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The Singh Nod

Happy Monday!

Sikhs vs. Sheiks

Needless to say, it’s been a tough week.  I have been grateful for all the thoughtful writing my Sikh brothers and sisters have been putting out through the mainstream and independent media and all the important conversations that have been happening here at TLH and beyond.

That being said, sometimes it’s nice to take a few minutes away from the intense discussion and laugh a little.  As Naunihal Singh noted in his recent (fantastic) column in the New Yorker, neither John Stewart nor Steven Colbert have made any mention of Oak Creek at all since the tragedy.  Fortunately, there is a new, edgy late night talk show on FX called Totally Biased, hosted by comedian W. Kamau Bell and produced by Chris Rock, that did go there.  And in a respectful way.  No surprise, given that fellow desi Brooklynite Hari Kondabolu (who has a master’s degree in human rights from the London School of Economics) is a writer for the show.  In this clip, Bell exposes the absurdity of some of the discussions in the mass media (and by politicians) about Oak Creek and the Sikh community.   Hope you enjoy it.  And I look forward to what Totally Biased has in store moving forward.  (Also check out this clip from the same show about the NYPD’s stop & frisk policy).

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Sikhs in the City

Sikh comedians like Jus Reign have been gaining popularity through YouTube and social media sites for the last several years.  I love being at gatherings of extended family when my little cousins show me the latest viral video, which often is hilarious.  Even when it’s not, I find myself wondering what it would have been like to grow up as a Sikh in the diaspora in times like these.  While we are still by and large not represented at all in the mainstream media, young Sikhs now create our own media, and many do so with much success.  Sometimes the videos are brilliant, and perhaps sometimes they get hits simply because Sikhs in the diaspora, especially young Sikhs, are thirsty for the latest quirky, bizarre, or silly video put out by other Sikhs.

To end this hot and humid summer week in NYC, I thought I’d share this video that has been circulating lately, a trailer for what appears to be a series called “Sikhs in the City,” brought to us by Laughistan.  There are some familiar faces in there including Sikh Coalition co-founder Amardeep Singh.  I’m eager to see what their series will bring us in the future. Enjoy!

Sikh Beard Swag

According to Urban Dictionary (is there another source?), “The single most manly, and great thing a man can do [is grow a beard]. To have a beard is to be a true man. If you have a beard, show it off proudly, and enjoy the satisfaction of the envy in the eyes of people around you who don’t have beards. If you don’t have a beard, grow one.”

Well, that’s that.  What could be a better way to start the weekend than a montage of beautiful beards and the rhymes of Jose Gonzalez?

“My Headcovering is Downright Sikh” – Sikhtoons debut book released

As mentioned last month, New York City-based Vishavjit Singh released his first “Sikhtoons” book this Spring.   Entitled My Headcovering is Downright Sikh: An Illustrated Intro to Turbans, the book “uses a collection of cartoons from to create a visual narrative to dispel the mysteries of the Sikh turban.  Featuring Fauja Singh, Waris Ahluwalia and many other Sikhs from all walks of life this visual journey is a turbanful introduction to Sikhs.”

The book features 30 cartoons and can be ordered online in the US, Canada, and UK for $10.

Though I have not seen the book myself yet, it has the endorsement of Sikh scholar IJ Singh, who states:

Vishavjit Singh’s topic is serious, his touch light, but not comedic. The sense of the absurd is critically important to the cartoonist. That, too, will emerge, I am sure, for I see their seeds in his work. I believe that the lightest matters deserve a serious undertone and the most heavyweight issues need some levity, even comedic treatment sometimes, lest the burden becomes too heavy to carry.

Congratulations to Vishavjit on this accomplishment.  As misconceptions and stereotypes about Sikhs continue to persist in the mainstream media and general public, I hope Vishavjit’s creative cartoon interventions reach a much wider audience through this book.

Sikhtoons book to be released

Happy 100th Birthday Fauja Singh!

New York City-based Vishavjit Singh, the creator of Sikhtoons, is releasing his very first Sikhtoons illustrated book next weekend at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Festival in NYC.  We’ve blogged about Vishavjit and Sikhtoons many times before, and are glad to see Sikhtoons going to the next level in book format.

According to Vishavjit, “The book focuses on dispelling the mysteries of the Sikh dastaar…target[ing] young and old, Sikh and Non-Sikh.  The book features Fauja Singh, Hip Hop Singhs, Waris Ahluwalia and much more.”

Sikhtoons has long been a creative and light-hearted medium to tackle important issues for our community from 1984 to Hindutva, bullying in schools to contemporary Punjab politics.  The details on the release event are below, and you can buy tickets in advance here and RSVP on Facebook here.  Hopefully the book will be available to order online in the future.  We’ll keep you posted.

Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Festival
MoCCA Fest 2011!
Saturday April 9th and Sunday April 10th 11am-6pm
At the Lexington Avenue Armory
68 Lexington Ave (Between 25th &26th Streets)
New York, NY 10010


A Scary Halloween

I always get nervous in October because, although I love Halloween and all the imagination and candy involved in its celebration, it scares me a little bit. But not because of all too realistic vampire costumes or haunted houses.

illegalalien.jpgThis is what really scares me:

Every year, at least one person comments on my supposed “costume” when I’m not dressed up. Is wearing a turban in New York City still so foreign to people that it looks like a Halloween costume? Or does the holiday gives people an extra excuse to flaunt their racism? Two years ago, I was at a party (not dressed up) the week before Halloween, and a guy came up to me and asked me where my flying carpet was. For real. One of the first times I remember this sort of thing happening was an October afternoon when I was 13 or 14, hanging out at the mall in the suburbs of Phoenix, AZ with a good (Sikh) friend. An adult stranger said to us, laughing, “Nice condom head costumes guys!”

Now, on to the actual costumes people wear (and that stores often sell) with intention. Last year’s most notorious was the Illegal Alien costume (pictured here), sold at chains such as Toys R Us, Walgreen’s, Target, and more. After an uproar from immigrant rights groups, many stores pulled the costume off the shelves late in the season. But fear not, you can still get some laughs, as the product’s description states, this year as it is still available online and at K-Mart.


Stupid or Evil?

As the debate over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” wages on in the media with plenty of misinformation and a whole lot of fear-mongering, we finally get some worthwhile news from The Daily Show on the subject.

The Parent Company Trap


Take Our Jobs

There are two issues facing our nation–high unemployment and undocumented people in the workforce–that many Americans believe are related. Missing from the debate on both issues is an honest recognition that the food we all eat – at home, in restaurants and workplace cafeterias (including those in the Capitol) – comes to us from the labor of undocumented farm workers. [link]

yubaupdate_1130.gifTired of being blamed for stealing jobs from unemployed Americans, and hoping to spark realistic discussion of immigration reform, United Farm Workers is teaming up with Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert for a cheeky campaign called Take Our Jobs.

The union has created a website where you can sign yourself up for fieldwork. Experienced field hands will train legal residents and hook them up with the many seasonal harvest openings in California, Florida, and elsewhere.

Farm workers are tired of being blamed by politicians and anti-immigrant activists for taking work that should go to Americans and dragging down the economy, said Arturo Rodriguez, the president of the United Farm Workers of America.

So the group is encouraging the unemployed — and any Washington pundits or anti-immigrant activists who want to join them — to apply for the some of thousands of agricultural jobs being posted with state agencies as harvest season begins.

All applicants need to do is fill out an online form under the banner “I want to be a farm worker” at, and experienced field hands will train them and connect them to farms. [link]

Take Our Jobs will be featured on the Colbert Report on July 8.  Many members of the Punjabi Sikh community are farmworkers and some would even be impacted by potential policies surrounding immigration so what are your thoughts on this discussion?

Just one of those days

Sometimes you don’t have much to post.

I received a link from a friend about the new Yahoo “Anthem” Ad and apparently it is about “you” and I guess at about 10 seconds you get a brief glimpse of “us” (men and women).  Well enjoy your Thursday.

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Proud To Be Six

TLH_Six.jpgIt’s that time of year again…camp time!  Sikh youth all over the world are packing their bags and heading out to their favorite Gurmat camp to learn, reflect, and have a blast with their Sangat!   I’m very lucky to have been involved in Sikh youth camps for most of my life – as a camper, counselor, and administrator…and boy do I have a few stories to tell!  To mark this exciting time, I’d like to share a story I call “Proud To Be Six.”

I remember the first time I was ever a counselor. I was 18 years old and my first task was to lead an orientation for the youngest kids at camp. After several unsuccessful attempts to a lead a discussion, I went with what I knew…and just did a bunch of jakaray!

The kids were all riled up and having a blast! Then I yelled at the top of my lungs, “Are you proud to be Singhs & Kaurs of the Guru!” They all yelled out “Yeeeaaahhh!” “Are you proud to be Khalsas!” They all yelled out “Yeeeaaahhh!” “Are you proud to be Sikhs!” Silence…

I thought perhaps they didn’t hear me. I said, “Are you proud to be Sikhs!” Still, silence…then all the kids started looking around at each other in confusion.

Then finally, one brave little boy raised his hand and said, “VeerJi, I’m only five.” Quickly, hand after hand went up with kids saying “me too, me too…I’m only four”

After holding in my laughter and finally composing myself, I thought I would try an experiment. Although I had to cringe when I said it, I yelled out:

Are you proud to be Seeeeks! They all yelled out “Yeeeaaahhh!”

The “Garage Kitchen”


While driving home from a friend’s house one night I noticed something out of the corner of my eye as I passed the rows of darkened homes in his neighborhood.  One garage door on the block was open and the garage lights were on, but there were no cars inside.  Instead, there was an older Mata/Mai/Bibi/Bebe standing in front of a stove making roti, while a younger lady was dishing out what must have been some dal/sabzi. 

The site was kinda cool and I had to resist the urge to stop my car and take a picture to post here – for fear of looking like a creepy weirdo.  I did, however, think about it all the way home.  What made it worth thinking about for a 10-minute drive is simple:  it took me back to Punjab, where many farming families have two kitchens – one inside and one outside (where a bulk of the cooking is done). 


The Power of Toy Planes

Planes_In_Gurdwara.jpgStuck in Punjab? Want to go abroad? Just buy an airplane.

Not a real one of course, that would be silly. A toy plane will do. Buy one, donate it to a gurdwara and wait. All your vilaiti dreams will soon come true. If you think I’m pulling your leg, just ask the people at Tihan gurdwara near Jalandhar. They’ll tell you it works.

In the realm of “truth stranger than fiction”, here’s an absurd story that simultaneously highlights how desperate people are to move abroad and how fantastical they imagine living in the West to be.

Who are the smartest guys in this whole tragi-comedy? The guys who’ve set-up shop outside the gurdwara to sell, yep, toy airplanes.


Dari envy?

When I was a little girl, I remember the hostile glares my father used to get as we drove together across town. Pretty much anytime the U.S. had gotten entangled in anything remotely related to Iraq, Iran, or Afghanistan between the 1970s and 80s, you could bet your bottom dollar papa would get stopped at least four times on his 10 mile commute home by the police, who wanted to check if he was a “real American” who knew where his loyalties should lie.

If we flash forward to the 2000s, it had been a weird repetition of my early childhood to see open hostility resurface again over the course of the U.S. “War on Terror.” So imagine my surprise, when I found this holiday gift on one of my favorite timesucks, etsy (hat tip to Ennis!):


Chinese take-out and matinees

Are how I usually spend December 25th (unless, like this year, Gurpurab services fall on the same day). When I was younger, my family and I would spend the week of Christmas collecting items for donation, volunteering with the local soup kitchen, and generally reflecting on, and brainstorming, how we could help others during a sometimes lean time of year.  I like to think this tradition has morphed as I’ve grown older (into a year-long commitment to service), but something about December always makes me feel more thoughtful.

My parents also went out of their way to explain that as Sikhs we did not celebrate Christmas, but they explained the significance of the Sikh religious holidays that tend to fall around this time of year. I didn’t feel like I had to trade — presents were not really an expectation or feature of the season after I passed the age of 7. Instead we spent loooooong hours at the gurdwara for services.


“Good Gracious Me’s” Take On Christmas

Hope all of you are enjoying your holidays with family and friends! Here is a “Punjabi” take on a Christmas and one of its infamous songs from my favorite British Comedy Show …. “Goodness Gracious Me”!

Some of you may have already seen it (GGM aired long ago, but is available on DVD-sets) … hope you have a great laugh after watching it!

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The Downfall of Us All

bollywood.jpgA recent study by Heriot Watt University (UK) has published some “ground-breaking results”.  A group of psychologists that study family and personal relationships studied 40 romantic-comedy “rom-coms” [always women’s favorites] box office hits between 1995 and 2005, including You’ve Got Mail, Maid In Manhattan, The Wedding Planner and While You Were Sleeping [and I am sure many other titles that I have fortunately escaped seeing].

The studies found:

“The problem is that while most of us know that the idea of a perfect relationship is unrealistic, some of us are still more influenced by media portrayals than we realise.”

The study had 100 student volunteers watch the 2001 romantic comedy Serendipity [a “rom-com” that I did NOT have the fortune to avoid], while 100 others watched a drama [I know which group I would’ve wanted to be in].


Every Punjabi Girl

Ok, so on Friday, I write this sort of stupid post.  It isn’t meant to be taken too seriously so relax (I’m sure many won’t, but oh well).

Last year, my friend sent me this link from craigslist.  It was a ‘rant’ but in so many ways it is sooo true.

So here is my question, why is “Every Punjabi Girl’s” post-college apartment the same as “Every Girl‘s”?

List of necessary items:

  • Everything ever made from Ikea and Pier 1
  • Candles
  • Cats
  • Pictures on the Fridge
  • Papizan chair

Anything missing?  What does ‘every Punjabi Guy’s room look like?  Basketball posters, swords, what else?

Well have a great Friday as you eat left-over turkey (or tofurkey), watch football, or whatever else you do.  Do read the humorous ‘rant’ from a very ‘bitter boy’ if you get a chance.  Here’s a look at a different Punjabi girl in a different Punjabi world.

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Obama Supporters

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and celebrate what we are thankful for, rather than commemorate the manipulative actions of the Pilgrims (yes, in many ways this statement makes me feel better when I have my Thanksgiving meal)!

One of the things I am thankful for this year is Barack Obama’s victory as the 44th President-elect of the United States of America.  It has been wonderful to be alive to witness this moment in history.  As the saying goes, you can only truly value and appreciate yourself if you can also laugh at yourself.  So, I will extend this belief to Barack Obama’s presidential win.  So, let’s laugh at this satire on Obama supporters (especially if you were one of them :) … I know I did)!

Have a good Thanks-Giving!

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Debate Of Body Languages: The Presidential Campaign

So this past Saturday, Tina Fey, did a great job impersonating Sarah Palin’s “performance” at the Vice Presidential Debate on SNL.  The body language, voice, and choice of words were right on and HILARIOUS!

Yesterday, Robin Abcarian, of the Los Angeles Times, wrote about the debate of body languages between Obama and McCain during this week’s Presidential Debate.

Abcarian wrote:

Obama sat like a jazz musician on his chair, one heel hooked at an angle, while McCain sat as if he might leap up at any moment, or stood impatiently waiting for his turn to speak.

Glass, a body language expert said that McCain was, “… like the Energizer Bunny [who] had some batteries put in. “We have never seen McCain so warm and fuzzy and likable and dynamic.”

This same expert thought that, “… Obama seemed unnatural at times. “Somebody coached him and did not do him a favor,” she said. “When he talks about an issue he’s passionate about, his gestures are fluid and real, but other times, he took his index finger and clasped it to his thumb, and it’s phony, it’s not real.”

However, at the end of the debate, body language experts declared Obama as the winner because “… a debate is won in the first 15 minutes and lost in the last two … Obama closed on a higher note than McCain.”

For our readers, who watched the Presidential Debate, what body language or mannerisms did you notice that would be great for another Saturday Night spoof?

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