DevoutLiberal (14K)

Monday, October 12, 2015: I moved to LA right after high school. New city, new place, totally on my own. I was very excited. I think we can all agree on me being a rather different sort of person from all I've written. So being a freshmen in an Art college in LA of all places, and not doing a single crazy college student thing expected by the norm; while simultaneously living in a manner that appeared crazy to everyone else in college, I spent the first few months answering a whole lot of questions about my way of life. After all it not everyday you meet a college student in LA who doesn't even think of experimenting with any kind of drugs, won't go to college parties or clubs, spend all the money on eating out first week and resort to eating ramen ten times a week for rest of the quarter.

But besides all the oddities in things I didn't do, what was more curious was things I did do. Not that LA doesn't have a big Sikh community, yet I was the first Sikh in my college. That alone was source of a lot of questions. Honestly, my name alone has lead to half an hour long conversations. I did Nitnem without disturbing anyone and in such peace it took weeks for my roommates to realize I actually did Nitnem and wouldn't let them call it praying because it isn't that, thus had to explain why not. Why I had long unshorn hair or why didn't I shave my arms or legs. Why I always had my Kirpan (and the lengths I had to, and still have to go to; to insure it's not called a knife). How did I know how to cook so well and things other than Indian food. And explaining how there is no such thing as just Indian food because of a dozen very different cuisines within India and trying to decipher what exactly is meant by curry in America.

GT (63K)

And I also had to deal with the jokes made about someone mixing alcohol in my drink or cutting my hair while I was sleeping and such stupidity. Now although by that time a few things about me had become very known, the major one was I am a very nice person. So far no one had once seen me mad, annoyed, or be rude to anyone. Oh and the countless times my behaviour and love for nature, and unceremonious humming and writing poetry or stopping to catch a butterfly or talking to any critter mid walk, and walking everywhere had caused the comparison with Pocahontas, still amazes me. It'd happened so frequently for the first year that my brain developed an automatic light hearted response of "That's the wrong kind of Indian, you know." Having an image of being that sort of a person, my response to those jokes of mixing a bit of alcohol or cutting a bit of my hair, shocked everyone to say the least.

What was my response? Simply that they shouldn't dare try any such manoeuvres with me , because besides the fact that it would be very hard to do and hurt me very deeply, emotionally speaking; even by some chance were they to succeed - it'd be way worse for them. My automatic response to someone trying to cut my hair while I was asleep would be fatal to them because without hesitation or thought first thing I would do is wield my Kirpan and secondly actually sue them. And I am very sensitive to smell and very aware of things that are of import to me. So all that they would get out of trying to mix my drink is a law suit against them. Now that significantly put those very short lived joke to rest once and for all. But it did make them think I was being too severe and couldn't take a joke. To that my response was, someone's belief, faith and identity is not a joking matter. You wouldn't joke about roofy-ing someone or raping them when they're passed out, would you? Or do you think that's funny too, because this is no different. An assault is assault, no matter what form you do it in. So excuse me for not thinking of it as a light laughing matter.

Now that created this question among everyone of am I devout or liberal because I seem both. I had made some good friends by this time, who became some of my very close friends and even best friends, whom I hang out with even now. They, knowing me a bit better then others actually asked me that question in their own words. To which my answer was, I seem both because I am both. Sikhi inherently is incredibly liberal. There isn't a single thing about Sikhi that doesn't have a deep rooted philosophy and every act of Sikhi is directed by it. You will find me talking about religion very often but never so much because I ever preach but because someone asked me a question and I merely answered.

In my life, the amount of very close friends who are Sikh is very low when compared to amount of very close friends who aren't. My friend circle is full of all sorts of people from various cultures, with various beliefs, from various parts of the world with different backgrounds. And we all get along famously. And all these friends have a very good understanding of how Sikhi shapes me, is an integrate part of my life, and how it has a very deep relation to how liberal a person I am.

We've all got this preconceived notion of what a religious person must be like, that we can't see people for who they are. Which is pretty much the same with any label we put on a person. We are all humans, beyond that every person has their own beliefs that shape them and make them who they are. Learn to see them as that before you label them anything. It'll make the world a better place to live. Because every time you put a label on someone else, remember you are being labelled too.

Rakind Kaur

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