Author: Witty Punjaban

Bhangra is not an Indian dance

My sister recently attended her son’s multicultural celebration at his school. They live in a South Asian-populated community with a dominant, wealthy, non-Punjabi Hindu majority. Towards the end of the program the emcee announced that the audience would now get a glimpse of ‘India’s hip-hop’ dance… you guessed it — they were talking about bhangra. On comes the beating dhol and out come a cadre of non-Punjabi dancers trying their best to smile their way through some cheesy, Bollywood wanna-be bhangra music. All I could feel when my sister recounted this to me was a strong desire to throw...

Read More

Who is at the top of the caste system?

Let’s get this out of the way. The caste system is horrible and should be obliterated. It has no place in Sikhi. It oppresses the vast majority of people living across South Asian countries and benefits the few. Just like capitalism, sexism, classism, racism, etc. caste is another structural system perpetuated by those in power in order to keep the masses controlled. No one here is arguing for this. What is arguable however, is the age-old tradition in our community of upper class Sikhs being faux concerned about the poorest of the poor in Punjab while using the caste system for their own benefit. Just like Donald Trump, they claim to be down with the people when in fact he is the very oppressor we should be protesting. Here’s the setup I’ve seen over the past few years in academic circles: a Sikh ‘activist’ who comes from a long line of educated, super-wealthy community leaders decides to take on caste as the decisive dividing issue in our community. They turn into a speaker or scholar about the topic and continually connect all of the panth’s ills back to this divide. They claim that Jatts or Sainis or Khatris or whatever other label, are to blame for the serious issues we’re facing as a global Sikh community. You notice they blame everyone except the people who should be blamed –...

Read More

Sikhs in the Age of Trump

Some say the United States is headed towards fascism and that our newly enthroned white supremacist administration will destroy our country. It certainly seems this way. While liberal and moderate Americans take to the streets to challenge ‘the Donald’s’ ridiculous statements and policies, #45 and his elite millionaire cronies sit in the White House dividing the spoils. There is a feeling of dread in America’s air ever since that fateful election night. November 8th, 2016 was filled with angst. Once it was obvious that Hillary Clinton was going to lose the election, reality slapped us in the face – we had been betrayed by an angry white America who honestly thought a wealthy conman could fix their problems. All that hope generated over the past eight years came to naught when we realized things were about to change for the worse. I immediately turned to Sikh history for guidance and hope. I knew my problems living under president #45 were tiny in comparison to what my forbearers had encountered. After all, the Sikh community survived attacks from sadistic Mughal leaders to conniving Brahmin adversaries and British colonizers. Hell, we even came back (although barely) after having 50,000 of our youth straight up kidnapped and disappeared by the Indian Government during Indira Gandhi’s Operation Woodrose. It was mere coincidence then, how days later Harry Baweja’s latest animated Sikh film ‘Char...

Read More

The legacy of male preference

I’m the youngest of many daughters in a Sikh family. I have one brother born a few years before me. I have been raised to believe by relatives and my culture that I am the least important of my parents’ children. No one ever said outright, “we were trying for another son but you came along“. Nonetheless, this is the message I implicitly received from others. The damage done to my psyche by our culture’s sexism is irreparable. While I spent the majority of my life justifying the actions of my family as an unfortunate and unavoidable byproduct of pind values, transplanted to America, I now recognise and denounce these values for what they are – immoral and against nature. Some people say that their parents are “educated” and not sexist. To those people, I’m glad you feel that way, but truthfully, it’s not the story of most. Other youngsters seem so overwhelmingly grateful for the sacrifices their elders made that they can’t even muster the courage to say one negative statement against their parents. To these youth I’d say, I understand, but this is a separate issue that has little to do with immigration struggles or hard work. The reality is that many Punjabi women are taught that their existence isn’t as valuable as their brother’s life. We are inculcated from a young age to work twice as...

Read More

Review: ‘Ardaas’

I, like many people, am an ardent Gippy Grewal fan. Over the past decade Grewal has gone from being a typical Punjabi singer to a multifaceted super star. Thanks to the advice and guidance of his older brother Sippy Grewal, his career is soaring. He has millions of fans all over the world, is amazingly influential, and his celebrity status isn’t waning. That’s why I’m really impressed by his latest film ‘Ardaas’. At the peak of his popularity Grewal wrote and directed a movie that doesn’t appeal to the common crowd. Instead, ‘Ardaas’ can best be described as a...

Read More