Well, here we are. The guy behind the project. The guy behind the camera. Today, I’m front and center of this movement that was established in order to share the stories of the various people out there. Everybody’s story is unique as they face different obstacles from one another, but there comes a point when we relate to it more than we can understand. We may not share similar lives, but we do come upon similar struggles.
These are stories that are a reality in many lives. All I do is bring them to life because not many people tend to voice it out loud; scared of what backlash or criticism they will acquire. It’s surprising how many messages and emails I have received requesting me to open up and tell my reason behind Project Why. I’m not one to turn down such a crazy demand, so here it is.
My name is Infamoussingh. “Infamous? You do know what that means, right? Why are you giving the name “Singh” a bad reputation? Are you stupid for trying to defame our kind? ...” And the curious and insulting questions continue. I’ve dealt with the same situation like everyone I’ve interviewed and that is what drew me to this in the first place. I’ve been at the stage where I was afraid to open my mouth, to stand my ground, to actually have a voice all because I was constantly being put down all the damn time and made fun of for what I would do or in the least, try to attempt. Throughout the years, my doubts have increased and my faith suffered quite a downfall.
I was born in Manila, Philippines but raised in New York. Moving always requires adjustment to the new environment, and as such his new area was completely new to me. On top of that, I was born with a lisp disorder and a massive stuttering problem which caused difficulties in school. I would always be the laughing stock, ridiculed and made fun of at any given opportunity. I used to cut my hair until my mom made me grow it out. Before I knew it, one day when I was in 3rd grade, she had tied something weird on me. So just consider my situation at this moment: a young and extremely sensitive 8-year-old wearing a turban when he was already being harassed relentlessly for his disorders.
You never know who’s loyal until you come across times when their friendship is tested. And when it came to, my close friends did indeed make fun of me, calling me “weird” and avoiding any interactions with me for the rest of the day just because I was “different.” At that moment, I never felt more alone. Teachers, the ones who were supposed to encourage freedom of expression and religion, called my turban a “durag” or a “hat” and have told me multiple times to take it off in class. With teachers like these, it was apparent that they wouldn’t do anything to prohibit the bullying that I endured, and unsurprisingly, they didn’t. As I grew older, I began to hate it. I questioned myself constantly, “why am I wearing this turban? What is the importance of it?” This just became another reason for people to harass me. My elementary years passed by, and I barely got to experience them. I hoped for a better middle school experience, but it only got worse from here on. I remember being a freshman in middle school, where the seniors would just come to our table so they could make racist jokes. There was a time where at the end of the lunch period, they would throw empty water bottles at my head and told me to “take that shit off, Osama”. At that time, I just wanted to cut my hair, in hopes of ending the bullying.
After graduating middle school, I was terrified of heading to one of the worst high schools in New York. During the first year, I was being bullied but had some friends who stood up for me and made me feel better about myself. After the first year in high school, I started going to a religious camp that taught me more about my religion and why Sikhs wear a turban. At first I honestly felt accepted to learn why I wore a turban, but then the stuttering and lisp mocking didn’t even stop at camp, despite being a camp that preached and practiced Sikhi principles of love and friendship without discrimination among anyone. When the people there also didn’t wish to be my friends, I was back to square one: the laughing stock.
From a young age, I have had suicidal thoughts, which is not surprising considering my childhood. I was completely and utterly alone; I was not being accepted for who I am, nor being accepted for how I look, or being accepted for how I talk. There was, however, one individual who stood beside me through thick and thin: my mother, my superwoman. She taught me valuable lesson that I will never forget as I grow: love. No matter how hard things can get, just keep loving. “Love yourself because I love you,” she said. My mom has been my motivation since day one. Seeing how she has been treated by my dad and hearing stories and watching her shed tears in front of me, breaks my heart. Love, no matter what state you are in, just continue loving through everything you do in life. Love, it can either make you or break you. I never experienced love in school, especially not from a girl; I was out of their league, too different from what they wanted. One year at this religion camp, I had a crush on a girl but believing that my looks defined everything reduced the confidence in myself. But since then, I had gained the courage to talk and it resulted in relationships. But, it also resulted in being cheated on; something I’ve grown used to it. No one should ever, EVER, get used to that at all. Not once, not twice, but three times. Yes, I am foolish. Foolish indeed. But, that’s what happens. Love makes us do stupid and foolish stuff. Why? Because we tend to lose ourselves for someone, that we love unconditionally; forgetting that there is a world that exists outside of our bubble. Our life focuses on that one person who makes us feel better about ourselves, motivates us to do better for ourselves. Love is a blessing, even if it brings out the foolishness in us. “It’s time to let go.”
We’ve heard of this phrase so many times. Sometimes we want to ignore that piece of advice and find a way to salvage the damage of the situation. We think that maybe with time, things will get better, maybe go back to the way it used to be or how it was when it started. Well, I have been in the same situation countless times, refusing to let go because I knew I could fix it. I know that with time, my pain will healed and everything will get better. Everything can now be the way it used to be. But once again, I’m in the wrong; I forgot that with time, things tend to get worse. A positive mind is a dangerous feature, especially if you refrain from paying attention to the negatives.
In my last relationship, I went through a roller coaster. We were together for seven months but I had a feeling she wasn’t the one. She wasn’t the one who was strong enough to fight for “us”. She wasn’t the one that understood my perspectives or the way I was brought up. I was too busy thinking and hoping that things will get better. Even after the consistent messing up and breaking of my heart, I gave her chances; chances to grow, to understand what she has done, and maybe go a different route the next time around. It was all to see if she actually knew what I wanted to say. To address that I really cared for her. But, she didn’t understand. I had friends breaking it down to me, to let her realize slowly, to go easy on her. I’ve tried that method, yet still I was the wrong one. I didn’t want to give up. I knew things would be better. I had hope that things would eventually get better. Not tomorrow or the day after, but eventually. I had hope. I believed in “us”. Sadly, I forgot that a relationship goes both ways. I wanted to leave in those 7 months, but she didn’t let me. I didn’t have the courage to break her delicate heart and continue believing in “us”. Even when going through a lot of negative emotions, I made sure I was taking care of myself, making sure that I didn’t make a mistake. I knew that if I made any mistakes, it would be used against me and I probably wouldn’t be forgiven because in that relationship, I was the perfect one, the one who shouldn’t and couldn’t mess up. She could mess up consistently and yet she would receive a chance upon chance. Chances to grow, to learn, and to visualize. When it came to me, I had only had one life, and if I was in the wrong, I would be the one to blame.
Life is all about being hurt and learning from it. Never blame the situations. Admit your mistakes and continue living because that is how you will learn to be a better person. In order to do that, you must learn how to love yourself. If you don’t love yourself, I promise you that no one will either. This is the most cliche and used line, especially during this project, but it’s repeated because there is no greater truth. If life is going downhill, love. If life isn’t going the way you want it to be, love. If life is very painful to live, love. Love all you can. Have a big heart. Smile always. Even if people try to bring you down, love them. Even if people try to make your day horrible, smile and love them. Even if people try to make sure you fail, love them. Spread it so that they stay speechless; knowing that they’re criticism has no effect on you.
Love is the most powerful tool in life. Seeing others just loving, made me want to love everyone around me; my family, my friends, myself. I just want to share this love with everyone I meet. With those that are strangers in my life. With those individuals that have or wish to leave my life; I feel love and gratitude for the memories I got to share. It is okay if they don’t want this anymore. It is okay to get hurt. It is okay to be sad. Just love. Keep your head up and keep smiling.
My name is Infamoussingh and this is part of my Project Why.