When you click on the website of Kaur Project, a storytelling platform with a motive to change mindsets, you will be welcomed by black and white pictures of Sikh women, who look happy, confident and in their element.
The aim of this project is encapsulated in its subtitle “Every Kaur Has A Story. We Want To Hear Yours.”
As the founders express on their website, this project is documenting women of the Kaur community, who were hitherto forgotten due to the patriarchal nature of society or known only by their associations with their male counterparts.
It includes the stories of women who are young and old, homemakers and working women, Indians and NRIs. Each story, which is part of the Kaur narrative, has a photograph of the woman and a quote explaining what being a Kaur means to her.
For example, peacemaker Rupinder Kaur, said this: “For me, being a Kaur represents a sense of fearlessness. It’s partly being maternal, but not in the normal meaning of the word, just someone who fights for equality and justice.”
Several of these women have also expressed what Sikhism means to them. Jessica Kaur, a DJ, talked about how religion shaped her formative years.
“At the age of eight years old, I was focused on learning as much about Sikhi through attending Khalsa camps. I embraced religion, partly by looking up to my older sisters and channeled my curiosity of religion by doing kirtan and playing the tabla,” she said in her quote.
The women behind Kaur Project are Saji Kaur Sahota, who takes the photographs of these women, and Jessie Kaur Lehail, who puts the stories into words. Both actively engage with South Asian cultures and issues. They say that the Kaur identity is a complex one and that this project looks to celebrate its diversity and expansiveness.
“...Kaur Project aims to create an approachable and yet densely layered dialogue about Kaurs, ready to be unpacked,” says the website.
Kaur Project sheds light on the significance of the name Kaur, which allows women to drop their surnames and thus liberates them from the labels of class and caste. This also challenges this age-old norm that women must take their husbands’ surnames. Furthermore, it allows them to adopt a name that is a collective one – a sentiment that seems to be at the heart of Kaur Project.
Here is one of the stories from the project:
“Being a Kaur is essential to me and my identity. It has aligned with who I am since I was born. I don’t know anything beyond this. For the last twenty years I have taken Amrit and my connection has become even stronger. Because of my surgery, I can’t wear my Kirpan, but my relationship with Babaji has developed and grown as I have gotten older. I thank my Dad for building the foundation of who I am because he didn’t eat meat or drink alcohol.
Months before the Partition there were constant rumblings. There was unrest and things went from rumblings to a sudden whirlwind. We left everything in a moments notice. I remember it was noon and there was a government call out to evacuate our lives, our homes, and our Desh. We were told our Partharpar village, in what is now Pakistan, was no longer home and we had to go to the same named village in what is present day India.
Overall, I’ve had a good life. Its been easy, relative to other women. My childhood was a breeze compared to other people. I was treated like royalty. Never asked to do work, I had so much love and comfort. I was twelve years old when the Partition happened and our family walked all the way to India. It took us slightly over a month and we were scared for our lives. We had to stop every night and we would create a fire and set up. We didn’t want to be separated so we stayed together. It was a matter of survival and if you think about it, ‘how could we eat roti without one another?’
We made a pact that when we arrived safely in our new Partharpar we would do a khand paat. When we arrived, I lived with my Masi because I had gotten sick. We received some land and a house, and started to do farming. It was a hard adjustment. It never felt like our home.
In those times, school was not an option for girls, so I didn’t even go to school. I sometimes think, rarely, but the thought has come across my mind of what life would be like with schooling. I learned everything at home.
I was married when I was 20 years old, but I didn’t leave to live with my in-laws until I was 23 years old. I know this was not that common, I was lucky that I had a longer time with my parents. My mom and dad were close and I learned what love was from them. My brother bought us a cow as a marriage gift, it added to the many we already had.
I learned to make roti and milk the cows when I got married. It was hard, daily work. The cows though had so much milk, it was a metaphor for my life, everything was plentiful. It was written in my kismet and that plentifulness poured into my in-laws. Waheguru has given me good graces my whole life.
When my mother-in-law past away, it was a bit lonely, but my sister-in-laws would come visit. The bond of women is so important...like with me and my sister in law. We became inseparable, we have had a lifetime of experiences and connection. We have an understanding of our stories and we can’t be without one another, especially as we have gotten older
I was 50 years old when my husband and I moved to Canada to be with our youngest son. Its a big country and as a woman who has been uprooted in her life so many times, everything else is relative. But I have to say, Baba ji determines when things will happen. I was 75 years old when my brother and husband passed away. Their deaths were a mere few days apart. Its those sudden things in life that keep everything in perspective. It was jarring and difficult for me, but I have to say again the bond of women, especially with my sister-in-law has helped.”
Check out Kaur Project here
Updated Date: Mar 06, 2017 14:53 PM