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Watch out libraries! “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “Where the Wild Things Are” have a huge competitor coming into the arena. “A Lion’s Mane” is an empowering new children’s picture book that celebrates the Sikh identity. Written by Navjot Kaur and illustrated by Jaspreet Sandhu, the book colorfully documents a young boy’s journey around the world, through different cultural lands, and within himself. It aims to encourage Sikhs and non-Sikhs to maintain a positive self-identity and to steadfastly challenge bias and intolerance. “A Lion’s Mane” will be available in August 2009, but watch the mini-trailor here:

This book will make a great addition to any personal library (both young and grown up!). Make sure to let your public library know about its release as well. To receive updates, you may leave your e-mail address at saffronpress.com.

The New York Times recently published a series of essays written by college and graduate students in “The U Issue.” Among the varied stories about freshman year and life’s big questions, I stumbled upon an essay written by a young Singh featured under the heading of “College Life.” In his essay “Becoming a Dukie (and an American),” Harsimarbir Singh describes how his Duke sweatshirt (and not his turban) catches the attention of other students and explains how he, a teetotaler, handled himself at parties. He even manages to embrace The Freshman 15 by eating his way through pounds of cookie dough. Hear his experience and series of transformations as a master’s student through his own words by clicking here.

The video speaks for itself. Watch it.

How did this story get missed by the national news industry? I haven’t seen it as a headline or sideline in any major newspaper. Have you? Thank goodness the word got to public radio. Listen to NPR’s report on our two Sikh US Army recruits who have filed a complaint against the Army over rules that require them to cut their hair and beards and forbid them to wear turbans.

From the Sikh Regiment’s sacrifices in WWI and WWII to the current Sikh presence in the United Nations’ security force and Canadian Army, Sikhs have had a long history of serving selflessly in armed forces throughout the world with turbans and unshorn hair and beards intact. To serve in the United States Army, however, a practicing Sikh is forced to compromise his identity and relinquish the basic tenets of his faith. The Sikh Coalition is leading a campaign calling the United States Army to end discrimination against the Sikh identity and allow Sikh-Americans to freely serve their nation. G.N.E’s poetic, revolution-driven, and soulful song Souljas Story is the perfect backdrop to the cause.

Show your support by signing the petition here.

During college and grad school I somehow managed to bypass the bhangra scene completely. While Sikhs and South Asians at my school packed for trips to national bhangra events and had webs of relationship triangles I couldn’t even begin to tease out, my life during that time resembled shows like Gilmore Girls and Smallville; Rory’s bookish life in the suburbs included a Korean best friend named Lane (and not Luvleen), and Clark ran at the speed of light to the sounds of Remo Zero (and not to the vocals of Surinder Shinda). Even though I maintained some distance from what to me was a semi-underground culture, I always wondered what it was really like and what I may have been missing.

Times are a bit different now. Gossip Girls and One Tree Hill now have the following of the exclusive 18- to 34-year-old viewing segment. And although TV shows still don’t give a glimpse of what Sikh and South Asian young adult life is like, the blog Sikh Subculture attempts to do so. I felt like a total fly on the wall while reading the narrator describe how the bhangra scene was more like a sports event and how he maintained a love life through instant messaging in the 3-part short story aptly titled “How Bhangra Ruined My Life.” I was also surprised when I felt a pang of regret and a sense that I may have been a bit judgmental towards the experiences of my brothers and sisters in the past.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a CW network writer picks up on the blog and adapts it into a fresh new TV series. What would the Gurus’ think now?

A few weeks ago I happened to hear a bunch of residents going back and forth about Hopkins, a new TV show with underlying themes similar to most medical TV shows: trauma and drama. Although I groaned after I realized it was also a glorifying advertisement for the institution, the characters in this series prevented me from outright disliking it. They include Herman Singh Bagga, a fourth-year medical student at the time of shooting. ABC proudly displays his synopsis on its site: “He says being a Sikh puts a special responsibility on him because he may be the only member of his group an outsider meets. He views wearing a turban as an advantage because it makes him easy to remember.”

Born and reared in Erie, Pennsylvania, Herman is now at UCSF for his internship and residency. Awesome to see the Sikh identity intact and its representation held strong and celebrated in full force from schools, hospitals, resident banter, and TV screens coast to coast.

Who’s the Singh that’s part of Warren Buffet’s entourage?

(Source: cnn.money.com)

Identify yourself! 🙂

A group of athletic and like-minded Sikhs in Texas make up the roster of Team Khalsa. Each player signs a contract promising to abide by the teachings of the Guru Granth: to not smoke, drink, do drugs, or cut one’s hair.

Check out the orange jerseys and all those awesome layups and passes. (Fast forward to 3:45 and you’ll see what I mean.) Now how heavy is that?!

Forget your NCAA bracket predictions. Bet on these guys to make a scene and join the Facebook group instead.

“Having been born and raised as a non-Sikh and imbued since early girlhood with society’s expectations of how a well-groomed woman should look, this acceptance requires frequent rejection of my previously-inculcated notions of femininity, in order to fully embrace a concept of inner and outer beauty that is in alignment with the Divine Will.

As I learn and grow as a Sikh, and find meaningful ways of being part of and serving the Panth, I try my best to keep in the forefront of my mind that my talents and accomplishments come through me, not from me: they are all manifestations of His Grace. I need to be ever-vigilant that my feelings of personal gratification never insidiously morph into smug and preachy self-righteousness…. And, speaking of gratification, although I know that becoming Amritdhari is a significant milestone along the Path but not its end or pinnacle…”

…I’m hoping the thoughts above will replace the ones in Questioning Myself.

My job could be accurately interpreted as an interviewer in some regards. And I’m very comfortable with my role. I gather details about your life — much of which you have shared with no one else — and I promise to keep it to myself and use it only to solve the puzzle(s) troubling you.

Occasionally, an interviewee decides to stir trouble by reversing roles. Sometimes it’s meant to establish a human connection, and other times it’s completely inappropriate. The ones that are memorable, however, are the ones that remind me I represent.

I had just finished speaking with and documenting the story of an Ethiopian woman when she pulled a role-reversal by asking me where my family was from. I was initially taken aback by the expression of interest. “My family originates from India,” I answered. “And which part of India? Which state?” she eagerly asked. Whoa, I thought. She didn’t even give me a second to let me get the interview back on my terms but she seemed genuine. I smiled as I replied “Punjab.” She glanced at my wrist and squinted at my ID tag. “Punjab? What religion do you follow?” The smile remained on my face. “I’m Sikh. I practice Sikhism. Have you heard of it?” Her eyes widened as she nodded her head. “Oh, the honorable Sikhs of Punjab. How could I forget them? I remember how they helped protect our people and train our armies alongside the Brits. The Sikhs made up almost the entire army and thank goodness they did! How wonderful it is for me to be speaking with you.”

The smile that was on my face washed over my heart.

Sikh men represent through the bold twists and turns of their turbans and their flowing beards. Some men and women repreSENT! with kirpans and a permeating spirit. I represent in softer ways: through my pinned up uncut hair, the steel kara on my wrist, and my name. But although it may be soft it doesn’t mean people don’t take notice. Whether bold or soft representing is representing.

Sikhs continue to conjure up steadfast images in the minds of many. Let us continue to represent in memorable and positive ways. How do you represent?

The first novel written in Punjabi has been adapted into an animated film!

If this is the musical score then the movie is sure to rock.

Published in 1898 Bhai Vir Singh’s Sundri (or Sundari) was written with the aim of “boosting the morale of the Sikhs [of their own history and cultural heritage] after the downfall and subsequent annexation of the kingdom of Punjab.” Written with a literary rhythm and flow I could only hope to emulate, Bhai Vir Singh paints Sundri as a heroine who embodies the Khalsa virtues of discipline, courage and compassion through her strength as a woman and her fighting and equestrian spirit.

Read the short story for yourself.The movie is to be released in May and June 2008 in different cities across North America.