A Decision This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

   "You won't be cutting your hair," my dad said.It was an honest reply to the question I had just asked.

"Why not? Ican't make friends, I am teased, and sports are hard for me. Is this all worthit?" I asked him.

"The answer is no. I did not come to thiscountry to see my kids give up their religion. What about all the other kids whohave the turban?"

Such ignorance! What on earth was he talking about?If there were other kids around with turbans, I wouldn't be in such a bind. Itwas too hard to digest; I was only 14 at the time.

"Do you want tosee your kid grow up depressed, never making friends or joining sports all forthe stupid religion you're forcing me to practice?" I was now over the edge.The conversation had escalated to a new level, and there was no avoidingyelling.

I was sick and tired of being laughed at and teased. My religion,the Sikh faith, focused on a strict way of life, daily prayer and equalitybetween men and women. The turban is the symbol of strength, but for me it meantmaking sacrifices every day. I had few friends, and there was not much to lookforward to in the weeks or years ahead. I tried to join organized sports, butwhether it was hockey, lacrosse, or football, I was turned down. There wasnothing I could do. My family tried desperately to get the rules changed, theywere even willing to spend money to help me get to play. I was upset about thisevery day. Everyone knew and the jokes spread like wildfire at school: "Ha,ha, you can't play 'cause your helmet won't fit your turban," they'dtaunt.

My parents came to the country more than 20 years ago. My fatherstarted out with only $23 but managed to get an education. My mother worked hardand together they started a family. We now live in an upper-middle classneighborhood and it's hard to imagine what my parents went through because I havenot seen that kind of hardship.

School was tough; I'd walk around beingteased and laughed at. I was different. I was the only Sikh child in a school ofmore than 3,000. My religion was not even clear to me, and it seemed my only hopewas to remove my turban and get a haircut. It was not a sin in my mind.

Ifelt that if there were Jewish people who wore traditional garb, and at the sametime there were Jews who did not, both following the same religion, thisflexibility should apply to me, too. My parents did not agree. It was a sin intheir eyes, a rejection of the Sikh community, and a family disgrace. In Asianculture, you are an integral part of the growing community and must do aseveryone around you wants to see you do. How much worse could it get for me?

I visited India for the first time last year, and while there I got in touch with the religion. I saw for the first time the massive temples, and the millions of proud, strong Sikhs. I began reading books about our history, and how the turban is not a sacrifice, but a symbol of strength and power. These ideas are clearer to me now, and I have made the choice not to give up my religion. I understand what it means and that sometimes giving into others may be the wrong thing. I followed my parents' ideals and I am happier for it.

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This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the December 2001 Teen Ink Travel Contest.

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toxic.monkey said...
Dec. 21, 2009 at 2:21 pm
i'm glad that you've achieved peace within yourself about this topic :)
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