Being a frequent traveler myself, I met with countless people. Honestly speaking, people come and go. And, practically, you don’t remember all. But, there is always someone, who rule you thoughts for many years to come. For me that person is Mr. Divyajot Singh; a Sikh migrant in the neighborhood. This is a story of a Sikh man who traveled abroad with his crown and who paid the cost of not losing identity.
Those were the days when I was in abroad. After finishing my studies, I was now allowed to work full-time. After having my shave done, I applied wax on my hair and put my steel-cap shoes on. Monday morning it was and I was late for my morning shift.
The moment I reached my car, I saw a matured Sikh man in his late 50’s talking to another Indian dude. I wished him good morning and I was on my way to work. I was already thinking about the man because on the first glance, I mistook him as my maternal aunt’s husband. Well, he was not the same.
In the afternoon after finishing my morning shift, I came back home and parked my car. After some time, I heard a knock on my door. I don’t know, but I was sure that it is him on the door and I was damn right.
Oh! welcome uncle. You won’t believe me, but I was half expecting you. Following my Indian traditions of hospitality, I made tea and offered him some snacks as well. I was sure, he is going to talk about my work and if there is any vacancy available.
“Where do you work, son?” He asked. I laughed inside and was thinking if I have learned to read people’s mind. “I work for a plastic manufacturing unit, uncle. I work as a cost accountant there. I finished my post graduate in accountancy here.” I replied. “And, how come you are here; I mean on what visa?” I asked him.
I migrated three months ago with my family (my wife and two kids) here; permanent resident. “But, I just saw you this morning. Where were you putting before this?” I questioned him.
I was living with my wife’s real brother. He is a citizen here; truck driver actually. I am having trouble finding a job and for him, my troubles were harder than his own. After a month’s stay, he asked me to leave with my two little kids and wife.
I spent one month in a Sikh temple (countryside), made some money in the farms and then, I moved back here in the city. Now, I am badly looking for a work.
“I don’t have enough funds to enroll myself in the taxi or security classes, and no one is ready to hire me as a labor in factory or restaurant. What to do? Can you help me out?” I never saw a full-grown man this helpless.
Uncle, I have a few suggestions, but I don’t know how you are going to react. However, here are those.
– You have to change your looks. I mean wear a turban, but occasionally and tie or trim your beard. You know how harsh rules about hygiene people follow here; a single hair found in food means all done.
I was trying to convenience him. Uncle, I used to wear turban before. I faced many racial attacks. I approached countless society people and Sikh temple leaders as well. But, no help. I attended several interviews but never had luck.
Then, an English friend of mine, who was working as HR manager, advised me these changes. She told me that don’t try to make them feel like you are somewhat different from them.
I did the same for 4 months and here I am, working as a cost accountant, earning 65k annually with no overtimes and on top the this, I am now being approached by many of those religious leaders for advice on their business, who never replied my emails before.
I was looking at his face. I know, he was not comfortable with my advice. I was ready for his criticism.
Here we go.
“You gave up your identity that you carried for a long time. You gave up something that you had from your father. I don’t need to lecture you on the importance of Turban. I don’t need to tell you that why not to be a sheep. Well, I am not in the favor of this.” I suggest you return to your roots,” he replied and left.
After that, we rarely talked. There was a difference of opinion. Before leaving my house, I used to check him if he is standing our there. There was an unknown sense of discomfort. It was making me behave like I owe him some money. I preferred maintaining a distance from him.
After few months, one night his wife came to my door and asked for help. “He was returning home after his night shift and some goons racially abused him. He suffered many knife injuries,” his wife told me.
His head was bleeding. I called the ambulance and cops.
Goons mistook him as a Muslim guy.
He was still with his identity. He raised his voice. He filed a case against state and won a good compensation as well. I have seen him struggling all alone. People in the neighborhood used to make fun of him.
His kids faced racism too. The other day, I saw his 6 year’s old kid came home crying. Someone smeared a cake on his face. He said, “white guys in the next neighborhood did that to him. He mentioned that they were laughing and telling him, “now you look like one of us.”
I was so disheartened and angry at the same time. I felt like banging those kids face on cow waste. But, I have seen his little boy going in the same street with the same turban on, but this time a stick in hand.
He had his lessons and he was told to protect his pride anyway he can, but without infringing anyone’s pride.
There was a shame in my eye. After a few days, I learned that Mr. Divyajot Singh with his family moved to another state.
I started wearing a turban. I was nor shaving my beard and neither applying any wax on my hair. I was back to my roots. A year after, I cleared another interview. Today was my interview with the CFO (Chief Financial Officer). I boarded the flight and as I reached that office, I was told to wait.
“Mr. Singh, CFO wants to see you. Please proceed to his cabin.”
I knocked the door. And, after the permissions, I entered the room.