If youâ€™re someone who spots a turbaned cool dude while watching television or a movie and say this out loud: “Look, a desi,” youâ€™re not alone. Look! A Singh! is a social media phenomenon, dedicated to capturing and celebrating Sikh appearances on and off screen. The featured Singhs arenâ€™t limited to just actors from commercials, shows, and movies but everyone from politicians to citizens.
Sukhwant Lota created Look! A Singh! to have fun with it but the overall emphasis was to generate and raise awareness of turban-wearing Sikhs. He gave it the tagline “Celebrating Sikhs in Media,” and thatâ€™s what itâ€™s all about. “As a child, I grew up feeling proud and excited when I saw a turban-wearing Singh on TV, which wasnâ€™t very often in the 80s.Â Over the years this has increased, but the awareness and understanding of Sikhs seem to be misunderstood or lost in translation,” he said.
Look! A Singh made its debut in 2012 and at the time, Lota wanted it to be something just for him, a pet project really to see how many turbaned-Sikhs he could spot on TV. This included Sikhs who were in the stadium watching a match or Sikhs who were featured in cartoons, television episodes, printed advertisements, fashion magazines, and quite possibly everything else. Lota set up a Twitter account for Look! A Singh! a month after he set up the website and to his amazement, the following grew rapidly. Right now, he has 18.9k followers on Twitter and 14.1k on Instagram.
“People even started sharing their own pictures of turban-wearing Sikhs with Look! A Singh!,” he shares. “Look! A Singh! is populated by the community. Every single photo that is shared is also tagged with the username of the person who shared it.” The website lets you search the entire history ofÂ everyÂ Sikh photo ever shared.
In the four years since its conception, Lotaâ€™s mission for Look! A Singh! hasnâ€™t changed. Itâ€™s always been and will be to promote Sikhism positively. “Iâ€™ve had to be careful to stay on track and ensure that Look! A Singh! remains relevant and does not turn in to another Sikh news site,” he said.
Lota, a Digital Marketing Manager for Bradford College in the UK, often credits Look! A Singh! as the reason he works in the digital marketing field. In 2014, the platform and Lota won the Asian Media Award for Best Blog.
Heâ€™s proud of what he has accomplished, as he should be. Thereâ€™s something about his mission and project thatâ€™s easy to connect with. Recently, while watching an episode of theÂ NBCÂ drama “This is Us,” there was a particularly exceptional scene that stuck with me. Sterling K. Brownâ€™s character Randall bonds with a Sikh store clerk Garuda, played by Ronobir Lahiri. Garuda helps Randall not only figure out which ceiling fan to purchase for a nursery but in his own tender way, helps him deal with the pressure of becoming a father.
â€” Look! A Singh! đź‘łđźŹ˝ (@LookASingh) November 2, 2020
It was nice to go back and see Lahiriâ€™s prominent spot on this award-winning show featured on Look! A Singh! but at the same time, it offers something for everybody in the South Asian diaspora. Its a valuable archive and a form of unification. The next time you spot a Sikh on your screen, you know what to do.