I’m not a religious person. I’m a baptized Lutheran, as most Finnish people are, but by no means an actively participating one. I take part in Christmas and Easter… well, sort of. I give gifts and eat chocolate. But the other day I participated in another religion that I never would have dreamed of participating in: Sikhism. As the fifth largest religion in the world it genuinely surprises me that I knew nothing about it, that is, until I attended a Sikhi Awareness Week event.
When I walked into the SLC, there were vibrant swaths of coloured fabric on every surface of the multi-purpose room. I went with a friend and we were told to have a seat, and pick a colour. Naturally, I picked my favourite colour, blue. Then we had our turbans tied. Metre upon metre of fabric was stylishly tied around my head, and the end result was fabulous. Not my usual go-to outfit, but it was an interesting experience. My friend had a different style than I did and I was told that turban tying was an individual expression, and everyone did it his or her own way.
As I wandered around the room, I spoke with people who practised Sikhism. I learned that Sikhs believe everyone is equal regardless of gender, religion, race, nationality, or sexual orientation. It was emphasized to me many times that Sikhism is a religion for everyone. Historically, turbans (or dastaars) were worn by kings as crowns, and they were adopted for use in Sikhism to show humility. Everyone wears a bracelet called a kara at all times as a reminder that their God has no beginning or end. Note that karas are made of steel, not gold, emphasizing again the accessibility of Sikhism to everyone. A young woman I spoke with was kind and informative and answered all my questions ranging from “do you wear a turban while you sleep?” to “are you allowed to wear your sword on a plane?” She answered these questions with good humour and a smile (yes, a lighter turban, and no, it gets checked into luggage). I think one of the things that impressed me most about the young people running this event was the fact that nobody was trying to push their religion on me — all they wanted to do was share it and raise awareness.
From this experience I learned so much about Sikhism that I never knew and it really opened my mind. It was an incredible learning experience at university that had nothing to do with the classroom. Thank you to the UWaterloo Sikh Students Association for hosting this event, and I look forward to attending next year.
2B Honours Science