The Photo of Balpreet Kaur

A man took a photo of a young woman he did not know and put it on the internet.  At the time, the young woman had been standing in line and texting and did not notice that someone had taken a picture of her.  (Even if she had been alert, she may not have known.  I've heard there are now glasses frames with hidden cameras that can shoot video.)  The man posted the photo of the young woman to a popular comedy chatroom.  The photo generated an avalanche of comments and soon the photo was forwarded around the internet, generating more comments, generating more forwards.  And then, one day, the young woman discovered that a photo of her texting while standing in line was being sent around the internet.  Many of the comments were mean-spirited.  But the young woman was not mad. She did not reflect back the derision that was directed at her.  Instead, she smiled.  She understood that people are conditioned by their culture to think in certain ways.  She visited the chatroom where so many strangers were howling about her, and she wrote:

Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I actually didn't know about this until one of my friends told on facebook. If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled :) However, I'm not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it's who I am. Yes, I'm a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body - it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn't reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying 'mine, mine' and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a seperateness between ourselves and the divinity within us. By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can. So, to me, my face isn't important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. :-) So, if anyone sees me at OSU, please come up and say hello. I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I've gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this. Also, the yoga pants are quite comfortable and the Better Together tshirt is actually from Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that focuses on storytelling and engagement between different faiths. :) I hope this explains everything a bit more, and I apologize for causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone.

The man who took the picture and posted it to the internet had been gleefully following the activity his photo had generated.  But when he read the young woman's comment, he felt the deep sinking of shame and embarrassment.  Only in the face of courage did he wonder, how could he have been such a coward?

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