In April of 2018, I took a break from my office on the 11th floor to get down to street level so I could capture a little video on my skateboard and, while doing so, randomly rolled by a congregation of Sikhs who invited me to partake of their food and have a turban tied around my head.
I totally forgot about Vaisakhi and Turban Day this year with the Covid-19 lockdown warping all sense of space and time. What a great experience it was meeting and talking to so many nice people who took the time to share their food and general good spirits with whoever happened upon the south side of Monument Circle.
Having been downtown for decades, I never ran across the event before or even head of it. As I stopped to talk to a man motioning me to come over, I remember being overwhelmed with where to point my camera. Good shots were sitting, standing and moving everywhere. The weather made the day feel extra perfect.
Just past the gracious host awaited food and drink set to a back drop Shabad kirtan music wailing loudly from a temporary sound system setup. I took a few minutes to eat my food and take in the warm April weather as I observed turbans being tied.
After eating, while gliding around getting some shots, a group of gentlemen approached me wondering who I was and offered to answer any questions I have about Turban day or Sikhism. I explained what I was doing and told them to let me get a video of them telling me whatever they wanted to say. One gentleman exclaimed, “this is diversity in action!”
Celebrating a number of significant historical events including the persecution and execution of Guru Tegh Bahadur who refused to convert to Islam, Vaisakhi observes and honors the formation of the Khalsa panth of warriors under the Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. Singh, who started the tradition after his father was beheaded during the rule of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, sought to protect innocent people from religious persecution. His actions had a profound impact on the Sikh tradition that continues to this day.
Within less than an hour of shooting, I had enough footage to put together my 54th video since recording the Westboro Baptists at IUPUI where my altar ego, the Indianapolis Skateboard Journalist, first emerged. The last couple years worth of videos do show “true diversity in action.” Although random to me, from a board’s eye view, what plays out is often well planned by the people I video.
Later that weekend while editing, the Sikhs were all over the news. Not because of Turban day, but because of a brawl that broke out at a Sikh Temple in Greenwood allegedly between rival groups seeking power. A neck was chocked and heads were bashed proving once again that no religious tradition has risen beyond at least some adherents resorting to violence as a means of achieving power.
My video went up the next day minus any mention of the brawl. At the time, I just wanted to share my experience with the Sikhs and not sour it with more negativity already widely covered by the local mainstream media.