One of my vivid memories emanates from outside the departure terminal of Johannesburg airport about 20 years back. Those were the days I used to wear a turban. I was wheeling my luggage towards the entrance when I heard a loud screech of car tyres; on turning back to see what happened, i noticed a woman had stopped her car in the middle of the road and was subsequently charging towards me literally screaming “excuse me” several times over. I stopped and she came up to me, breathless, and asked, “I just wanted to know how you tie that…that thing on your head”? Clearly she was both, impressed and intrigued by my turban (and i actually did do a good job at tying one back in the days)… I was amused (she had created a mini jam of sorts by leaving her car in the middle of the road) and proceeded to enlighten her about the art of the drape around my head. She smiled, complimented and hugged me and left, and as I proceeded to walk into the terminal, i could not help but feel a bit overwhelmed by the whole experience.
Fast forward to the recent years and the same turban evokes a different sentiment for many westerners; that of fear and anguish… of a concern that beneath that handsome drape lurks a devious and dangerous mind. Its disheartening to see where mankind is headed… with one’s personal appearance now seeming enough to denote the character of the individual. History tells us another story though…Communities with prominent turban-wearing traditions can be found in the Indian Subcontinent, Afghanistan, South Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East, the Near East, Central Asia, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, and parts of the Swahili Coast. In fact, in ancient times, even the Greeks donned a distinctive style of turbans. Additionally, turbans have often been worn by nobility, regardless of religious background. In Kenya, the Akurinu, a Christian denomination, wear turbans as religious headgear. The official name of the denomination is The Kenya Foundation Of The Prophets Church or else Holy Ghost Church. Both men and women wear white turbans. The Sikh (the community that I belong to) turban, known as the Dastar (or Pagg), is used to show others that they represent the embodiment of Sikh teachings, the love of the Guru and dogma to do good deeds.
In an idealistic world (and I hope we get there really fast), we need to learn to value people for who they are and not from where they’re from. If that were to be, a drape around the head would connote as much fear as a belt around the waist (the latter being deadlier actually, in the hands of the wrong person), a fear which essentially would be non-existent. A person’s appearance is merely a visual differentiator, it is the mind within that creates the chaos. So perhaps, instead of creating more hate based on what people wear or where they come from, we need to look at creating love instead, by first, remembering that under a garb, there lurks no mandatory devil in disguise and then, by believing that we are indeed the same, created by the same entity, breathing the same air and living on the same planet.
A few months back, a friend of mine (Rahul Dev: a Human by birth, a Hindu by religion) and I, decided to do a shoot together. He looked impressive… handsome, perhaps even more than he actually is (and he’s a good looking fellow) and yet, I doubt very much that by donning that aristocratic turban, he had magically transformed himself into an evil, conniving beast with the sole mission to destroy the world!
Would you disagree?
Enjoy the images…
All clothes in the images above are from the JJ VALAYA collection: THE RANAS OF KACHCHH, 2016-17
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