Recently, a hastily snapped picture of Balpreet Kaur, a Sikh-American woman, caused quite a ruckus on the social networking site Reddit. The picture, taken without Kaur’s consent, showed the Ohio State University student while she waited in line. But it was her appearance that (predictably) got people talking.
Kaur, a baptized Sikh, has a good deal of facial hair, something most westerns aren’t used to seeing on a woman. Unlike other women with “unsightly” hair, the Neuroscience and Psychology major doesn’t shave—anything—not even her face. Why? As a devout Sikh, she keeps her body (including her hair) intact in reverence to God.
After Reddit users generally lambasted the sophomore for the way she looks, Kaur weighed in on the site, explaining her unconventional appearance.
I’m a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body – it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn’t reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying ‘mine, mine’ and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a seperateness between ourselves and the divinity within us. By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can. So, to me, my face isn’t important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are.
At first glace, I can see how Kaur’s appearance could be confusing to some, especially since we are conditioned that hair (almost anywhere) on women is a bad thing. But reading of Kaur’s devotion to her faith got me thinking how many among us would be able to be THIS dedicated to our beliefs.
These days, many people pick and choose what parts of their religion they will and will not follow. We seem to want to customize our faiths, not necessarily based on how we should best practice it in our lives, but often times based on societal pressures and norms.
While many on the site joked about Kaur’s appearance, the OSU student seems totally fine with her looks. Her appearance hasn’t stopped her from accomplishing anything in her life thus far, and I doubt that it will. Moreover, she seems happier and more grounded than some others who are totally obsessed with how they look instead of how they are on the inside.
Seeing Kaur made me wonder are we really as devoted to our faiths as we could be.