Writer’s Statement: I prefer that paintings should be beautiful, but paintings also have the power to show ugly truths we may choose to overlook. The colors, brush strokes, and mediums the artist uses are carefully chosen and employed with a higher purpose in mind. The painter paints what he imagines and sees; the interpretation of his work is up to the viewer. Dear reader, my words are meant to illustrate the potential crumbling down of the belief system we have treasured for ages. This piece is not meant to hurt hearts, but to open eyes and inspire action on an individual level. I see many of these faults within myself and the world surrounding me—I’m a writer trying to put all our shortcomings as a community into a painting of words. I have faith that, you, my brothers and sisters, will forgive my mistakes and continue providing your love and support as I develop as a Sikh and as a writer.
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I’m a modern Sikh. My kesh tumble freely across my back or remain hidden under a baseball cap. If I wear a turban, it’s nice and small so I can blend in at school and work. If I’m a woman with undesired hair, I keep the bleach handy, sometimes small scissors and waxing or shaving supplies may be needed as well. Our elders stay young by using henna and hair colors. Some of my brothers have turbans without beards—it’s apparently the hottest look of the year. I don’t bother with a kangha, because hair brushes are pretty neat. Plus with gel, straightening irons, curling irons, mousse, and hair sprays, my hair stays tame throughout the day. Hair dressers exist for a reason!
If you’re gifting me a karha, it better be at least twenty-two karat gold. I usually wear a large steel one with added bling just because it’s “in.”
We have a three-foot kirpan hanging off our living room wall. It’s mostly decoration. If I have to wear one, I prefer a small pendant on a chain. If it has to be bigger, I’m fine with one that’s no more than three inches long. But just on special days at the gurdwara or Nagar Kirtans, I’ll wear my seven-inch kirpan and if I’m feeling a bit gangster, I’ll wear the eleven-inch one. Girls know what I’m talking about when I say gaatras are inconvenient. You can’t wear any shirt without the gaatra bulge, or even worse, having the gaatra peeking out from a cute shirt’s neckline.
Kachheras are easy, I buy them off the rack at Target or Walmart—blue, red, pink, green, Hawaiian print, Spongebob Squarepants, you name it, I got it. I’ll let you in on a secret, “boxers” and “athletic shorts” are synonymous with “Kachheras” nowadays.
The truth is, I’m a modern Sikh. I make adjustments to the maryada as I see fit. In a world where life changes in a matter of seconds, I’m simply tweaking and updating things that I don’t see as being relevant. I’m educated—and even if I’m not—I know what I need and want. I know what’s right and wrong because I have Sikhi in my heart.
Or do I?
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Navdeep Kaur is a Sikh American writer currently obtaining her Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from San Jose State University. More of her work can be viewed at http://aarsi-reflections.