I was invited from India by North-American Sikhs to participate in their annual conference at Los Angeles, California in May 1984. During a session in the gurdwara, I was to address the audience on the heritage of the Sikhs. A local lady speaker followed me. During her speech she narrated her experience with her son. The problem of the youth, the response of her mother to his feelings and its outcome will be of great help to many Sikh youth and their parents today. The relevant part of her speech is given below:
In California, the mother was tired of explaining to her son, day after day, why she wanted him to keep his hair. Finally, when he asked her, as he did frequently, for permission to cut his hair, she told him to bring the scissors, and that she herself would cut his hair. The son was, of course, astonished that she hadn’t told him, as usual, that a Sikh would rather lose his head than cut his hair, a complete silence followed.
After a couple of minutes, his mother reminded him that, although it would be easy to cut his hair, it would be impossible to change his features and the color of his skin. Consequently, the white Americans, to whom he was apparently trying to conform, would still not accept him fully. She told him, “Since you can never be the same as they are, remain what you are, work hard, and become superior to them.”
In this way, the boy was shown that his different appearance made him inferior only if he allowed it to. Therefore, he became determined to earn people’s respect. He graduated from high school with prizes for both his sports achievements and his academic work. The white students, whom he wanted to resemble, showed great respect for him and his parents.
The boy was later convinced that his turban was no hindrance in being popular with his friends.