Wednesday June 28, 2017 05:06 AM EST

I. J. Singh | New York, NY
Posted: 11:59 PM | May 13, 2011

My Head Covering is Downright Sikh


Photo Source: Vishavjit Singh

The book cover.

>> Launch Gallery

Photo Source: Vishavjit Singh

Book launch at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Festival (MOCCA) in New York City, April 9 and 10, 2011.

>> Launch Gallery

Photo Source: Vishavjit Singh

A page from 'My Head Covering is Downright Sikh'.

>> Launch Gallery

Photo Source: Vishavjit Singh

Book launch at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Festival (MOCCA) in New York City, April 9 and 10, 2011.

>> Launch Gallery

By day an Internet consultant, as most young Sikhs seem to be in this country, Vishavjit Singh is a talented cartoonist. But in indulging this passion he wisely runs away from the slapstick.

This slim set of about 30 cartoons is a serious commentary on the Sikh turban that attracts the most attention in public space; unfortunately, the notice is often demeaning or distasteful. Not that people on the street prefer to dislike or suspect us but they know little or nothing of who we are, what we are and why we are the way we are. Why do we have turbans on our heads?

Ignorance breeds suspicion and contempt, and in this post 9/11 reality the sight of a turban promotes association with the late and unlamented Osama bin Laden. This is so even though only bin Laden and his chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, ever wore a turban within their Al Qaeda movement. Certainly none of the terrorists who commandeered jets to attack the centers of financial, political and armed might of the United States ever wore one. In fact no terrorist arrested in this country pre or post 9/11 wore a turban.

There have been tragic consequences of this ignorance and fear of the stranger – hundreds, if not thousands, of reported cases of harassment, bullying, job discrimination, hate crimes and even three cases of murder of Sikhs on the streets of this great country. The answer, of course, lies in greater communication with our non-Sikh neighbors, but that’s easier said than done.

That’s a notable contribution of this work.

Capturing reality in cartoons is a rare skill, and Vishavjit Singh’s talent shows it. He has highlighted the basics about the Sikh turban and the unshorn intact hair that lie underneath. His drawings are neat, clean, impressively eye-catching and unmistakable. His comments pithy and brief but telling.

He profiles Sikh physicians who serve the underserved across the world every year - that is their seva. I liked the initiative where some young Sikhs attracted strangers by promising them coupons for Starbucks or other delectables if only they would wear a turban for the day. He profiles Fauja Singh who continues to run marathons at the ripe old age of 100. He does not neglect the lone young Sikh who, wearing a turban, braves the crowds as a working comedian, reminding me somewhat of casting Daniel to the lions. And then, like a wise man, his sketch captures his pretty wife who, too, wears a turban – one of the few but growing numbers of young Sikh women who do.

Vishavjit Singh’s topic is serious, his touch light but not comedic. The sense of the absurd is critically important to the cartoonist. That, too, will emerge, I am sure, for I see their seeds in his work. I believe that the lightest matters deserve a serious undertone and the most heavyweight issues need some levity, even comedic treatment sometimes, lest the burden becomes too heavy to carry.

I have known Vishavjit and enjoyed his talents for some years. Today, in this collection, I celebrate how far he has come and where he is headed. And it is time to bring his genius to the many that need to appreciate it.

Click here for the new Sikhtoons online store.


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I am just so impressed with his simplicity and dedication.

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