story published last week recounts the tale of Balpreet Kaur, a young Sikh
woman who responded with grace and dignity to an episode of online bullying and
has emerged as a shining exemplar for tolerance, support, and inspiration. By
turning rude taunts about her physical appearance into an opportunity to
educate people about her faith, Kaur illustrates the importance of living and
speaking from a place of authenticity, even when beliefs or convictions may go
against broader societal norms. This is one of the fundamental tenets of yoga.
While waiting in
line at the Ohio State University Library, Kaur’s snapshot was taken unawares
and published on Reddit. Depicting her wearing standard college student attire
and a large, black turban as she glances at her cell phone, the photo captures
her sparse facial hair, which emerged as the primary reason it was published.
The caption snarkily quipped, “I’m not sure what to conclude from this.” In the
aftermath of its publication, numerous comments followed, ranging in content
from hypotheses about her gender identity to judgments for failure to shave,
wax, or pluck.
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When a friend
notified her about the thread, Kaur decided to use this as an opportunity to
educate people and set the record straight. She writes, “Hey guys. This is
Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I’m not embarrassed or even
humiliated by the attention that this picture is getting, because it’s who I
am.” As a baptized Sikh woman, Kaur shared that her body is considered a sacred
gift from God and as such, is forbidden from alteration.
the facial hair is a side effect of hormone levels from teenage years which
have since returned to normal, she remarks “That’s fine :) I don’t regret
anything, nor do I view it as an unfortunate thing.” Kaur explains that Sikhs
view their bodies as an instrument of the divine; as a tool for service. Thus
health is important, but altering the body’s natural expression is forbidden,
regardless of social norms.
Sikhism, founded in India in
the 15th century, includes the belief in the equality of all human
beings and the presence of a single, omnipotent, omnipresent, genderless God;
salvation occurs through spiritual union with this entity. A hallmark of formal
initiation into the faith is a vow that includes leaving body hair uncut.
“Yes, 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," wrote Kaur. "My attitude and
thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body… 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."
aftermath of Kaur’s commentary poignantly illustrated how one person’s voice
can make a difference. Users from across the web reevaluated their initial
responses, inspiring a flurry of posts expressing gratitude for her wisdom and
the opportunity to look at themselves and the world a little differently.
the sweetest stroke, the Reddit user who initially posted the photo started a
new thread to apologize. He writes, “I feel the need to apologize to the Sikhs,
Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture … It was an
incredibly rude, judgmental, and ignorant thing to post. I’ve read more about
the Sikh faith and it … makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy
and not worrying about what you look like … Balpreet, I’m sorry for being a
closed minded individual. You are a much better person than I am. Sikhs, I’m
sorry for insulting your culture and way of life. Balpreet’s faith in what she
believes is astounding.”
follow-up post, Kaur shares, “Storytelling in itself is a way to fight the
apathy in this world. By simple interactions like this, we can better
understand each other and make this world more open and loving even if it is
just one person or many.”
What thoughts do you have on the story of this inspiring woman?