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This American Choice

reading in the library

It seemed like the longest silence that had ever existed. Dadaji staring at me in the quiet of his study.

"This American choice," he finally asserted,"It is not Indian choice. not a choice for a Sikh. You are a Sikh, so you must follow our traditions."

I had accepted the offer for school in America, when it was clear he wished me to do otherwise. I'd let classmates convince me to cut my long hair. Washing my long hair was time-consuming, as was the morning ritual of winding seven meters, or more than 20 feet, of cloth around my head. It was hot and uncomfortable. It got in the way during gym classes. But as soon as the barber cut my hair, I knew I had made a mistake.

I wrote to DadaJi and told him what I had done. He said we would discuss it when I came home on the winter holiday.

I told him how people associated the turban with terrorists. I told him it was old world ways in a new expanding world. Afraid of being branded a Taliban or an al-Queda, I told him that there was no convincing people otherwise.

He laid before me on the table a perfectly white patka - and a considerable length of the family's deepest red silk.

"There is no convincing of people, only showing people by our peaceful example. Their misunderstanding is rooted in fear, fear that you will dissipate. A turban asserts a public commitment to maintaining the values and ethics of the tradition, including service, compassion, and honesty. We wear the turban as a symbol of the equality and sovereignty of all people."