On what has to be the muggiest June day, I have a date with Sardar, a Sikh banker. Often times I think the simplest way to explain the difference between Sikhism and Hinduism to non-desis is by comparing them to Protestantism and Catholicism. Related religions that are similar in history but different in practice.
As my heels clip clop down the sidewalk, the last bit of curl escapes and my hair releases back to straight. S’nice. My brown silk dress with pink flowers is damp (ew!) and clings to my skin. When it comes to muggy, Minnesota with its 10,000 lakes and rivers was excellent training for living on an island. So I’m accustomed to bad hair days. I just wish they didn’t happen on date nights!
Sardar arrives late due to a malfunctioning Uptown 1 train, wearing a wool suit, shirt and tie. Beads of sweat crown his head. We order wine, he red and I white, which I rarely drink. But it is SOOOOO hot I cannot imagine having a room temperature beverage. Oh, and we’re seated next to the kitchen. We’re officially dining outside Hell’s portal.
We talk about India. He is from Bombay (now Mumbai) where I always longed to visit. I wanted to see the Bollywood bungalows by day and swanky nightclubs by night. But my trips to India involved three weeks of doing the Delhi rellie run. This is where a driver shuttles me back and forth between family members. Some of whom I quite like and others I meet out of obligation.
Sardar shares that he cut his hair (to the dismay of his parents) in graduate school to fit in. For Sikhs, this is a big deal. Sikhs embrace the 5Ks – one of which is “kesh” or uncut hair, which is deemed as God’s natural gift, and a reminder to not work against nature. In India, turbaned men are common place, in America, not so much. And while tragic, I understand why he assimilated. My father’s family is Sikh and my mother’s Hindu. When my brother was born my parents had to make a decision about growing his hair. Since we lived in Minnesota, they decided my brother should be a clean-cut Sikh rather than teased in school and life.
At the end of dinner, Sardar pays and walks me to the subway. While our date was pleasant, neither of us felt that za za zoom. But it was refreshing to meet a normal desi man. It gives me hope that the next date will be better yet.
Sikhism's 5 Ks
Sikhism - BBC Article on 5 Ks
Sikhism - Intro to