A Kiwi man has become an instant social media sensation after being spotted sporting a beard and turban as a part of his newly adopted faith, in a photo shared by New Zealand Army on its Facebook page congratulating the new graduates from Recruit Regular Force 397 at Waiouru Military Camp.
As soon as the post came out, people on social media were in awe of seeing a Pakeha man donning the traditional Sikh turban and beard in his army uniform.
The man was identified as Louis Singh, formerly, Louis Talbot, who was born and educated in Timaru, South Canterbury, who converted to Sikhism after being inspired by the teachings of the religion.
The Indian Weekender spoke with Louis about his journey into Sikhism, and kind of reaction does he gets from his friends, family and beyond when people see him wearing a turban and speaking fluent Punjabi.
Louis first came across with Sikh religion in 2015 when he was visiting a friend in Christchurch, and while having a conversation about the faith, he felt intrigued to know more about its values, principles and teachings.
"I went to meet Tajinder at his home, and he told me about Sikhism, the belief in serving humanity. Subsequently, I started visiting Gurudwara in Christchurch, first once a month and then more regularly months passed by," Louis told The Indian Weekender.
Louis adds that he became a part of langar service, sat down with priests at the gurudwara and listened to their lectures, itihaas (history), kirtans (hymns) that further strengthened his faith in Sikhism.
"As months went by, I learnt Sikh history and Sakhis of gurus and began learning Punjabi."
In 2018, Louis travelled to India visiting several gurudwaras there and eventually took blessing with Amrit at Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib - a Sikh ceremony of initiation which resembles the baptism of Christianity.
Recalling his teen days, Louis says, he has been an active boy since his childhood and was a part of New Zealand Cadet Forces growing up and has received several commendations being a part of Christchurch Army Cadets.
Louis said, he joined the New Zealand Army as his duty to serve the country.
"When I started wearing a turban and growing beard as a vital part of being a Sikh, I was enquired by a lot of my friends- the question would be why and what is the significance of the turban and the beard.
"When I joined the army, I was asked about my turban and the appearance too, and upon explanation- it was received well by NZ Army as it respects diverse religious beliefs and allowed my turban and beard as a part of the uniform.
Louis is also learning to play the tabla and listens to kirtan to practice and sing them and considers listening to the hymns brings peace to his mind and soul.
Louis regards his family upbringing and values of “giving and sharing” that he found most like that of the teachings in Sikhism.
Louis told the Indian Weekender that once he baptised into Sikhism, he officially added 'Singh' as a surname which adds more essence to his character.
"Louis in French stands for 'warrior' and Singh stand for 'Lion' which together 'Louis Singh' brings out a strong character to my name,” Mr Singh said.
Louis is encouraging Kiwis, especially from different ethnicities to come forward and join NZ Army, not just to serve the country, but also how army shapes a person's life, provides opportunities and exciting career options.
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