“Kaur for me is strength, resilience and endurance. I was a happy child, but as I got older and became aware of the glaring inequalities that existed between men and women, some of that happiness deflated. I had a hard time understanding why my older brother was treated differently because of his gender. I shirked domestic duties and couldn’t stand being called on to serve food or help out in the kitchen. During family gatherings, I hated the concept of men eating first, then children and then finally women. Not only did women eat last, but they had to clean up as well.
I also had conversations with my mom about why ladoos were given out when boys were born, but nothing was given out when girls were born. It infuriated me how undervalued women were, how they did everything for their families, yet weren’t celebrated at all. In some ways, this led me to turn my back on my culture. I do feel shame for doing so and am now trying to reconcile my actions in my own way.
Growing up, I was always drawn to art and creating, but my parents didn’t know how to support me, especially pre-internet where there were no brown role models in the arts to look to.
The pressures of fulfilling obligation steered me in a different direction. I completed a degree in the sciences. Teachers and classmates would wonder why the girl with hair twist extensions and fabric paint glow-in-the dark shirts was in their classes. Later when I was completing a mandatory art class for my degree in education, the teacher urged me to consider a master of fine arts. It finally started to sink in that maybe art was my calling, but since I didn’t know how to take action, it took me a few unproductive years to get there.
When I finally started art college in 2005 at the age of nearly 30, I felt like I was “home”. I completed a two year diploma, graduating with distinction. During my time at art college, I created a 3 print series, When Honour Kills, focused on honour killings in the Lower Mainland and BC; they were happening more prevalently and it was a way for me to process the shock and sadness I was feeling. This was my first step in taking an ugly topic, both personal and cultural, and making something beautiful out of it. My goal was to prompt conversation and shine a light on the women who were killed.
After art college, financial reality brought me back to teaching. I did some art here and there, but nothing substantial. I got married in 2010, and a few years after that, my husband encouraged me to make a website and get back to creating art. I started drawing mandalas, posting them online, and selling them. In 2015, after my son Safa was born, I created a mandala colouring book. A year later, I had to make a choice between staying home with Safa and pursuing art full-time or going back to my regular job. Again, my husband pushed me to focus on art.
In 2016, things started happening. I joined Thrive Art Studio, and through them, I found my art consultant, Pennylane Shen who steered me back to gender justice work. This led to my series and first solo show, Rest In Power (2017), which was inspired by Shauna Singh Baldwin’s novel, The Selector of Souls. I created goddess forms dedicated to women who had been murdered simply for being women, half of whom were South Asian. I wanted to give these women a voice and empower them in the afterlife.
Now my artistic focus is gender justice and gender-based violence. This is a problem in our community and around the globe; I feel a responsibility to speak up and create work to highlight that problem and start those difficult conversations. In adulthood, I am really proud to be a South Asian woman and I hope to inspire that pride, strength and resilience in all women, especially South Asian women.”
“For me Kaur means being a Sikh woman. It is my middle name and the middle name chosen for my two young girls. Its part of our names because it is part of our identity and our life. Because of it we are part of a bigger group — a culture, religion, world and connection to a geography. Kaur is always part of my name, sometimes as Kaur and sometimes with K and a period. I do this also because it sparks a lot of interesting conversations with people who are curious.
I am not overtly religious and neither is my family. Growing up, we had no extended family in Calgary until I was in my early twenties. We were a small nuclear family of four and my dad was a professional in the oil and gas industry, while my mom was a stay at home parent. I do remember that at 11 years old, my family took over the responsibility of the Gurdwara library. We recategorized the library, documented it and computerized it. Previous to us taking over this responsibility, no one was able to touch, read, or take anything home from the library. It changed and we wanted to give people learning opportunities.
We as a family also enrolled in Punjabi school, my parents before this, couldn’t read or write Punjabi. My mom was raised in Duncan and my dad lived in Delhi his whole life so he only knew how to read and write Hindi. It was fun to learn with them and be competitive because for the most part, as a child, you assume your parents know everything, so it was interesting learning with them.
I excelled in Punjabi, my brother was a Punjabi school drop out. I went so far as being a Punjabi school teacher to other kids because I felt was a great way to learn as well. In our daily lives, Sikhi was not so apparent, but it was there. We never did paat or kirtan daily, but we knew who we were and the teachings of Sikhism. For me, relating to the history was challenging. I didn’t find it relevant to where we lived and our experiences.
In 1994, my dad wrote and published a book on Sikh Canadians. He interviewed and wrote about people like Baltej Dhillon and Dave Sidoo. As a historian, he would travel and interview people and we went along with him, so we had this appreciation and connection to other Sikhs. I learned a lot through osmosis about our culture and traditions from these conversations and when the book was published it used in Grade 8 social studies classes. I think a lot of traditions, I have a great appreciation of because my parents explained why we did things and their purpose. My grandmother passed away last year and we are planning the eleven month service and I am now learning the importance of it.
With my daughters, I think I have some catch up to do. It takes effort and a long term dedication. We were adamant about giving them Sikh names with meanings so they would know there is thought and process behind who they are and how they identify. Growing up people tried to change my name to Mary and MJ but I didn’t allow it because identity is important and I felt it was important to remain Manjit because that is who I was and am.
As a woman, with many identities, including entrepreneur there are different descriptions of who I am and what I do every day, really its complicated. I know growing up, I didn’t see any women of colour on television or business. Even engineering school had only two other women of colour and their were our family friends.
Being an entrepreneur and on Dragon’s Den, I do make sure how I am represented is true to who I am as a person. My appearance and how I present myself should remain in my control. Even for example, my wardrobe on the Den. I was pressured to look a certain way being on primetime television. I was determined for my outfits to be a bit more modest with hemlines and be comfortable, dresses that I would normally wear. My values should never change. I think that is part of the responsibility of being in the public, especially being a young, woman of colour. I learned to develop a thick skin, I have strong opinions, and have learned how to communicate them.
Even with my profession, co-owning an alcoholic beverage company is something nontraditional, especially for a woman. I think my husband and my in-laws probably received a lot of flack from extended family for my line of work. Especially since my career at times takes me away from other aspects of my life. Such as, I don’t cook, I travel a lot, and I can’t always make every family function, every time. I think though, I remain who I am and communicate what that is, plus I speak up and ask for help when I need it. I think it takes a village to raise a family and own a successful business."
"Kaur to me means confidence and the ability to achieve anything. Growing up, I dealt with my own insecurities and a lack of confidence. Then things changed with soccer because it gave me a strong sense of self esteem, an outlet to express myself. My family and I lived in a small town, I never really experienced gender inequality, it was more racial inequality. In fact, my family completely, especially my parents were believers that girls and boys were equal, so I was encouraged to play soccer. Everyone in my family was supportive.
My family, including my siblings and cousins were all fans of the sport. My father, who coached me for a few years growing up, used to say, “no matter big or fast the other girls are, you can beat them.” He was a tough coach, he shaped me into a better player. Like all kids, I wanted to play the best soccer I could in front of my parents, especially my dad. That got me thinking about how to strategize to get through the game, what I could do to help the team win.
Even as a woman, I still play soccer with a recreational women’s team. Just yesterday, my dad came to watch a game after about a decade. Having him there made me laugh about how his passion for sport got me to this point.
I come from a Gur Sikh Family and we were encouraged to learn about gursikhi, it was a way of life for me. My religion has been my backbone. I got to a point in 2011, where I wanted to take my background in sports and turn it into a bigger cause of helping build confidence with girls in India. I picked soccer, because it was what I knew and exactly what helped me with my confidence. I chose India because of my roots and also because sports for girls, especially soccer is uncommon.
My family, especially my family and friends were supportive of this idea. In 2011, I packed a suitcase and got on a plane to India with my dad and mom, whose confidence I admired growing up. I had a vision of helping underprivileged girls. I had no real expectations. I was overwhelmed by the response, because metaphorically it was like when I took one step forward to these girls, they took 10 steps towards me. Like me, all along, they just needed someone to believe in them. This is when Shooting for Hope was created in a rural village in Punjab, India. Later that year, I took my best friend along to India with me.
My dad’s presence was a defining moment for some of the fathers there, it planted a seed in their minds about other possibilities. Initially parents, especially fathers were against their girls playing soccer. But as time went on, one man in particular started watching his daughter play. And with my Dad around, he was more receptive to letting his daughter play the sport.
This is the very same girl who would write letters and call me. She was one of many, who knew her life path would include getting to an age meant marriage and then babies. There was no opportunity for school or a different life…until soccer. With the introduction of sport, her father became interested in the idea of allowing his daughter to pursue higher education, he noticed she was happier.
These girls left a footprint in my heart. They changed who I am. I get emotional thinking about it. I was able to bring some hope and confidence to their lives. Being from Canada, it’s easy to forget how these girls are just like us, they talk about the same things and really are just humans.
The downside of picking such a rural area in Punjab was the battle of gender discrimination. My last trip was the hardest, because there were roadblocks and it sunk in what was happening. I was misled in how the finances for Shooting for Hope were going to be applied to my program, and it was very difficult as I wasn't viewed as an equal human, but essentially used for my citizenship and for the fame the program brought to the other male programs. Eventually, the societal framework instilled from generations was openly visible and challenging to fight against. I didn’t have support from my Indian male counterparts who did their best to create roadblocks and go as far as to exclude me from my own programming.
To be honest part of the journey, gets me angry, I get emotional and then I start to see the bigger picture. The soccer programming, helped those girls in that time and in my mind the door is not closed for something happening in India in the future. That temporary stall, made me look around my own local surroundings and learn that young girls in my very own background/city are also experiencing some low self-esteem and confidence issues, I think helping girls learn confidence locally will help me build a team of girls/women who have the same outlook. Perhaps it will lead to someone else building on what was started in India.”
“Kaur to me means strength. Being a warrior. Standing for what you believe in and equality. Well in our history, Sikhism, came across as a strong religion. Women were supposed to be treated equally. To me, being a Sikh is being strong. Being true to yourself and equality.
I was married at 20 years old. I was from England and my then spouse was in Toronto. It was very abusive and I was young. To me it was a shock, to hit anyone. This is going back three decades now and there was extreme pressure to ensure I held up the family name, obligation to be an example for my younger sisters so they would be able to find suitable spouses.
During that difficult time, I was religious. I would pray every day and ask Guru Nanak for the strength to survive and later to leave. With the support of my co-workers, who bought my plane ticket for me, I returned to England. I gave my parents the choice to pick me up from the airport. I had gone from 130lbs to 90lbs and there was so much shame without any real support. My in-laws tried to persuade my parents to send me back. I refused. I decided to live with my massi, who was in Vancouver. I never looked back. I actually didn’t even think about men or marriage for 10 years.
I met my second husband when I was 34 years old. We wanted a child, but I couldn’t conceive. I was willing to adopt, but my husband and his family were not interested in the idea. I completed six rounds of fertility treatments, but nothing worked. It was taboo to even talk about any of this. There is a stigma in our culture around infertility and adoption. I was seen as being cursed and adoption was viewed as a bad omen. It was suggested to just adopt within the family.
When you have a goal you have to do whatever it takes to achieve it. More than a career, I always wanted to be a mother. When you have a goal this important you do anything, there is a desperation. It’s not pretty, I can tell you that. For me though, it was hard to see other pregnancies, even though I was happy for those mothers. I felt like my body had failed me. I felt like a failure. I was very depressed, I prayed a lot. I also got angry with God. I asked God to stop, that this was enough and that if he didn’t want me to be a mother, then he should at least give me the strength to live without a child.
After the treatments didn’t work, my husband warmed up to the idea of adoption. We decided to adopt from India. My mom really helped with providing me insight that the Guru’s had adopted and that its okay to do whatever is possible to become a mother.
For the adoption process, I received the most support from my non-Indian friends. They were so open to adoption as its commonplace to adopt children from all cultures and backgrounds and love those children without prejudice. It was challenging because I had close family members ask me if the baby was going to be Sikh or Hindu. No one provided emotional support, or asked if the baby was healthy. People are so insensitive. They can’t relate. Some even suggested that we get a dog and focus on double incomes rather than having a baby.
I would pray. I would cry. Then I started the adoption process. I saw the light at the end of tunnel. It’s a hard process. The Ministry of Children complete a field study, dig into your past, home, finances, a criminal check. It’s exhausting and takes an emotional toll. Then you get forty hours of counselling. Everything is stacked against you. You find yourself saying, Am I ready for this? I doubted myself. How would I love someone?
I carried on. I got the call. I remember them saying, “we found a baby for you.” They match the baby to the family, they look at photos. She, my baby, was 30 days ago. I was praying she was healthy without illness at the airport and during the whole flight to India.
We met her. For me, it was love at first sight. There was a connection. They offered us an opportunity to look at other babies. We declined because I knew she was ours. I trusted myself because of my faith. Next was the long battle with the Indian courts.
I stayed in India, while the court proceedings happened, I wanted to bond with my baby. My mom stayed in our nearby village. I remember the second day, she cried and cried. I wanted to give up, I didn’t think I had it in me. And then my mom gave me words of advice, that this child needed me. I couldn’t give up on her, she had already experienced that. That gave me strength and I was determined to develop a bond.
My baby girl fit into the family and she is now nine and we speak about her adoption. We speak about it as a blessing and something special, not a taboo or stigma. I believe she needs to know. Things that are hidden are shameful, there is nothing to hide about her. She is special, she is beautiful, she is my child.
Being a single mother is hard, it was harder when she was younger. There was the tough balance with work and being a parent. The reward I get is when you she calls me mom. I am her mom. I love it. It is hard work, probably the hardest job in the world. It was truly a journey to get where we are today, but it’s doable. It was all worth it. Adoption should not be taboo. It is an option, there is nothing wrong with it, there is no shame.
As for connections, I believe there has to be a bigger pull that connects everyone. If that is not God, then what is it?”
“I believe I relate to the concept of Kaur through my boldness, my courage, and my acceptance. Kaur represents to me spiritual connection. The set values I live in life are very similar to Sikhism. I believe in contributing to the world in the best way each person envisions and personal growth is a result of the inner journey. These ideas combine and project themselves through respect of the universe and the ecosystem. This spiritual essence leads to the notion that I can be the best human within my ability and contribute to great impact in the world.
My journey in corporate leadership focuses on the human element in how we show up to work— the good, the bad, and the ugly. In a traditional corporate mindset, we are supposed to leave our problems at home. While I was contemplating my career, my move to the island, and going through a divorce, living life for other people and what they wanted for me, I was losing this connection.
I believe this connecting is front and centre when we are born and then there are pivotal moments when it gets lost. While I was going through my issues, my team who reported to me, lost that connection. This experience had me thinking why do we continue to live in this way and think this situation lives in closure. These feelings and unhappiness, we carry all this around and it becomes heavy. It becomes like a costume. Two years ago, I thought about this patchwork costume. Each patch was a story I told myself, stories that I started to believe about myself. These stories, or rather patches, were knit together.
For me the costume was getting heavy. It was zippered to my neck and it was not complete without physical ailments like hypertension and diabetes. This time was a chance for me to look around and contemplate why I was in this state.
My biggest epiphany was one word — CHOICE. It impacts every aspect of our life and it fascinates me. Every moment in life, we have a choice and we have to be held accountable for our own misery. We create these monsters. Its important to know your mental constructs and what values and ideas are no longer serving you. Lastly its important to check in who defines certain things for you.
I assumed, leaving a 20 year marriage would ruin my family and children’s lives. I was wrong and this key insight helped me to determine what pattern I was playing and living out. My advice for anyone is to be bold enough to step outside of that pattern. For me, a gauge is that when I sleep at night am I able to say, “did I do the best I could have done today”.
Post divorce, my ex husband and I had agreed we wouldn’t our dirty laundry to anyone. In the absence of sharing our divorce story. people were making up wild stories. This experience made me realize that we only have to answer to ourselves. I did the best I could with that experience. For me, it was about checking in with myself of not doing anything that I couldn’t look into the mirror about. The reaffirmed the importance to drop the stories.
Joy to me is a fascinating concept. Happiness and sadness come and go. I don’t believe in happiness, I just believe we are vehicles for the life journey. We are going to come across good and bad experiences. When we delve into this further, throughout this journey and what fuels our vehicle is joy. I believe that joy is a neutral graceful place, where we can remain calm.
There is nothing we can’t handle. We always do. Your heart expands and your rib cage opens up — that graceful place, regardless of what is happening, is directly connected to acceptance. Everything is divinely guided — every moment.”
“To me being a Kaur means strength - the strength to be your individual self without any real definition. I see being a Kaur as having fundamentals, but your own uniqueness.
I feel like life throws out so many hardships. The biggest lesson is to be your own hero and save yourself, I guess. I am not religious in the traditional sense, but I follow things from a spiritual level. This way brings me a sense of peace, especially when I think of my role as a Kaur and my level of independence. I believe you can define yourself, but it is all dependant on your perspective.
I was born in India and moved to Canada when I was thirteen. This experience gave me the best of both worlds. I remember the values and traditions of India. I cherish growing up with my cousins. Moving here with my parents and brother, life was different. We don’t have any immediate family in Canada, so I saw my parents work hard to make something of themselves. I remember having to grow up quickly as the big sister and third parent to my brother. I was thrown into it and took on the responsible role, because I felt my parents left their entire lives and its comforts to give my brother and I a chance at a better life. I didn’t want my parents to have regrets of moving to Canada, I wanted them to be proud.
Its funny, while I talk about them and their success, I think of Indian parent mentality of withholding direct praise to their children. I’ve come to see my parents show their pride in different, less obvious, ways such as calling me every other day to see if I am okay or my parents’ friends and other family members sharing praises from mom and dad about me.
As a woman in my early thirties, there is pressure to get married, or already be married. Family, culture, and society create and sustain these pressures. In all honesty, it got to me a few years ago and I found I was stressing myself out. It’s easy to get caught up in the pressures, or make decisions that feel like settling and compromise on important things. I did that at one point, it would have been easy to cave, but I stood my ground. I realized that this is my life and that I had a choice of whether I wanted to marry the person I was involved with at the time. I didn’t want to forsake my happiness — enough was enough. Forcing myself to make things work, compromising my values, I didn’t put myself in a very good situation. I would rather be by myself and stand alone in life rather than be with someone that does not align with who I am.
I didn’t settle. I realized, my whole purpose in life is not to find a husband and get married. Rather my purpose is about doing things that make me happy. In the last two years, I have grown as a person and really don’t recognize myself. I am really happy about where I am.
I focus on how I am contributing to this world. Am I living life with integrity and character? When the right person comes along, then marriage can be a beautiful experience, but it’s definitely not my number one priority.
Since I have had time to reflect now, I firmly believe you have to be your own hero. You have to take away something to learn from any situation and understand that these hard changes are either blessings or lessons. The goal for me was to find the goodness from it all and move on. For me, it was setting and enforcing boundaries while being happy with who I am every day.”
“Kaur and the concept is something I believe in strongly. My connection stemmed from the first eight years of my life, when I was exposed to Sikhi in a strong way. My family was lucky to connect to a religious community (sangat), and it changed our life. My parents never commanded that I should not cut my hair or eat meat. My choice to not eat meat was part of my own spiritual journey. From eight to 18 years old, I was involved in sangat by taking part in kirtan and seva. My biggest lessons were humility and faith and upon reflection, I have to say this has been a huge part of my operation up to today.
I believe Kaur-ness embodies deeply rooted values of culture, respect and family. Concepts like self respect, respect to elders, upholding a sense of honour are deeply engrained in me. I believe that there is a responsibility within Kaur's to believe in/express whatever they want, as long as they uphold themselves to these values.
I share and teach my son things that are extensions of Sikhi, like self respect, integrity, honour, respect to women and all others in the world. I named him Himat, which translates to strength and courage, and I felt it important to give him a strong traditional name. I do my best to expose him to the values and tools I believe in for a good upbringing. When he grows older, he has the right to make his own choices, but these values, I believe, will give him a good foundation.
I got married in my early 20’s for nine years and although that marriage gave me the gift of my son, I also lost a huge part of my religious side. Growing up, my parents were strict and so during my marriage, I got caught up in different experiences. It took me ten years to realize I had disconnected from my spiritual path.
Divorce happened and life continues on. I am learning from reflecting on my past marriage. It is not a challenge because I don’t resist change. I believe its part of my growth process. I took the last three years as an opportunity to pause, put things into perspective, and understand the parts of me that I had lost so I could recreate myself again. As a woman, I find I am creating myself, always. Being self aware, peeling away layers of what no longer works, and ultimately understanding how I want to contribute to the world. I’ve now come back to spirituality, and am passionate about expanding and embracing this. A part of the reason why I tag myself as a ‘Soulpreneur’.
“Kaur is part of all facets of my life. It resonates the most for me when its framed as overcoming obstacles and engaging with family, career, and health. The name Kaur gave me comfort and identity as I was growing up. I went to Punjabi school and being a Kaur provided a sense of community and belongingness during my teenage year. When I went to a non-Panjabi high school, I turned to my identity as a Kaur and knowing my roots helped overcome feelings of being different. Being a Kaur gave me strength.
My main focus and purpose in life is health, fitness andto challenge myself everyday. I like breaking physical and mental barriers to become better every day. I find it amazing to gain strength, meaning my strength a month from now will be different than today.
Growing as the youngest with two older brothers had some advantages. My brothers played sports, so I learned what being competitive entailed. During my high school years, my dad didn’t approve of me playing basketball, at least at first. For me it was natural to do exactly what my brothers were doing. I didn’t give up and I didn't’ accept the barrier I felt. I challenged my dad, he softened to the idea, and I continued playing basketball.
The power of health and fitness fascinated me. I quickly figured out that externally anything could be happening, but during a workout or anything fitness related it was me who was empowered to set the direction of what was happening. I fell in love with how fitnesschallenged me and loved how I felt.
Even during university, I kept at my training. I started Jiujutsu, Muay Thai, and worked with a weight trainer to gain experience. These were complicated arts to master, I am no expert, but I am still working at them and each day is new challenge.
I am an accountant by trade, but really fitness and training are my real passions. In 2005, when I was deciding on a career, I didn’t have enough information and I wasn’t able to connect how this area of fitness could be a career path to take. Partly it could have been social or cultural pressures to choose a career that was known and vetted to be a good choice. If I could do it all over again, I would probably be a chiropractor, physical therapist, or something along those lines.
After a few years of training, I realized no one is representing Sikh women in the world of fitness. No one is there to help them, motivate them to be fit, and really there is no outlet for them of how to train and what to eat. So I started an Instagram page to help others learn about training and being healthy.
I create content focused on women and recently held a few bootcamps to help women learn more about fitness and healthy eating. I hope women who see my Instagram page find inspiration and help them see they can do this too. Its important to me to educate women, especially Sikh women to include self-care in their life. Schedules are crazy, making the right food decisions, including fitness, and time for yourself is important.
My parents love what I am doing. At first they didn’t understand it, it took time to educate them from thinking that females don’t do this. As the years have progressed, they have changed their views as well. My brothers, well they wouldn’t expect anything else from me. They played sports and instilled in me how fitness can help overcome barriers.
Then there is my husband, he is seriously the best person I could have asked for in life. He is supportive, encouraging, and motivates me to do more. He’s usually the person behind the camera and is always thinking of ideas for me to try. There is no pressure to have a family yet and he has his own goals too. There shouldn’t be this exclusive focus on having a children and not pursuing anything else in life.
I feel that there is this stigma around women doing too much. There are people I know that don’t support my fitness endeavours. There is this mentality that women should not be out there, instead they should sit quietly and not make a difference. I find that strange. I want to break that stigma."
“The word Kaur means strength to me. In truth, I didn’t realize the power of this name until I started to draw connections in my life, especially with my mother.
In my opinion, being a Kaur is no different than being a Singh. We are just as, if not stronger, than our male counterparts. I don’t think there is anything that can stop a Kaur from life. We have this immense fire in our hearts and that is what drives us, especially during challenging times. I would say being Kaur has an element of sacrifice, especially to ourselves because of the greater good. Sikh women have sacrificed a lot for our communities. Kaurs are more compassionate, I just think we have a few extra ounces of compassion
My mom was born in India and because she was the eldest of seven daughters, she was treated no different than a boy. My grandfather, put all his eggs into one basket, with my mother. She was the hope of the family and she was sent to school.
Growing up first generation Canadian and having an older brother and sister, I was lucky to have my brother open up many doors for me. He was the only son, so automatically he was perceived as a golden child, but he used his place in life to open doors for me and ensure I had experiences that didn’t make me feel trapped.
My mom was a well known field hockey player in Punjab. She sacrificed all that to marry my dad and move to Canada. Things were unsettled growing up, it was a rough childhood because of challenges adjusting to Canada, alcohol, and abuse.
My mom endured the abuse for the sake of her children and would say God helps those who help themselves. She worked two jobs and she took my siblings and I to sporting activities. She would encourage us, cheer from the sidelines and take steps to create connections with other kid’s parents. I followed my mom’s footsteps with sports and attained top records in discus, hammer throw and played varsity volleyball. Until recently, I didn’t realize she was probably thinking of her own past from the sidelines, seeing herself in me, all her hopes, dreams and everything she gave up for us.
I had a hard time in high school, but I was able to turn it around. After high school ended, I visited India for six months. This is where I understood the restrictions on women. I had to be accompanied by a male everywhere I went. My cousin and I connected, he guided me every where I went. I in turn, taught him about being a female in Canada. We went to religious places like Gurudwaras and that helped me to connect with myself and who I was in this world.
Ten years ago, my mom passed away from cancer. I was with her when she had her last breath.
Its been a decade of mourning, that I think will never get easier. My siblings and I have felt lost. I was in limbo for a long time.The first two years, I couldn’t even speak about it.
I became the glue that helped to put back everyone and keep the family connected on some level. Now as the time has gone by, I don’t tear up as easily having a conversation about my mom.
On my 33rd birthday, last September, I decided to host a charity. My mom had never cut her hair, until she had chemotherapy. I am a hairdresser by trade, so I decided to shave my head. The event raised $11,000 and funds were given to three different charities focused on women and cancer.
The event made me feel connected to her. The biggest honour of the event was after shaving my hair, people started to connect my features with my mom’s features. I was told I looked like her when she was my age. That was the biggest compliment ever! My goal in life is to be like her, even 10% of her goodness. She was able to put little dents in peoples hearts. She made them feel and made them better people.
There are lots of moment you don’t notice at the time, but now they mean everything. I still cry and that is okay too. Being emotional does not make you weak. I am human and I can feel these things. There is no shame in seeking professionals for help. People, my clients, and extended family helped ease the pain.
Who will be at my funeral? That’s a question I pose to myself. Did I do enough? That’s another one. Will I too be surrounded by people I’ve made an impact upon? What memories will they have of me? Life is short. Don’t waste days. Like her, I want to carry everyone with me.”
“The word Kaur is a deep and profound connection point. I frame it from the perspective of our collective experiences, as a gender, a genesis from this oneness that is pushing against capitalism. As a Kaur from this collective, through Sikhi, justice and everything that resonates from it, is how I live my life.
While Kaur in not part of my legal name, I feel a deep connection, approach and understanding to the community of what a Kaur means. My name was not my choice but was a gift given to me — I love it.
My experiences are similar to other Kaurs on the Western coast — many of us are daughters of immigrants. I grew up around immigrant struggles and they shaped who I was. As a teenager, I went to the Gurudwara, where I learned about justice and fighting for what is right, standing up for those who are marginalized and have no access to power. This is where the foundations of my spirituality merged with Sikhi values. As I moved on to university, my spirituality, academia, and social justices values coalesced, rising to form my community work.
My practice for Sikhi comes from a spiritual sense. The connection to social justice calls me, especially the idea of langar, of sameness by uniting in a space to eat together. I think I gravitate back and forth to Sikhi throughout my life. It has always been there, something I am deeply proud of since it is where my sense of justice originates.
Within my career, I honour and respect those beliefs by giving back through community engagement, activism, political interests, and working with immigrant communities. I sit on a board of a financial institution that focuses on giving back. It uses the riches it receives to serve the community we live in, which is exactly what Sikhi embodies. I find it deeply powerful that this traditional transactional and capitalist space is creating and engaging in dialogue and initiatives with a human and social justice focus.
My conviction is rooted to bring in the other is amplified by the radical shifting of traditional notions, connections and transactions. We just need to explore and amplify them more.
As a mother, I am raising a son to think bigger than himself and to give back. Essentially, everything I believe has been expanded on as a mom and, in truth, it is the most challenging role in life. As parents, my husband and I are constantly trying to teach our son to see the world, in all its darkness, yet be the force to make change. He is a beautiful generous soul, who articulates inequity and in his own way is a force for change. He is very aware, empathetic and powerful.
It wouldn’t be right to talk about being a Kaur without talking about my mom and mom-in-law. My mom feels a deep pride of my traditional and non-traditional successes. I can also say she is probably most happy I am over my sullen teenager angst. Like so many Kaurs of her time, the limitations of race, gender, and time prevented her from doing things she may have wanted.
My mother in law is a deeply generous and engaging woman. She arrived in the early 70s and is the essence of the immigrant success story. With little grasp of English, she was a dishwasher in a restaurant on Vancouver Island. Within in her 30 year career, she became a trained chef and then an owner of that very same restaurant where she was a dishwasher.
Being a Kaur and a Sikh in Canada has limitations and setbacks, and being conscious of this is important. Luckily, I have a great group of females in my life. We find the space to bring deep comfort to one another. As I move through my journey, they move with me.
I want to be able to look back on my life and feel that I have used the gifts and skills that I been enormously blessed with and worked hard to achieve to bring positive progressive change. I feel it is my duty to use these powers and platforms to bring up people and create space and dialogue for voices that have not been heard before. At the core, it is this determination that most resonates to me with Sikhi. The trajectory of my life has been to find ways to give back in the most lived sense.
“For me, being a Kaur represents a sense of fearlessness. It’spartly being maternal, but not in the normal meaning of the word, just someone who fights for equality and justice. I think of Mai Bago. She was a warrior and I can’t help but think of her and not want to be her. She fought for what was right and that is exactly what I want to do.
I was born and raised in Surrey. My entire life I have looked up to my mom, been in awe of her, proud of her abilities and her strength. She is a hard worker and has made several sacrifices to raise my siblings and I. She’s the role model every young woman needs. My mom, during times of difficulties, is the person who is able to see the positivity of a situation. Really though, she embodies the pillars of Sikhism and has shaped my outlook.
Both of my parents instilled Sikh values in our household. My father ensured we spoke Punjabi at home and I have fond memories of going to the Surrey Gurdwara in the evenings with him. I grew up as a bit of a tomboy. I hung out with my brothers doing things boys typically do. I remember my mom would try to make me wear dresses but I wasn’t interested. It wasn’t until high school I started dressing more like a girl should.
I knew at an early age law enforcement and being a RCMP officer is what I wanted. Family, especially my mom, tried to change my mind because it’s considered a dangerous job. She finally accepted the idea, but only if I agreed to attend University and obtain a degree.
RCMP training in Regina, Saskatchewan was a huge change, it was an experience that completely changed my life. It tested my strength and willpower. I find it so interesting, my Babaji was in the Indian British Army and his dream was to have a grandson follow his footsteps and make him proud. His photo hangs in the family home and every time I look at his photo, I know I have made him proud.
I started my policing career in Richmond, with General Duty and then as School Liaison Officer. I then moved into detective work and took on investigating more complex files. I am now a Corporal, Road Supervisor in Surrey. I admit, I was unsure of what people, especially our community’s, response would be with me being a woman, especially a woman of colour. Overall, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. There is a sense of respect and connection. I am always wearing my kara and being fluent in Punjabi and understanding our culture has proven to be a definite asset.
My main purpose in life is to help people. I receive so much joy from helping people through my police and volunteer work. My mom has always said to perform good deeds and do good in the world. She is the proudest mom ever, completely supportive and my catharsis when I need it most. When I got promoted and was reporting for my first shift in Surrey, I had my mom put my epaulets on my uniform shirt, It was emotional for both of us especially seeing the tears in her eyes and her telling me how proud she was of me.
I like to take the time and listen to the community’s concerns during the calls I attend. I spend time with the females and try to give them information and direction about resources like the Surrey’s Women Centre that would help them. Mostly though, I listen to their stories and give them a chance to share and speak their minds. This gives them hope, sometimes when they need it most.
Outside of my work, I am working towards a Masters Degree in police leadership. I am also on the Board ofDirectors with the Surrey Women’s Centre. All of my roles have provided mewith invaluable experience to think and take steps towards the future."
“Being a Kaur is essential to me and my identity. It has aligned with who I am since I was born. I don’t know anything beyond this. For the last twenty years I have taken Amrit and my connection has become even stronger. Because of my surgery, I can’t wear my Kirpan, but my relationship with Babaji has developed and grown as I have gotten older. I thank my Dad for building the foundation of who I am because he didn’t eat meat or drink alcohol.
Months before the Partition there were constant rumblings. There was unrest and things went from rumblings to a sudden whirlwind. We left everything in a moments notice. I remember it was noon and there was a government call out to evacuate our lives, our homes, and our Desh. We were told our Partharpar village, in what is now Pakistan, was no longer home and we had to go to the same named village in what is present day India.
Overall, I’ve had a good life. Its been easy, relative to other women. My childhood was a breeze compared to other people. I was treated like royalty. Never asked to do work, I had so much love and comfort. I was twelve years old when the Partition happened and our family walked all the way to India. It took us slightly over a month and we were scared for our lives. We had to stop every night and we would create a fire and set up. We didn’t want to be separated so we stayed together. It was a matter of survival and if you think about it, ‘how could we eat roti without one another?’
We made a pact that when we arrived safely in our new Partharpar we would do a khand paat. When we arrived, I lived with my Masi because I had gotten sick. We received some land and a house, and started to do farming. It was a hard adjustment. It never felt like our home.
In those times, school was not an option for girls, so I didn’t even go to school. I sometimes think, rarely, but the thought has come across my mind of what life would be like with schooling. I learned everything at home.
I was married when I was 20 years old, but I didn’t leave to live with my in-laws until I was 23 years old. I know this was not that common, I was lucky that I had a longer time with my parents. My mom and dad were close and I learned what love was from them. My brother bought us a cow as a marriage gift, it added to the many we already had.
I learned to make roti and milk the cows when I got married. It was hard, daily work. The cows though had so much milk, it was a metaphor for my life, everything was plentiful. It was written in my kismet and that plentifulness poured into my in-laws. Waheguru has given me good graces my whole life.
When my mother-in-law past away, it was a bit lonely, but my sister-in-laws would come visit. The bond of women is so important...like with me and my sister in law. We became inseparable, we have had a lifetime of experiences and connection. We have an understanding of our stories and we can’t be without one another, especially as we have gotten older
I was 50 years old when my husband and I moved to Canada to be with our youngest son. Its a big country and as a woman who has been uprooted in her life so many times, everything else is relative. But I have to say, Baba ji determines when things will happen. I was 75 years old when my brother and husband passed away. Their deaths were a mere few days apart. Its those sudden things in life that keep everything in perspective. It was jarring and difficult for me, but I have to say again the bond of women, especially with my sister-in-law has helped.”
“For me Kaur literally means whatever God provides us. Coming from a place where everything is taken away, having no money, no direction, it is my belief, my faith in something bigger that helps me to overcome the heartaches and rejoice in the goodness.
I was eight, nearly nine, when the partition happened. I remember being in our home, where Pakistan is now and hearing a bit of noise. The weeks and months beforehand there were problems, we heard rumblings, and would hide at the local Gurdwara. Never did we think we would have to evacuate our homes and lives.
It happened all of a sudden, my older and younger brother and I were told to evacuate quickly. We could hear bullets and then a truck appeared from another village that was rounding up children. We barely got to say good bye to our parents. I remember thinking we were going to the city.
It was scary travelling by ourselves, I tried to be brave, but I cried all the way. The next morning we found our mom, dad, and mamaji at the camp that was set up. My dad didn’t make it to the next leg of the journey, he fell ill and died there. We were separated from our mother, we became estranged children. We had no money, no belongings and anything could have happened to us. I believe though, God was watching over us.
With the kindness of strangers, we were fed, given shoes, and they purchased us clean clothes. My younger brother and I were separated from our older brother for part of the journey. We cried and cried, and then near the train, which we were supposed to jump onto, we found him.
For some time, my older brother left us with some family, at a makeshift camp. The three of use then moved to our government mandated new home. We had bulls and cows and shelter, but it never felt like home. This where I learned to make roti, it was horrible and raw, but we ate it. I would have the divya on all night. I would go with the neighbour girls to this flea market to get free dishes that were chipped and slightly broken. That’s what we would use and I created a stockpile so I could show my mom when and if she returned.
I used to go to the highest point on the property and look for my mom because I could see far and wide. My eyes would get swollen from all the crying. Then one day, three months later, she appeared. She was never the same, she had a hard life, she lost children and her husband. She was constantly sick and I regret never sitting down with her to ask what she had endured in those months. She rarely left the house and wanted us to get married.
Before marriage my name was Bibo, it changed to Chanan after marriage. I was married at 15 years old and went to live with my in-laws at 17.
I has never even phased me that because I am a woman, I’ve had a hard journey. I have been playing the cards this life has dealt me. With my father passing away when I was young and my mother enduring her own suffering, I didn’t get the chance to have parental love.
These stories are now etched on my heart, they hardened me. I found the love I was looking for when I took Amrit, my heart softened, I was able to be delicate and discovered God gave me love. I realized I was given this life, because I could handle it, I am that tough.
I was lucky to have a good husband and four great children. We were saved, my husband was a military man, he was injured and our plans to move to England were changed to go to Canada. We initially moved to Quesnel for nine years to be close to my daughter and then slowly we transitioned to Surrey. I’ve been uprooted so many times in my life, it just seems part of my journey. Canada has been good to us, we feel safe and this is our home. There is a sense of love and familiarity being close to my children and grandchildren.”
“My definition of being Kaur is always evolving and transforming. As life evolves and I grow, I am challenged and things change. Sometimes being a Kaur means love, compassion, gracefulness or softness. Sometimes it means strength, resilience, being loud, and not accepting no.
Really though, I didn’t grasp the religious side of being a Kaur until later in life. I didn’t understand why women were treated differently in our community and how unfair it was. I always felt there was a lack of equality and that wasn’t right. I could sense it, but I couldn't articulate what exactly it was.
In my teenager years, I discovered poetry by Maya Angelou, listened to music by Nas and Tupac and read things written by philosopher and author Cornel West. I was drawn to what they had to say about revolution, inequality, and injustice and despite being a brown woman in a completely different community, I could draw upon the feelings they outlined.
I remember many small examples of how I was viewed as being inferior or weak because I was a woman. One instance was the need of a man to help me renovate my room because the thought of me, a woman, being capable to do it on my own was unfathomable. Another was a constant critique to lower my voice, not to laugh so loud, tie my hair back, or behave in submissive ways. This is not something men face. They are encouraged to speak louder, try harder, be aggressive, and shine as brightly as possible.
It was a struggle and a challenge to constantly hit a glass ceiling. There was an unspoken rule; let your light shine bright, but not brighter than the men counterparts. Or do what you want, but there is an unwavering expectation that many womanly roles be fulfilled before you attempt or ask for more. For me it was important to challenge the status quo of being a Kaur, as a woman, challenge the workplace, attempt to break through the glass ceiling.
It was then that I made an effort to volunteer at local and national levels and help others challenge the status quo and expectations. I volunteered with soup kitchen organizations and worked with women’s shelters, and helped new immigrants learn how to get a library card or take a bus. I was always drawn to this type of work. I think it started out from an individualistic perspective of what could I gain from volunteering. I think it was a way for me to find justice, to somehow make sense of the lack of inequality I felt in my community.
Since then, I have learned so many life lessons. Most of all is the idea of love. I have firsthand seen many people enduring worse experiences than me, but are still able to express everything with love. It puts everything into perspective. As I have grown, I have found success and contentment within my community through my work and volunteerism.
A few years ago, I was recognized as one of Amnesty International’s top 40 Canadians, 25 and under. I have continued my work with Amnesty International and now sit on the nominations board of the Canadian chapter. I also believe my need to find justice and equality for myself and others, led me to working with the RCMP in my city.
Through my community work, I realized the confirmation of equality I was looking form others, was something I had to find by myself, within myself. Really it came in the form of loving and accepting myself. I think this is a hard lesson to learn and practice as a woman; to love yourself. As you get older, you experience more and you see it is greater than your family and your culture. You want to challenge the status quo, to stick your neck out, take chances, and fight the fear of failing.
I think it goes back to the realization that being a Kaur is not black and white. You can look at history, and current affairs, even the women around you, we all are different and unique. Overall there is an opportunity to always grow and discover yourself. I think it’s important to use the word Kaur as a foundation to learn more about yourself, to go with it, and really challenge what the word means to you, as you evolve and change as well."
“For me the word Kaur is a big identifier, meaning it it helps me connect from cultural, religious and tradition standpoints. When I was younger, I went to Gurmat camps. While I felt I was given exposure to our religion, I found we were being sermoned to rather than being engaged. My parents provided my brothers and I outlets to do Paat and weekly Gurudwara visits.
When I attended BCIT, I wanted to take elective courses focused on South Asian topics from Kwantlen. I was afforded the opportunity to learn about the religions of India, how Sikhi emerged, connections to other religions and the role women have played. I think my interest was so much more heightened because the courses were more history focused rather than preaching.
Growing up I spent a lot of time in Abbotsford because of my parents’ business. My parents worked so much, so we didn’t get to spend a ton of time with them, but us kids were lucky enough to participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities. I think the biggest lessons my parents instilled were to work hard, to never feel you are entitled to anything or believe you deserve something. Instead, my parents were excellent examples and showed that effort and hard work will lead to positive outcomes.
During high school, our family moved to Richmond and like any kid who changes schools it was a challenge. I think this philosophy played out in my first job and actually really my career. I remember being curious about marketing and working as a co-op student with a company that later would hire me on. I stayed with that company for nearly six years and they became almost like family. I learned as much as I could about marketing and then went on to spread my wings.
I found being a part of a cultural festival in the city for years helped me to reconcile how I saw negative media attention about our community. I felt it was important I be a part of the marketing of this festival so that I could be a part of something positive and help change simple perceptions of our community beyond gangs, shootings, or other negativity.
I definitely lucked out when finding my husband, my life partner. I wasn’t necessarily looking for someone with a similar background, but I now realize how having the same religion helps. We are able to understand one another from that perspective without having to talk about it. Now we go to the Gurudwara on a regular basis. Its a tradition that was instilled from a young age for me and it provides an opportunity to slow down, be introspective, and gain peace of mind.
Its interesting how much pride I feel when my husband, who is a police officer, participates in the annual Vancouver Nagar Kirtan. I think all these connections to our roots help us to be grounded, especially now since I am pregnant with our son. We have had numerous discussions and it is important that we carry on the legacy of our culture and understanding of our religion.
While my husband and I are not hyper-religious, we have decided to select our son’s name with the tradition of a Hukamnama. We also have decided that our son will be keeping his hair, especially up until he has maturity to decide if he would like to continue on the path of having a turban or not. I think as an almost new parent, there is fear about whether we are doing enough, will our language or religion disappear with this new generation. These are all worries or thoughts you start to have when you are about to become a parent.”
“When I was really little my parents sent me to Punjabi school on the weekends to learn to read and write Punjabi. I think being there helped me connect with the roots of the community. It was there I learned that Kaurs are special, hold importance and are meant to be equal in society.
This concept of equality spilled over into other parts of my life. My parents encouraged me to participate in sports and dance. I was in track and field, skating, swimming, and dance, particularly jazz and ballet. Living in Abbotsford and despite there being a large Punjabi population, I was the only Indian girl in ballet. It didn’t even cross my mind until other people pointed it out. I was just raised that I could do anything and that I didn’t have to refrain from doing things because I was a girl, Indian, or a Kaur. I just did things because they felt right.
I think a lot of who I am is credited to the values of Sikhi. Values like sharing, humility, openness, respect, and learning are what I live by. I am not religious in that I don’t go to the Gurudwara or do paath, but I live my life following the Sikhi values I learned from Saakhis as a child. To me, the word Sikh may literally translate to student, but to be a student you must be willing to learn.
I was a super nerdy kid. I loved to read and learn and I don’t think those skills have ever left me. I spent tons of time reading in the library or lugging big stacks of books home. I just loved school and learning.
I love how my profession combines a heavy science base in the context of our world. As a geotechnical engineer my learning never stops. I have been an engineering consultant for nearly a decade and I am never bored. I continue to learn and be challenged by new things every day. For example, when I am working on a highway widening project, I examine a multitude of variables and make complex decisions. It’s very fascinating.
Sometimes it’s hard being one of the few females or Kaurs in my field of work. I have had challenges because I am a woman, a minority, and young. Early on, people thought I was hired on as admin or that because I was a woman I couldn’t do field work. Luckily, I’ve had male mentors that helped me along the way. My only wish is that there were more Kaurs and women for mentoring opportunities in this field. I know of one other Kaur in California, who is an engineer in my field. She is a role model and doesn’t conform to business attire; she wears Punjabi suits to work. She makes me feel proud.
Now when new engineers are hired on, whether they are male or female, I feel it’s my responsibility to help guide and encourage them. And when I visit smaller communities or am asked about my background, I love that I have an opportunity to talk about the values of Sikhism, our culture, and even India.
I recently started ballet again. I had stopped when I got busy with school and work years ago. I found the barre work to be challenging but the floor work I got the hang of quickly. Getting back to it has made me smile from my stomach. It’s inspired me to start classes in Bharata Natyam and continue to pursue things that I am passionate about.”
“When I think of the word Kaur it instantly makes me think of words like warrior, strength and survivor. A woman who is solid and shares her life insights with others.
I deem myself as a Kaur because I believe in God and the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib. I believe wholeheartedly in the concept of “do to others, what you wish upon yourself.” I am drawn to the concept of equality in Sikhism, especially when society continues to show examples of inequality.
Starting about a decade ago, I found myself distressed and angry at times. During those times, I found myself going to the Gurudwara and listening to kirtan to attain peace of mind. I speak Punjabi and am connected to the culture, but I admittedly know I could indulge more and learn more.
My takeaways from our ardaas is to remain humble, be you, and ultimately do better in life as a human. It connects me to beliefs that we have the opportunity to form our own lives and to prioritize kindness and happiness.
When I was younger, I tested my parents at every angle. I challenged outlooks and made it an effort to reevaluate theories and how they can be practically applied. My ideologies were so different than anyone in my family and the tension came out when I tried to fit in, rather than using my voice to express what I thought and felt.
I wasn’t first dibs or prettiest child. I was a nerd who got good grades and I was undefined…now I am defined and I can proudly say I worked hard to create that definition and be exactly who I am.
Five years ago, I moved to Nova Scotia to finish my undergraduate and masters degrees. I essentially picked up my bags from Brampton, a suburban hub and moved to the small town of Cape Breton that had only 10,000 people. I remember thinking I could be anything I wanted, meaning I could reinvent myself in any way. This thought was empowering and led me to have the best five years of my life.
In that span of time, I found myself, my uniqueness. Being the only Indian girl, among so many other culturally diverse people, I was able to see how many similarities people have. Our small town backdrop, gave me an appreciation for values like kindness, helping others, and looking at the little things in life. I met the best people in my life, all who embraced me wholeheartedly. Essentially, the experience brought out the Kaur in me.
In 2013, my younger sister was diagnosed wth leukemia. In hindsight, I can see that with every bad comes good. As a family, we were able to reevaluate our priorities. My sister showed me Kaur strength and what being a human is about. When we couldn’t find a bone marrow match within our family, we reached out to our community and the amount of support our family received was outstanding. People from all over the world, showed the importance of unity, kindness, and looking beyond yourself to help a fellow human.
My sister had health setbacks and needed second transplant, but that didn’t stop her from being a spokesperson for the cause, setting up an organization called “Will You Marrow Me”, or even stop her from organizing her upcoming wedding.
Over and over again, I keep being shown there is goodness in people’s hearts. We so easily get caught up in the world. I have witnessed so much kindness and how one person has the ability to affect a stranger with even a smile or simple ‘how is your day?’ and how appreciate what is around me."
“I think of Kaur as being the daughter of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and as one who upholds the Sikh principles. I didn’t really understand the concept of Kaur until I was given Amrit and was born into Sikhi in 2002. Prior to this, I didn’t know what it meant and its importance was not clear to me. Since then, it has been a learning process in understanding my role in society as a Kaur.
I think a lot of my internal conflicts stem from being the only daughter in my family and growing up as first generation Punjabi in Canada. While trying to maintain Punjabi culture, my parents were unsure of how much western culture we were allowed to observe within our household. My brother and I both had many challenges in understanding our identities within the Canadian culture as a result. Simply by being a girl however, I was placed in a weaker status in Punjabi culture. It was clearly apparent that I was thought of as the weaker gender and constantly told, “girls don’t do this or that etc.” This thought never made sense to me and I struggled with trying to understand it, as there was never an explanation. I had no choice, but to accept it within my family and culture.
I think this is the beauty of the Sikh faith, it is an egalitarian religion and there is a level playing field for both men and women. Really, there should be no status differences between the two genders, but culture and other factors play into things and make us believe otherwise.
While practicing medicine, I see many Sikh women being drawn to me as patients. As a practitioner, I try to use this opportunity to educate them on the importance of taking care of themselves and their bodies. Even with subtle changes like diet adjustments, they can make huge personal strides. As Kaurs, we break down our bodies, on many levels. I think this has to do with never being given any importance or value on nurturing ourselves and it all comes back to that lower status that was deeply imbedded into our psyche. I think this is why I use medicine in this population to convey the importance of self-care and self-worth. Our bodies are vessels that house the light of the Creator. It is so important to respect it. We as Kaurs are blessed with the ability to nurture the creation of a new being and through this process too, we give so much of ourselves. It is the norm for Punjabi women to be the foundation of their families and to continuously give and give until there is a complete mental, emotional and physical breakdown. My hope is that I can create awareness in the younger women to avoid having this breakdown through emphasis in health.
My role as a Kaur…through my medical practice and hobbies is to help other women find their strength, externally and internally. I believe being fit and healthy externally is an extension of internal strength and health and vice versa, they are interrelated. Finding and maximizing your body’s physical potential is instrumental in its functionality and longevity.
I teach fitness class at the Guru Nanak Academy, which is a Sikh community centre with many great services. As a women’s only fitness class, this gives me an opportunity to connect with a community of women on a weekly basis. My teaching style focuses on creating a safe environment where no one is there to compete and no one is being judged. Instead, we empower each other and focus on being strong and push our personal limits. The women in the class share the commonalities of being curious about fitness and for wanting a way to be more control of their health.
I understand all the hats women wear. My life includes parenting my son, running my medical practice, being a supervisor/clinic faculty at the Naturopathic College, coaching Crossfit, leading fitness classes at the GNA and training in Crossfit/Olympic weightlifting. Some have gifts with Gurbani, Kirtan/Katha or Gatka, I have no virtues like that. Where my strength lies is taking all my interests, personal and career focused and empowering other women, that’s my seva as a Kaur.
“Growing up, I went to Khalsa school and Kaur was part of my name. I think it was a generational thing with my parents, I never questioned it because I went to a Sikh faith school. As I got older and researched it, I found more of a connection to it. Now, I think of Kaur as a mixture of power, strength, and equality. As I get older, I use Kaur as more revolutionary in terms of standing up for others in need and more importantly for myself.
I think its also important that as I get older, depending on the stage of my life, the meaning of Kaur also changes and I think it will continue to evolve. During my teens, it was about equality, now its about empowerment.
In my late teenage years, I was shaped by societal, cultural and family pressures. For example, I wanted to go abroad for school and was told I couldn’t do that because I was a girl. These types of roadblocks became the norm and deflated by it. I ended up gaining a lot of weight, like 254lbs. The weight made me feel invisible and I felt captive. That captivity was self-induced and I became anti-social by not attending social events like weddings or hiding in my room when people came over to socialize. I also felt, my family was embarrassed to be seen in public with me.
In 2006, I wanted to start a bhangra team and was told this is not something girls do. It was suggested I do giddha and not bhangra. I had to lie to my parents, saying I was attending my brother’s practice. Little did they know I was coaching my brother’s team. I was the only female ever to teach an all guys competitive team and have now done this for 10 years. My love for bhangra helped me show up and helped me to meet lots of people.
It was during a journey to North Carolina, to a competition I was judging that I had a lightbulb moment. I couldn’t buckle my seatbelt and needed an extender, it was at that point, I knew I had to do something about myself. It was my own decision to lose weight, I wasn’t forced.
So in 2013, I sought out help from trainers and nutritionists to help me get on the right path and lost over 100lbs. I felt like the harder the journey got, the closer the walls got. I kept sane by delving into myself, which means also getting into Sikhi and spirituality. I found myself stopping more frequently at the Gurudwara to listen to paat and kirtan. Without realizing it at the time, the power of the scriptures, the words, kept me going.
It took over a year, but I reached my goal. It was such a weird feeling to have people pay attention to me; to be heard and be given a second look.
So much more value had been placed on me and the words I was saying, all because of the way I looked. The biggest lesson for me though was shattering the belief that losing all the weight would solve my problems, but really it was way bigger. For example, people, even my family were now telling me to get out there, meet people, and get married.
For me though, it was about a personal transformation and to pursue goals that I never dreamed of before. I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur and decided to start two businesses: a clothing line and event planning company. The crazy thing is that I feel like I am just beginning this path to removing barriers, self-discovery, and achieving even bigger goals.”
“Being a Kaur has always been of huge significance for me. The word and concept behind it for me materializes into devotion, selflessness, and ultimately being true to yourself. It is my morale, my being, and I identify with it on so many levels. I think this is because of how I was raised, especially being surrounded by strong, influential women, the concepts of Kaur were engrained in the surface of my soul.
Those lessons, now, more than ever, filter into every part of my life and I feel an obligation to be a strong female role model for women who may not have that in their lives. I have a need or purpose to take on women’s issues, particularly empowerment and giving women a voice. I have been a board member for Shakti Society, an organization which empowers women and families in the community for several years now, and feel it's been a very rewarding experience.
While I may not have had any hardships in my life, I think its important to take inspiration from other women, particularly ones close to me. For example, my maternal grandmother, who just turned 70, is unbelievably inspiring. During her life, she’s had many hardships and the running joke is that with so many lemons, she's made the best damn lemonade. She was the first girl in her village in Punjab to go to school. Later in life, during her toxic marriage, she was the first South Asian woman in her small town in California to get a divorce. During an era when divorce was frowned upon, she was judged. However, she saw past that for the sake of creating a better life for herself and her three daughters.
Then there is my mom, last year, she battled a rare type of cancer. She was strong and inspiring. Her illness was a rude awakening for me; my entire life fell apart and I had to figure out how to reprioritize and basically exist. It also made me realize, more than ever, the importance of family and how much my mom does for all of us.
I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t have the upbringing I’ve had. I had the opportunity to participate in a medical mission in Jalandhar, India for corrective spinal surgeries for the underprivileged. That trip was rewarding on so many levels, but my biggest takeaway was realizing how privileged I am to live the life I do. Also during the trip I was able to meet Bibi Prakash Kaur at The Unique Home, an all girls orphanage. During our talk, we came to the conclusion that girls can run the world and are born to lead.
Again, my life experience has essentially cultivated my existence, but I also think that how I relate to people and the work I do, is in my bones. Its something instinctively instilled inside of me and I don’t think it can be taught. As a Kinesiologist, when I am treating patients with chronic pain, I not only focus on the physical aspects of pain, but also on their emotional pain, the psychosocial aspects and take into account a holistic-based approach. Teaching them emotional regulation by being mindful and including practices like meditation.
I try to embody this in my own life to get a sense of balance. Physically, I think being involved with sport from an early age has helped to guide me and provide confidence. Internally, spirituality and looking at religion with a sense of discovery has helped me on other levels. I find myself constantly asking religious questions and know that I don’t know enough about it yet, but I am on the path."
“I find it interesting when I am asked whether Kaur is part of my name. It was confusing for me because its not really part of my name. My father wanted me to be different, without any limitations, so Kaur was purposely left out. I have to say though, not having that four-letter word included has caused me to question so much. For example, I was the only Sikh girl in my school, without it. I didn’t know the language in terms of reading and writing Panjabi. It wasn't until I had a conversation with a a good friend who had more knowledge in the religion that things became clearer. He provided some relief in helping me realize that I was a Kaur, with or without this word. What really mattered was how I lived my life and what I did to be a good person. From that moment my life changed, I was given a sense of peace.
I believe we are in control of our thoughts, decisions, and take action. We have the power to be as positive as we want. Growing up, I was outgoing and had no problem walking up to anyone and starting up a conversation. Physically, I didn’t fit society’s ideal look and I was told constantly to be skinny or quieter. I was never overweight, I was more so chubby. I would shrink my personality and feel guilty for how I looked.
I was constantly told what I should and should not be eating. I took all the critiquing as not being accepted. I felt alone a lot of the time and would sit on the floor of my closet listening to Bollywood music, crying, thinking, and praying. When I was 19 years old, I broke my foot and gained weight. That made the feedback and comments more frequent.
As I get older, I can better understand that this constant need for feedback about my body was a way to protect me in a way. People, close to me, thought they had an obligation to tell me to lose weight before I heard comments from other people. Things like who will marry you or accept you as a daughter-in-law, if you look the way you do, Really though, they were making me feel alone, unaccepted and unloved. They were blinded by what they wanted, rather than understanding loving me meant accepting me as I am.
I think my butterfly moment came when one day I got tired of comments like you have such a pretty face, you just need to fix the rest of your body. I took control by dancing to my favourite music in my room. It increased my energy from 0 to 100. Its my form of exercise, I do it for me. Then something coincidental happened during hangout sessions with my close friends. They all suggested I use my humour and energy to create YouTube videos to document my weightless journey to achieve a healthy body inside and out for the girl I was growing up and for girls like me who are sitting in their closets, feeling unloved and doubting themselves.”
“For most of my life, I felt very little connection to being a Kaur. Without learning the true value in identifying as Kaur, it had meant nothing more than a middle name. Things changed in the last year or so, as I felt this constant tugging and yearning to better understand myself; thus I began questioning and exploring identity and belonging.
For years, I struggled with misinterpreting much of the community’s patriarchal cultural practices for Sikhi, which made me resist and distance myself even further. Within this journey, I have discovered being a Kaur is the embodiment of empowerment, through living your truest you.
I have always had a passion for writing, but it remained suppressed as a hobby, while I focused on my education and career as a social worker. I worked in child protection and found myself questioning whether I was in the right field. I had this idea that I could really help families in the South Asian community, but I often found that families had already taken an oath of silence, even when dealing with issues around domestic violence and alcohol addiction.
I eventually quit my job and spent a few months backpacking in South and Central America. I was pulled towards Peru a second time and began working in international community development for a grassroots NGO. While living in Peru, I found myself drawn to women’s issues and advocacy, which made me realize why I had gotten into social work in the first place.
Last year, I began writing again (poetry and spoken word) and sharing it on social media and was inspired by poetess Rupi Kaur. My writing is a way for me to dismantle the shame culture in our community. This is my kind of social work, in which I hope to spread awareness and create a safe atmosphere for women to tell their stories.
In a way I am taking advocacy in my own hands, in a non-invasive approach. I like to tackle social issues, especially those that no one wants to talk about and create a collection of photo series highlighting such topics. I feel like its my calling, something that is within me. Something I need to do.”
"I believe being a Kaur means being someone who is loving, caring, and giving. For me its about being the the best person I can be; as a mom, a wife, daughter, and a member of society. I automatically connect being a Kaur with my identity because its been instilled in me since birth. My love for our language and culture has been passed down to me by both my paternal and maternal grandmothers. Both focused on speaking and learning Punjabi, knowing our history and Gurbani. Both also loved to share stories.
The two of them got along so well, they were really good friends. They were very similar in their personalities: loving, caring, and gentle. As strong, solid women they were focused on Gurbani and lived their lives as being good human beings. They reinforced that love and family were above everything else and that it was important to listen before speaking.
These philosophies are so simple, but as I have gotten older and become a mother they really make sense. I now feel that if you have done what you can to help others and have been the best person you can be, you have done your job. That it all will make a difference in the end.
I moved to Canada in grade three and could communicate a few English words here and there. So I took on the task to learn as much English as possible, and started off by reading simple children's books. I would tuck myself away in the corner of the library for hours on end and just read.
Its funny, when I think back to my grandparents and the sharing of stories, it makes me understand why I pursued nursing and then specialized in geriatric nursing. I really enjoy talking to people, listening to them unravel their tales, and being present with them. And what they share in return, it was truly an honour to hear. For them, they just wanted someone to listen, share, and spend time with.
When I became a mother, I wanted to impart my love of books with my daughter, so we have a bedtime routine where I read to her each night. I created a little library of sorts and would take simple, picture books and translate the words into Punjabi while I was reading. But I found there to be no easily accessible Punjabi books that looked at the world from a child's perspective. So I decided to write and publish one myself. I am still surprised about where motherhood and my history has taken me. My current book focuses on learning to count in Punjabi in a fun way for children. I think this is just the start for me and want to do more short story books in the future.”
“When I think of being a Kaur, I visualize being courageous. This is central to what the tenth guru wanted Kaurs to uphold as part of our identity. Ultimately, to give roots to being courageous and grow from there. To me, essentially Kaurs are the glue that tie our households together.
There is really no one way to be a Kaur. There is no one answer, its not that easy or finite. Its simply not black and white. Every Kaur has a different journey, with different barriers. The key is being committed to a path and allowing things to manifest in their own way. I think this connection to Sikhi starts from within, a seed that gets planted and somewhere along the line, it grows into something, a journey starts. Where you are on that journey doesn’t matter, its not a competition. All that matters is that you stay the course.
I believe that Sikhi wants us to shine bright with our identity and foundations. Sometimes that is a challenge among so many external expectations. Sometimes, I feel as a Kaur I have not been at a point to fully take on an aspect. I think to myself how am I supposed to behave courageously, I think its at that point I realize I am in a learning stage and I need to remain committed to my journey/path and everything will fall into place when the time is right.
From a spiritual perspective, Kirtan is something that grounds me. I was fortunate to grow up doing Kirtan with many different mentors. When I was young, I remember my Dad taking the time to explain what the shabads mean. At the time I didn’t understand why he was spending so much time trying to explain it to me. Now I am grateful for him doing this and inspiring me to take this direction, as studying Gurbani is the greatest gift he gave me as a father. Grade six is when it really drew me in, I’d take out my vaja (harmonium) and play shabads. Eventually, I studied the language of gurbani and it became the source of my power. Singing shabads, connecting with sangat, this what I seek when I am challenged by life.
Besides my dad, Uncle Prem Singh ji was a great role model. He inspired me to do kirtan with love and provided an environment with no judgement or pressure. There was this sense of acceptance and mobility to connect with gurbani on my own level. In a way, he taught that myself and other youth in our sangat were enough and encouraged us to study and excel in learning and singing gurbani. It is this same philosophy and way of teaching that lays the foundation of how I teach my students.
It is such an honour to connect with them and perhaps make a difference in one or few of them. To be able to provide them with the ability to see something in themselves and make a difference that is something I strive for, this is how I see myself as a sevadaar.
I realized I don’t need to be making a lot of money, I need a comfortable life, but having a career that makes a difference, that’s truly rewarding. I am fortunate to bring aspects of culture and history into my teaching of Punjabi to my students. Giving them opportunities to draw connections with where they came from, our collective journey, and giving them tools to understand their heritage is an honour.
When it comes to my identity within family life, I identify as more of a learner. There are many aspects that I am in the observation and soaking in this part of life. I always knew I wanted to live my life enriched with Sikhi, after my Anand Karaj, it was reaffirmed. I think taking this step makes you more aware of how you will be taking the next steps. These steps including aligning your individual values with another person and how in turn you will model them to your children. For me, I am currently in the process of observing, learning, and understanding how to impart values of Sikhi to my future children. I am lucky that I have a sister-in-law that is an amazing role model.”
“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.”
“I believe Sikhism is based on humanity. Being a just person. I find it intriguing, us coming from different backgrounds and beliefs, yet connected by these tenets, bigger than ourselves. Really though it is about giving back to our community, our family.
For me, any journey, whether it has been education or family-based has been about challenging the concept of truth. My findings have been that we as beings are always learning and that really there is no absolute truth. Our job, in my opinion, whether it be familial, personal or educational is about continuing to challenge ourselves.
Obtaining knowledge, studying, and learning through academics or other people (whomever I come across) has been about observing and understanding other perspectives.
Faith is a personal relationship with God or whatever higher power you choose to believe in. As I get older, I am constantly asking myself, what is it that I believe in and feel it is my personal responsibility to challenge everything. My questions are introspective and include: why we do the things we do? why there are so many labels linked to Sikhism, like cultural sikh, modern sikh, or this or that. Why is there such a focus on following constricting rules and why we choose this?
Really though, its all about choice. I am a believer in whomever we come across, we mirror. Rather than be challenged by this, we need to understand what this reflection says about us. To take a step back and understand why we are doing what we are doing.
This journey of the self, is what I think is the backbone of sikhism. Selflessly giving back and recognizing that this religion is fluid, in constant change. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled in my career and I tasked myself to understand why I was not fulfilled. I found my calling so to speak by completing my Masters in Human Rights and International Politics and was so engrossed in my studies that I decided to purse my Ph.D.
While studying, I wanted to give back and created a non-profit organization that helps with providing a safe space for male and female violence and trauma victims. My biggest learning from this endeavour has been about the shame that riddles this topic in our South Asian community. Its truly heartbreaking and giving them a place to freely express themselves without judgement or shame helps them, but it also helps to heal the community in some small way.”
"Being a Kaur involves being a role model, a mother, and string of so many other roles that lies in fundamentally being a good person. The sad thing is that women’s rarely get that much recognition for everything they do. In my opinion, Sometime women can be women’s worst enemies. There is this internal strife with women, focused on comparison and pushing women down. This needs to stop. There is room for everyone, we must encourage one another. We need to be role models for one another, as there is so much to do and accomplish.
As someone who has worked in media, I have had people, especially women share their stories and ask for help like connecting with resources. At times I am anguished with the details I hear, it saddens me, but I am willing to listen and help if I possibly can. Just sharing their stories sometimes is what is needed.
I came to Canada as a single woman with a Ph.D in Political Science (Gender Equality in Politics) in hand. My parents, who were well educated, were supportive of me pursuing higher education. They constantly heard concerned remarks from community members about allowing girls to pursue more education would provide opportunity to bring shame on the family or that I was getting beyond eligible marriage age. These types of micro-aggressions are roadblocks for so many women, especially Kaurs face. My parents didn’t buy into it, they continued to support me. My thesis focused on the new legislations amendments at the time in relation to women, education, and power roles, like Sarpanch. A big focus was me in interviewing and understanding the complexities about the decades of gender differences and how there was a fear of change. I had heard rumblings about the Canadian dream, while I was doing my studies and decided to try it out upon completion. I wanted to carve out my own space and take my own stance.
I was lucky my interview skills came in handy to give me a role in media. I recall my first interview being with a well-known male and his attempt to tell me that I should or could find better use of my time, rather than reporting. That didn’t stop me, but it made me think this difference in males and females in our community, is it ever going to change? Our community has been here for a century, when will respect by our own community be given to both males and females, equally?
Equality if fundamental to our religion, but its not followed. I am believer that it doesn’t matter how many times you do your prayers, your connection to the religion, the real meanings that can’t be quantified. We need to look deeper into the real meanings and not just go through the motions."
"Kaur to me means having strength. Being aware and focused on self-development. Having self-confidence with who you are, sharing yourself, and being comfortable in your own skin. I think part of that is being physically and emotionally content with whomever you are.
I started gymnastics when I was five years old. I started because of my cousin, who later stopped. I was really shy and didn’t have the traditional gymnast body. I had to work that much harder to gain flexibility and strength. It began as recreational and later turned competitive. It helped me gain confidence, and gave me a focus in my teens. I later competed in All Star cheerleading, and at the Cheerleading Worlds Championships. I competed provincially, nationally, and internationally.
The sport takes a huge toll on your body and I chose to retire from gymnastics due an injury. That led to shadow coaching and then becoming a fully certified coach. I have been coaching for almost ten years now and never stop learning. To challenge myself further, I took up competitive cheerleading. It is nothing like TV or in movies. It was gratifying to complete the goal of competing in the world championships. These sports, especially at the higher level don’t have any or very few Punjabi girls. Charting these unfamiliar paths was part of a self discovery process.
Doing things outside of traditional paths, lights fire inside of you to uncover parts of yourself, to yourself. To gain understanding and become a better version of yourself. This is important. For me, this applied to spirituality too. My parents were religious growing up, they provided some framing. But it wasn’t until I read a book on Guru Nanak, I was kind of obsessed with it, I made some connections about questions and ideas.
It was around this time, about four years ago that I met my boyfriend. His grounding and connection to Sikhi made me even more curious. For him, religion and spirituality are like breathing. We would have conversations about faith and spirituality. He would share stories about his own connection to Sikhi. All of this, made me think of myself and my journey.
I believe surrounding yourself with people who share these energies and vibrations is important. Those who are focused on how they fit into the grander scheme of things, makes you become more aware. It opens your mind, helps you expand.
For me in this journey, I wanted to expose who I was and do me. Craft more, meditate, participate in workshops. Do things that would help me. Be around people who uplift my soul.
Its interesting this full circle experience now has me sharing what I have learned. The young female athletes I coach, they range in age from 10 to 17 years old and are both Punjabi and non-Punjabi. They have their own questions, one girl who was non-Punjabi, asking me to explain the Sikh religion. What is spirituality? This amazes me because at age 13, I wasn’t even thinking along these lines. I think it also offers the Punjabi girls a sense of connection. I see them nodding their heads, finally having someone say things they have been struggling with, relating to them on their level."
"The experiences of my life have shaped me as a Kaur and a woman, which for me... is one in the same. My focus has been healing and coming into my own. Which lends itself to thinking of modern Sikhi as simply being a good human. So this is what I gravitate towards.
Obstacles…yeah they make you become a stronger person. There are a lot of things that happen in our community. Things no one ever wants to mention. So many topics that no one talks about….like sexual abuse. Yet, the stats for them occurring are so high.
Shame is a huge part of why we won’t. Rather than facing things head on, believing the victim. Acknowledging that a relative or someone close to the family has abused their power relationship, these topics are brushed under the carpet. That leaves victims to feel shame and carve out their own healing.
For me, it was how do you move past the shame? For me, it was all about peeling back the layers of an onion. Getting to the root of the problem, allowing my emotional scars to show. When I negotiated this, it was then that I started to believe again. It was at that point I started to love myself again. That’s not to say I didn't have triggers or that interactions with men, any men didn’t take a toll on me. But even that, as time progressed and I got stronger, even that decreased.
I didn’t really know how to process things…my outlets of acting, modelling, and writing…these were my breathes of fresh air. I want(ed) to convey messages…meaningful stuff through these expressions of art. It was hard for me to vocalize, especially since my voice had already been shushed. These forms let me show parts of me, to heal myself, but also to spark something in others minds. Help them understand that healing can happen.
As a Kaur, there are so many expectations. Too many, unnecessarily. Rather than all these expectations, all this pressure, it would just make sense to be good women…good humans.
I believe we don’t have to look or dress a certain way…or be a certain way. My sole job as a Kaur is to be a good woman. There is no classification in my viewpoint. There should be no hierarchy, no judgement between Kaurs. There is no one way of being a Kaur…nothing is right or wrong. Everything is your own interpretation."
"I grew up in the Okanagan, surrounded by the natural landscape. My parents would take my siblings and I to the beach or orchards, where we would spend hours playing in the water or among the trees. Some of my fondest childhood memories are swimming, playing along the rocks and trees, and swinging from a tire swing. There was so much to do and be surprised by nature.
Art was a form of expression for me. When I wasn’t outdoors, my playtime included drawing, sketching and using crayons when I was really young and then gradually progressed during high school. Around grade six, I had the opportunity to learn Gurbani, shabads, and play the dhabla, also outlets for my expression that I later realized show up in my art.
During my university years, I quashed my artistic voice with the should and would expectations that many emerging artists, especially women, face. My parents wanted me to pursue teaching, so I put art on hold to pursue a degree in history.
As a way to deal with family challenges and my own personal growth, I created a few art pieces for a local festival…this led to meeting my husband, Ravi, who is also an artist. Since then….art has been a huge part of life, either in support of Ravi, or in finding my own journey (without any comparison to him) with art.
My formative years have provided the grounding for my artistry, especially the sky and trees. Repeatedly, I gravitate towards recreating these good memories. I had a wonderful childhood, and I find it easy to depict what I remember from that time. I have come to realize that nature is where I find peace and as an artist this sense of peace through the sky and trees translates onto my canvas.
I find that I also gravitate towards including Waheguru in much of my art. Without realizing it, I connect with my faith in ways I would have not imagined. I say it so often in the regular course of my day, but especially when I am painting. It helps me stay in the flow of creating and there is something so peaceful about the word that it naturally shows up in some of my pieces.
I find myself dedicating more time to painting, being in surroundings that inspire me. My artistic voice grew stronger after the birth of my son. I believe something creatively opened up in me, but I was also able to quell my self critic. I just wanted to express myself through art and as I create more art, my VOICE gets louder and stronger, which is exciting.
As a Kaur, I think its challenging at times to find your voice and it may be even easier to ignore it because of what you should or should not be doing. I find this especially, challenging when you set out in a path that is not traditional. I didn’t have any role models who were successful artists. It was challenging to negotiate whether to focus on art and believe in myself."
“Who would have thought watching a Hindi movie (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge) would give me the courage to finally ask my parents to go backpacking through Europe. It had always my dream to travel to Europe. And after the movie, it seemed like perfect timing to ask. They agreed to let me go, but in return I had to agree to not only focus on my career but to get serious about finding a nice Sikh boy and settling down. After traveling to France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Germany and having the time of my life, I returned home inspired to start my own business.
I did remember I had a deal to fulfill with my parents, which led me to signing up for online dating on Sikhnet and then finding the only white Sikh man on the dating site. All this has led to the most adventurous life.
Without a doubt being a Kaur gives me a certain confidence as there are so many strong Kaurs in my family. The women in my family are opinionated and not shy to share our viewpoints or to express our individuality. For me, being a Kaur allows me to know who I am and where I come from. The perfect way for me to convey how I view a confident Kaur is a popular image that I have seen on the internet of a kitten looking into the mirror and seeing the reflection of a tiger. That is the confidence and strength that I have - and I believe that all Kaurs have. I honestly wish I could bottle up this self-esteem and give it to young girls of any faith or background.
This strength and confidence has allowed me to be self-made entrepreneur and I cannot imagine another career option for me. I try not to put any limits on myself and focus on pushing forward as a person and entrepreneur. One of the main ideas behind Sikhism that resonates with me is that every person is equal; and with our religion starting with the abolishing of a caste system means that every person has the opportunity to grow and become anything they want without limits. I love this idea. It’s not about finding yourself, we know who we are. Sikhism for me is about determining our own path and becoming whatever we want.
I really think this perspective has a lot to do with my childhood and how I was raised. I remember the stories my parents shared with me and my siblings when we were young. The stories were about overcoming challenges and obstacles and creating a new life in a new country. I understand now why I didn’t hesitate opening up my first venture — an airbrush tattoo company. This is something that is definitely non-traditional for a Kaur, but I had seen a similar business in Europe and was determined to be one of the first to bring this European trend to Canada. I now own three businesses, I am passionate about my life, and with my Caucasian Sikh husband by my side, I can honestly say, I’m not afraid of doing things differently.
I personally, am not religious in the traditional sense, I don’t feel the pull to visit the Gurudwara every Sunday. In the same light, I admire how much faith my parents have in our religion. It is the cornerstone of their lives and for them, like so many others, temple hopping in India is how they want to vacation. It is truly inspiring. For me, when I do go to the temple, my favourite part is doing Seva in the kitchen…where everyone is working together side by side and without any differences for a common goal of serving others. We come together as equals and when we leave, we can aspire to reach any goal or dream. Equal and without limits – that is what being a Kaur and a Sikh means to me.”
“Being a Kaur, I feel a level of empowerment and for me, I am trying to change the stigma or classification of what a Kaur represents. From my own past, from what I know, see, and have heard people stereotype and put a religious lens on the term, Kaur. Beyond the religion, culture gets thrown into the mix and as a Kaur you are expected to do certain things and be certain things. I feel its time to change these ideas and these oppressed feelings.
I love how I can help shape and change perceptions. I can’t wait to see where this sport will be in another year…another five years. Competing fuels me to continue on, maintain a fitness journey, help other women do more and provides me the confidence to try other things. Part of fitness competitions is showing my physique. This in itself is an opportunity for education, that it is not about sexualization, rather about showing off my fitness journey and the commitment I have made to compete.
I started training for competitions from a place of sadness, anger, and grief. It stemmed from some devastation that happened at home. I wasn’t sure of how to deal with what was happening, so I channeled all the feelings I had and carved a voice for myself through fitness.
Fitness came easy to me, I played basketball growing up and worked in a gym. I then became a personal trainer, which at times led to questions about whether this would be my life’s work. In a way it has, at least the two intertwine on some level.
Within my day job, as a Youth Substance Worker, I work with young South Asian girls and boys who seek out substances to deal with life’s ups and downs.
There is this notion that South Asian girls wouldn’t have substance issues, but I work with them one-on-one. They feel unheard, unsupported, and don’t know how to channel what they are feeling or what is happening. Some of them are interested in the fitness aspect of my life. That fitness has helped me and are now working out and getting to the gym.
My mom, sister, and even grandparents have been tremendously supportive. I won’t lie there was some apprehension of why there needed to be a bathing suit in this competition. However, once they saw my commitment and dedication to competing they were sold on the idea. And when I placed first in my height class, they were over the moon.
I’d like to think and see me competing as a way to create a new standard of female sporting beauty for South Asian women. To move beyond our prescribed ideas of what we are supposed to or not supposed to be. In my own way, I’d like there to be more of a focus on strong athleticism, sculpting muscles, and empowerment.”
“Being a Kaur was a gift that came late in my life. At the age of 19, when I saw my name (Inni Kaur) printed on my wedding invitation I was upset. I didn’t identify myself as a Kaur. I didn’t know what it meant…I didn’t connect with it.
It took me years to arrive at this stage…to fall in love. My journey began with questioning whether there is more to life than eating, drinking, and procreating. I started exploring various faiths. Sufism held me the longest. But after 1984, I had a shift in consciousness. I was drawn to Sikhi. Even then the paradigm being presented was too much for me to take in wholly. To say, that I toed the line immediately would be an outright lie. I had one foot in and the other out. However, I was willing to look inward. And what I found was ugliness…and many demons I needed to sort out. Somehow, Shabad chiseled and I began to feel connected with my inner self. Chiseling is painful for it is constant, but it is needed to unearth a beautiful sculpture.
At the age of 44, “Kaur” was bestowed on me. It was a life-changing experience that I relive nearly every day. I am in gratitude for being graced with Kaur. It is not tied to my familial or husband’s name. I adorn myself simply with Inni Kaur. No other titles are needed. I look beyond gender and focus more on character and actions.
My turning point was at the age of 50, when I decided to celebrate the entire year doing things to grow myself and expand my horizons.
I have found the beauty of living and finding the joy in between. Women are creators and our path is different than men and we need to honour being creators. For me this means, creating poetry, painting, writing and everything that I touch. Every year….I challenge myself to learn something new, and my fears have tapered.
Awakening to my connection as a Kaur has provided me with an incredible freedom. I fell in love…in the purest of sense. It took awhile to fall in love, to embrace; to surrender. We are scared of surrender, thinking it is weakness…it is not. We rise in love. It is when we rise in that love, we experience true love....the one that gods and goddesses yearn for....which humans have the capacity to experience, though rare are the ones that do ... this is revealed in Japji Sahib.
In this love, I have discovered the wings to fly and the belief that I can do anything. I want to live every moment, feel everything and grow.
Challenging moments will always be there. For, that is life. But we are rivers… we must gush and flow. At times we may trickle, but we must never stop flowing nonetheless.”
“Violence is everywhere, and yet the stories are hidden. Survivors should be empowered and validated both by telling their stories in safe spaces, but also in building a larger community of awareness and understanding so that the real work of ending violence can begin.
This has been my calling for 20 years. I feel like it’s a privilege for me to provide peace of mind to victims and empower them with knowledge. I am human. I am able to empathize, provide the necessary cultural insights, and breakdown barriers to engage and create dialogue.
As a Kaur, Sikhi and the link of learning and knowledge is my biggest takeaway. This is also my biggest takeaway for the women I support. I just want them to talk to a professional to know their legal and human rights. Whether they chose to do anything is their choice. I just encourage them to empower themselves with knowledge. That its okay to be scared and vulnerable. That there are resources and professionals to help, rooting and guiding them to be safe and live in peace.
In my opinion, one of the last hurdles to eradicating abuse is the culture of silence and shame that exists still today. Victims are led to believe they are alone, that no one will believe them, and that others will think less of them. For South Asian women especially, heavy societal, family, and status pressures generally fall on the victim instead of on the person committing the crime.
Every woman’s situation is complicated and unique, and there is no stereotype. Every single survivor of abuse is different from her peers, and by sharing stories we can educate ourselves as to just how pervasive domestic violence and sexual abuse/assault is, and how it crosses all cultural, racial, and socioeconomic lines. This is our society’s collective issue, not simply a problem of those directly impacted."
"I have come full circle in my pursuit of finding my passion and career choice. My path was chosen in the most unconventional ways. As a teenager, I battled an eating disorder. I felt confused, lonely and like I didn’t have a voice.
I wasn’t able to express what was happening to me, the issues were swept under the rug. In hindsight, I realize now that its because South Asians do not talk opening about mental health.
Like all challenging life events, it was a blessing in disguise. If I wasn’t able to speak about my eating disorder or depression at home, My close friend group took steps to find me people to talk to. This helped me take the initiative to have conversations with counsellors and psychologists. Out of this, I discovered my passion for mental health work. An added silver lining to this my peer groups assistance helped me witness firsthand the profound impact of young women helping one another.
I believe this was divine timing and reiterated my core belief of helping others by leading and living with an open heart. I had a brief step away from mental health work in my early 20’s. At the time frustration of the system and my lack of tools to deal with the emotional toll the job takes were reason to step away.
As a Kaur, religion like many things in my life shaped me. My parents did were amazing to never push or force religion in my life. Instead they showed its importance in progressive ways. I recall, my dad taking my brothers and I to the Gurudwara and one other house of worship every Sunday. He would say, “Beta, God is the same, people might not be the same. God comes to us in different ways.”
This profound lesson of respect, has carried me thorough in different ways. I have learned understanding, empathy, and being able to look at circumstances from different lenses."
"For years, I suffered in silence - emotional, physical, mental, verbal, and financial abuse. You feel all alone, settle, and think that this is all that exists.
I toiled and continue to toil with questions about why this is acceptable. Why there are so many systemic dysfunctions about treating a wife and daughter-in-law (a Kaur) humanely? Why have cycles that occurred in the past not been rectified? Why do we sweep these issues under the rug?
I am a survivor because every day I make a choice not to be governed by their harsh words or actions. No one has the right to take away my happiness.
As a Kaur, I removed myself and my son from repeating a vicious cycle of dysfunction. My goal now is to raise him under a roof where there's equality, honestly, loyalty, real love & respect for one another so he can grow to become a man of values and morals.
For me, healing is about collecting as many pieces as possible. It's finding words for what I am seeing and feeling - even when it sounds crazy. It's daring to speak my truth until it makes sense.
There was a moment in my journey when my denial crumbled. Too much had happened and I realized my experience and it's continued effects on us, it wouldn’t "just go away". That was my breakthrough moment. It was like the sun coming out to warm the seeds of hope so I could grow our personal garden of empowerment. Each day I wake up for my son. He is my shining light and my purpose. Everything I do, I do for him.
My biggest takeaways are taking pride in taking back my life and that a huge supportive network exists. Organizations, external agencies, and community infrastructure is in place. One just needs to be ready, on their own terms, to access it."
"To me being Kaur is being a female which represents power, strength, intelligence and perseverance. As a female in the community my role is constantly evolving to a better self. I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a student, an instructor, an entrepreneur and more. All of these titles creates who I am and only make me strive to become a greater and stronger individual. Yet this does not mean that I have not faced any hurdles that needed to be overcome. My turning moment was just after I had after my first child, I knew that there were some concerns that needed to be addressed. I had postpartum. Not a topic that is highly discussed, but I knew that in order for me to play the strength role I had to seek help, and I did. Due to my educational background in Early Childhood, I was able to identify I had most of the symptoms of postpartum. I was able to get through my triggers and move forward from feelings of postpartum. My children are my inspiration to move forward, be creative and create a positive change. For my own personal goals I have chosen to further my education and am currently in the midst of completing my Masters in Education at UBC. I am working towards creating educational materials that will assist parents in providing positive encouragement and growth in child development. Over the past five years I have created two Punjabi CD’s based on popular children’s songs. In addition I self-published a children’s book, “I am Beautiful.” This book was inspired from my daughter’s own perception of beauty and my own interests to expand her view of being beautiful and help her understand, “Beautiful is inside you; beautiful is you, every day."
"Growing up in a Sikh household in Kamloops, religion was central to life. Being at the Gurudwara on Sunday was a permanent fixture. I learned kirtan and participated in seva. The permanence of religion helped to carve out the strong understanding of Nirbhau Nirvair, which translates to Without Fear, Without Hate. These two words are what I try to embody, my values. When I have faced challenges, I am not afraid of what others say about what I believe and value. Their opinion of me, does not sway me. Instead, I respect that their opinions are differ from mine. There is no hate. I work very hard to focus on the humanity of the relationship first and foremost. To get to this point, it was an internal process to get my spirituality on solid ground. Its fair to say my parents helped shape me. They taught me values of giving and respect and and the value of relationships with elders like my grandparents. They also provided opportunity to learn about how our religion was founded in activism, to embrace it, and engrained that one must work for change. Surprisingly, my biggest spiritual teachers have been my kids. Each one has taught me to look at things in their way and to unlearn ideas and embrace new ones. They have taught me to not be focused on any one goal or outcome, but to live in the moment and be committed to God’s plan. To being accountable to actionable things in life, taking the time to evaluate life, giving back, and respecting equality. As their personalities have developed, they have challenged and tested me in many ways. We regularly have conversations about what is happening in the world around them. They help me to better understand believing in something. Not fighting about one’s beliefs, but standing up and helping to implement change. As a collaborator in every realm of my life (work, community leadership, and personal) my true belief has been in respecting people and finding and focusing on the similarities that bind us, rather than the differences. This strength of our similarities helps to set things in motion and create action."
"Its not common knowledge about how religious I was growing up. At the age of eight years old, I was focused on learning as much about Sikhi through attending Khalsa camps. I embraced religion, partly by looking up to my older sisters and channeled my curiosity of religion by doing kirtan and playing the tabla. This direct focus stayed strong until I was in Grade 11, then it gravitated towards being more internal. Looking back now, this near decade of my life helped shape me as a person. It taught me the value of not relying on just my appearance to dictate my self worth and acceptance of everyone. My biggest gift from this time was my musical inclination, the rhythm and beats now interconnect to the music I play now. I chose my DJ moniker, DJ Goddess, because I felt empowered by it and that for me is what Kaur represents. My whole DJ like is me pursuing nonconventional goals. I feel like we set our own limits and are able to break our own boundaries to follow our own ambitions. Initially, when starting out on the whole DJ trek,I thought it was a faze, my parents and other family also thought this. However, the more I get into this, the more I realize it is not a hobby or just a side thing. It meshes my love of music, energizing a crowd, and challenges me. And as long as I am able to continue on this path, the more I will continue pursuing it. At times its overwhelming as in how much support I have received. I believe that is because this is truly what I should be doing nowI encourage other Kaurs, who are wanting to pursue a passion to push past their fears and ideas and just try. Being Kaur, having my religion and values underpin anything I do, I know anything is achievable."
“I think of being a Kaur as a bigger and broader concept…expanding beyond religion. I identify with Kaur as part of me, my name, but it expands to a broader picture. I was born and raised in Mumbai, a city that is multicultural and cosmopolitan, the New York of India. I went to an all girls convent school. Since I belonged to a business family, I was bought up in a very open-minded modern culture. Having said that we had a joint family that included Aunt, Uncle and cousins living together. I was the only girl, and as such I was pampered and loved. (The apple of everyones’ eye.) My grandma and I had a close-knit relationship, she is the one who embedded Sikhi into my brain right from a very young age. Biji would wake up at 4am, she would pray out loud, sometimes too loud. At the time, it was very irritating because I was young and focused on sleeping. Now though, I love the fact that I know these prayers off my heart, because the words repeated on a daily basis resonated with me. She was an outstanding woman, a true matriarch, who people sought out for advice. She was both religious and spiritual. Then there was my mom, another strong woman in my life. Though we were like best friends, she had rules, she was the strict one, who ensured I knew a thing or two about boundaries. My father on the other hand ensured I had a voice. He taught me that my opinion mattered. My father influenced my career decisions, too. In 1995, I got married and moved to East Africa. My daughters had their early childhood there. I believe that they are the women they are today because I have tried to be the best role model, I can be. I live my life with the motto of actions speak louder than words. When we moved to Canada in 2005, there was a definite cultural shock. Being a new immigrant, there were lots of struggles, especially since my life was so different and pampered in both Mumbai and E. Africa. For me, Sikhi needs to resonate by practicing, by acting on it on day to day basis. I don’t believe in engaging for the sake of appearances. Whatever one preaches, one must practice. This became even more apparent when I had a bump in the road of life, a couple of years back. I learned when, in life something unexpected happens, you go back to your roots, especially your faith to ask for answers. During this time, I attended a Sikh Women’s Retreat and my biggest takeaway was that being religious does not mean being spiritual. Faith keeps you grounded, I am learning this every day…I don’t know all the answers, but I constantly thrive to be a better person, than I was yesterday. I live by the principles of having an attitude of Gratitude. I always say you can do two things on daily basis, you either 'Get Inspired' or you should 'Inspire others'. Meaning you can learn from a wide variety of resources or you can make the efforts to share your learnings with others.” Having a Mentality of Abundance and not of Scarcity, will keep you content, is what I believe and coach."
"I view being a Kaur as embodying strength, compassion, and a sense of nurturing. I was born and raised in a small town and went to various Sikhi camps. I was fascinated with Sikhi and gravitated towards it, I still am. As the youngest of four daughters, I am the only daughter in my family with Kaur legally included in my name. I am proud of this and believe it was Guruji’s decision for me to be so connected and curious with my faith. Early on, I realized life has so many opportunities, the world is full of them and it was my destiny to take charge of them. Hone those skills and then use them for a greater good. To remove the fear and not waste talent. My talent, early on was public speaking, I realized I didn’t have issues of being scared in front of a crowd. I took that skill and entered pageants and wasn’t focused on winning or wearing a crown or sparkly dresses. My focus was to be a voice, to represent, and to make a difference. I ended up winning a pageant in my local town with flying colours and took that platform to work on projects to tackle social issues like prevention and awareness of bullying. I think my win and subsequent work was because I had good intentions, I took learnings from my faith of doing things for a greater good and leading my life to make a difference. My passion for social cause work through the pageant led to volunteering on a global level. I made many connections and helped to teach and was able to showcase what being a Kaur means, especially in areas stricken with hardships, where strength, compassion and nurturing was most needed. Places like Thailand, Ecuador, and India where I helped teach english, rebuilding orphanages and also build houses. During those seva trips I would wear shirts referencing Sikhi and people would ask me about them. It gave me an opportunity to have conversations and share who I was and what my faith represented to me. During my volunteer efforts it became apparent about the gaps in the medial outreach of patients and even preventative medicine in these countries. The art of human interaction led me to see different walks of life, especially the medical experiences of women. I believe that if you can dream it you can live it. My belief in attaining my goals led me to realize that you can pursue anything. I'm in my last year of medical school. Next on my list of things to pursue will parallelwith medicine and supporting our youth pursue things they can't accomplish because in my opinion today’s generation is tomorrow future."
"As I look at my life, it necessarily does not make a lot of sense. One common theme that comes up is perseverance. I have found that life slaps you with situations and challenges. As a Kaur, I've found my task has been to overcome obstacles and to turn the difficulties into healing…to turn things into the positive. Growing up, I was really shy and felt I couldn’t voice my true opinions and feelings. I think it was because I was isolated and unsure of why my parents sent me to live with my grandparents in a different city. I felt abandoned and angry, which led to being insular. My parents would send me care packages and show their love in multiple ways, but it wasn’t material items like cute dolls that I needed. I needed them. Looking back now, from the perspective of a mother and find they were trying to create a stable environment for me. They worked long hours and moved often and decided creating stability for my early years was important. When returned to live with my parents in my pre-teens, we moved to so many new houses and cities. It was challenging always being the new kid at school. It was during high school that I met my husband and we were free to date and spend time together. It was during this time that early signs of abuse showed up. After marriage and when I was pregnant more pronounced physical incidents occurred. More so, emotional and verbal abuse were prevalent. My voice, what was remaining, was silenced. I left and lived separately with my son for months, while my husband received counselling. We later reconciled and then sadly he passed away eight months later in a motor vehicle accident. During that same timeframe, my father passed away. I think the biggest lie we tell ourselves is that there’s no hope for ourselves. This lie tells you that you’ve done everything possible, and it’s time to just throw in the towel and give up. But if one backs away and looks at your situation from a different perspective, you might see things differently. What you’ve attempted to do may have produced little or no results and left you in this hopeless state, but what you’ve done may have been the opposite of what you need to do. Healing is a choice. We have to continue making healing choices in order to experience the gifts, life has for us. The choice to persevere is never an easy one. It’s only made by those tired of living life as they always have, and finally want things to be different. My way to persevere was through fitness. I relied on it to help cope with abuse and then to heal myself when two important men in my life passed away. I will admit, I can’t recall the first three years after their passings. When I started focusing on fitness, I realized I had a heart beat and had to live my life responsibly for my son. I harnessed fitness to create normalcy in my life. It provided a constant and also unleashed a passion for fitness and helping others. I opened my fitness studio two years ago and serve other women. This is my seva. It is a fitness facility, but really the purpose is to change lives and provide support. The focus is to give people a sense of abundance. I feel my role in life as a Kaur is to focus on giving back to my small community through fitness and in raising my son to be the best human he can be by loving and being respectful of nature, people, and animals."
"For me being a Kaur means holding my own, being confident and strong. I play basketball at the collegiate level. At first glance, I look like I have it all together, but I like anyone has had setbacks, devastation, and even loss. As a Kaur, I feel I have the tools to get past life’s hurdles. This unflappable tenacity is what Kaur represents to me. I pour hours of my time into training and practice for basketball, while taking a full course load to pursue a degree in nursing, working, and being an active participant in our family life. My parents, who were both exceptional athletes during their time, are completely supportive of my playing basketball and have never missed any of my games. Sports are a huge part of our family life, we are an athletic family. I have a hearing impairment, which makes me work even harder. I have been put under greater scrutiny, labelled, and teased because I was different. It makes me work harder, be more competitive and fierce. This has had obvious benefits, my younger self was shy and even embarrassed that I was different than other kids. As I get older and harness that I am unique and not defined solely by my hearing, I gain more confidence. My linkage to my faith comes from an interest in religion comes from how my parents raised me, attending Khalsa camp (which I have attended since I was eight years old) and from my maternal grandparents. Tragically both of them passed away in an automobile crash when I was in Grade 8. This was one of the most challenging chapters of my life. Grieving is an every day process, especially seeing my mom lose both her parents. Both were pillars in my life. They shared and celebrated in my sports life and helped raise us. They shared stories and taught us so many new things, lessons and concepts they learned in their lives and suggestions of what we could do. I had a special bond with my Nani ji, when I was in competitive swimming she would wake me up, took me to practice and swim meets and would give the best massages. She didn’t buy into the outdated dogma of girls not allowed to play sports. When my mom was a girl, Nani ji encouraged her to play sports. She didn’t care what others thought. I think she wanted us to be ourselves and be provided the opportunities she didn’t have to pursue. I think she would have been a great athlete. I now play basketball games in honour of my Nani ji. Before a game, I listen to simran, do my prayers. I think about both Nani ji and Nanaji and how they are cheering me on in spirit. I also think their death spurred more inclination to ensure I spend time with my Baba and Bibi. They live in England so having them in my daily life is challenging. Baba ji having Facebook and chances to FaceTime provides chances for us to connect. "
"For me being a Kaur intertwines with religion and spirituality. However, to reach that point knowing where you come from and where Kaur comes from is important. I believe Kaur is a symbol of strength. I mean this by when I have doubts, when things in life are going wrong and problems come in my way, I think of where I come from and I think about the Kaur that raised me. My mom is incredibly hardworking, determined, who raised three kids, established a career, and family ties. I look to her and discover why Kaur is part of my name. When I connect the dots between her, my name, and the strength that it all embodies, I am given the solace that I can get through whatever hurdle is blocking my way. In my third year at Queens in Biochemistry at Queens, I started to lose my spark. I had severe anxiety and was not the same student who had gotten on the plane three years previous. The idea had always been to be accepted in med school. It wasn’t really until third year and taking an elective developmental psychology course that I found what was my true calling. I took notes, pages and pages of notes (the most I had ever taken for a course) during a guest lecture on bullying. In truth, I had never paid so much attention to a class or a professor. Her words resonated with me. Her research reframed how I perceived bullying by examining it essentially from a relationship problem. It wasn’t until the class was finished that I realized my anxiety or unhappiness was partly attributed with possibly not being in the right field. Really though it had such an effect on me because I was bullied. I felt inspired to take action while studying for my exams. This is where I came up with the idea of Be Human Project Society. I started to sort out why I wanted to do this, the purpose, my passion. Through the process, I found my spark coming back. I came to the understanding that we have all experienced bullying….delivered and received and or both. I didn’t do anything with it. Now we have a team and looking to align with other groups in the community who are doing similar efforts. To be effective collaboration is the key. You can do a lot of good work, but everyone needs to align on the bigger purpose, remove their egos, and focus on helping. This advice was confirmed by Amanda Todd’s (who had committed suicide after years of bullying) mother. We know it (bullying) exists, but it gets brushed under the rug. This lecture provided opportunity to change how bullying is looked at. It changed the label and definition. My entire knowledge about the subject has been from studying other research. I am looking now into completing my own research through grad school. I am focused on pursuing the relationship between a specific theory and early age development when children are two or three years and how bullying is more pronounced with certain factors. I feel its important to note that I am not tied to outcomes. Already so much in my life has changed, a few years ago I thought I would be a medical student on my path to being a doctor. However, I am learning now (slowly) that life presents hurdles and opportunities to progress through life. I can say, I don’t know everything, but I am willing to learn."
"My attachment to being a Kaur streams into every aspect of my life. I am adamant that Kaur be used in reference to my name. Meaning rather than just referring to me as Kanwalnain, I want to be referred to as Kanwalnain Kaur. I think this adamancy is because Kaur was left off my original passport, so I wanted to ensure people knew the full story about me. Being a Kaur empowers me as a person, it gives me a sort of stamp…everything I do and represent is embodied and ensures I do things to the best of my ability. This desire to prove myself and set the record straight has been a confidence booster and has motivated me to go outside my comfort zone. I have been a radio show host since I was in Grade 6 and I have to say the whole experience has taught me so much. My show focuses on youth and engaging them in dialogue. Its been nearly a decade for the show and I could be cliche and talk about all the ways I have impacted the community. The feedback from youth and parents has been great, but from an introspective angle, the show has enabled me to blossom. At first, the learning curve of the technical aspects was challenging. I would script out every minute of the show, which left the show sounding stiff and robotic. As the months and years progressed, I have the confidence to speak off the cuff…engage in thought provoking issues and dialogue. Now the show is authentically me, when I speak and engage from the heart, more youth are interested to share their own thoughts and feelings. I have to say doing the show during my teenage years was a challenge at times. There were days when I wanted to skip going into the studio, but since I was committed, I went anyways. It was those days that I was provided examples of helping someone or learning that I love public speaking and connecting with people. In truth, I feel we wait, especially as Kaurs (because of sometimes limiting circumstances) for something to come to us. However, I feel we need to open doors and have initiative to aim high, so that when we do land, we land somewhere along the way. Part of this process has been doing things from my own perspective and ensuring that I understand who I am and what I stand for. I realize that will change as I grow wiser, but at this time, I feel to be a Kaur, one must understand the phrases associated with being a Kaur. I feel its my own personal responsibility to demystify the phrases connected to being a Kaur, for me. I believe you can’t identify as a Kaur if you don’t what it means. Our purpose to me should be to find the Kaur in ourselves."
"Losing my sister, made me think about what defines life. I believe everyone’s destiny is predefined and life purpose is predetermined. My life is now pre-Maple and post-Maple, her death is a scar that will forever remain. Grief is complicated and excruciating. It is helplessness. My way to deal with my grief was to channel my anger and disbelief into honouring her life in my advocacy work. This provides me solace and realization to accept life you must accept death. Mostly it is loss, which teaches us about the worth of people not things. Death shows and helps uncover bigger purposes and creating semblance. Upon reflection the puzzle pieces fit. I recognize that big events contribute to life, but we cannot live our lives to build our resumes, or to just focus on buying stuff or getting to a certain level. We cannot let our milestones overshadow the moments that come between them. Each life stage, like my wedding, brings about its continued losses as we carry on without her. In one moment, I am moving my way through life on a mission, with my family, to work on our non-profit activities. The next and usually in private, wanting to cry over the sheer loss of why she is no longer with us. I have learned though, that I am and will always be an older sister. And I have learned that I like it that way. My sister is a part of who I am to the core of my being and I will never get away from that. She was an integral part of my development; years that are known to significantly shape me for a lifetime. As I carry on, I feel that she is continuing to influence and walk along side of me. I can find comfort in that. I remind myself of it fondly. Grief is a new way of looking at life. It opens the door of understanding to the preciousness of humanity. It has caused me to look closer at the everyday miracles that are often taken for granted. I attended my first funeral at the age of five and worked on smaller scale community projects, I never thought those events or projects would lead me to the path I am on today. I will say that everyone is interconnected and that you do not need to experience the same kind of loss to feel empathy for another human. This is the beauty of humanity, but I feel that people forget to show up for one another, when it is time to show up. I feel it is our duty as humans, especially Kaurs to show up for a fellow human. To show support, to champion a bigger cause than ourselves. Giving without expectation to be selfless. To look at the power of love, bonds, and create good in the world. This is to me means being a Kaur. Since Maple’s passing, the people and the process I have chosen to heal with, this journey has been about handling the biggest challenge of my life. When I use my voice, advocate for her justice, honour her legacy, focus my energy on the non-profit in her name it is healing, but it also honours my sister who lived, I honour myself who lives. It makes me understand to invest time and effort into relationships, and not waste time on judgement and harshness."
“I remember coming to Canada in the early 70’s and starting my career in the banking world. I had two major barriers: being a woman and being South Asian. Growing up, my father empowered us to accomplish our goals, within reason. For me, it was banking - I felt I could help others with their banking and providing advice. Throughout my career, I have been drawn to the underdog. Helping develop people that everyone else discounts and creating opportunities where the right things can be set in motion. I believe there is potential in everyone, but our own level of passion and drive, empowers us to discover it within ourselves. I think this mentoring passion resulted from having life challenges. I recall that when I told my parents I was filing for divorce, their immediate response was, “What will people say?.” My approach was to pose them a truism of how many people have reached out to support me when I most needed it. People judge. They take solace in worrying and discussing what others are experiencing. There is finger pointing, but really the root of it is that they don’t want to deal with their own life or experiences. I have to say there is stigma associated with being a divorced South Asian woman. People look at you differently, but a person must get past that. I have learned that you cannot allow others to label you. You cannot be victimized by it. You have to examine your life and understand that a challenge occurred and get over the adversity. Take care of yourself and keep your heart whole. One must grow as a person and ensure you are being honest, transparent, and not buy into doing things because of obligation or cultural reasons. I have a no nonsense rule and people at times mistake that for being aggressive. Really though, its me being my passionate self. I say things without holding back, I speak my truth, and at times people don’t want to hear it. I believe that every experience and person has the ability to teach a lesson. What’s challenging and what most people don't want to do is take action and resolve what they need to resolve internally. My father was the softer parent, who was jovial and provided the hugs and encouragement. My mom was the one who taught us the backbone of life, like domesticity and family dynamics. She was tough, but over the years I have learned she was teaching me how to prepare for the sometimes cruel world. I find myself cherishing our relationships and the values both of them have instilled. As a single mother of two boys and two girls, I find myself being a bit harder on my girls. Being a woman in this world is challenging and like my mother, I have tried my best to install in my girls how to be prepared. My boys are softer and both the 28 and 15 year old have recently written me letters (print and digital) about how I am their hero and all the life lessons imparted upon them. In all honesty, as I read both letters, I cried, but it also put in context that being a working single mom was for a purpose, “my kids are good. I did something right.””
“My identity as a baptized Sikh woman is obvious. I feel empowered by my physical appearance in every part of my life: lawyer, camp director, wife, daughter, and mother. When I am walking into a court room or seva focused boardroom, I can easily be spotted as a Kaur. For me, my outward identity aligns with my internal values that are fundamentally rooted in Sikhi. It enables me the freedom to express myself and share with the world, what I believe. For me, it is an integral component of the fabric that ties our Sikhi community together and the freedom that this identity represents. My identity as a Kaur also gives me the courage to do what is right no matter what the situation. For me this works. Within my family, I have always been endearingly called “Munda” because I’ve had the courage to assume roles traditionally taken by a men. For example, as Camp Director, other male Camp Directors are always surprised it is not my husband who is leading the camp. They look puzzled as to how a woman, a lawyer, and mother of three kids could be leading operations. I learned this courageous outlook on life from my mother. At the age of 37, she became a widow and went from homemaker to breadwinner. Now in her sixties, my mom still has a courageous approach to life. She is still independent and living her life, her way. I am following in her footsteps and living my life breaking gender barriers where I find them. My husband also is my backbone, he supports me in my seva at Khalsa Centre and he takes on all my clients while I am at the camp. He is my biggest cheerleader and without his support and that of my family, I would not be the "Khalsa Queen".
"My depression and anxiety started some time before I was married. The root was not having the skills or tools to deal with life. I think this originated from being raised with strong cultural beliefs and programming. Not having the life skills to deal with situations on an emotional level, I manifested symptoms, which lead to my root cause of depression. I believed I was worthy of having a voice and being fearful of rejection. For me working internally has uncovered my pattern of stuffing my feelings. I never knew how to feel my emotions and once I learned this I was able to make more empowering choices that were more in alignment with what I wanted in life. The interesting thing about depression and anxiety is that no one knows what turmoil you are enduing because physical symptoms are not so obvious. So the inclination is to assume that you are fine, but really you are not. My relationships were in turmoil and I had no boundaries when dealing with people. It wasn't until about eight years ago with counselling and other tools that I discovered my voice, created boundaries and started the journey of loving myself. I realized that healing is possible. I needed to be awakened to it and access spiritual and emotional tools to help me cope. When you know better, you do better. In my opinion, everyone is spiritual on some capacity. We are all connected to one another via a higher power. What inhibits us is being lost in our ego and the external world. Life is a journey. Having goals are important, but being present and enjoying life in the moment is more important. Its important to connect to oneself, daily. Meaning connecting to universal laws of abundance and love. Through my journey, I was able to connect the dots and understand why things were happening. I finally know and understand the concept that everything is within ourselves."
"Being born as a third daughter in India is where my story began. On my birth, my mother was told, “It’s a girl” and those words as she describes were not easy. Despite being educated, she wasn’t able to exercise freedom and express her emotions. As a woman, she faced tremendous societal pressure and was expected to birth a son. She had a hard time accepting the reality and was shocked. Around the third day, her brother told her “look at your girl, she looks like a princess.” I believe this laid the groundwork for me. My uncle had described me as a little princess, but my journey of finding the real identity of a Kaur (princess) for myself was a long road. Limitations were imposed on my mom, but she has always been a fighter. Her life challenges and resilience have had a profound effect on me. She is incredibly strong, well educated, and taught me the importance of being introspective on a daily basis through daily prayers and ensuring my fundamental values are aligned. She taught me my rights and responsibility. As a teacher, she knew that educating her daughters was the only way to beat society’s ignorance. I have been fortunate to have many spiritual influences in my life. I grew up in a household where Gurbani was read, taught and explained. My Nani Ji started the practice of reading Sakhis as bedtime stories while my Taia Ji (uncle) taught me the beauty of kirtan. I am blessed to be married into a family with similar values and continued learning the importance of meditation and presence from my father-in-law, who steers our entire family in this direction. My relationship with God is very simple, it is having my values aligned with my faith. Following the principles of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, I believe in earning an honest income, sharing with others and meditating. Being religious for me is a journey from the inside out and I am still a seeker, still on a path of learning. I believe that we all have a unique purpose in life, which we must find and contribute to this world in whatever capacity possible. Along with completing Nitnem on a daily basis, taking time to withdraw from life to meditate and looking inwards, provides me energy, to be a better person. I have experienced discrimination for being a girl as long as I can remember. Proving to the world that girls are no less than boys has been a constant struggle. I have discovered our Guru Sahib had given us sacred gift of equality and have acted on this blessing in different capacities. I, like my mom, am focused on educating as many women and girls as possible. Through the organization, Global Girl Power, I help to empower girls and women to become better citizens and emotionally stronger by providing opportunities for confidence and leadership. For me Kaur is a courageous warrior. It’s about living a life of spirituality, values and ethics of tradition such practicing compassion, humility, integrity, and service. Learning that I am a Kaur was a pivotal point in my life and I wish instead of “It’s a girl” my mother was told “It’s a Kaur.”"
"My nanaji and mom have been my bigger influencers. It is because of them and how they conveyed the underpinnings of Sikhi that I am a believer. Conversations have always been informal in structure. I recall my nanaji sharing stories about his life, struggles, lessons, and how aspects of Sikhi have helped him during his toughest and most rewarding times. Even now, he gently reminds me to not forget where I come from, to always be connected to the past, to our roots, and to our family. From my mom, there has been the lesson to give back. This has become so ingrained in our family that I do it naturally, without thinking. Our family ensures we connect to our religion and visit the gurduwara during good times and bad times. I have my own practices of Sikhi. I wake up, have a shower, do my mool mantaar, and drink Amrit every morning. Every night I pray. I share this, because for me, this practice connects me to what’s important in life, provides me with the strength to deal with the day, grounds me, and helps me remember exactly who I am. It is humbling. I feel there will be some raised eyebrows that I made those personal practice statements. Within our religion there are perceptions of what Sikhs should look like, how we should practice, and so forth. However, to me Sikhi is about people from different places and a common religion keeps us humbly connected. I don’t think there should be a right and wrong of how one should look or what one does. Truthfully it is really between you and god and not between you and people. A person is free to make their own choices and look a certain way. In my books, as long as one has true intentions, prays with purity, and practices what they believe in with love then what else could we ask for? For me, this is what gets me through the trials and tribulations of life and helps me navigate my identity, which is multifaceted. My hope for my generation, especially my peer Kaurs, is to remember to be true to ourselves and not forget where we come from. We shouldn’t forget our roots. How can we do this? Conversations and discussions. With our parents, our extended families, and our community. There is an assumption that these conversations are happening, but they are not. Older generations at times think these values will naturally become ingrained. I believe having these conversation will be a stepping stone."
"I questioned my identity for many years. Other than in legal documents, I didn’t identify as a Kaur. I always wondered and questioned why it was there. I found there to be a paradox between my baptized grandparents, non-baptized parents, and a religion I was supposed to follow. No one took the time to explain it and I didn’t have the opportunity to dig deeper. I had what so many of us have… first generation syndrome, where we are unsure of where we fit in exactly. I always had a feeling of being an inner queen, but never really had the permission to let it out. I have a memory of being in India when I was four years old, holding my great great grandfather’s hand. He was a magnificent man, tall and dressed impeccably in his blue dastar, who was astonished that even at 4 years old, my mannerisms and speech were like a wise old woman. He would tell me my name should be Narayni, like an old woman and in response I would say no no, I am a maharani.” When my nana ji passed away five years ago, it jolted me to explore spirituality to confront my grief and my identity struggle. There was nowhere to turn, but inwards. I was at Amritsar and felt like I was embraced by something divine and untouchable, I was finally welcomed home. This was the kickstarter to understanding it is a privilege to be connected to this religion, which to me is really a way of life. It was then that I began to separate from the dogma about Sikhism and really explored the juice, depth, of the wisdom which is simply love. To me, being a Kaur is being purposeful. Using life to uplift people and the world. As time goes forward, a Kaur takes others with her. There is strength, grace and wisdom associated with being a Kaur, but there is also humility. Rather than wasting life and focusing on the dogma of the religion, being connected to the heart. I believe our main question should be, “are we being purposeful?” Up until these realizations, I never really felt like I fit in. This project has given me the opportunity to embrace that I too am a Kaur and that I don’t have to look a certain way to be accepted. We should be proud of who we are, connect, and embrace the queenship that we are bestowed."
"Kaur resonates with me as being a Queen, not the standard translation of Princess. The concept of Queen implies being Queen of one’s own kingdom and being divinely feminine. Kingdom meaning creating your own life, career, family, or creative pursuits; essentially, showing up in the world and having a purpose. In turn, using one’s own purpose to impact the world. Accepting people for who they are, for what they believe, without creating labels. Connecting with people on a soul level and viewing everything and everyone with a love. While I am more spiritual than religious, I believe there is some being that governs over everything else. My dad is very religious. He has an expansive knowledge base of the stories and saakhis central to Sikhi. Over the years, he has shared and guided our family with these kernels of wisdom because it is these stories that guide him through life’s journey. My mom, on the other hand is religious in her own way. Her guiding force is simply being a good human. She practices this faithfully and without labels. During my own life’s personal tragedy of my brother’s sudden passing, I felt that aligning myself with the Sikh values instilled by my parents allowed me to connect to my emotions, provided peace of mind, calmness, and eased the chaos that I felt surrounded my life. I felt there was a guidance from a higher level and it helped me understand and create semblance about why things had happened. This guidance and the values I drew, helped me to pick up the pieces in my life, step into my purpose, and enabled me to clarify what I was intended to accomplish. "
"I was born with the name Kaur and it was inherently part of my life. My biggest role model was my mom. She has always been a balanced and very motivated woman. I remember when I was 10 or 11 years old, my father was experiencing professional challenges in his business. My mother stood side by side with my father and helped rebuild and expand things, this was especially motivating since during that time women rarely helped run a business. She exemplified that any woman could do anything if she was strong in values and discipline. That was the fundamentals of life in our home. There was no discrimination between boys and girls in my family. My mother taught me that part of Sikhi was to work hard and lead a simple life, without focusing on gender. Simple meant living life truthfully, letting actions speak for themselves, not doing things that have the ability to hurt other people, instead help others and be focused on seva. While doing prayers was important it was never timed or scheduled, it was just added to life on a daily basis. More than having to fulfill a quota, there was a practice of gratefulness and thankfulness every moment, regardless of whether it was a good and bad moment. As a child, I didn’t have goals or dreams. Girls really didn’t have that focus in India at the time. However, my mom had the dream that her children, including me, should be strong enough to do anything and be prepared for life’s challenges that had fundamentals stemming from Sikhi. In turn, these are the same fundamentals I have tried to instill in my sons, by living simply and doing things with good intentions, being positive and helping others as much as possible. When my husband, Harpreet and I, moved to Canada with our sons, our Sikhi values became even more prevalent than they were in India. Being in a new country, provided us opportunity to have new experiences and challenges. Our ability to live simply (truthfully, letting actions speak for themselves, not hurting others, and focusing on gratitude and seva) was even more important. Being a Sikh woman and upholding fundamental values is part and parcel of being a professional. The values formalized in my personal life and as a Sikh woman have laid the foundation in interactions with clients. I use these same values on a daily basis in my professional realm. "
"There are many gaps between what I believe a Kaur embodies and what actually exists. Recently I've met other Kaurs who have helped me along my journey, offered a helping hand when I needed it. In turn, I have had the opportunity to empower other Kaurs in my own way. I think we aren't taught how to be confident. We shrink ourselves. I believe helping one another needs to be more commonplace. I’m on a journey towards self-discovery, which inevitably is also a journey towards fearless expression. I have a Masters in Chemistry, but have hit the pause button on working in that field and allowed my passion for makeup become a recent profession. My ten years of post-secondary education was rigorous, competitive, and structured. I think my education will always be there. Hobbies are something to follow up with and appreciate. I am learning how to be open to possibilities. Be more freeing and creative. Allowing myself room to breathe. I can’t say that I am unequivocally a religious person. I am more so spiritual. My educational background has instilled an analysis of everything, including the concept of religion. What I do believe is that there is one universal energy, one being…or something that ties everything together. Embraces everything and everyone. What it actually is, I am not so sure. I do know that it is that something that I fall back on when I lose my way. I believe a lot of our roots to Sikhism are lost. There is a façade of what it all means. Things that should and should not be done, essentially the politics of Sikhism. I don’t think it is the structure that makes one a Kaur or Singh for that matter. It is about being a good human. How to behave in society with integrity, to be helpful, and to be honest. These values, which were instilled by my parents and so many more are integral to Sikhism, but they are also integral to people outside of the Sikh religion. That makes me ponder that so much of what Sikhism encompasses (simple fundamental values), extends to so many without them even knowing. For me that is pretty profound…"
"I was always darker skinned and smaller than everyone else and have been judged because of this in my life. I felt undermined growing up and noticed how undermined girls are in general. That led me to discover that leadership qualities don’t mean being the loudest in the room. It’s really about helping others and making a difference, even in the smallest way with another person. I noticed as I volunteered and gave back…I attained a sense of contentment. I noticed a shift in me, I felt more confident and it provided me a sense of accomplishment. Leaders don’t include being loud and obnoxious. The fundamentals are about really helping others, sacrificing and devotion of others. My goal is to bridge the disparity between pioneering warrior Kaurs and the modern Kaur. I want to broadcast those attributes of grace, valour, morality and zest in a society where female oppression still exists. Be well-educated, well-read and open-minded. I may not be holding a bhagauti like my descendants, but my weapon of attack is healthcare. I encourage every young girl to find her own niche and pursue it with utmost devotion. Support one another! Be bold, industrious, altruistic, but most importantly be respectful and humble. A Kaur nurses those in need, but doesn't falter from voicing her ideals, even though she's bound to raise a few eyebrows along the way. It's not a mere name, an article of clothing, memorizing the lyrics of a patriotic song or the khanda hanging from the mirror of your car - it's a mindset of merit that you personalize and embody in order to breathe life into the legacies of noble Sikhs. It's the notion of walking shoulder-to-shoulder with men towards a united and dignified goal."
"My family’s educational pursuits have always been very science focused. It was a big step to go against this tradition, but because of my passion about social work, they encouraged me to follow my dream and go for it. Without a doubt, it is the concept of egalitarianism that led me to major in social work. I feel this concept parallels with being a Kaur and Sikhism. My interest on the parallels and scope of being a Kaur didn’t really happen until I was pursuing my social work education. I was able to deconstruct religion in different environments (school and practicums), where I could be away from the structure of religious obligations or judgement. In social work, we work with the most vulnerable people in society. There are no judgements just an endeavour to help people who have many barriers to success. We help people, usually ones who are invisible within society, realize they matter and ensure we humanize their experiences and suffering. It has made me profoundly aware that not everyone is granted the same opportunities and helping those in need is crucial. Social work encourages working in a person’s best interest by working with them and in their favour. Inclusiveness is central, meaning that you look past differences and still provide your support. I find it so interesting that I am leaning towards religious concepts and find the thread of Sikhism in my everyday life. Growing up, my parents allowed myself and my siblings the space to find our way with religion, nothing was imposed on us. In them doing that, I find that a lot of what I don’t like about religion actually stems from culture and society. For me, it is important to understand that culture and religion are not the same. Social constructs that have seeped into the concept of religion and women’s identity. In Sikhism, I like that both men and women are encouraged to do seva without distinction of gender. Overall, as people, we need to take a step back and see how we as individuals are impacting the world. We need to be more benevolent. We need to not be concerned about appearing to be religious, rather we just need to live by simple fundamental values."
“Growing up my parents didn’t categorize me as a girl. Meaning there was no preconceived notions that I was a lesser person because I wasn’t a boy. I was raised as a human. No hierarchy. No cataloguing. As a result, I have been opinionated throughout my life. I showed up and was encouraged to lead my life. My dad is more reserved and my silent cheerleader… he shyly smiles when I tell him about things in my life and things I am interested. My mom is always my number one supporter, she champions whatever I am doing. My mom was brought up with a strong religious background and it is what she relies on a day to day basis, but also during life’s challenges. It’s the beliefs and ideologies that keep her going. I remember times when my mom and I would recite religious verses that helped to provide solace and something to believe in when one feels lost. It was also a time I cherish because I found it relaxing and enjoyed spending time with her. As a Kaur I feel people in our community get blind sided with culture and those constructs get wrongfully fused with religion. I think it was because of my parents and other extended family member like my Nanaji and aunts and uncles that laid a religious foundation for me. It wasn’t until I was in the later years of elementary school that this curiosity formalized. At the time, students were wearing Sikh inspired t-shirts, which were later banned by the principal, but their pride in their apparel was something I was drawn to…but I didn't understand the context of the messaging. However, it probed me to research and ask questions of my Nanaji about Sikhism’s history. I discovered the religion gives women their rightful place of respect, honour and equality in the community. I found the ideas being framed to be very open, mellow and welcoming. I was drawn to the morals that teach you as well. I was curious about the past and looked further into Sikh women in history. I found that there weren’t any differences in the clothing female and men warriors wore, everything was equal. This is something that I found inspiring. It lead me to ask more questions and learn more. Perhaps that is the student in me.”
"My passion for creating art strengthened when I studied abroad at Oxford for my Masters and PhD. This was the time I delved into my own identity, where through my art I was able to define who I was – as a Kaur. Art was a way that provided me solace and strength to imagine my identity as myself, as a female artist. I am a self-taught artist. Even though I have been an Educator all these years, I always found time to draw and paint. After oils, I tried water colors and then portraits. This became my passion. When my children were young and at home there was not much time but I used any free time like my lunchtime to do some art. I started with portraits of the spiritual masters (Bhai Sahib Bhai Vir Singh and Professor Puran Singh). I was in love with their teachings and guidance and felt close to them as I drew them. As my readings grew to include other such great souls - like Bauji Jaswant Singh, Friedriche Nietzche, Soren Kierkegaard, I continued to draw. One time after attending a spiritual retreat I felt deeply moved by the intensity and the beauty of a picture of a hummingbird drawing nectar from a flower. As I immersed myself into it I just picked up a pen and started writing "Waheguru" - the mantra mentioned in all my art. This was because I felt His Divine Presence in the bird and the surroundings and this was the only way I could depict it on paper. I let my heart rule and let it take me wherever it wanted to. I later filled in the whole page with the mantra and it looked beautiful to me. As we release judgment, silence our mind, breathe deep into the process, and find bliss in each step; we realize that we are boundlessly assisted in our authentic and heart-centered expression. We step out of the way. We realize that the Art is not born of us, but through us, and in this understanding we are humbled, yet profoundly empowered. I believe that it is our divine duty to create and share inspiration. In the creative process I find stillness and rhythm, my teacher and passion. With intention, I aim to share and to celebrate this fantastic adventure; to inspire and be inspired. Each image takes me on a journey as I follow the brush strokes; each time I am lead back to my centre. My hope is that my paintings be a mirror, a reflection of your universal light, your human essence, and your timeless divinity."
"Stand as one, represent thousands.” Power of one can never be undervalued and that is my motto as an educator. Each student is capable and unique as an individual and understanding who is in your classroom and how they feel is a great way to approach your students. A culture of care goes a long way. I have a bigger purpose for creating a safe environment for young men and women to connect to their roots, instil a sense of curiosity, which builds self-esteem, confidence and citizenship. My teaching practice is always focused on trying to shine a light on my students’ backgrounds and drawing on it as a strength. The projects I assign in class open up a channel for building a sense of empathy and community within the classroom. To me, education of the heart is just as important as education of the mind. At all times, I try to role model values like compassion, humility, equality, tolerance and selfless service to others. As a Kaur, I am deeply connected to my spiritual self and believe that we are all humans on a Spiritual Journey. The self- respect, integrity, humility, boldness and courage to be myself are some of the traits I inherited as a Kaur. Standing for the truth and defending the weaker is also something that I strongly believe in. I draw my strength from the recitation of Gurbani and from the teachings imparted by the Gurus. I feel that Kaur is actually a way of living. Hence humility, compassion and service are important components of my classroom. Students learn more from what you are than what you say. Building relationships and a sense of community is very important to me. As an educator in a leadership role as a department head, I have made it my goal to encourage students to learn any and all languages. What I say by languages however is not simply the alphabet, or the grammar, but also the culture, and the heritage a language represents. One must always be proud of one’s heritage while also maintaining a dedication to diversity and the open-mindedness to learn about another’s culture. We can never be equal and well respected ourselves without offering the very same to those different from us. When a student takes my class, they take away this message, the language they learn represents the deeper beliefs in empathy and diversity.”