Womens Tie Turban, Too

By Tuan Minh Nguyen

“It is our choice. If someone wants to tie turban, they can. Girls can also,” says Ranjit Kaur, as she places a teacup on the table and fixes the turban on her head.

The aroma of chai tea fills the tiny dorm that Kaur is staying in. Chai is a traditional Indian tea, made from dried tea leaves, milk and some other ingredients. Kaur often makes chai when someone comes to visit her.

Ranjit Kaur wraps her new pagg in her dorm on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.

BELLEVILLE, Ont. (01/15/2023) - Ranjit Kaur wraps her new pagg in her dorm on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. Kaur started to wear the pagg 2 years ago. This is the first thing she does every day before leaving her room. “Pagg” is the name of the turban that Sikhs often wear on their heads. Photo by Tuan Minh Nguyen.

Kaur dresses discreetly and neatly. She wears a navy-blue denim jacket with a white fur collar, an Indian traditional small sword on her waist, and her jeans are the same colour as the jacket. In contrast to the dark blues of Kaur’s outfit, her bright pink pagg (a name for turbans worn by Sikh Indians), covers the top of her head and her dark hair. “This is a new pagg I brought from India.”

Kaur is from Punjab, India, which is the home of Sikhism. Like most other people there, she and her family are followers of this religion. Recalling her days in her hometown, Kaur said that her whole family used to go to the temple to pray every day.

Since she was a child, Kaur has wanted to wear a pagg, but she only started wearing paggs two years ago. 

“I was very fond of time turban from my childhood. But as I was child, I can’t tie the turban, and at that moment my parents denied me,” she explained. “But when I completed my high school, I’m able to learn how to tie a turban.”

Nectar ceremony, also known as The Amrit Sanskar, is the Sikhism initiation rite. Kaur will have the choice between wearing a paag or a chunni at the ceremony. Another common term for a chunni is a dupatta. A chunni is typically draped over the head and left behind the shoulders. 

“I have to cover my hair all the time, so covering a chunni is a little bit tough for me. It is easier to tie a turban since coming to Canada. Over here, most people are wearing jeans, shirts, or tops and I can’t have chunni,” Kaur said. “The main reason why I tie a turban is because I love it.”

To wrap a six-metre long scarf neatly on the head is not a simple thing. In the beginning, Kaur practiced wrapping paag five times a day on her head and learning from those around her.

 “There was a girl who used to live in the Gurdwara (a holy temple for Sikhs) where I was living with my parents, and she taught me how to tie a turban,” Kaur said. “There were also many other girls who tie turban in the Gurdwara, and they all helped me to learn it when I started.”

 Now, Kaur can wrap her pagg in about 15 minutes. A year after coming to Canada, Kaur always starts her days with this routine, even before leaving her bedroom.     

On a clear, winter day, Kaur is fixing her pagg. Rather than going to the temple, Kaur is preparing to go to Walmart for groceries. Starting a new life in a foreign country with an unfamiliar culture, her paag was the one thing that provided  Kaur with a sense of  confidence. 

“It means a lot to me. I have many friends here who all are wearing turban. It is like when I was living in the Gurdwara, everyone there was wearing turbans,” said Kuar, “so, I feel safe.”

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