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Much Ado About Bindis, Nose Rings And Turbans


Jun 1, 2004

New York:
America has become more inclusive of immigrant communities but Indians still fight to retain aspects of their cultural and religious traditions. Surprisingly, bindis, turbans and ubiquitous nose rings can sometimes get unexpected reactions in America.

Suzannah Pabla was suspended last month from school in Bountiful, Utah, for wearing an Indian jewelled-flower stud on her nose. The school authorities came down on the 12-year-old for violating a body-piercing ban.
The bewildered girl, who was born in Bountiful, said she only wore the nose-ring to be closer to her father Sodhi Pabla's Punjabi family. Pabla was allowed to return to school after she complied with dress code concessions, replacing the jewelled stud with a small, clear one. "Boy, I just couldn't believe that they wouldn't let her embrace her Indian culture," her mother, Shirley Pabla, told reporters.

Rajan Zed, president, Universal Society of Hinduism, told DNA the episode smacks of discrimination. "The school is denying this teen the right to express her cultural and religious identity."

US public schools are part of a larger move to ensure that religious symbols are kept out of public life. Schools in New York City have done away with Christmas celebrations in deference to non-Christian students.
Despite America's efforts at being a pluralistic society, the Sikh Coalition says 60% of turban-wearing boys are harassed at school. Bias attacks against Sikhs spiked after 9/11 and a report by the Sikh Coalition found that half of New York's Sikh students are bullied because of their turban.
Pooja Makhijani, author of Under Her Skin: How Girls Experience Race in America, told DNA, "In some parts of the US, outward markings of ethnicity can attract unwarranted attention."

At a time when the turban is under constant scrutiny, Sikh model Sonny Caberwal says his identity is tied up in the turban. The model for Kenneth Cole stands in contrast to clean-shaven blonds. Despite the pressure to "fit in" with image-obsessed 9/11-scarred America, Caberwal has not discarded his turban.

How hard is it to be a turban-wearing Sikh model in the US when the most famous turban-wearer is Osama bin Laden? In a video at kennethcole.com celebrating 'Non-Uniform Thinkers' Caberwal said 9/11 increased his resolve to keep the faith. "We're often, in this day and age, mistaken for Muslims. I always drew strength from keeping this unique identity to remind me that I am different," says Caberwal.

In the late-1980s, many Indians stopped wearing bindis when Dotbusters, a street gang in Jersey City, ruthlessly killed South Asians. "Now we have Madonna wearing a bindi and dancing on MTV. It is a topsy-turvy world," quipped Anjali Acharya.


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Aman ji

At least the article now has the correct name of Suzannah's father -- unlike earlier editions of the same. :D



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