My Experience as a Sikh Woman

I am writing my thoughts as they are coming out, so you may feel, I am all over the place. But isn’t that our life?...

SikhWoman-Hdr (50K)

My Experience as a Sikh Woman

September 17, 2014: Disclaimer: I am no one to teach anyone. I am just expressing myself and voicing my thought process. That being said, enjoy and write back to me about your thoughts!

Dear sisters and brothers,

Born and raised in India, I come from what I feel, is a regular Sikh family. Since when I can remember, every morning before going to school, my dad had us sit with him and do Nitnem of 5 baanis. I was taught that doing path meant that Vaheguruji blessed me with amazing things like dresses, toys, and chocolates and thus, I religiously did the morning prayers with my dad. Lest I knew, he was preparing me for later days; his lessons would ultimately help me lead my life.

After completing my undergrad in India, I moved to the US for graduate school, where I completed my Ph.D in the field of Bioengineering. When I moved to the US, I realized no one knew I was a Sikh girl; I was just a normal “brown colored Indian girl” and people usually thought I was Hindu. There’s nothing wrong with that, however, I identify myself as a Sikh and wanted to be known as a Sikh. Generally speaking, Sikh girls usually don’t wear turbans like our fellow Sikh men. Personally, I feel there is no identity of a Sikh woman. If I am walking in crowd, I do not stand out as a Sikh woman, on the other hand my fellow Sikh brothers standout for their bright colored turbans and fearlessly flowing beards. I was undergoing sort of identity crisis. I wondered, “What can identify me as a Sikh?” The answer to my question was “Tie a turban”. However, me being a coward, I decided I would start covering my head with bandana at first. Then eventually to be more “feminine” I started to use printed scarves to match my dresses and blouses. It gave me some of comfort. For example, when I put my scarf on head and pin it, it takes me through the mental process of understanding the importance of covering my head. It constantly reminds me of the promise I make everyday to be humble, truthful, loving, caring, helping, working hard to make a difference in the world……. all the principles which my Guru teaches me through his amazing baani.

I am writing my thoughts as they are coming out, so you may feel, I am all over the place. But isn’t that our life? One moment I am thinking about my school or my homework and next, I am thinking about last time I did kirtan. Then I’m thinking, “I would love to learn a new dance form!” or “What I am gonna make for dinner?” and then to contemplating on Gurbani. My thoughts are all over the place.

Anyhow, my other experience I would love to share is, my experiences at Camp Gian in 2012 and 2013: a week of amazing fun and learning (about my Guru). I would say my perspective of Sikhi is continuously evolving after being at Camp Gian. First time in 2012, I was just another camper sitting in classes and discussions to broaden my perspective. When I say broadening my perspective, I mean at first being a Sikh for me meant I was doing my Nitnem, reading gurbani regularly from the Guru Granth Sahib, learning kirtan, going to gurudwara and do seva. And many will say, “Yes, that’s what being a Sikh is.” However, now I believe, if I do my Nitnem regularly, but don’t even trying to understand what my Guru is telling me through the Bani, there isn’t really a point of blindly doing my Nitnem. I have learned that all my actions in this life form need to have some meaning and usefulness to me or my community or the world. So, now when I am doing Nitnem, if I could only understand the meaning of one phrase or line, I think “I did okay for that activity”. But one day if I forget to understand, it doesn’t mean I should stop doing my Nitnem, it just means I’ll try to do better tomorrow.

Another aspect I am trying to incorporate in my life is to being humble. Now it’s very easy for me to say, that I am trying to be humble, but I can’t do this is one day. Being humble means I have no ego (that’s my definition or path of being humble=no ego). I am still in process, I am constantly learning from my family, friends and environment. For instance, this act of writing a letter to the readers of Kaur Life, is way of contemplating and showcasing my shortcomings (based on my point of view). I will continue to try and work on my self, so I could be just 1% of what my Guru is. I could continue to write and write…..but I think its already been too much about me.

Kindly provide me with your feedback, so I can continue to learn (SIKH).


Harbani Kaur

HarbaniKr (35K)

The above photo is by “About Face Imagery”.

Kaur Life

It is infused with gurmat and tailored for young Kaurs (Sikh women). Kaur Life hopes to be a space where Kaurs can express their ideas, share stories, and learn more about their Sikh culture to empower themselves.

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