I was at camp once and the Kaur (Sikh woman) Q n A discussion soon turned into a discussion on society and body hair. Somehow it always does, that’s fine, people have questions about keeping their Kesh/Kes (uncut hair) and who better to ask then real women.
I’ll say what I could have said back then.
The thing is in the Western world, where people have seen either through magazine pages or experienced mum’s or other female family member reach for the shaver anytime they are to show more of their bodies such as summer time or an outing swimming, no body hair is completely normal. That’s fine for people if that’s what they wish to do, I did it, I shaved till my early twenties and figured out how to use a razor and wax in my mid-twenties before I kept my hair in my late twenties.
I’m not here judging, I’m here to share my experience and my view.
I keep my Kes and have done since before Amrit Sanchar, growing my hair was a gradual process and I slipped up a few times. I don’t have any facial hair except if you look really close. In fact, if you do you will see I have a mustache that mostly only grows on the left side. Instead of this bothering me I just laugh it off as funny and interesting, maybe the sun has bleached it?
The first time I even had the notion that women could have facial hair was working one of my first jobs in Mothercare, I was 17. Here lots of women employees were mothers already and they would often share their birthing and baby experience. One woman told me how when she was pregnant she grew a beard. A full-on beard. I was shocked. She went on to say that if she shaved it, it just grew more and needed constant attention, so she just let it grow throughout her pregnancy. Wow I thought, that’s the first time I had ever heard of that and by then, I had heard a lot of birthing details. It was to do with her hormones, whatever happened inside caused her to have facial hair and that’s not her fault, it’s nature.
Fast forward to aged 27 I found myself at my first Sikhi camp, here there were a lot of women who kept their facial hair. Though I found myself staring at the beginning, because my eyes weren’t used to seeing hair in that place, I thought it was incredibly brave, to be yourself no matter what.
The other thing I learned at this camp, is those who kept their hair were so straight up and so compassionate at the same time. Usually, when I meet someone who is so straight up to your face they can a sense of arrogance, pride, attitude and just don’t generally give off a feel-good vibe. (Thankfully there is sometimes an exception to the rule and people can be honest and true, being their authentic self.)
This was non-existence, I could sense it. It was as if they had broken through all blocks to be their stable self in any situation. I could feel it and it blew me away. To be in the presence of such strong caring women was incredible. It was like they were saying – here I am, I’m not my body I am a soul pleased to meet you here to serve!
”I am not my hair, I am not my skin, I am the soul within. I am not my mind, I am not my body, I am the soul within.” – GuruGanesha Band
Take for instance someone I went swimming with, she keeps her Kes and if I had judged her, ignored her and stuck to old ingrained principles I would not have experienced her fullness. In the softness to her voice in deep conversations where she openly answered any Sikhi female question I put forward (like how I keep my hair and still go swimming?) Working out and swimming is totally doable as Amrithari, or questions on Nitnem and name changes.
Here we both were connecting, different backgrounds coming together as Sangat. It’s one of my best memories of Khalsa Camp.
If your thinking of or in the process of growing your Kes, think of what you want to put forward, how your very presence is powerful and as @Jamzkaur mentions in her appearance on BBC’s My turban and me, the amount of peace from letting your body be and respect from others is worth so much more than anything else she experiences.
In my experience the women I’ve met that grow all their hair are so completely real that there are no barriers put up in conversation. They are open and honest, kind and helpful. Watch Bhavna Kaur’s take on her Kes being her biggest blessing.
People remember how they felt around you, not what you looked like or were doing or where you were from, but most strongly how they felt.
That’s what’s important here, project your true self no matter what.