On my recent trip to Punjab, I noticed the Coca-Cola ads of Diljit Dosanjh everywhere. Twelve years back, I remember Daler Mehndi was on those same Coke ads, and the discussions I had then are starting to resurface now…about how it’s so great to have a Sikh role model like Diljit wearing a dastaar, “but” it sure would be nice if he were a “saabat surat” Sikh with a full dhari.
On the one hand, I get it.
Although I don’t really watch his movies or listen to his music, my time in Punjab clearly showed the influence Diljit has on pop culture. Majority of the young Sikh boys I saw wearing dastaars worked hard to emulate his look – there were Diljits everywhere. There is no doubt he is a role model to many. So naturally, as a Sikh parent, wouldn’t I want my child’s role model to reflect the look I want my child to have? Of course!
On the other hand, doesn’t this put a lot of pressure on Diljit?
He is an entertainer – a singer, an actor. And I don’t know where Diljit may be on his personal journey of Sikhi (if at all), but I’m pretty sure he didn’t sign up to be our children’s Sikh role model. I’m reminded of Charles Barkley’s “I am not a role model” Nike commercial from the early 90’s.
But all this made me question a few things…
Why is it that so many young Sikhs flock to Diljit and other singers and actors, but do not connect with parcharaks that inspire them toward gurmat? Has the model of parchar in Punjab (or American for that matter) failed to evolve, to the point where youth do not resonate with them at all?
Or has the model evolved just fine? Personally, I did not grow up in a time where YouTube videos were readily available, and institutions like Basics of Sikhi, Nanak Naam and so many others worked hard to make baani and history accessible (in english) and consumable to all. Every few weeks I see a new resource online like The Sikh Cast, The Story of the Sikhs, and a treasure trove of archived webinars from SikhRI or Khoj Gurbani. And on any given Sunday, I can go on to facebook and watch live streaming keertan and katha from just about anywhere.
So maybe it begs a bigger question? As a parent, how much time are my children watching Diljit movies and listening to his music? And how does that fair in comparison to the time my children are listening, watching, and engaging in meaningful conversation about gurmat? Don’t get me wrong, I have not perfected this either and I know I could be doing a lot more as a parent to expose my children to more gurmat-oriented resources – but I’m not making excuses for it, and I’m surely not blaming Diljit.
So perhaps the problem is not with Diljit after all…maybe it’s with us.