My Experience as a Sikh Woman

By Harbani Kaur

Disclaimer: I am no one to teach anyone. I am just expressing myself and voicing my thought process. That being said, enjoy and write back to me about your thoughts!

Dear sisters and brothers,

Born and raised in India, I come from what I feel, is a regular Sikh family. Since when I can remember, every morning before going to school, my dad had us sit with him and do Nitnem of 5 baanis. I was taught that doing path meant that Vaheguruji blessed me with amazing things like dresses, toys, and chocolates and thus, I religiously did the morning prayers with my dad. Lest I knew, he was preparing me for later days; his lessons would ultimately help me lead my life.

After completing my undergrad in India, I moved to the US for graduate school, where I completed my Ph.D in the field of Bioengineering. When I moved to the US, I realized no one knew I was a Sikh girl; I was just a normal “brown colored Indian girl” and people usually thought I was Hindu. There’s nothing wrong with that, however, I identify myself as a Sikh and wanted to be known as a Sikh. Generally speaking, Sikh girls usually don’t wear turbans like our fellow Sikh men. Personally, I feel there is no identity of a Sikh woman. If I am walking in crowd, I do not stand out as a Sikh woman, on the other hand my fellow Sikh brothers standout for their bright colored turbans and fearlessly flowing beards. I was undergoing sort of identity crisis. I wondered, “What can identify me as a Sikh?” The answer to my question was “Tie a turban”. However, me being a coward, I decided I would start covering my head with bandana at first. Then eventually to be more “feminine” I started to use printed scarves to match my dresses and blouses. It gave me some of comfort. For example, when I put my scarf on head and pin it, it takes me through the mental process of understanding the importance of covering my head. It constantly reminds me of the promise I make everyday to be humble, truthful, loving, caring, helping, working hard to make a difference in the world……. all the principles which my Guru teaches me through his amazing baani.

I am writing my thoughts as they are coming out, so you may feel, I am all over the place. But isn’t that our life? One moment I am thinking about my school or my homework and next, I am thinking about last time I did kirtan. Then I’m thinking, “I would love to learn a new dance form!” or  “What I am gonna make for dinner?” and then to contemplating on Gurbani.  My thoughts are all over the place

Anyhow, my other experience I would love to share is, my experiences at Camp Gian in 2012 and 2013: a week of amazing fun and learning (about my Guru). I would say my perspective of Sikhi is continuously evolving after being at Camp Gian. First time in 2012, I was just another camper sitting in classes and discussions to broaden my perspective. When I say broadening my perspective, I mean at first being a Sikh for me meant I was doing my Nitnem, reading gurbani regularly from the Guru Granth Sahib, learning kirtan, going to gurudwara and do seva. And many will say, “Yes, that’s what being a Sikh is.” However, now I believe, if I do my Nitnem regularly, but don’t even trying to understand what my Guru is telling me through the Bani, there isn’t really a point of blindly doing my Nitnem. I have learned that all my actions in this life form need to have some meaning and usefulness to me or my community or the world. So, now when I am doing Nitnem, if I could only understand the meaning of one phrase or line, I think “I did okay for that activity”. But one day if I forget to understand, it doesn’t mean I should stop doing my Nitnem, it just means I’ll try to do better tomorrow.

Another aspect I am trying to incorporate in my life is to being humble. Now it’s very easy for me to say, that I am trying to be humble, but I can’t do this is one day. Being humble means I have no ego (that’s my definition or path of being humble=no ego). I am still in process, I am constantly learning from my family, friends and environment. For instance, this act of writing a letter to the readers of Kaur Life, is way of contemplating and showcasing my shortcomings (based on my point of view). I will continue to try and work on my self, so I could be just 1% of what my Guru is.  I could continue to write and write…..but I think its already been too much about me.

Kindly provide me with your feedback, so I can continue to learn (SIKH).


Harbani Kaur


The above photo is by “About Face Imagery.”