Bana & Saroop

A Dress/Address

by Sukhjit Kaur Khasla
The conversation started at half past six,
When my strength would be tested, as a turban wearing Sikh.

They saw a picture posted of me parading denim shorts,
“This is not the most appropriate clothing for a Singhni, please give this some thought.”

My thoughts I certainly gave and I never knew I would
Believe that the relationship of Sikhi and womanhood
Up till this point has been misunderstood
About what we can’t and what we “should.”

The identity crisis I faced
Is nothing new for us Kaurs.
It just never comes in conversation
Keep it hush…the system is flawed.

Pat on the back for our sons who’ve started keeping their hair
But what about that daughter, who also has struggles, are you visually impaired?
A dastaar sits on my head and so it sits on yours, yet why is it a bigger deal for me
To make my own choices, where’s the equality? Of opportunity?

An opportunity
For ‘The Keskiwalle’.
To be categorised and then subcategorised.
Can’t I just be a Kaur?

My freedom to express,
Is quickly oppressed.
Does wearing a dress
Make me less
Of a Sikh?
Where’s the inner spirituality
If I can’t progress
Because society is obsessed
With the outer?
I guess I’m a temptress
As I caress
My long hairy legs, arms, neck and shoulders,
It becomes seductive anatomy nonetheless.

Mate, welcome to the human body.
What do you want from me?
To cover from head to toe?
Stay in my sheltered abode?
Let a man’s imagination grow?
Let female existence be blamed for lust in a man’s mind.
Instead of encouraging self-control in a Singh’s daily grind.
“I’m disrespecting the turban by wearing a dress”
Clearly. What else would you expect?
A Kaur going on with her daily routine in this Aussie heat?
Because a dress is more comfortable than a thick pair of jeans?
Is it disrespect when a Singh puts on a pair of shorts and a singlet?
No. Because he is a boy. His limbs are obviously different.
I don’t believe you and I are any different, He created us to coexist.
Yet these double standards continue to persist.

Society has never let girls advance because they know we can.
We are capable of greatness and success, on par with men.
So they keep us at a level in which they can control us every now and then.

Women sigh and say, “Well what can we do?
Men won’t change, you just have to accept it and it’s not an area to pursue.”
The day we start accepting these battles as the norm, is the day we give in.
Throw in our checkered tea towels and floral aprons to a society I believe has sinned.

Sinned to how they control women. Sinned to deciding who and who isn’t a Sikh.
Well if a Sikh is constantly learning, why not learn how to speak.

Up in the atmosphere. Up where the air is clear. Let’s go rewrite a Kaur tonight!

If we paint a new world for our daughters.
A world in which they can express with comfort.
Without a passing judgment.
A world in which they make their own choices.
Without a dictator’s self-righteous voices.
A world in which they are given equal opportunity.
Without the pressures from our demanding community.
Then only will they grow up feeling proud to be a female Sikh.

So I ask you what does this “Singhni” look like. What does she wear?
An important history of a Kaur’s identity
Disappeared or doesn’t exist, conveniently.
And so this Sikh is neither here nor there.
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