Traveling while Sikh

Over drinks one night with friends, all frequent travellers, all Sikhs, we talked about our choice of turbans and headgear when we travel. I told them that I recently chose to travel without a head covering of any sort, to speed my way through immigration and customs. Call me lazy or unreligious but that’s just who I am, plus, I can wear my new Bose headphones which would have a hard time fitting over my turban. Another friend, fresh from being singled out for secondary inspection at an international airport has decided to now wear a bandana on his future travels. It is easier he says, than trying to explain the difference between a Sikh and a Sheikh. He just wants to get to his hotel efficiently and on to his meetings. But another friend thinks that wearing a bandana would put us into a category that invites profiling of a different kind, and so he prefers to wear a cap bearing the name of his favourite basketball team. All of this is much to the contempt of another, who insists on traveling fully turbaned. We must be proud of who we are, he says, and we must educate the world about Sikhs. Why should we lose our identity simply because of some ignorant people? And, he added with a triumphant flourish of his hand, his earphones manage to stay in with the help of the fold of cloth over his ears.

We Sikhs are often turbaned. We originated in India and so most of us are brown, with the males being generously bearded. We have great faith in humanity and we celebrate existence loudly with a drink or more, to the frowns of the devout amongst us. We enjoy sharing our food, and our friendships are always life long. We love to travel and are great at making a living even under the most unfriendly circumstances, prosperously inhabiting all corners of the globe.

So if you do encounter us on any of your trips, fellow passenger or immigration and customs officer, please do not be alarmed or confused. Just like you, we have things on our mind. Like passports and visas, chargers and universal adapters, and laptops out and containers empty. And we have also given thought to other things, like the choice, or lack, of head gear. But more importantly, we wonder if we’ve managed to get the best possible deal on our flight, and whether the plane is air worthy and the pilot capable.

There is more to us, and less to us, than meets the eye.