PDA

View Full Version : Sikh Questions. Bully story, 1973 Toronto



KTC
04-29-2008, 03:00 PM
I don't know if the title had to be so pin-pointed? I just wanted to get it all in there. I'm writing a fictional short story using elements of a memory that is pretty sketchy.

Every time I hear a bully story I think back to the one I was a part of in elementary school (I heard a bully story here yesterday that made me think of this memory). Most of my childhood I went to Catholic schools, but there was a two year period where we moved half a block away from a public school and we went there, I suppose, for convenience.

I was 7 in 1973 and my best friend was a sikh boy. One day a bully about 2 years older than us got him in a doorway during recess, held him against the door and ripped off his turban. There was a crowd around taunting and screaming... so it was somewhat of a swarming, I suppose (though I don't remember having the term at the time?). Ravinder was absolutely destroyed. I remember that he was most worried that his father would find out that his turban had come off. (And he couldn't put it on as well... in fact not very well at all.) He was sullen for about a week after... not looking anybody in the eye. It even took him a while to warm back up to me.

Looking back, I'm guessing his parents gave him a talk about trust, etc... and he had a hard time regaining trust in our friendship (though I don't really know... like I said, we were just kids at the time... most of what I remember is probably remembered through a different self than the one who experienced it)

Anyway... what was my question?

-are there any here who are either Sikhs or know Sikhs and would know what Ravinder went through at home that day? This is the part of the story I want to portray accurately.
-would a 7-year old know how to tie his own turban? Am I remembering this part accurately? I'm sure this was his biggest worry... but I'm thinking was it that his father would find out from the school that it was off, or that his father would see that it wasn't on right and realize that it was off. (Of course, until this day I had never seen him put on his turban... it was just always on)
-I'd also love some insight into little details of a Sikh home in this era... I suppose that's the biggest longshot of them all. I played in his yard a lot, but never in his home... I remember being at the door... but recall no details. (We mostly played at my house.)

I found this site explaining how to tie a turban, but there are several different types. I know that Ravinder's turban was pretty complicated... not just the one on this site shown to be warn by boys at home: Turbans (http://www.sikhnet.com/s/tyingturbans)
(I guess I will never know which one he wore, though to me it looked like the General Men's one on the website???)

The first part of this short story is already written... I wrote it last night. Any insights would be beyond helpful at this point. I've googled to research a few things already, but I guess these little details to authenticate are a bit beyond what I can think to google...

Thanks in advance.

Shweta
04-29-2008, 03:19 PM
Good gods, that's indecent. As I understand it, that's like they ripped off his pants and underwear in public. No wonder he was worried his father would see his turban off :(

So it wasn't the "boy's house turban"; was it one more like this (http://www.parrotfish.co.uk/images/textiles/boy_in_turban.jpg), Kevin? My limited experience was that those were pretty complicated. I'd expect him to tie it wrong, especially after a shock.

Beyond that, I'm afraid I know next to nothing, here. I just remember really wanting to see my Sikh friend's hair, because I knew it was forbidden and that he had long hair. Hm, might be where my obsession with long-haired boys comes... :D

KTC
04-29-2008, 03:33 PM
Thanks, Shweta. No... that's quite a nice looking turban, actually. His was very proper. One colour... and seemed extremely complicated. And you could see the other fabric over his eyes... like the General Men's one on the site I pointed to... I just don't know if a young boy would wear that one, from the description. Yes... it was like being naked in public... but much much worse. That much I do remember.

At the time there was discussion going on about Sikhs being allowed to step out of the classrooms for Oh Canada... so I'm sure parents were discussing it and a bully would probably pick up on hatred... this is just conjecture, but I'm delving into it a bit.

I too was fascinated by the turban and I wanted to see his hair... UNTIL I SAW IT. I felt his shame, even at that young age. I must of if I still go back to this memory so often. (I figure it's time I write about it.)

Shweta
04-29-2008, 03:40 PM
Yes... it was like being naked in public... but much much worse. That much I do remember.

Like being stripped naked in public. And the hair thing is sacred. Gah.


I too was fascinated by the turban and I wanted to see his hair... UNTIL I SAW IT. I felt his shame, even at that young age.

Oh yeah, I wouldn't have actually wanted to see my friend's hair. I was just fascinated, and... ya know. Wanted to be let in on the mystery, not wanted to see what he didn't want to show me.

KTC
04-29-2008, 03:41 PM
Oh yeah, I wouldn't have actually wanted to see my friend's hair. I was just fascinated, and... ya know. Wanted to be let in on the mystery, not wanted to see what he didn't want to show me.

Yes. That was it exactly.

reigningcatsndogs
04-29-2008, 06:50 PM
Sorry, Kev -- this really doens't have anything to do with the turbans themselves, but maybe with what was going on in the country at the time. I was trying to remember when we had the big kafuffle here about turbans in the military and the RCMP -- but with the RCMP it started in 83 in earnest. In the 70's though, our immigration laws were changing drastically and constantly, and a lot of people were upset about that. It was maybe a bit of a coming-of-age for the country because there were a lot of issues about culture, language, religion. Language issues, new immigrants and the fears that come with that -- they call could have spilled over from the dinner table and easily landed in the schools.

This would have been on the coattails of the Official Languages Bill, The Thinkers Conference on Multicultural Society (1968), the appointment of the first Jew to Cabinet (Herb Gray), The FLQ stuff (1970) -- there was a lot of change back then, and I know where I was, the tensions were increasing because of the changes.

KTC
04-29-2008, 07:57 PM
This helps... I wasn't quite sure I hit the right timeline when I mentioned that thing about the schools. I couldn't remember if they actually co-incided or not. Thanks.

We were rapidly changing back then, weren't we...

reigningcatsndogs
04-29-2008, 08:47 PM
This helps... I wasn't quite sure I hit the right timeline when I mentioned that thing about the schools. I couldn't remember if they actually co-incided or not. Thanks.

We were rapidly changing back then, weren't we...

I clearly remember a t-shirt back then that had a picture of a beaver choking the life out of a frog -- I think it safe to say there was anger and resentment about the changes. It was in 1974 we had our first woman mountie pass through depot -- there was a lot of poop raised about that too. If I sumble upon anything else more relevant to the subject of your work, I'll let you know.

Keyan
04-30-2008, 01:53 AM
-would a 7-year old know how to tie his own turban? Am I remembering this part accurately? I'm sure this was his biggest worry... but I'm thinking was it that his father would find out from the school that it was off, or that his father would see that it wasn't on right and realize that it was off. (Of course, until this day I had never seen him put on his turban... it was just always on)
-I'd also love some insight into little details of a Sikh home in this era... I suppose that's the biggest longshot of them all. I played in his yard a lot, but never in his home... I remember being at the door... but recall no details. (We mostly played at my house.)


Hmm. Tying a turban is about an order of magnitude more complicated than tying a tie. It's unlikely a 7 y-o would know how. And to continue the analogy, if someone pulled off a kid's tie, he wouldn't know how to put it back on properly, and it would show that it had been pulled off.

When I was a kid, Sikh boys that young usually had their hair pulled into a knot on top of their heads, and covered with something like a handkerchief. They wore turbans when they were older...maybe 10-12.

Hair wasn't quite as private as privates - I've seen Sikh men sitting outside their houses after washing their hair, letting it dry in the sun. That was in India.

However, in context, it probably would feel just like what Shweta described.

A Sikh home. Depends on how observant they were. There might be a picture of Guru Nanak (http://www.indiaparenting.com/stories/greatindians/gi015.shtml) or of the Golden Temple (http://www.sssibia.com/Golden%20temple.JPG) on the wall (or both). There would be the holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, probably on a stand, maybe hidden behind a screen.

Otherwise, I would expect that their home, especially in Canada, would look very like any middle-class home: sofa set, TV, dining set. If his Mom cooked at home, there might be an occasional fragrant curry smell from the kitchen. There might be a wedding picture of his parents in a frame on a table, and perhaps some baby pictures of the boy.

Shweta
04-30-2008, 03:14 AM
When I was a kid, Sikh boys that young usually had their hair pulled into a knot on top of their heads, and covered with something like a handkerchief. They wore turbans when they were older...maybe 10-12.

Yeah same, but if this kid didn't, he didn't; however, it might be something to change for the story, since that sort of turban says "little boy" to a lot of people? Still would be hard to tie well.


Hair wasn't quite as private as privates - I've seen Sikh men sitting outside their houses after washing their hair, letting it dry in the sun. That was in India.
Wow. Lucky :D
I never have, anywhere.


A Sikh home. Depends on how observant they were. There might be a picture of Guru Nanak (http://www.indiaparenting.com/stories/greatindians/gi015.shtml) or of the Golden Temple (http://www.sssibia.com/Golden%20temple.JPG) on the wall (or both). There would be the holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, probably on a stand, maybe hidden behind a screen.

Keyan, do you know if they do the garlanded picture thing, or if it's just Hindus? I have this vague memory of a garlanded Guru Nanak picture, but it's probably a confused memory of Amar Chitra Katha.

KTC
04-30-2008, 04:33 AM
Thanks much for your valuable insights Keyan...very helpful. Even if I just inject a few things into the story to make details authentic. I really appreciate your help. Thanks.

Tish Davidson
04-30-2008, 04:58 AM
Only indirectly related, but I volunteer at the elementary school across the street from my house and one day a Sikh 4th grade boy was lamenting that he could never ride a bicycle because a helmet wouldn't fit over his turban (house boy #2 in your pictures). His father told him he had to obey both Sikh law and the law of this state that say children must wear bicycle helmets. He was quite frustrated. This is a problem I would never had considered if he hadn't mentioned it.

KTC
04-30-2008, 05:01 AM
Thanks for mentioning that, Tish. No... I would not have considered that either. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm not remembering some of it wrong... maybe he was wearing something more simple than I remember. The house boy, maybe. It just seemed like more than that at the time.

Thanks for commenting.

StephanieFox
04-30-2008, 05:10 AM
I think this was more institutional bullying. Sometime around 1981-1984, there were a couple of Sikh teachers in the public schools in Eugene, Oregon. The school board wanted the teachers to 'dress normally', which would mean no turban and no white clothes. These were American converts a husband and wife who seemed very nice. They may have been members of an American style group not sure this was never clear.

They did look strange in their clothes, since they were very pale, redheaded (as far as I could tell) and very, very tall and skinny. They work very tall turbans, which made them about 6' 10". At least that's how I remember it.

I think they ended up going to court and were allowed to wear the clothes. This got a lot of coverage in the newspapers.

Keyan
04-30-2008, 06:03 AM
Yeah same, but if this kid didn't, he didn't; however, it might be something to change for the story, since that sort of turban says "little boy" to a lot of people? Still would be hard to tie well.


Wow. Lucky :D
I never have, anywhere.



Keyan, do you know if they do the garlanded picture thing, or if it's just Hindus? I have this vague memory of a garlanded Guru Nanak picture, but it's probably a confused memory of Amar Chitra Katha.

On the turban: I think probably in Canada families might start turbans on quite little boys because it looks more dignified than the hanky thing. In India, the hankies look cute, because we associate them with little boys. In the west, it might just look weird. A kid would probably need help either way - think of a 6 yr-old girl with long hair. Unlikely that she can fix it without adult help. The difference is that a teacher could help with the hanky, but wouldn't know how to tie a turban.

I'm not sure about the garlanded picture. It's quite possible. I seem to recall seeing a garlanded Guru Nanak picture, though I can't say where.

Keyan
04-30-2008, 06:06 AM
Oh, and they would greet each other with "Sat Sri Akal" which, pronounced quickly, sounds like "sussriyakaal."

They might speak Punjabi or Hindi at home, and even if they spoke English, they might use some Punjabi or Hindi words.

KTC
04-30-2008, 02:16 PM
Oh, and they would greet each other with "Sat Sri Akal" which, pronounced quickly, sounds like "sussriyakaal."

They might speak Punjabi or Hindi at home, and even if they spoke English, they might use some Punjabi or Hindi words.


This really helps a lot. That's a great thing to have if I have a scene at the front door of the Sikh character's house... which I have already envisioned. Thanks again!

Keyan
04-30-2008, 10:57 PM
Oh...different era, different country, but if you can get "Bend it Like Beckham" on dvd, it's a movie about a Sikh family living in England - and the daughter doesn't want to be a traditional Sikhni, she wants to "bend a ball like Beckham." It has some nice family scenes.

IceCreamEmpress
05-01-2008, 12:57 AM
This website (http://www.sizzlinsikh.com/), created by a Sikh man from Brantford, has some very cool family pictures.

slcboston
05-01-2008, 01:05 AM
Fascinating thread - not relevant at all to anything I'm doing, but worth knowing all the same.

KTC
05-01-2008, 01:11 AM
Thanks much, IceCream... my wife was born and raised in Brantford... we go there all the time. (-;

Those pictures will help me get a feel for things, too. Thanks.

PS... I may even contact him. (-:

KTC
06-02-2008, 03:44 AM
I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU to all who contributed to this thread. Your comments and feedback really helped me out a lot. I appreciate you taking the time to contribute. Thank you. I finished the story today and I'm feeling pretty good about it.

K