Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

Sat Nam Readers!

I’ve been away for awhile on a trip where I was able to visit some of my family members.  What a blessing it was.  Before I get to that though, I want to talk about “Stare Air”, a.k.a. an Air Canada flight from Ottawa to Halifax, my experience traveling in my turban and about CATSA security at the Halifax International Airport.

To get to Halifax, I took three flights, all Air Canada.

The first leg was from Whitehorse, Yukon to Vancouver, British Columbia.  I’m happy to say that the experience at security was very friendly and despite the fact that there are all of 30 Sikhs in the Yukon (and only two that I know of in turbans), the security personnel didn’t bat an eye at the turban.  They were very professional.  The guard who searched me asked if I minded if she touched the turban.  When I gave her permission, she was very respectful about it.  Though she felt my wooden kanga beneath the folds of my turban, she appeared to know what it was.  It did not strike an immediate desire to strip search me.  The search went no further and I walked into the gate area with my turban undisturbed.  Thank you CATSA Whitehorse for not treating me differently than any other passenger.

The flight itself was unremarkable.  No stares, no gawking, no whispers as I passed along the aisle to my seat.  I arrived in Vancouver without incident, to grey and drizzly skies, with just enough time to make boarding for leg 2 to Ottawa.

The flight to Ottawa also went smoothly and without incident, though seriously Air Canada – you need to improve your menu options a little – almost every meal option was beef with a cold veggie sandwich alternative.  No thank you.  Your movie and television options were great though, which is an oddity!  Reading a book on my backlit iPad for 5 hours just wasn’t enough of an option, so thanks for the entertainment.

Now… leg 3.  Oh how to describe leg 3.  Ottawa to Halifax.  I know, let’s start with the gate area.  I sat among a very happy family who I’m guessing were Korean based on the language.  They were obviously three generations and included a baby of about 3 months.  Grandma and Grandpa were very enamored with the baby and spend the wait at the gate playing with and entertaining the child.  I sat and watched them for awhile, pleased to see such a happy family.  I boarded the flight only to discover that all eyes were on me as I walked down the aisle to my seat.    ALL eyes.  Every single pair of them until I arrived in seat 19F.

These weren’t curious stares either.  Nope.  Some faces seemed confused and other faces wore looks of disapproval and even a few of disgust.  The common thread being looks of judgment.  Wow.  Really.  In 2014.  In Canada.  I smiled back at their stares though even after the whispering and the pointing began and continued to stow my cabin baggage and make myself comfortable, despite the disappointment I was feeling.  I grew up in the Maritimes.  I know how racist it was then.  I had been told by trusted people how racist it continued to be.  I was disappointed to discover that the stories might be true.

But that disappointment didn’t last long.  While the plane taxied away from the gate I tried to work out what our Gurus would have to say about this situation, about how I should respond.  My Gurus teachings reminded me that Waheguru was indeed inside each of those faces – the confused, the disapproving, the disgusted.  Waheguru was inside each of them.  So I should treat them with kindness and meet their stares with the strength that comes my faith.  In that moment my disappointment turned to sadness for many of those who traveled with me that day, those who must judge and those who must hate.  They have no idea how much happier it is to love and accept one another and they have no idea of the richness of our own diversity.  And then I felt blessed, blessed for the lessons of our Gurus, for their wisdom and their kindness.  And grateful once more, as I find myself everyday, to be a Sikh.

By the time I landed and met family at the arrivals gate in Halifax, I no longer worried about who was staring at me or what they were thinking.  I had been blessed again as I embraced my sister who had come through bad weather to meet me and blessed once more to know I was home, if only for a short time.  I spent the rest of my too short time home enjoying precious moments with family and friends and I didn’t notice again whether or not people stared… at least until I returned to the airport and met with CATSA personnel in Halifax… but that’s a story for another post.

The lesson I took from all of this is that if you reflect on the teachings of our Gurus and on what it means to be a good Sikh, especially in bothersome times, and if you allow them to provide you guidance, your blessings will quickly and surely multiply.

Sat Nam Readers – may you be as blessed.