaries of a full-disciplined life, you will be fed up of that kind of life style as well. I am enjoying what one would term a a "free" lifestyle ... but trust me, I am tired of it. Wish one day Baba Nanak gives me that strong will power so that I can live with his crown. Sikhism is about freedom ... it restrain us to do harmful stuff to ourselves and to others. There is no rule or prohibition for sikhs not to listen to Rihanna, for example, or to dance or to live to the fiullest! Please stop thinking about what others think about you. I wish you all the best ... you'll invariably make the right decision, of what is best for you, I'm sure!

3: Ravinder Singh Oberoi (Mumbai, India), January 28, 2012, 9:31 AM.

Dear sister, you have mentioned that you will always take refuge in gurbani. What more grace can a Sikh ask from Waheguru? On Guru Nanak being asked who was better, the Hindu or the Musalman, the reply was - without good deeds, no religion was of any avail. The same teaching also applies for us.

4: Harpreet Singh (Shillong, India), January 28, 2012, 9:36 AM.

1) Your commitment is to Waheguru and the Guru. A good Sikh (or human being) stands for principles irrespective of what others say about him or think about him. They say that the biggest disease in this world is when we start worrying about what others will say about us and we allow others to guide our decisions. A Sikh's decisions are to be guided only by the Guru and not by others. 2) Dissonance on any decision is natural, be it the decision to wear a dastaar/turban, the decision to stay in one country or the other, the decision to take amrit, etc. 3) Sometimes these expectations of others can have positive results too. For instance, on my own, I may be wanting to indulge in desires or sense gratification but expectation of others because of my appearance makes me stick to the right path. 4) Instead of sticking to a noble regime to fulfill others' expectations, sit and decide for yourself what is right or wrong according to Guru Granth Sahib and the maryada and then follow it to the best of your ability and understanding.

5: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), January 28, 2012, 10:22 AM.

False is the king, false are the subjects; false is the whole world. False is the mansion, false are the skyscrapers; false are those who live in them. False is gold, and false is silver; false are those who wear them. False is the body, false are the clothes; false is incomparable beauty. False is the husband, false is the wife; they mourn and waste away. The false ones love falsehood, and forget their Creator. With whom should I become friends, if the entire world will pass away? False is sweetness, false is honey; through falsehood, boat-loads of people have drowned. Nanak speaks this prayer: without You, Lord, everything is totally false. [GGS:468]. Guru Nanak reminds us that the gross objects of the world are fleeting, ephemeral or temporary, and perishable; thus ultimately, false (koorrh). Hence, any pleasure derived from them is also temporary at best and ultimately flawed. As such, the sensory world can never give us any lasting or permanent satisfaction, contentment, happiness, peace, joy or a blessed life. It's not that no happiness is gained from the objects of the world, but any happiness developed from them is not only fleeting but also minuscule or a microscopic portion of the Infinite Bliss (anand) of Waheguru.

6: Yuktanand Singh (MI, U.S.A.), January 28, 2012, 11:19 AM.

I came to America wearing a kirpan. Then I cut my hair for over 20 years. At one time I stopped cutting it, for about a year, only to cut it again, mostly due to this widespread rigor mortis among the Sikhs. Many of us fall under two groups: the modern free-spirited ones who are also apathetic and non-religious; and the traditional appearing Sikhs who are also busy judging everyone except themselves. I avoid interaction with either kind. I look forward to the sangat, for gurbani and kirtan, but nothing more. Now I have my 'crown' again for over 15 years but now, my own image and my appearance are homage to my Guru, not these people. One can move forward only when one avoids internal conflicts. Then one can return home some day, instead of wondering/ wandering in doubt. We are all imperfect. Whether we wander or return home, the Guru always forgives us. But often, we do not.

7: Harpreet  (U.S.A.), January 28, 2012, 1:25 PM.

Deepak Chopra has said, "What people think of you is none of your business. It's what you think of yourself that truly counts." Don't be concerned or burdened with the expectations of others from you. If you have chosen a path and a way of life, follow it. Waheguru is with you at every step. Not everyone can follow the path that you have chosen (assuming you are an amritdhari). Ignore those whispers. People like them have nothing better to do in life. Be strong in whatever you do. God bless you and give you the strength to make the right decision.

8: G. Singh (U.S.A.), January 28, 2012, 4:34 PM.

I must confess that don't understand such stories and I do hear quite a few of these! When you decide to follow the Sikh path, do you do it for others or do you do it because you whole-heartedly believe that it's the right path? Yes, pretty much all of us will have some flaws even though we try to be good Sikhs. And that's the beauty of it. Sikhism requires self effort, not some mantar tantar which claims to resolve all problems or turn you into a perfect human being. People have too much time on their hands to talk about others. If you make decisions based on what others are saying, you will never get anywhere.

9: Harman Singh (California, U.S.A.), January 28, 2012, 6:58 PM.

A very poignant piece. I can relate to your dilemma. You summed up everything in the last line: "I'll be judged either way." That is the truth. Don't waste your time pleasing others (easier said than done, if others include people who are important to you). Be honest with yourself. Don't get caught up in guilt. Truth is high, but higher still is truthful living: that is Guru Nanak's vision of Sikhi. Be honest. Be happy.

10: Kanwaljit Singh (Canada), January 28, 2012, 8:23 PM.

I can tell you one thing for sure, those who ask you to do things just because you wear a turban, are surely out of touch with the Sikh within themselves. Sikhi is the path of inspiration, not instruction. Nothing can stand up to what our Guru expects from you, and you know that best yourself. Other people have no job to meddle in your affairs. They are the same people who have stopped non-Punjabi people from taking up Sikhi. The more people judge you, the more lost they themselves are.

11: Kirpal Singh (Wellington, New Zealand), January 31, 2012, 3:09 PM.

Your case is a clear cut case of dubida that you are still engrossed in. The remedy comes from contemplating of gurbani/ naam juppna/ satsang and daily ardaas - to see a way ahead. 'naam sang jis ka man manniaiaé Nanak tineh niranjan janeaia'.

12: Mandip Kaur Sandher (Morriston, Ontario, Canada), February 02, 2012, 10:22 AM.

Dear MJ: All the answers you need are within you. Simply ask and you will see how gracefully the answers will flow to you. You may be surprised that people both inside and outside of the Sikh circle will actually "flow" the answer to you. This is the wonder and beauty of the ONE Creator. We are loved in whatever "uniform" we choose, which are simply different flavors of the ONE Infinite Loving Creator expressing itself through each of us. Our Gurus empowered women. Be empowered and do not fear what others think. Live your life through inspiration and let the love that surrounds us all flow into your life so your joy may spill over into the world. Blessings and peace to you.

13: M. Kaur (United Kingdom), March 21, 2012, 9:20 AM.

I feel I am going through the same thing. I am anxious to know what you have done to deal with this turmoil.

14: S. Kaur (Germany), August 01, 2014, 11:50 AM.

Dear sister: I am actually going through exactly the same situation right now as yours (being critiziced for accepting a non-veg way of living among amritdhari, first it was not okay to wear turban and after wearing a turban its expected from me to have radical views and a miltant way). Don't know what to do. The Khalsa was meant to fight for freedom and for her own and others' rights but nowadays you can't even have an open opinion as an amritdhari without being harassed by some amritdharis.

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