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Threading, Unfair Labor Practices, and Activism

Yes, like many of the ladies out there in blog-reading land we love (not the process, but the outcome) getting our eyebrows threaded and not waxed or plucked. I know for myself, I usually go to a small beauty shop where generally an immigrant South Asian woman has set-up shop by herself or has hired a few new arrivals to work with her. activism.jpgI personally like the environment of a small salon, versus the mega salon, but I knew before I passed judgment I had to check-out one of these mega-salons owned by South Asians. So, I walked into a massive ZIBA Salon one-day (one of their beauty magazines really caught my attention) looked at the price, felt the atmosphere and walked out. However, I got a good look at the threaders [not all were South Asian or female, but many were], their polished black uniforms, the people waiting in line to get their threading, and thought this is a pretty large business and they probably get paid pretty well and better than the workers in the small-salons. Low and behold I read about a recent protest against ZIBA Beauty Center by the women who work at their salons and SAN (South Asian Network).

The statement made in the announcement:

On January 15, 2008 fired workers from ZIBA Beauty Center and the community protested on Pioneer Blvd. in front of one of ZIBAs 11 stores. The protest came after several attempts to change the harsh contract which was being forced on its workers and after severe harassment by ZIBAs management. ZIBA is one of Los Angeless largest corporate beauty salons which specializes in mehndi (henna) and eyebrow threading and has been engaging in unfair labor practices against its workers. The new contract which workers were being manipulated and forced into signing, would have decreased workers commission percentage as well as moved them down the pay scale, despite the fact that ZIBA has increased the prices on its services, thus increasing its profit. ZIBA also has threatened its employees with lawsuits if they try to work for another employer and has refused to provide sick pay or any vacation pay to its employees

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Pardes Hoya Pardes

A recent article carried by Asian News International claims that many Pardesi Punjabis are sending their children back to Punjab for education. Citing Christian evangelism in places such as Canada, a desire to imbibe Punjabi values and tradition, and learning the Punjabi language were all reasons why some parents have decided to send their children to school in Punjab.

stamp.jpgOne particular school in Gurusar Sudhar Village (Ludhiana), Jatindera Greenfield School, seems to be catering to the needs of these pardesi Punjabi students. Boasting of a Western style curriculum, students are said to engage with computers, crafts, and languages. A preliminary Google search of the school cited a tree plantation camp and a kindergarten clay-modeling contest.

In the past, I remember parents would often threaten to send their children to Punjab if they misbehaved. I can think of a number of children still in Punjab for this very reason. Still others pardesi Punjabis would send their children to Indias most prestigious school as America, Canada, UK, etc. provided them the means to gain access for their children. So my question, would you consider sending your kids to school in Punjab? Why or why not? Is this some misplaced romanticism or is this a real alternative? What would be the positives and what would be the drawbacks?

Towards a Queer ethos

Queer Sikhs are largely invisibilized in the greater Sikh community, although some are present within the U.S./Canada diaspora. Last month, the debate over the Sikh-perspective on GLBT unions bubbled up in Canada when a leader in the Vancouver community denounced homosexuality [link]:

“I hate homosexuality. Most Sikhs believe homosexuality is unnatural and you can’t produce kids through it. And, secondarily, no major religion allows it.”

This comment echoed an edict issued two years ago by Jathedar Akal Takht that Sikh [Canadian] MPs ought vote against a bill that would legalize civil unions for queer couples. When this conversation has come up (rarely, but a few times in recent years), the conventional wisdom is that Sikhi’s family-oriented mission and denunciation of kaam [lust] trumps its egalitarian sensibility and tips the scales against homosexuality and towards heteronormativity. Testimonials from out Sikhs are sometimes uplifting, but oftentimes heart-breaking.

SGGS Ji, unlike other religious scriptures, is entirely silent on this issue. Among those who decry homosexuality, the most common argument is that homosexuality is an indulgence, and that those who fall out of the straight-jacket should either marry straight or stay celibate. They are told to “overcome” their homosexuality because sex is solely for procreation.

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Bhangra is our common link?

The SJ Mercury News ran a story on Dhol Di Awaz [disclaimer: I went to Cal and was part of the Berk SSA] and made the argument that in today’s multi-generational diaspoa, bhangra is the common thread that holds Punjabis together. I thought this was interesting on many levels. While the article is relatively well-written and sensitive, there were no excerpts from conversations with non-Sikh Punjabis, and certainly not with Pakistani Punjabis.

bhangra.jpgThis divide over who has a “right” to bhangra has certainly been a source of tension in the DDA-verse in the past — while many embrace bhangra as a Punjabi dance that can be shared by all across religions (and even regions), while others argue that some of the uniform elements of the dance (e.g. the phugri) require a Sikh focus. In the Bay Area, where Punjabis are somewhat divided along religious lines by neighborhoods, are we being truly honest with ourselves re: tolerance and inclusivity? Along those lines, is bhangra tying together generations of Sikh Punjabis from Indian Punjab, or is it tying together ALL Punjabis? I would argue that bhangra (and giddha), which is, in its purest essence, a dance of joy and celebration, belongs to everyone. It doesn’t see religion or region, and it also doesn’t see a “backdated” interpretation of “traditional” uniforms. This made me reflect on a question I often ask myself — where does the Punjabi begin/end and the Sikh begin?

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No Nishan Sahib = No Gurdwara

I often take many trips to Fresno to visit my friends and on this day I was visiting one of their work places. A number of people had told me about the new Gurdwara that was nearby and in seeking to pay my respects to our Guru, I went to pay a visit.

nanaksar.jpgWhile the building was large and beautiful, something caught my eye (or rather didn’t catch my eye). There was no Nishan Sahib to be found. The first thing that entered my mind was maybe this is NOT a Gurdwara, but rather some Dehra. But as I parked my car, the sign on the building made it clear GURDWARA NANAKSAR.

After paying my respect to the Guru Granth Sahib, I went outside to ask why a Nishan Sahib was not on the grounds. I respectfully said Fateh to the Bhaiji and asked him this simple question. Why is there no Nishan Sahib at the Gurdwara?

The Bhaiji first talked to me about his baba Nand Singh and then went on to talk about how this in fact is not a gurdwara, but rather a dehra, where one can do bhagi and thus no need for a Nishan Sahib.

I understood his logic. This was NOT a Gurdwara, but then why label it a Gurdwara? Why not just be honest with the sangat and call it a dehra? The bhaiji’s answer was that we have to get permits from the City, County etc. thats why we call it a Gurdwara. At this point the bhaiji wanted no more to do with me, said some remarks, and left in a hurry.

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