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)
ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs / Punjabis in Southeast Asia and beyond. Facebook | WhatsApp +6017-335-1399 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter | Instagram | Obituary announcements, click here |
Sat Sri Akal.
I could reply a comment that could even be longer than the author’s dissertation but I am voiding the rhetorics and adopting a very objective lens to simply posit that I salute Sarabjeet’s courage.
He has taken a very secular stand, reflection and appropriation in his articulation. And that’s not easy when we are typically confronted by a tribe of people who stand in wait to gun you down where they find opportunity.
One critic will cry out that the Turban is a tenet of religious commitment to a fundamental way of living. Another would pick up a magnifying glass and inspect the author’s beard for evidence of “cropping”…or an extreme would blurt out a lame comment such as ” marry non- punjabi but wear turban for what?”.
I thus salute the author’s courage to pen this because he most likely already knows those withering reactions I have cited would form imperative here. However, he has in his personal testimonial, shed much insight on the prevalence of an essential plateau in our lives; Culture!
Beyond, intense religous doctrines and entailing politics (even these scholars would argue are subsets of the big C), lies our subscription to cultural values and meanings that are intangible and even non-empirical.
Cultural frames are highly fluid and dynamic, consistent across time and space in some realities but evolving in many. I personally do not step foot on a burnt patch from Chinese religious offerings not becauae I am worried I will be cursed by the demons, nor because I am a firm believer of Taosim, but because I do not become less Sikh by avoiding what is perceived as sacrilegious by observers of that ritual.
Likewise, my cultural experiences and allegiances as a moderate Sikh in Singapore, prescribes upon me an emotional attachment to the Turban that again is not tangible or scientific in anyway. I do not wear a Turban (unless I feel like wearing one) but I get deeply offended when I hear or see or even read about any insult and disrespect to the article of ……. in this case for me Culture but to some faith n religiosity. And thus, when I read a narrative like Sarabjeet’s, reciprocally emotions of pride and honor are harboured in me.
To sum this, I genuinely hope that my kins are able to remove all the anti- social sentiments that may brew in their minds when reading such a personal testimonial of truth and integrity. There are just as many social norms that we maintain and comply that fell outside of our religious schools, so take a closer look and please do understand that as long no intention of injury is meant to the fundamentals (in this case the Turban), let us show appreciation for the effort taken by culturally motivated Sikhs like Sarbjeet. THANK YOU.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Some parts of the comment had been deleted]