The last time I had my earphones hanging out of the side of my handbag, a kind stranger told me, ‘hey your earphones are hanging out of your bag’. I turned around and said, ‘oh chur brah’. In November last year, when a University of Auckland Medical student Jaspreet Singh had earphones hanging out of his bag, a woman called the Police because she suspected that Jaspreet had a bomb in his bag. The Police arrived at the coffee shop where Jaspreet was meeting up with his professor and was questioned about ‘the wires in his bag’. Um, you mean his earphones?
Yesterday I went to Auckland Turban Day, thanks to my dear friend Jas Kohli for inviting me! Auckland Turban Day was organised by the Auckland Sikh community, aiming to create awareness and educate New Zealanders on the meaning behind the head coverings. As soon as I arrived at Aotea Square, I was greeted by several friendly faces and a sea of colourful turbans. The colours ranged from black to magenta. “Do the colours represent some sort of title or ranking you have in the community?” I asked one of the males proudly donning a magenta turban with rayban aviators. “No” he laughed, “it’s just fashionable”. There are some occasions where there is a standard Turban colour to wear, however, generally, the choice of colour is dictated “by whatever colour you want to match with your outfit”.
Several non-Sikh men and women came to Aotea Square to experience a beautiful and important part of the Sikh religion. I watched people from various backgrounds sitting on seats, eagerly listening to the Sikh representatives, teaching them about their faith as they wrapped their head with a cloth. Sikh teaching emphasizes the principle of equality of all humans and rejects discrimination on the basis of faith, status and gender. The turban is a distinctly visible aspect of the Sikh faith and it holds both a spiritual and practical purpose. As Sikhs have long hair, the turban helps to keep their hair away from their face but more significantly, it symbolizes discipline, integrity, humility and spirituality.
It’s unfortunate that although we live in a diverse society, there are still people who fear others that are different from them. The best way to overcome these fears is to become informed, educated and aware. The turban is not something to be feared, it should be embraced.
Jaspreet Singh, the young man accused of being a terrorist last year, wrote this immediately after he was unfairly profiled:
“I think today’s incident was driven by some racial bias, large amounts of ignorance and most importantly, by fear. A lot of the things that are happening in the world right now are scary. But we can’t let fear control our lives. I think today is not about holding that one lady accountable for what she did but rather serves as a reminder that we cannot let fear get the best of us. Experiences like this can really make [minorities such as myself] question whether they belong in our community. Lastly to the lady herself, thank you for bringing this issue to my attention. I don’t think we can expect everyone to understand and appreciate our diverse society on their own. We as minorities do carry some responsibility in promoting our culture and values and fight this ignorance.”
If we all took the time to learn about the different people around us, we would all be wiser, happier and lovelier. Thank you to the Auckland Sikh community for organising this amazing event. I’ll be there for the next one!