One Singh's Story of Wearing Bana
Posted by: tapoban
Date: June 01, 2010 06:38AM
Some time ago a Singh wrote an article on why he wears bana and his experience. I think it's really worth reading :
Why I wear Bana
I'm not even going to try getting into whether anybody should or shouldn't wear bana regularly, as I probably don't know myself. I try to wear bana myself (actually, probably not true bana yet, just a kurta pajama) as often as I can, including to school. It's difficult to explain why or what I get from it (as I'm not the best at explaining myself), but I'll try.
Wearing bana, to me, is just an extension of wearing your kakkars and keeping kes. At least in terms of how it feels. Most of us know the feeling we get when we first start wearing a dastaar or a kirpaan or grow our kes. Wearing bana is just an extension of that feeling, the next level.
Wearing the Dastaar
I remember when I first started wearing a dastaar. Throughout highshcool, my friends and I all wore patkay (I still regret this) and it wasn't until I was starting university that I started wearing a dastaar. The feeling was great. People around me also started treating me a little differently, and I began to feel more like a sikh.
When I decided to shuck amrit, I started wearing a kirpaan for practice. Just having a shaster on you, whether you know how to use it or not, changes you. You feel powerful and much more confident (hopefully, this is where the baanee and simran come in to keep you humble). After shucking amrit, I started wearing kurta/pajama to the gurdvara occasionally. At first it felt funny and I sort of felt embarrassed around my friends. Got over that soon enough.
Later that summer, my Nana jee was visiting and he asked me one day why I was wearing my kirpaan underneath. After all, there were no legal restrictions or anything here. I thought about it and couldn't really answer him. The truth was that I was scared. Scared of people's reaction. I'm also the type of person who hates attracting attention, whether it be positive or negative. I'd rather be in the background. A kirpan can attract attention when you're walking around in public. But I knew if I explained this to him, he wouldn't react very nicely. He's never backed down from much in life and seems to love challenges. He would have told me that maybe I should have thought twice about taking amrit if I wasn't strong enough to even show my kakkaars in public. So I just made some stupid excuse, about forgetting or something, and started wearing it over top from that day on. This was a really hard thing for me to do. Let me just say here, that I'm not saying we should or shouldn't wear a kirpaan over top. Everyone has to decide that for themselves depending on their situation.
For me, it was hard but one of the best things I've done for my sikhee. I'm the type of person who quickly forgets that I'm a sikh and starts behaving like everyone else. We don't have a mirror in front of us all the time to see our dastaar and dharee and remember who and what we are. However, people's reaction to us does the trick just as well. Most people are used to seeing punjabees wearing dastaars (in Canada anyway), but a kirpaan is still different, and bana even more so. I found myself being stared at (or glared at), and sometimes even sworn at (from a distance - the kirpan seemed to deter anyone from approaching me).
Looking for a Place to Live
I was also looking for a place to live at this time, a basement or apartment. People would see me, and turn me down. Some even made it clear that it was because of the kirpaan (although they wouldn't say it straight out for legal reasons). I grew desperate at this point. My family and relatives all thought I was an idiot and told me to hide the kirpaan and start wearing a different style of dastaar. I thought about it, but couldn't do that. If I was willing to dress like this in good times, how could I suddenly change when things got hard. It seemed like hypocrisy to me, like it would just turn everything into a pakhand. I remember getting a phone call and being told I had been turned down by another apartment. I knew that this time everybody (my family) would have a really negative reaction to me, as they were getting fed up. So I did rehras and started my ardaas. I broke down and started crying and asked Guru Saahib to help me, to protect me from attacks against his blessed kakkaars and give me the strength to continue on. Guru Saahib heard my ardaas and I found a place to live almost immediately.
The next week, the world trade center was blown up. I started getting frantic phone calls, telling me to stop wearing a gol pug and to hide my kirpaan. I had just started at a new school, and my prof and group members were also treating me strangely. While talking to me, they would stare at my kirpaan the whole time. This was really getting to me. Maybe it was pride and ego, but I refused to give up the way I dressed. And this is when I realized how great any part of the sikh dress really is and why Guru Saahib jee gave us such a distinct identity. We can't hide, we can't mix in. With guru Saahib's bana, we stick out, as he meant us to. Even in a group of pug wearing punjabees, a Khalsa wearing bana is distinct. This may seem negative to some, and it did to me at first. What was the point of having everyone on the bus or subway glare at me? What was the point of waking up and worrying about having to go out in public and facing people's reaction everyday? The point is that it humbles you and reminds you your sikhee and of god constantly. I realized that the only one I could depend on now was Vaahiguru. I couldn't stop people from staring, swearing or threatening physical attacks and couldn't depend on anyone else to help out or understand either. All I could do was do an ardaas everyday for Guru Saahib to watch over me and give me the strength to keep my identity as a sikh. While on the subway or bus, I would do paat the whole time and ignore people's stares and comments. It was great.
Then I met some others who wore kurta pajamas and cholay. I was quite impressed, and had been thinking for some time about when I might be able to dress in bana. I remember one singh telling me that it frees you from having to follow fashion, of having to worry about what's in and what's out. Eventually, I also started dressing like this. Not all the time, as I didn't have enough to wear everyday. At first I was worried about just showing off that I was a sikh and not really having anything on the inside. This still bothers me a lot of times. However, it ends up driving me to try doing more paat and being a better sikh, so as to fit the image that I might be portraying.
First day in Bana
I remember the first day at school like this, the people in my group thought it was my birthday or some special Sikh holiday. Everything I said above can be repeated for wearing bana. You stick out, people treat you a little differently, and this can help you (at least it helps me) to not mix in with what everyone else is doing (especially if you're around punjabee people) and to not do anything stupid myself. Some bhainjee above wrote about some negatives she noticed in some people after they started wearing bana. This might be true. But I find it to be a humbling experience. When I walk around downtown or on campus wearing some long, dark blue kurta or something, and a large dastaar, people thing you're strange, they don't compliment you. If you're around punjabee people, they think you're either some hardcore fundamentalist or a pakhandee trying to show off and they don't exactly praise you either. I found myself trying to be extra nice to people so as not to give this roop a negative image. But some people may get houmai. We can even get houmai from doing paat. That doesn't mean everyone should give that rehit up.
Once again, I can't explain to anyone whether they should or shouldn't wear bana or if you're supposed to wear it all the time. Everyone has to figure it out for themselves. For me, it has made me a MUCH stronger person. It has helped me greatly in my spiritual life as well. People may not understand this and I probably don't have the words to describe it. It's one of those things that must be experienced to be understood. With bana, I'm much more dependent on god, more accepting of his will and more likely to think about my actions before doing them. Sikhee is much more on my mind when I'm in bana. There is a nice story on this site about one of the 1978 shaheed singhs deciding to wear bana all the time after some incident on a bus with some lady. Basically, people treat you differently and you also will then act differently, like a sikh. As that one singh told me, it also frees you from fashion. I don't have to go shopping for the latest styles anymore. It's truly liberating. Sikhee is a whole way of life and everything we do, including how we dress, affects us. I'm not saying wearing bana by itself will turn you into a good sikh. But, it can be one of the ingredients.
I've also been thinking of what I will do when it comes time for work and job interviews. Will I walk in with a chola or kurta and a kirpaan? Will they hire me? I don't see it as being easy. The way I see it, this will be another challenge for me. With guru sahib's kirpa, I will make it and end up being a stronger person. Already, I have been teaching some classes while dressed in bana and have formal presentations thesis defenses to do in front of my faculty. Most people dress in a suit and tie. I will probably stick to my simple bana. I know some of the profs in the department don't really appreciate me running around like some 'taliban' but I'm praying that guru sahib will watch over me and not let them attack me (by giving negative feedback or failing me) simply because of my bana. If they do, well, too bad. It's all in his bhaanaa. I may also be attending and presenting at large seminars, once again dressed in simple bana. My own prof is probably hoping that I'll smarten up and wear formal attire. The thing is, that what we wear has a huge impact on us psychologically. That's why so many billions of dollars are spent by the fashion industry. They try to market a certain image, a certain way of feeling, acting and thinking. This is tied to the clothes peolpe wear. Simply changing a person's physical appearance through the clothes they wear can give them confidence and change their behaviour (to a certain degree). That's why Guru Saahib's simple bana is so great. It takes you above and beyond typical everyday fashion, thinking and lifestyles. You're no longer a slave to the world's fashions and images. If it affects us psychologically, it will affect our actions as well and everything we think and do has an effect on our spiritual lives. Once again, banee and simran are the keys, but everything we do, including our clothes and external rehit, will have some effect. That is why the guru saahibs talked about external rehit clothes, including in the Guru Granth Saahib. Everyone will have to decide on their own whether the effect is significant enought to try it out. I am truly grateful to Vaahiguru for letting me wear the sikh bana and changing me in the ways he did.