American Turban

Saffron Press’s “How to tie a patka (dastaar)”

The patka is a headcovering worn as a turban by young Sikh boys. Saffron Press, the publisher of A Lion’s Mane and Dreams of Hope, just released the video above to educate children about the patka and demonstrate how it is tied.

I transitioned from a patka to a full turban when I was 16 years old (I still wear one when I play sports).  The video – which is excellent work – reminded me of my younger days when I was a kid in school and the patka was my only headcovering. 

When I was in kindergarten, I went to a private Catholic school (my father believed it would provide a superior education). I wasn’t only a rare person of color in my class, but I was also one of the very few non-Catholics in the school (if any others existed at all).

Because of this, the patka was a very foreign concept to my teacher and other students.  To help my kindergarten teacher, my mother made a version of the patka – much like a beanie that could be slipped on rather than tied – that would be easy to put on by my teacher in case my patka came off during play. 

The video also reminded me of a vague recollection I had of sitting in a room while two teachers were trying to figure out how to re-tie my patka on my head.  I remember trying to explain how the patka was supposed to be tied, but the teachers couldn’t figure it out.  I also recall how vulnerable I felt when, to attempt to re-tie it, they removed my patka and my hair was exposed.

I can’t remember how it came off, and I wasn’t able to tie it myself.  After a couple of times of trying, they decided to call my mother at home and have her come to my school to re-tie my patka, which she did.

While we didn’t have resources like this video (or story books like A Lion’s Mane or Dreams of Hope) when I was growing up, it’s heartwarming to see how many Sikhs are putting in energy for our children now.  One of the things I appreciate about materials such as these is that they are created in a style that is relatable by non-Sikhs, but even more, these resources are also very relatable by our Sikh children brought up in this culture. Through these materials, Sikh children can learn about their own heritage, and see it as something from which they can draw strength rather than something that makes them vulnerable.

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