By Sarabjeet Singh | SINGAPORE |
Haven’t done something like this before. I feel, because I’ve seen similar posts before, I must offer that obligatory warning that this is a long post. Jump right to the end to understand my motivations for this. If you feel compelled to then come back to the start, I hope you feel some of the emotions I felt stringing this together ❤️
Some of you among my family and friends have asked me how I learnt to tie my Phag (Turban). Let me say off the bat it hasn’t been easy, still isn’t. I keep at it because it fills me with love and pride for my identity as a Sikh. My father is the first reference point for what a beautiful Phag, to me, looks like. I wanted to be able to tie a Phag just like Papa ❤️ Also because Papa takes a lot of pride, too, when he ties his Phag. It makes him look neat and dignified. He has mentioned to me previously, and also recently over the phone, that it must be done “ਪਿਆਰ ਨਾਲ” (lovingly). You mustn’t rush it.
Unfortunately, Papa spends extended periods of time away. I haven’t had the chance to learn from him and didn’t observe carefully when he is around and ties his Phag. Also, on my part, I just didn’t get round to asking him to teach me. In hindsight, I should have. I will be sure to ask when we meet next.
The first few Veers (brothers) who helped me were Sewadars (volunteers who serve) and Giani Ji’s (men learned in Sikh religious scripture) from Khalsa Dharmak Sabha Gurdwara. I always went to them to ask for help to tie a Phag. No matter how busy they were, they never turned me away. Also, like Papa, they did so for me “ਪਿਆਰ ਨਾਲ” (lovingly).
They told me that I could always come for help to tie a Phag. If I had the time, they would also be most happy to teach me. They did not impose this on me but offered out of brotherhood, kindness and love. This was not expressed through words. It was what I felt. Their gesture also made me fall in love with the Phag, the way I look wearing one, and I wanted to learn how to tie one.
Next steps. I watched many videos online on Youtube and tried to make time after work on some weekdays to tie a Phag. I knew where to get the cloth and materials and bought my first Phag from Khaira’s Shop, the one-stop-shop for almost all things Punjabi in Singapore! All members of the Khaira family also guided me and shared knowledge on different materials for ”Phagga” (plural for Phag).
After my first purchase, I’ve gone back for several more Phagga in different colours to try. I recently showed Uncle Khaira and Veerji (his son who helps at the shop) a picture of me wearing a Phag for a @ysa.sg event. They both smiled, and Veerji patted my shoulder to say, “You make me proud! Come to the shop wearing your Phag next time”. I have given him my word and will do so.
Back to the online videos though. After several searches I came across Veerji Sargun Singh @sikhmodel on Instagram and Youtube. I knew I was at the right place when in one of his videos, he said exactly what Dad tells me, and a little more: “You must do all steps properly from (ਪੱਗ ਦੀ ਪੂਣੀ) preparing the folds of the cloth for your Phag, adding some water if needed, and tying your Phag. Don’t rush it. You must do it “ਪਿਆਰ ਨਾਲ” (lovingly).“
I watched his videos whenever I could and I did not learn everything at once. Each time I watched any of his videos I would learn something new and apply it when I next tied a Phag. Sometimes it even got a little frustrating. Sargun Veerji in almost all his videos, I can’t recall one where he doesn’t stress the point, always mentions that preparing the Phag is the hardest but most important step. I realised this with some frustration. Sometimes, if I felt I hadn’t tied a “good enough” or satisfactory Phag, I would unravel it and start again. The most number of times this has happened trying to tie a Phag is five! More recently, I feel I’ve gotten it right by the second try 😎
This is a long post. Don’t feel obliged to read all the paragraphs but if you choose just one, read this. I wanted to share my experience and story tying a Phag because actually, it is a story of love and support I have been blessed and privileged to have received from my community and including of course my family. So that’s the shorter answer to the question “How did you learn to tie your Phag”. More on my family perhaps in future because my wife Diana is Chinese and some of you have also asked how she is responding to her husband wearing a Phag. I will just say, it has grown on her, she thinks I look handsome 😂 and she now helps me too ❤️
On that note, if this post helps any Sikhs – boys, girls (yes they wear Phagga too ❤️) and adults, it would be a bonus. Another bonus is if this helps my non-Sikh friends understand a little more about the people in my community. Even better, if reading this made you feel curious enough to act on it, feel free to reach to anyone from the Young Sikh Association (Singapore) @ysa.sg for our new “Culture, Community & Conversations” initiative. We will be humbled and privileged to host you, speak to you, and I have no doubt also learn from you, because you care enough to find out more!
Sarabjeet Singh is the president of Young Sikh Association (Singapore), YSA. Check out Sarabjeet’s Facebook original posting, here, where he has left some captions to accompany the photographs
(Asia Samachar, 1 Nov 2019)