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Funny Answers to Common Sikh Questions
Posted by: Takhat Singh (IP Logged)
Date: December 23, 2009 09:01AM

Right 'Jab: Losing my religion

Tejpal Singh Swatch

I am a Sikh. I grew up in this country, among thousands of others like me, a visible minority. But it still happens to me.

"Ummm, Tej? Can I...can I ask you a question?"

Here we go. I've learned to recognise most of these moments. Moments where I am asked to share the most mundane elements of my life, to be a representative of an entire people and their religion.

"Tej, do you...well, do you sleep with that on? I mean, do you, like, take it off when you go to bed?"

At this point I usually take on an air of superior indignation. I figure it is my duty to make such people feel as uncomfortable as possible. At least make them feel as uncomfortable as I am annoyed with such a stupid question. I draw in a quick breath and turn to face the questioner.

"What do you think?" I usually snarl. I have a pretty good glare, so most don't answer. A brave few may venture into uncharted waters. The question is rephrased, sometimes with an apology, always with more stammering.
With a sigh, a shake of my head and a roll of my eyes, I give an answer. The questioner, satisfied or afraid they have a crossed line, does not probe further. The incident quickly passes.

It wasn't always the case. I have been answering such questions ever since I entered school. In my early years the response would involve long conversations, valiant attempts to make others, who grew up with a very Christian view of religion, to understand what I was and where I came from. In attempts to educate, I would ignorantly draw parallels between Sikhism and Christianity, sometimes to comic effect. At my gurdwara, when an offering is handed out to the congregation, I would explain this is our communion. "So this oily, sugary, flour-like substance is Nanak's flesh and blood?" they would counter. "Christ, no!" I would say, horrified. "What would make you think that?"
To be completely honest, I don't mind answering most questions. My problem is with stupid, ignorant and insulting queries like the one posed above. And that one wasn't so bad. Consider the following, small sample of some of the worst questions I have ever been asked. I have only included questions that have been asked more than once.

Do you ever take your turban off?
What would lead educated, sane, normal people, with no signs of mental affliction to ask such a question? People who have seen me wearing different turbans have asked me this question.

Do you ever wash your hair?
The first time I was asked this, I got into a schoolyard fight. I have been reassuring people for 17 years of my life. I was asked this question in a third-year university English class.

Does the colour/type of your turban represent anything?
Does the colour of the pants you put on this morning mean anything? Yes, there are many different colours. There are also patterns. But like any other piece of clothing, the colour could mean something or could mean nothing. If you see a group of people wearing the same colour it probably means they don't want anything to clash.

May I see your knife/dagger?
No, you may not. Why? Because it's a dagger. Do you ask police officers to show you their Glocks?

Do all Sikhs live to the East of their temples?
This is a new one. People have only started asking this in the last couple of years. The level of ignorance this question represents infuriates me. I think people are trying to make connections between similar looking religions. I suppose because Muslims - some wearing turbans - pray facing East, so must Sikhs. You're getting your towelheads mixed up, you goddamned idiots.

I could go on. I have left out the more moronic questions, some which still leave me speechless. I have been asked to justify the Air India bombing. I have been asked about supposed Sikh rituals that would make Satanists cringe.
I no longer care. I am striking back. I have decided to embark on a mission of misinformation the likes of which has never been seen, strictly for my own amusement. I shall no longer be forthcoming or honest in my answers to any queries about my faith.

What is my religion about? "I worship trees." But, don't many Sikhs work in various sectors of the forest industry? "Yes," I will answer, lapsing into a thick Punjabi accent, "many Sikhs lead very conflicted lives. However, we look to the trees and, like them, choose to stand tall." What's with the table and chairs? "My friend," I will smile tragically, "what do you think they are made from?"

 





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