Thursday, April 10, 2014

1984: Was George Orwell right?

I was just a kid.  I was eight years old.  I didn't really know what Sikhism was.  I didn't know the difference between Sikhism and Hinduism, like a lot of people still don't, but I was eight then people.  I thought all Indians were Sikh and those that cut their hair were breaking their religion, (Sikhs don't cut their hair). 

I didn't want to grow up, I was a Toy's R Us kid.  But I was a Sikh kid.  I had to grow up.  

Indira Gandhi is dead.  That's all I knew.  I thought she was the president of India or whatever.  I didn't know what a Prime Minister was, I still barely understand the difference.

A Sikh man, her body guard killed Indira Gandhi.

Oh no, it was tragic for all involved.  Ostensibly, why did the Sikh bodyguard kill her?  Because she bombed the Sikh Golden Temple when there were women and children in there.  

What happened next was...there were riots all over India and Hindus were torturing and killing Sikhs.  This is a recap of a history lesson for those who are unfamiliar with what happened.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my cousins and their parents were temporarily staying with us during the time that Gandhi died.  I remember very clearly that my mother cried when she saw a man with long hair being dragged in the street by his hair.  

I didn't know what rape was, but Sikh women were being raped right and left.  It was horrifying.

I still had to go to school though.  My teacher asked a question in the class.  "What historical even just happened in the news?"  A boy who we all suspected was gay responded.  "Indira Gandhi was assassinated."  

I didn't raise my hand.  I didn't even look around the classroom when my teacher explained that she was the Prime Minister of India.  It was an all white school.  I didn't want to stand out.  No one really knew I was a Sikh or what Sikhism was, I barely knew myself.

So one day we were all sitting in the kitchen, it was nighttime.  My family and my uncle's family were just shooting the shit when it happened.  We heard a noise.   A loud noise, then there it was, a rock came through our window.  I don't remember much, but I remember that.

I remember that we all got scared and my parents and aunt and uncle were discussing how the neighbor's kid probably did it.  My uncle wore a turban.  Sikhs were being called terrorists on the news.

India actually stopped news footage of the riots because it was giving the Indian government a bad name.  Nobody was doing anything to stop the atrocities.  

My father had shut the T.V. off when we kids came into the room and they were showing the riots. My mother and my aunt were glued to the T.V. and they cried a lot at night.

My uncle in India was on a bus somewhere and a rioter stopped the bus and asked that all the Sikhs be removed from the bus.  A Muslim man hid my uncle who wore a turban on that bus so he would not be tortured or killed by the rioters.  

There are so many stories like this that don't end pretty.  If you have story, please share it.  If you have an opinion, I'd love to hear it.

The mainstream culture is not aware of what happened in 1984.  I also hear that people are not being punished for what they did to Sikhs in 1984.  

Orwell wrote a story about the government and Big Brother taking over the world in 1984.  I can't help but think it's ironic that this happened the same year.  

Today is not an anniversary, I just chose today to reflect on those that were killed and hurt in those riots.  We don't know the numbers and maybe we don't know all the details, but I know that Sikhs can never forget what happened.

There are those who fled India and came to America.  They have scars, they remember what happened every day.  

What's my story?  I was safe and sound in America, miles away.  My story is that I went on with my life, rarely affected by any violence except when I went to NY on 9/11.  Again, Sikhs were targeted because they wore turbans and allegedly looked like Muslim terrorists.  

My friend told me her father looked exactly like Osama Bin Laden.  I had a friend named Osama, who goes by Sam.  He told everyone to never call him Osama in public.  I have another friend named Osama who only goes by 'Osama' because he learns a lot about a person when they react to his name.  

I was in New York when the World Trade Center was attacked, I'll tell you the story some other time.  I had a Sikh friend who wore a turban and lost his job because every industry was troubled at the time. He was discriminated against on the streets.  Did he lose his job because he had a turban?  I don't know.  But he was uncomfortable walking around and started wearing his hair in a ponytail.

I had Muslim friends who were more worried about going to jail, than about what their grades were in grad school.  

Some people thought I was Muslim because I look kinda international.  I used to keep a picture of a woman wearing hijab by my window because I thought she was beautiful.  As a silent protest I never took that photo down after the attacks.  

In 2001 they were attacking Sikhs again because ignorant people thought we were Muslim.  It would not have been OK to attack Muslims and it was just as bad to attack Sikhs.  Sikhs were handing out pamphlets in the subways to tell people "We are not Muslim."  However they were not giving racist people directions to the Mosque.

We are a peaceful religion.  In some dictionaries they call us a martial race.  Just because we believe people should fight for justice and their own human rights.  We don't believe in arbitrary war or converting other people.  

I guess through all of this, even though I don't prescribe to religious rules, I still consider myself a Sikh.  

I'm proud to be a Sikh woman.

Kaur is the last name that every Sikh woman was supposed to take because that eliminated the cast system.  I may have other reasons why I took this name, but it means princess.  

I always wanted to be a princess.  

But don't mess with me, I can be a warrior woman just as fast as I can be peace loving hippie.

I'm a Sikh.  

Don't mess with my people.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Good post. I learned a lot about you here. And I always loved your hair...

  3. You are a good writer. Your writings are spontaneous.

  4. Amazing book I remember I saw it back in High School and rejected it but I had to read it in college and regretted the thought of not reading it before it's amazing, scary and interesting book. George Orwell was correct about of world becoming like the world of Oceania.
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