Nirmal K. Singh, a second year medical student and Sikh, speaks on some aspects of the Sikh culture. Singh was born and raised in Buffalo by parents from Punjab, North India. She estimates there are between 30-50 Sikh faculty and students at UB. There are over 500,000 Sikhs in the United States.
The Sikh Cultural & Educational Society of Western New York
Three temples in Buffalo area (Clarence, Niagara Falls, Williamsville)
The major Sikh holiday is in remembrance of its founder, Vishaki. "We gather and we sing, we remember by going through our long history, and we pray. We do most of our prayer through singing, and we end our services with more solemn spoken prayers of remembrance."
"It's a very laid back religion, actually. We hold very highly the idea of being a calm, centered person. The Sikh ideal is to live in society, to have fun, to meet people, to get married and have kids. It's not a restrictive religion; you learn to adapt to where you are but keep your beliefs."
On the origin of turban: "In the 14-1500s, our ancestors went around trying to convert people, and many of the Hindus ran into the forest to hide. The turban is our saying to people that, 'You're not going to run. You're not going to hide. You're going to be fearless and people will know who you are.' ... It's hard to hide a turban in a crowd, but Sikhs have no fear, and we're not afraid to show our beliefs."
Singh said the turbans worn by Osama bin Laden and his followers are worn differently than Sikhs'. "The only reason I know why they'd wear them is the association the turban has with royalty in some cultures."
Besides the turban, Sikhs wear steel bracelets at all times, "which actually started during wartime, so that you couldn't have your hand cut off."
"Buffalo is a great place to be if you're Sikh. I don't know if Buffalo is just more educated, but I've never felt afraid or discriminated against."
"Sikhs have long hair. I haven't ever cut my hair; it's down to about my knees"
"There's been a lot of attacks on Sikhs across the country lately, and all of us are trying to get across that the Sikh religion is a tolerant one. We believe in the equality of all men and the equality of all religions."