Let it be known that Sikh women are the burden and responsibilities to no one but themselves.
Sargun Kaur is a featured writer for the print collection: Her Name Is Kaur: Sikh American Women Write About Love, Courage, and Faith published by She Writes Press in April 2014.
Sargun discusses what it was like to write her story, Mama’s Hands, for the print collection — Her Name Is Kaur.
The meaning of your name:
The name ‘Sargun’ appears in Sukhmani Sahib as Sargun nirgun nirankar sunn smadhi aap. In its etymological structure, Sargun is made from two roots: sar means ‘with all’ and the suffix gun means ‘attributes’ or ‘form’. My mom was really fond of the name Rashi (def: wealth) but the hukam namma started with an ‘S’—so Rashi became my household name, and Sargun my official name.
What are you up to?
I graduated from UC Berkeley and will be starting my first full-time job soon at Yahoo. Meanwhile, I am also trying to forge my own identity and really learning to become more comfortable in my own skin and hair. I’ve become really involved in working on events like Kaur Voices, an opportunity for the voices of Sikh women, traditionally marginalized,—to be expressed through spoken word or art, and am currently working on a Big Ideas Workshop for students to engage in thinking of innovative solutions to problems in the Sikh community. There is just so much I want to do and experience in my short time on this Earth!
What does “Sikh love” mean to you?
We live inside a capitalist society inundated with finite objects representing love. In Sikhi, love is anything but finite. I would most closely identify ‘Sikh love’ to the concept of seva, selfless service, which is very prominent in Sikhi. This love travels across generations, oceans, and hands. My Mama has passed on so much to me through hands that have cooked, cleaned, and raised me, much like her mother. That is love.
What inspired you to write for Her Name Is Kaur: Sikh American Women Write About Love, Courage, and Faith?
I wanted to share the story of my Mama, the incredible women she is, and my journey as her daughter. This was a way I could preserve the story and share it with others.
What are the main themes in your story?
The story, My Mama’s Hands, largely revolves around themes of self-journey, empowerment, and sangat.
Why were these themes important for the story and your own self-expression?
I grew up going to the Gurudwara, learning Kirtan and Gurmukhi, and speaking Punjabi at home. I was surrounded by Punjabi culture and Sikhi, and inevitably gained values of seva, sangat, and empowerment that are now very much part of my self-expression.
What is the main message you want readers to take away from your story and why?
I think every reader will take away something from their own understanding. So read and find out!
Did the act of writing your story impact you? How?
Yes. I set out thinking I was writing a story for others and never thought about how it would affect me. But traversing through years of memories and picking at all the nuances of particular moments was honestly, incredibly traumatic (and therapeutic in a way). The first time I started writing, I remember crying and being completely confused by the source of the unexpected tears. By writing this story, I was recognizing a deeper love for my Mama than what I had known before. I think life passes by so quickly, writing about it forced me to reflect and attempt to learn and grow from it all in a way I had never done so before.
It’s also probably time I start keeping a diary.
Please use one word to describe your overall experience:
What do you want to see for Sikh women and girls as a collective and in relation to the larger community?
I hope more Sikh girls aspire to higher education and not be boxed in by the constructs of what society or culture has deemed fit for them. Go forge your unique paths in engineering, art, or whatsoever you choose. Don’t befit yourself to the roles of housewives or traditionally female professions if you don’t want to.
So often, daughters are raised as if they are burdens and responsibilities until they get married. Let it be known that Sikh women are the burden and responsibilities to no one but themselves. They are Kaurs after all.
What would you like to experience in your relationships with Sikh women and Sikh men?
If anything, I would like to see and experience more respect between Sikh women and men and between Sikh women among themselves. I have been fortunate to find the sangat of some great Sikh women and men who challenge me, engage me in critical discussions, and inspire me to be a better Sikh—all possible because of a very strong foundation of respect for one another.
What is your superpower?
I have a sweet tooth AND a mirch tooth, which means I eat and enjoy an incredible amount of different types of food. It’s a pretty super power.
How are you saving the world and/or making it a better place?
Being the best Sikh I can be.