Identity and Choice: The Akash Story

MC40_AkashPicGrowing up as a young chap, when I hit grade four I decided that it was time to make a life changing decision. At that juncture, I began to grow my hair as a way to show my love towards the Sikh religion. I had always been cognizant of the fact that in the Sikh religion there is a significant amount of people who grow their hair. However, for me when I finally understood what growing your hair meant I decided to take a leap of faith and embraced the idea. Living in such a diverse community and having such a supportive school the change in my identity of growing my hair and later wearing a turban did not spark fear or disgust, but rather compassion, understanding and even curiosity. Thankfully, I live in such an embracing and open society where changes of that caliber are acceptable, compared to other areas in the world where such a drastic change could easily be met with a lot of criticism.

Moving forward, now I have stuck strongly to my decision and have embodied it in my core. Although at times there were pockets of resistance who questioned what I was doing and did not understand, it was then that I took on the responsibility of making the unaware, aware of my true intentions. Moments where people would innocently ask how long is your hair? To then, why do you wear a turban? and now most recently with, aren’t you ever going to shave? Questions like these I believe have helped shaped my personality because they have caused me to constantly question who I am. Not only that, but they have taught me humbleness, discipline and a natural sense for wanting to motivate others.

Growing up I became the centre of attention in many cases with my unique identity – I would be naturally presenting my beliefs to other people. Now presentations are like my energy and are one of my favorite things to do in the entire world. So, when I get older one of my major goals is to become a motivational speaker and through my one decision early on in life I was able to discover the love of my life. Now, I have been able to host the annual Vaisakhi shows at Rick Hansen Secondary School for three consecutive years now. Most recently, I was given the opportunity to make a speech at one of the biggest events in Toronto. The event was the Sikh Centennial Gala where again my presentation skills shined through to the large diverse crowd who had nothing to give back to me but love. In regards with love, during my most recent traveling experience to California there was a point where I was walking around by myself and a girl approached me and said “I honestly just love your head gear!” and walked away. Simple signs like that have given me the reassurance that I have truly found my identity. Again, none of this would have ever been possible if it was not for the beautiful multiculturalism present around me. With so much diversity individuals are more open and accepting. For that reason I was able to make such a large change in a rather smooth manner without hitting too many road blocks. However, what is a story without a few road blocks, and it turned out those so called “road blocks” were questions that helped transform me into the Akashdeep that I am today: someone who can stay committed to what their name means and truly be “the light in the sky”.

- Akashdeep in Mississauga

Editor’s Note:  The five recipients of this year’s Seva Fellowship, a program for young aspiring leaders in the Peel Region of Ontario, each wrote a story as part of the fellowship program.  Their contributions are grouped together here. This submission, and the one immediately following, speak to a similar theme.