Helping Sikh youth to balance Punjabiyat in foreign lands | Sikh Vogue
- Edited by TOI
- May 15, 2017
CHANDIGARH: As the climate of uncertainty and dread overcast the US post-911 attacks, this of New Jersey-based brotherduo Tanmit Singh and Sunmit Singh decided to defend Punjabi values, Sikh identity and to prevent Punjabi youth from sacrificing their ethnicity.It was with this aim that they set up a streetwear lifestyle brand in 2004.”Fear ran rampant through the Punjabi-Sikh community .
We vividly remember going to the local gurdwaras and people handing out American flags and Ameri can flag bumper stickers,” said Tanmit.
“People would tell us, `don’t wear white turbans’, ` d o n’ t we a r round turbans’, or `tie up y o u r beards’.Fear had convinced our community that the only way to be safe was to either hide or scream `I love America’ at the top of their lungs so no one would question their patriotism. That’s when we created our apparel firm Rootsgear, with the mission of ensuring that the Punjabi-Sikh youth didn’t compromise their rich heritage in an attempt to try and as similate,” said Tanmit.
While talking about their inspiration, Sunmit added, “The apparel that we created in 2004 was a direct reflection of our experiences as Sikhs in a post 911 America. Our clothing became a small part of a larger movement…”
However, despite getting good response from the local Punjabi community, Singh brothers could not achieve their aim. “Response was good but money-wise it was lukewarm.So, in 2009 I started my first job as accountant, but I knew I was meant to do more, to be more. In 2014, I decided to rebuild Rootsgear and to give it even more time and attention,” said Tanmit, who graduated in accounting and entrepreneurship from Drexel University , Philadelphia, US.
“For two straight years I worked day and night to make the venture profitable enough to support a salary for myself, and in May 2016, I left a managerial accounting position in DC to pursue my dream full time.”
The brothers have now tied up with various Punjabi artists to ensure a true ethnic touch to their emsembleline. “Everything we create is in spired by the fusion of Punjabi and hip-hop culture. Spending our teenage years in DC area, we are connected to both. Our vision is to create contemporary street wear that incorporates elements of Punjabi culture,” pointed out Sunmit.
“For the last over eight years, we have been attending the Yuba City Nagar Kirtan every year. It’s a great opportunity for us to connect with so many of our supporters and our roots,” he added.
Unconditional love for Punjab
Singh brothers were born in New Delhi, spent their childhood in Kuwait and migrated to the US as teenagers in 2000. They trace their roots back to West Punjab. “We visit Punjab at least once or twice a year,” said Sunmit.
Beard and turban impart strength
Singh brothers proudly sport turbans and unshorn beards. “Our Sikh faith is the only reason we are standing here today and we show our commitment to our faith by keeping our beards and turbans intact. It has definitely not caused us any trouble here in the US,” said Sunmit.