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NEW YORK, September 30, 2016: In the photographs, they wear leather jackets, or superhero costumes, and hold their trumpets and helmets. They appear to be what they are: poets, musicians, bikers, soldiers — and all Sikh Americans.
The Sikh Project is a collection of photographs of turbaned Sikh Americans that was on display in New York City last week. It showed their interests are as diverse as their American community.
“At its core the project is about identity in general … and how identity never restricts you,” said Naroop Singh, half of the U.K. photography duo Amit and Naroop that took the photos.
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“Because Sikhs, whether they’re from the U.S. or the U.K., are thought of as a certain type of person — either they’re doctors, engineers, accountants. … But if you told somebody you could have a Sikh guy who’s tattooed and a kickboxer, they might not believe you,” Singh said.
Amit, 31, and Naroop, 35, have been working together for years, but began photographing members of their community in 2013.
In London, the photographers set out to photograph Sikhs with the goal of breaking stereotypes and showing “how cool” a Singh (male Sikh) can look. This look includes the turban, which Sikhs wear as a symbol of self-respect, courage and piety, and to show their love for and obedience to the wishes of the faith’s founders.
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Few step forward
At first, Amit and Naroop were hard-pressed to find sardars, or turbaned Sikh men, who would sit for them.
“They said, ‘Who would ever want to see photos of Singhs?’ They said, ‘Don’t waste your time, boys,’ ” Amit said. “We had to grab my grandad and say, ‘Dude, look, sit here. We’re gonna take a photo of you and show people how cool a Singh can look.’ “
The trend caught on. When Amit and Naroop started a Kickstarter campaign to fund their first exhibition, the impact was global.
“They put one of their first images online. I saw that and was blown away by their talent and their ability to see people in a different way,” said Sapreet Kaur, executive director of the Sikh Coalition, a Sikh advocacy and community development organization in New York that works to promote civil rights for all people.
Though Amit and Naroop were born and raised in the U.K., Sapreet knew they were the perfect choice to tell the story of the American Sikh. And the photographers found just as much diversity and character.
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For the American project, women and children were also photographed expanding on the original idea. Though relatively few women of the Sikh faith wear a turban, or dastaar, it was important to the Sikh Coalition that those women be represented.
Amrita Khurana was one of the subjects they chose. She is the first and only sardani (turbaned Sikh woman) working for The New York Times. Amrita did not always wear a dastaar and struggled for years balancing her love for her religion with her love of hip-hop and clubbing.
Search for identity
“I was trying to find myself; I couldn’t figure out who I really was,” she said. “I came from a Sikh family, but my friends lived in the ghetto, and that’s where I felt comfortable. I was into hip-hop and rap; that was my scene. The Sikh background was only on Sundays.”
Though Amrita never lost her love for hip-hop, her devotion to her religion became stronger as she aged. And along with the worship came a fascination for Sikh identity — namely, the turban.
Amrita started wearing a dastaar only occasionally on the weekends, to temple. “One foot was in the club scene, one foot was in the dastaar scene,” she said about that period in her life.
Reactions within the Sikh community to women wearing the dastaar are often mixed. While some see it as the ultimate sign of devotion, some, including Amrita’s mother, believe that it should be worn only by men.
“My mom has a fit,” Amrita said. “She’s like, ‘What are you doing? This is not OK. This is not the norm. Nobody’s going to want to marry you!’ “
It took years, more fights with her mother, the guidance of her priest and discussions with her husband before Amrita committed to the dastaar full time. Unlike some Sikh men and teenagers, who often have the opposite fight with their parents, wanting to cut their hair to avoid questions and stares, Amrita struggled to break gender norms within her faith community.
The look of the dastaar was almost as important to her as what it meant religiously.
“I wanted to stand out,” she said. And as a turbaned woman who still sports her leather jacket on weekends, she absolutely does.
“I remember saying to her, ‘Should we try it without the leather jacket?’ And she said, ‘No,’ ” Naroop said with a laugh.
Living and working in New York, Amrita said she has faced few questions and next to no hostility about her look or her religion.
From genie to terrorist
Amit and Naroop noticed a difference in how Sikhs are treated and perceived in the U.S. versus in the U.K.
“One subject here told me, ‘Before 9/11, I used to walk down the road and someone would say, “Hey, look, there’s a genie,” ‘ and after 9/11 they said, ‘Hey, look, there’s a terrorist.’ THAT’s what people are going through,” Naroop said.
“And the horrible thing is that in the U.S., I find that people take it, accept it as a norm,” he said. “Like, I’m going to go out today and probably be verbally abused, and I’m not going to say anything back.”
While Amit and Naroop were shocked, Sikh Americans share this perception and have become numb to it in the past 15 years.
Sikhs, who are often confused with Muslims in the U.S., have been the targets of violence and hate crimes, particularly after the attacks on September 11, 2001.
In 2015, a year marked by the most divisive and hateful rhetoric during a presidential campaign in decades, 174 incidents of violence against Muslims and those perceived as Muslims were reported, according to a study by Georgetown’s Bridge Initiative, a multi-year research project focusing on Islamophobia.
For Sapreet of the Sikh Coalition, the goal of the exhibition was “to spark that national conversation on behalf of all communities who are lesser known and misunderstood about what it means to be an American.”
Though the exhibition in Soho has closed, Amit and Naroop are working to compile a book of images from both the U.K. and the U.S. projects. (VOA)
Great historic events that have shaped the world and changed the outlines of countries are often not recorded in memory, or so we think. Wars made sure to destroy evidence and heritage, and the ones who survived told the tale of what really happened. Folklore, albeit through oral tradition kept alive many such stories, hidden in verse, limericks, and rhymes.
Ringa-ringa-roses, a common playtime rhyme among children across the world, is an example of folklore that has survived for many centuries. It tells the story of the The Great Plague of London which ravaged the city between 1665-1666.
The Plague broke out from improper disposal of garbage and poor sewage conditions. Fleas from the rats that lived in the sewers spread the disease that killed more than half of London's population. Many people fled from their homes as there was no medicine available for those who were infected.
Beak-shaped masks worn during the Great Plague of London Image source: wikimedia commons
It was around this time that masks began to be invented. The first masks were shaped like beaks, and were worn not to protect the wearer from the disease, but to the prevent them from being able to smell the decay and death around them, which they called 'miasma'. The beaks were filled with floral herbs that allowed doctors and nurses to tend to the sick without being reviled from the smell.
Children are often seen forming circles by holding hands and reciting loudly,
Pockets full of posies
We all fall down"
An illustration of the Great Plague of London, 1665 Image source: wikimedia commons
When the last line is sung, they break the circle and fall down. The roses and posies are believed to be the preferred fragrances inside the masks, and a single sneeze (a-tishoo) was enough to infect the one who was exposed to the disease. Consequently, they fell down, ill, and later died.
An alternative version of this rhyme is sung about the fall of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the aftermath of World War II. The roses and posies are interchanged with geranium and uranium, to symbolise what was used in the atomic bomb. But this version is not as famous the original.
Keywords: Rhymes, Ringa-ringa-roses, Great Plague of London, WWII, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Folklore
In modern times, many social movements aim to bring reform to the society we live in, on the basis of certain existing patterns. Patriarchy is something that many aim to cleanse our cultures of, to usher in the era of social and gender equality. Despite all these so-called movements, in southern India, certain societies that patronise matriarchy have existed since before India's independence. The Nairs and Ezhavas of Kerala, and Bunts and Billavas of Karnataka are matrilineal societies that continue to thrive in a patriarchal country.
Kerala remains separate from the rest of India in many ways. Be it literacy policy, form of government, or cultural practices, this state does not always conform to the ideal that India is known for. Even so with their social structure. Certain tribes have remained matrilineal, where the decision-making power rests with the eldest female of the family.
The Nairs and Ezhavas of Kerala, and Bunts and Billavas of Karnataka are matrilineal societies that continue to thrive in a patriarchal country. Image source: wikimedia commons
A male member, who is the close confidante of the matriarch is chosen. He plays a crucial role in representing the male members of his family, and his opinion is highly valued. He is called karavanan. The men reside in separate rooms or in separate houses, and do not interfere in the upbringing of children. Property is also passed down along the lineage of the eldest female. Among the Nairs, matriarchy is more prominently adhered to than the Ezhavas, who have some patrilocal connections.
In Karnataka, the Bunts and Billavas belong to the Tuluva ethnic group. They are also a predominantly matriarchal society, founded on the belief in a legend. Their matrilineal descent is known as Aliyasantana.
The story is told of a demon who threatened to destroy a kingdom if the king did not sacrifice his sons, but the king's sister comes forward to offer her children in sacrifice for the sake of the kingdom. The demon is touched and does not destroy the city. Since then, the kingdom, or the property is inherited through female lineage.
In Karnataka, the Bunts and Billavas belong to the Tuluva ethnic group. They are also a predominantly matriarchal society, founded on the belief in a legend. Image source: wikimedia commons
In the recent past, many of these matriarchal societies have been reduced to matrilineal societies by certain governmental laws. They fall under the patriarchal scheme of the rest of the state but have reserved the right to pass on property and heritage through the female line. In the North east of India, matriarchal dominance is far more resilient than the south.
Keywords: Bunts, Billava, Nair, Ezhava, Aliyasantana, Matrilineal, South India, Karnataka, Kerala
Apple inc. Is an American multinational tech firm specialized in consumer electronics, computer programs, and internet services founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne in 1976 to manufacture Wozniak's Apple iComputer. It is the world's top tech company in turnover (totaling $274.5 billion in 2020) and its most valuable corporation. Apple is the fourth-largest PC seller by unit sales and the fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world.
Apple has revealed a slew of new products at a special launch event that has been long-awaited. On the day of the live event, Apple announced the iPad mini, Apple Watch Series 7, iPhone 13 mini, and iPhone 13, as well as the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max.
Apple has revealed a slew of new products at a special launch event that has been long-awaited. | Photo by Daniel Romero on Unsplash
In the first major product announcement during the event, Apple introduced the newest edition of the iPad and a 5G-capable iPad Mini.
iPad: The 10.2-inch iPad is equipped with a solid A13 processor that delivers 20 percent quicker performance than the preceding version. According to Apple, it is now three times faster than a Chromebook. A new 12MP ultra-wide camera with Center Stage, which utilizes machine learning to optimize the front-facing camera during FaceTime video chats, as well as more incredible accessory support, including compatibility with the first-generation Apple Pencil, are among the new features. For 64GB of storage, the iPad costs $329.
iPad Mini: In addition to reduced borders and more rounded edges, the 8.3-inch iPad mini also has improved front and back cameras. A liquid retina display, USB-C compatibility, magnetic support for the Apple Pencil, an enhanced speaker system, and new hues such as pink and purple are all features of the new Apple iPad Mini. The starting price is $499.
In the first major product announcement during the event, Apple introduced the newest edition of the iPad and a 5G-capable iPad Mini. | Photo by Leone Venter on Unsplash
The other major unveiled products include:
iPhone 13 and other variants: The iPhone 13 range is almost identical to the iPhone 12 lineup, with a 5.4-inch iPhone 13 Mini, a 6.1-inch iPhone 13, a 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro, and a 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max. It was also revealed that the Watch Series 7 has a smaller "S7" processor, which may allow for a bigger battery or other components to be housed in a smaller footprint. The gadgets have a revolutionary design that includes a dual-camera system, placed diagonally. Apple's iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini have longer-lasting batteries than the previous generation of devices. In addition, Apple claims that the iPhone 13 will have a battery life that is 2.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12, and the iPhone 13 mini will have a battery life that is 1.5 hours longer. A more energy-efficient display, an upgraded 5G chip, and functionality called "Cinematic Mode," similar to the famous Portrait mode function but is only available for movies, are among the other enhancements. The A15 Bionic chip present in the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini is also used in the 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro and 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max, also 6.1-inch devices. However, it also has a five-core CPU, which promises graphics that are 50% quicker than previous models. Other notable features of the Pro devices include a brilliant Super Retna XDR display with a higher refresh rate and long-lasting battery life. Now, for the price, it will start at $699 for the iPhone 13 mini with 128 GB of storage, $799 for the iPhone 13 with 128 GB of storage, and the Pro and Pro Max have starting prices of $999 $1,099, respectively.
Apple Watch Series 7: The new Apple Watch Series 7, which is smaller and has a larger screen than its previous model, was introduced by Apple on Wednesday. There is a 20% increase in screen size over Series 6 on the new watch. A complete keyboard that you can touch or slide to write out text messages can show 50% more text. It starts at $399.
Keywords: Apple, iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone Mini, Apple event 2021