NEW YORK: The iconic Times Square was seeped in the colours of the Sikh culture as thousands of community members gathered in New York to celebrate Turban Day, an annual Vaisakhi celebration and a day to educate fellow Americans about Sikhism in the wake of growing incidents of hate crimes and discrimination against them.
Legendary Indian sportsman Milkha Singh addressed one of the largest such celebrations in the US, calling on the Sikh community to educate the new generation about the significance of the Sikh culture.
Hundreds of excited tourists and children queued up at the popular city destination to get turbans tied on their heads in bright colours by members of the Sikh community and took pictures and selfies wearing them as ‘Turban Day’ was also celebrated at the event.
The participants jostled to get a picture clicked with the elderly ‘Flying Sikh’, who had travelled from Canada for the event.
“Today if the Sikhs have a name, are known around the world, it is because of the turban. Milkha Singh is called a ‘Flying Sikh’ because I have the turban on my head and the beard on my face. My beard and turban are the reasons for the respect and recognition that I have across the world,” Mr Singh told PTI.
Non-profit organisation, Sikhs of New York and New Jersey and the event’s organisers Bobby Sidana, Kawaldeep Sahni, Chanpreet Singh and Gurmeet Sodhi said the event aimed at not only celebrating the festival marking the spring harvest but also educating Americans and thousands of tourists about the Sikh culture.
They said it would also make them aware of the significance of the Sikh articles of faith like turban and beard and to address the misinformation about Sikhism that leads to profiling and backlash against members of the community, particularly after the 9/11 attack.
“People here should know that Sikhs are warriors, they have fought for other people and will do everything to help others. The event will inspire people here and educate them about the Sikh culture, they will get to know who Sikhs are,” Mikha Singh said lauding the organisers for putting together the event.
In his message to the gathering, Mr Singh said he would like to see “one more Milkha Singh” from the Sikh community spread across the US and the world.
Lamenting that Sikh articles of faith such as the turban and beard are often still misconstrued and associated with terrorism, the organisers invited passers-by and those at the event to get a turban tied on their heads and to ask about the Sikh culture.