The subject of Abbotsford author Paul Sidhu’s first book, Broken Turban, is near and dear to him and one he felt needed telling.
As a first-generation Sikh, Sidhu knows all too well the many cultural barriers Southeast Asians faced just a few decades ago. Stories told to him by his second cousin while growing up in both Abbotsford and Mission formed the basis for Broken Turban, a tale of breaking traditional barriers.
His cousin’s parents were strict, traditional Sikhs who while trying to do the best for their son, only made life more difficult.
“He didn’t want to listen to his parents, especially his father,” Sidhu said. “He wore a turban in school and he was picked on. It was not easy for him.”
The father, still so tied to the old ways of his home in India, put unreal expectations and rules on his son. While his cousin found love with a white lady in high school, his father forbade the union and insisted upon an arranged marriage.
“Back in the old days it was never heard of, an Indo-Canadian with a white woman.”
Not wanting to disobey his father, Sidhu’s cousin went along with the arranged marriage. It didn’t last.
“It didn’t work out,” Sidhu said. “But my cousin reconnected with his high school love and they eventually married. It’s a true story.”
The cousin, who has since passed away, had a big influence on Sidhu, who also found himself in a failed arranged marriage.
“I always looked up to him and have so much respect for him,” he said. “The book takes an in-depth look at his life and I compared it to my own story.”
Broken Turban takes place in the 1970s and ’80s when life for first-generation Sikhs was often difficult and fraught with racist attitudes. Sidhu hopes people will reflect back on those days and see themselves. He said many families from that era didn’t express emotions well and jealousy among other Indo-Canadians in the community made for constant tension.
“Any race can read this book and understand what we went through,” he said.
Five years in the making, Sidhu said the book really took form in the past year as his publisher worked to get it ready.
“It’s weird how it all came together,” he said. “I don’t think there’s been a book like this. It’s exciting.”
Sidhu is now working on his second book, Red Saree, about author cousin from India.
Broken Turban will be launched on amazon.ca Feb. 22 and Sidhu hopes Abbotsford and Mission bookstores will pick it up. He already has many requests for books from friends and family.
“Everyone wants to buy a copy,” he said. “I don’t really care if it sells well, I just want a lot of people to read it.”
Sidhu said people can like and follow him on Facebook under “Author Paul Sidhu” for new releases and the latest updates on Broken Turban.