“As an Amritari Sikh woman, I use my writing to talk about the cultural and religious scrutiny women face. In all honesty, being a Punjabi girl is hard enough with the pressure to uphold family and in-law honour. Add to that, male dominance and traditions, it is a lot of pressure.
Then you have someone like me, who wears a dastar, which opens up the opportunity for more societal critique and pressure to not screw up. For me taking Amrit was a personal choice. It was something I realized I needed to do at the age of seven. My parents had always focused onme connecting to my roots. At a young age, I met with Sangat and learned kirtan and gatkha.
My parents were initially not convinced about me taking Amrit, they came around eventually and then decided to also take this path. Like many teenagers, I had a tough time in school. I was teased because I looked differently, I had arm hair and then when I decided one day to tie a dastar, this all magnified. I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t effect me in any way, but in the end the empowerment and connection to my spirituality outweighed any insults. My parents helped by telling me that I would be facing discrimination and that at anytime, I had the personal choice to remove my dastar and simply cover my head.
I’m sharing all of this because I feel there is an automatic stereotype that families, parents especially who wear dastars are forcing their children. I can confidently say, this is not always the case, this has been my choice. Then there is perception of perfection, people pointing out to me how bad it would be for me as a dastar wearing woman to bring shame to the family. This judgement and categorization within the Sikh community is something I am exploring. I grapple with it. Wearing a dastar, works for me. It may not for someone else. That does not mean, I am a better Sikh than someone who doesn’t. Sikhism is about your own personal journey, your relationship with God.
I have to say my outward beauty has also been something I have had to work with. While I feel beautiful and empowered with my dastar, my appearance does not fit normal beauty standards. I find there is focus to remove everything feminine and I don’t think that is how it should be. This is amplified by rules that are imposed on women who wear dastars. Things like modesty, not wearing makeup, and other stipulations. For example, my eyebrows naturally look like this, however, I am judged and comments directed towards me about how or why my eyebrows look like they do. This enabled me to have acceptance that I will never truly belong to any category or label. This has been a big life lesson for me.”