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NRI Sikhs and Turban

Will PM change his blue turban?
Think why Manmohan would have a turban from NRI Bicky Singh

HOSHIARPUR, March 25, 2005

Next time you spot the Prime Minister sporting a bright, colourful turban in place of his trademark blue, don't start speculating about any change in his taste. Its roots are simple: a gift from a fellow Sikh on the other side of the Pacific.

Meet Sikh NRI Bicky Singh, commissioner on California 1-Commission of Lt Governor of California, who has a passion for collecting and wearing bright-coloured and patterned turbans.

You may think why Manmohan would have a turban from Bicky when enough of them are available at Ghaffar Market? Well, Bicky has a collection that will turn many a shopkeepers green - more than 500 of them, all designed differently by him or his people at the IT Company he founded. And to stock them, the "Sardar" has a 10 feet by 6 feet extra shelf in his walk-in closet.

Talking to this correspondent from California, Bicky said he had met Manmohan Singh at his residence and found the Prime Minister staring at his turban. "I told the Prime minister that I shall get him a bright coloured turban next time I visited India," he recalled

"I developed a fascination for turbans when I was studying in Southern California where I was the only turbaned guy," said Bicky. "Wearing bright coloured turbans was the easiest way to break the ice as people would come and ask about the turban. It gave me an opportunity to talk about my faith and spread the message of Sikhism," he added.

"My people design turbans using graphics and I order the design via e-mail to India, though I buy my turbans from Malaysia and the US at times." Post 9/11, Bicky designed a turban with an American flag and he also has a turban for Halloween and St. Patrick's Day. In fact, he chooses his turbans by the mood he finds himself in.

Lt governor California Cruz M Bustamante, through an e-quote, said the unique thing about Bicky's turbans was that they were representative of the many colours and diversity of California state. With Bicky's collection also including bright colours and designs of Rajasthan and other Indian states, the world is one large family as far as the Sardar is concerned.

Bicky Singh, 39, of Orange, is president and chairman of the board of trustees for the Sikh Center. He also mentions the benefits of prayer. "It brings everyone together and lets everyone think about some positive things," he says. "It is the rightful thinking" that is needed in society today.

Singh cite several projects the center supports, including providing food for the homeless. "By this we are achieving two things. First of all we are fulfilling our commitment to our guru of serving the needy. Secondly, it is increasing our visibility in the society.

  • We need to make ourselves more visible. ... The problem that Sikhs are facing right now in America is the problem of identity crisis. We have been guilty by association.

  • We need people to understand that everybody who wears a turban is not a bad person. If you look at the facts, 99 percent of the people wearing turbans in the United States are Sikhs. No Muslim in his right sense would wear a turban in the United States. They have the option of taking it off. We (Sikhs), have no option. For us, it's part of our attire. We have to have it. There's no way we can take it off," says Chadha as he stresses the need to educate the public about Sikh beliefs.
  • Baptized Sikhs must observe the "Five Ks," the five emblems of their religion. They are: Kesh -maintaining uncut clean hair; Kungha - carry a comb to keep hair tidy; Kasha -- wear an undergarment for presonal hygiene; Kara -- wear an iron bracelet that is symbolic of one's connection with God; and Kirpan - carry a symbolic sword as a sign to uphold righteousness.
  • Singh adds that another of the Sikh traditions is to pray for everyone -- regardless of religion, race, nationality or any other classification.

    As other activities at the center are ending for the night, we continue to talk, jumping from topic to topic as I try to absorb as much information as possible.