Why We Need to Tackle Islamophobia in the Indian Community


by Mayura Iyer

The Complex Relationship Between Non-Muslim Indians and Islamophobia

On September 15, 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh, was shot and killed outside of his gas station in Mesa, Arizona. The shooter, Frank Roque, said that he ‘wanted to kill a Muslim’ in retribution for the 9/11 terrorist attacks that had occurred just four days prior, but he simply selected Sodhi for the color of his skin and the turban on his head. Roque was sentenced to life in prison for the hate crime.

Almost 14 years later, in February 2015, Sureshbhai Patel, a 57-year-old Hindu man visiting his son in Madison, Alabama, was partially paralyzed after being stopped by a police officer while taking a walk around the neighborhood. Seven months later, a judge declared his case a mistrial.

In the years since 9/11, many Americans have come to react with fear, suspicion, and hate towards Muslim-Americans—or those that they perceive to be Muslim due to the color of their skin. With the rise of the Islamic State and the specter of Islamic terrorism hanging in the air with each presidential debate, this Islamophobia and prejudice towards brown bodies continue to persist, with 63 percent of Americans expressing unfavorable views of Islam and 47 percent of Americans expressing unfavorable views of Muslims in 2015.

Despite the overwhelming diversity of the multilingual, multiethnic, and multiracial Islamic community in the U.S., Muslims in America are constantly forced into narrow definitions of what it means to be a Muslim. Too many Americans think “Muslim” means “brown,” and, subsequently, “brown” is often equated with “terrorist”—a mindset that hurts Muslim-Americans and non-Muslims who are misidentified because they are brown.

However, instead of allying with Muslim-Americans in the face of this Islamophobia, many non-Muslim Indian-Americans remain complacent. Even worse, some non-Muslim Indian-Americans perpetuate Islamophobia. I grew up hearing Islamophobic comments from several elders in my Indian community, though only in the presence of members of our insular group. These comments ranged from mumbled, passive-aggressive insults to outwardly combative statements about the violence and misogyny inherent in Islam and in Muslims themselves. I came of age in a post-9/11 world and hearing these comments from many adults in my community while simultaneously experiencing racism for the color of my skin outside of the home due to the perceived “threat” of my brownness. This duality served as a point of contention between the views of elders in my community and the views I was forming for myself as a young adult growing up in America.

I came of age in a post-9/11 world and hearing these comments from many adults in my community while simultaneously experiencing racism for the color of my skin outside of the home due to the perceived “threat” of my brownness. This duality served as a point of contention between the views of elders in my community and the views I was forming for myself as a young adult growing up in America.

All do not share the prejudices within the Indian-American community towards Muslims, and not all Indian-Americans are Islamophobic. However, a general undercurrent of hostility towards Muslims amongst some older members of the non-Muslim Indian community can be traced back to the events that accompanied the independence of both India and Pakistan—namely, the partition of the subcontinent. The political tensions between India and Pakistan are well documented, as are the tensions between Hindus and Muslims within India following partition. These tensions, exacerbated by centuries of British colonial rule, have resulted in deep prejudice towards Muslims, and these prejudices came with the Indians who immigrated to the United States. The result is a complicated relationship between non-Muslim Indian-Americans and Islamophobia, located at the juxtaposition between race, religion, and postcolonial traumas.

The Consequences of the Partition Post-British Rule

While India has experienced tensions between multiple religious groups, including tensions between Hindus and Sikhs and Hindus and Christians, the most significant sustained tensions have risen between Hindus and Muslims. The relationship between Hindus and Muslims has not always been one of animosity—the first Muslims to come to India were Arab traders traveling to Kerala. However, British colonial rule and the political events that led to the partition of India fostered tensions between the Hindu and Muslim populations in India.

After over three centuries of colonial rule, India received its freedom at midnight on August 15, 1947. However, this freedom came at a price: India was split into two parts, creating the modern-day boundaries of India and Pakistan (as well as what would later come to be Bangladesh). The lines were drawn hastily and arbitrarily along religious lines, with many Hindus and Muslims finding themselves on the wrong side of the line.

Partition was gory and tumultuous, splitting towns and families that lived on a border that was carelessly demarcated. Between 200,000 and 600,000 people were killed in the riots that ensued between Hindus and Muslims in Punjab, the province that was split in half to create the western India-Pakistan border. More than 14 million Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs were displaced in the chaos that ensued, creating the largest mass migration in human history. As a result, the landscape of South Asia was forever changed. Karachi, the original capital of Pakistan, was 43 percent Hindu in 1941, while Delhi, the capital of India, was one-third Muslim. Ten years later, almost all of the Muslims in Delhi had been forced out, while almost all of the Hindus fled Karachi.

In the almost 69 years since partition, India continues to be plagued by Hindu-Muslim tensions. These tensions have manifested themselves in the 1969 Gujarat riots, the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the destruction of the Babri Mosque by Hindus in 1992, and the 2002 Gujarat riots. These riots have often led to ghettoized communities, with subsequent generations of Hindus and Muslims growing further apart, in separate schools, and separate neighborhoods. However, in the rest of India where riots are not commonplace, Hindus and Muslims continue to watch the same movies, speak the same language, and celebrate the same festivals, together.  

Both India and Pakistan have their own narratives for the events that led to partition that, though they may contain the same historical events, are fraught with subjective interpretations that reinforce mutually-hostile opinions of both nations. As Krishna Kumar says in Prejudice and Pride, “A sense of self-protection and escape is embedded in the Pakistani master narrative; a failure to subvert a conspiracy is embedded in the Indian master narrative,” and these master narratives are perpetuated through the Indian and Pakistani education systems. He notes that these systems discourage independent thinking in favor of collective expression, and students in the Indian education system have been conditioned to view Pakistan as the “enemy.” As these students grew up in the immediate aftermath of partition, these views solidified and were carried along with them when immigrating to America.

The Generational and Spatial Divide

There is progress with these tensions in India today among the younger generation. In Prejudice and Pride, Kumar collects information from the essays of children in both India and Pakistan on the partition. These essays show a diverse, complex, and nuanced understanding of partition, and provide evidence that the younger generation in India is challenging the dominant narrative of the animosity between India and Pakistan. This shifting mindset in India today is evidenced in the media as well, an example being a viral Google commercial that connected two old friends separated by the partition.

But immigration creates a time warp, where the homeland remains static in the state that it was left. As a result, there is a generational and a spatial divide with Hindu-Muslim tensions in the Indian-American community. For members of the older generation, who came to America 20 years ago in adulthood, this deeply Islamophobic mindset results from centuries of colonial tensions perpetuated by socialization. However, as non-Muslim Indian-American millennials, who either were born and raised in the U.S. or came to the U.S. at a young age, we were geographically removed from the direct consequences of British colonialism and the partition of India, but were raised with the attitudes and mindsets that it fostered. I, and many others, learned very early on that the comments made by older members of our families and communities were taboo in public discourse. As we grew older in a diverse society and began to question the things we saw as children, we realized that these comments were more than just “taboo” or “politically incorrect”—they were wrong.

Understanding the source of this Islamophobia doesn’t justify it, but it does reinforce the difficulties of changing this mindset – and many people, including myself, became complacent. We ignored the dinner table conversations; we clenched our fists and bit our lips and stayed silent in the face of Islamophobia in our own homes, and we gave up trying to change people’s minds.

The 2016 Presidential Election and Allyship Towards our Muslim-American Peers

As the 2016 presidential primaries continue, it has become apparent that we will likely see a GOP presidential candidate who actively seeks to ban Muslims from our country and has consistently made Islamophobic comments. While political commentators treat Trump’s bigotry as something that only appeals to uneducated and conservative voters, it is clear that his prejudiced beliefs towards Muslims can be seen across party lines. With each state that Trump wins, I become increasingly horrified by members of the Indian-American community espousing similarly Islamophobic views, despite their overwhelmingly liberal views on other matters. While I understand the postcolonial traumas that have fostered and maintained the animosity between non-Muslim and Muslim Indians back in India, it does not justify perpetuating the same prejudices we see towards Muslim-Americans today. It also doesn’t justify complacency with these prejudices.

There were times growing up when I responded to Islamophobic comments with repeated reassurances that I am, in fact, not Muslim, as if I was insulted by the simple misidentification of my religious background. However, the problem with non-Muslim Indian-Americans experiencing Islamophobia is not the misidentification of a Muslim person – it’s the Islamophobia itself. I had repeatedly tried to separate myself from the Muslim population instead of supporting my Muslim-American peers experiencing prejudice – and as the vitriol towards Muslim-Americans escalates throughout the 2016 presidential election, our peers deserve our support and allyship more than ever.

Can we change the mindsets of everyone in the Indian-American community? No – and I’d be surprised if we changed more than even a handful of minds. I also don’t think that confrontations at the dinner table, at religious ceremonies, or at parties are constructive ways of addressing Islamophobia in our community. But even if we continue to clench our fists and bite our lips and stay silent at the dinner table, there are still constructive steps that we can take as individuals to be allies and support our Muslim-American peers.

We can open a dialogue amongst second-generation Indian-Americans—both Muslim and non-Muslim. We can reach out to our Muslim peers, listen to their experiences without judgment, and stand by them when they experience unwarranted prejudice. If we can take these small steps towards allyship, we will begin to break down the complex dynamics of religion and race that perpetuate a demonized, monolithic image of the Islamic community.

Mayura Iyer

Mayura Iyer is a graduate of the University of Virginia and is presently pursuing a Master of Public Policy. She hopes to use her policy knowledge and love of writing to change the world. She is particularly interested in the dynamics of race in the Asian-American community, domestic violence, mental wellness, and education policy. Her caffeine-fueled pieces have also appeared in Literally, Darling, BlogHer, and Mic.com.

By Brown Girl Magazine

Brown Girl Magazine was created by and for South Asian womxn who believe in the power of storytelling as a … Read more ›

Indo Caribbean Actress Saheli Khan Lands Role as Young Anna in Disney’s Musical ‘Frozen’

Saheli Khan, young anna in disney frozen
Saheli Khan

From singing and acting to drawing immaculate figurines, Saheli Khan, 11, has made her debut in the North American Broadway tour as young Anna in Disney’s musical “Frozen.” As a first-generation Indo Caribbean, with roots in India and Pakistan, she continues to pave the way for young people with similar backgrounds.

[Read Related: Rebecca Ablack: The Guyanese Actress Talks Netflix’s “Ginny and Georgia” and Indo Caribbean Representation]

Khan has always enjoyed entertaining those around her and she continues to have the motivation to pursue her passions. In school, she always sought to lead her class in songs and she was encouraged by her parents and teachers to enroll in music and acting classes, even at a young age. These ventures fueled her passions even more.

Continue reading to learn more about her journey!

What do you like about acting the most?

I like to portray different characters. Specifically, I like playing characters who have strong personalities and those who portray a sense of bravery, especially during problematic occurrences.

As a first generation Indo Caribbean actress, how do you feel about your journey as a young Disney princess? Do you feel that you are paving the way for other Caribbean and South Asians who want to pursue similar paths?

Diversity has always been important to me, but in today’s society, I feel that most people would like to be accepted and encouraged. As a Disney Princess, I am simply helping to broaden the field for all young people to see that skin color should not matter.

Saheli Khan
Saheli in Hidden Folk outfit| Photo courtesy of Saheli Khan


What do you like about your character, Anna? Is there anything that you may dislike?

Young Anna is a ball of sunshine! She is happy, funny, and a delight to be around. Despite having a troubled childhood, she grows up to be just as joyous, but she is also courageous as she goes on a journey to find her sister. I love everything about young Anna and she truly embodies who I am as a person.

Who is your inspiration and why?

My parents are my inspiration. My mom is beautiful, loving, and she works hard without ever giving up. No matter the task, she finds a solution and keeps on going with a smile on her face. She always tells me, “Whenever you feel overwhelmed, remember whose daughter you are and straighten your crown.” And my dad is my best friend. He’s insanely funny, caring and knows all the best places to eat! My parents are exactly how I want to be when I grow up.

If you had a magic wand, what show would you do next?

I would love to be Annie on Broadway or play the lead in a series or movie. 

What is the one last thing that you do before you step out on stage and the curtain goes up?

There are many things I do before I step on stage. I do fun and silly things quietly with my “Frozen” sister, Mackenzie Mercer, and play with my Anna pigtails for good luck.

What are your other passions?

I love to sing, act, and spend time with my younger cousin, Ayla. I also love to draw and color since it makes me feel relaxed. I was told I have a great ability to draw and make figurines ever since I was a child. And I love exploring new cities and eating at great restaurants with my family.

Saheli Khan
Saheli dressed in her “Young Anna” costume | Photo courtesy of Saheli Khan

What advice do you have for young people who are just starting their careers, specifically within the field of musical theater?

To have a positive mindset, practice diligently, and enjoy every moment within the journey. I have learned that there may be some occurrences that may not take place the way that you want them to, but there’s always an opportunity to learn from them.

 Aside from your career, how do you balance your schoolwork and acting?

I attend school virtually, which is essential when I am on tour. Each day I have scheduled school hours that allow me to focus and complete all school assignments. Once that is done, I have most of the day to work on extracurricular activities, go on outings, and hang out with my friends. Though performing takes a large chunk out of my day, it helps that I enjoy it, so it doesn’t feel like work.

What types of roles do you see yourself playing?

I love to play humorous characters such as young Anna from “Frozen.” I truly enjoyed this role as it captures who I truly am.

What are your plans for the future?

To be the best version of myself regardless of what career path I choose.

[Read Related: Nadia Jagessar Talks Finding Love, Not Settling and Shines Light on her Indo-Caribbean Roots]

Khan’s debut marks the start of a budding career. With her array of talents and future goals, we are bound to see more of the young actress in the future and more representation of Indo Caribbeans in mainstream media. If you would like to purchase tickets for Disney’s “Frozen,” click here

Feature Image Courtesy: Saheli Khan

By Anita Haridat

Anita Haridat is the owner of the wellness website, Healthy Spectator, which is a platform to help people find inner-balance … Read more ›

Chef Devan Rajkumar: Bringing Indo Caribbean Flavors to South Asia and Beyond

Chef Dev

Passion is something many claim to have, but few truly possess. Whether it’s hobbies, professions or romances, it’s the secret ingredient we all crave but is quite difficult to come by. But on meeting Chef Devan Rajkumar — aka Chef Dev — it takes just a few moments to understand true passion. For the Indo Guyanese chef from Toronto, passion has always been food and its power to connect, nourish, excite and represent. 

[Read Related: 5 Indo Caribbean Food Experts you Need to Know This Winter Season]

It was there, as a child, when he followed his mother and grandmother around the temple, getting daal stains on his kurtas

Today, he’s used it to become a TV personality on Canada’s “Cityline” and Food Network Canada’s “Fire Masters,” to collaborate with renowned caterers The Food Dudes, develop his own line of signature soups and host pop-up events around the world. 


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A post shared by Devan Rajkumar (@chefdevan)

Whatever the outlet, Rajkumar feeds his mission to be an ambassador for modern, West and East Indian cuisine. I recently sat down with him to talk about this and the experience of bringing Indo Caribbean flavors to South Asia and beyond.

Feeding a passion for food

“The sights, the sounds, the aromatics. The excitement of the kitchen has just always appealed to me,” he began. “Food moves me in a certain way. I want to nurture and nourish. I’ve just always wanted to do for others.”

As he sat back in a ‘Guyana vs. the world’ tank top, Rajkumar’s energy was palpable.

“I’ve always lived and breathed food, all day, all night. Like I’m talking about food right now. I’m constantly talking about food.”

To Rajkumar, food is education — one of the best (and most enjoyable) ways to learn, teach and explore the world — and he credits his older brother Jai for inspiring this mindset. Jai was the first to introduce him to different cuisines, teach him to be curious about the world and show him how to challenge the norms of a “typical brown kid.”

Despite this encouragement, however, a culinary career wasn’t Rajkumar’s first instinct. The son of a businessman, he initially jumped around universities and career paths. He also struggled with substance abuse and grief after Jai’s passing. Through all the challenges, food remained a constant, and the sense of community it created was a powerful draw.  

“At a very young age, I recognized how food made me feel if I was in a bad mood and how it made others feel,” he shared. 

He’s always looked forward to sitting around a table with friends and family, enjoying a nice meal, and how everybody could share their stories or just forget their troubles.

“Food is a very powerful vehicle for transporting someone.”  

In 2009, Rajkumar finally followed his passion and joined a culinary school. He realized he had a knack for creating this experience for others.

“I realized I had the power and the gift to nourish and nurture someone else in this way,” and it became irresistible. 

A cook with no boundaries, Rajkumar didn’t want to limit the number of people he reached to just those in Canada. 


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For many, success in the culinary world is having a thriving restaurant, but after spending six months opening one with The Food Dudes in 2015, Rajkumar realized this route wasn’t for him. 

“I wanted more culture,” he explained. “I wanted to learn and not so much get my ass kicked, but to be a sponge. I knew I needed to travel to broaden my horizons.”

So he did. Rajkumar spent months cooking in India, London, Peru and Dubai. He shared his experiences on social media and people back home took note.

“When I returned to Toronto,” he continued, “that trip had established me as a cook who had no boundaries. As someone who wasn’t afraid to explore and get out of their comfort zone.” 

And get out of his comfort zone he did. 

“From catering to a pop-up abroad to filming ‘Cityline and speaking engagements, every day is different,” he explained. “I’ve had my bouts with imposter syndrome, but ultimately, I’ve gotten to make more of an impact than just opening a restaurant.” 

That impact has especially been prominent in South Asia. 


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A post shared by Devan Rajkumar (@chefdevan)

“Mad Love” in the Motherlands

Rajkumar embraces not only his Caribbean culture, but his South Asian roots as well. 

The temple he grew up in was a blend of Guyanese and East Indians, so he knew foods from a typical Guyanese household like alu curry and saijan but also East Indian favorites like dhokla and malai kofta

“Ultimately, we came from India,” he declared. “I embrace the culture and I am very comfortable leaning back and forth into it. It’s in me. It’s who I am.”

In fact, Rajkumar noted his career became much more defined and successful when he really began to identify as not just a chef, but as an Indo Guyanese Canadian chef. 

Hearing this, it was no surprise that Guyana, India and Pakistan stand out as some of  his favorite destinations. 

“Guyana is hugely impactful for me,” he shared, having visited his parents’ homeland frequently. “As soon as that door opens [at the airport], you smell Guyana. You smell the sugarcane burning from rum factories. I have all these wonderful sights, sounds, smells and flavors from those trips.”

His sentiments for India are similar.

“Incredible India is incredible India,” he referred to the country’s tourism slogan. “Every 100-200 kilometers, the menus can change completely. I can live in India for the rest of my life and never see it all.”

Pakistan, however, is in a class all its own.

“There’s something special about Lahore,” Chef Dev explained. “I was told Lahori hospitality rivals the best in the world and I got to experience that. I was interviewed on national television by Mustafa Shah. I explored Old Lahore with Ali Rehman. I got to cook my own chicken karahi at Butt Karahi. Anything I needed, I had. I’ve never met kinder people in my life.” 


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A post shared by Devan Rajkumar (@chefdevan)

Rajkumar’s first trip in 2020 was only nine days long, but its impact stayed with him. 

He couldn’t have been more excited to return for a month, earlier this year, and host what his friends there dubbed the “Mad Love Pop-Up,” after one of his signature sayings. 

He filled the menu for the 18-day event with global dishes like ceviche and scotch eggs but infused them with West and East Indian flavors like masala, jerk and cassareep — a rich extract of the bitter cassava native to Guyana. Before he left, he even prepared Guyana’s national dish of pepper pot, a hearty meat stew, for the staff meal. 

“My whole thought process was ‘let me give these people — my family there — an experience they’ve never had before,” he detailed. “Any time I give someone pepper pot or cassareep, they’re just so shocked. It’s so unique.”

Rajkumar is always excited to share the flavors and culture of Guyana with new people, but with his roots in South Asia, bringing them to Pakistan was that much more profound. 

“In India, maybe it’s different, but in Lahore, most people don’t know about Guyana or where it is. That’s another reason why I did this. That’s why I do all the things I do. That’s why I’m wearing this tank top — to raise awareness about my culture and how beautiful it is,” he said. 

Time in South Asia has also helped Rajkumar gain a deeper appreciation for the origins of many Indo Caribbean dishes and reinforced his love for them.   

“Guyanese cuisine doesn’t just have Indian influence, but so many dishes in some way, shape, or form come from there. Like when I’m eating sada roti, I can tie it back to which type of flatbread it came from in India. I feel like a better-equipped chef at the end of the day. I’m more connected to my Guyanese roots and to the culture overall.” 

Rajkumar wants to foster a deeper understanding and relationship between both heritages. He wants his food to build connections, not disparity. 

Bringing the world back home

Rajkumar has visited over 20 countries, but Pakistan remains one place he’ll cherish his entire life. He is grateful not only for the opportunities he’s had there, but also for the chance to offer a fresh, alternative view of the country from what is often shown by the media.  

Chef Dev Rajkumar
Chef Devan Rajkumar wants to use his culinary skills and experiences to bring people together.

“When people saw me posting content from Lahore, they were like, ‘Oh my God, this is Pakistan?’ This is not what we expected. This is not what we thought we’d see.’ They were shocked at how beautiful, kind, and welcoming everyone was.”

Reactions like these are Rajkumar’s ultimate goal.

A cookbook is due next year. He has aspirations of launching merchandise and cookware, traveling to South East Asia, and continuing his pop-ups, but ultimately, he concludes,

“I just want to stand for something. I want to continue to learn, remain humble, represent my Western and Eastern cultures and spread mad love. I want to be an ambassador to that world and be someone who’s dedicated to his craft, bettering himself and those around him.” 

“I just want to continue to grow as a person,” he added with sincerity as he touched on his sobriety and what it’s taught him about achieving your goals. 

“That might sound cliche, but it’s new to me. I’ve spent the last two years learning about myself and being vulnerable about how I feel, my healing journey and what I’m going through. If I excel and continue to invest time and discipline in that arena, everything else around me will flourish. I believe that goes for anyone.”

Rajkumar is going far literally and figuratively, but no matter where he lands, you can be sure he’ll bring something back for his supporters, whether it be a new view of the world or a concoction like a ceviche pani puri on one of his menus. 

“That’s my travels to India, Pakistan and Peru all in one bite!” he exclaimed. 

Chef Dev’s journey has not always been an easy one, but it’s a powerful example of the success one can taste with hard work, embracing authenticity and following true passion. 

To learn more about his work visit his website or follow his Instagram for real-time updates, recipes, and all the ‘mad love.’ 

Photos Credit: Alec Luna

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By Ramona Sukhraj

With a B.S. in Marketing from the UCONN School of Business, Ramona has made a name for herself publishing over … Read more ›

Bold Helmets: Tina Singh’s Innovation is a Multi-Sport Solution

Image source: Tina Singh

Tina Singh, formerly known as Mombossof3 online, understands how to make her presence known in the parenting space. Seven years ago, she set out to create and share content related to motherhood, and there’s been no looking back since. Singh has mastered the idea of evolving with the times and the needs of her audience while staying true to her number one role in life — mom!

As she navigated her personal and professional life through the lens of a parent, she came across a void that just wasn’t being filled. So, in typical Singh style, this mom of three put her entrepreneurial hat on and got down to creating a solution for Sikh kids who struggled to find a helmet that fits over their patkas (a small cloth head covering).

The problem was personal — all three of Singh’s sons wear patkas and just couldn’t find the right helmet for their safety — and so the solution had to be homegrown. Enter, the Bold Helmets.

Singh gave Brown Girl Magazine an exclusive interview in which she talked about the Bold Helmets, the change in her journey since she’s become a public figure, and what it was like to innovate her very first product!

Here’s how it went:

Let’s start from the beginning. How did this idea come to mind?

This idea has been in my head for many, many years — over five years. I had issues with my kids and having helmets fit them after they turned age four or five.

I worked as an Occupational Therapist, in the head injury space, so I was always the one saying, ‘Okay kids, you’re gonna have to tie your hair in the back, do braids, or something in order to put on a helmet properly because I’m not gonna let you go down these bike ramps without a helmet!’ That’s just not okay for me.

So I talked to my husband and said, ‘there’s gotta be another way this works.’ So we did all the things that parents in situations like these do — they hollow out the helmets, some people go as far as cutting holes at the top of the helmet — you do what works. But I had in my mind an idea of what I think the helmet should look like based on what a patka looks like, and what my kids look like. I then found an engineer to draw it out for me to bring [my idea] to a place where I can actually take it somewhere and say, ‘Okay, how do I make this?’

But, yes, it started mainly with my kids and facing that struggle myself.

You mention that this idea had been brewing in your mind for over five years. How long did it take you to actually bring it to life?

To this point, it’s been about two and a half to three years. I let it sit in my mind for a while. Winters come here in Canada and then we forget about it again until we have to go skiing, and then there’s another problem, right?! I did let it lay dormant for a bit for sure, but once I made the commitment to do it, I made up my mind to see it all the way through.

You recently pivoted and changed the name of the product to the Bold Helmets. Can you talk me through how you came up with the new name?

Bold Helmets became the name because they’re designed to be bold, to be different and who you are. I also think that the way the helmet is made, even though it’s made with Sikh kids in mind, there are other applications to it. I do think that taking the Bold Helmets approach embodies its [the product’s] uniqueness and really focuses on being bold and who you are.

And the Bold Helmet is multi-sport, correct?

This helmet is certified for bicycles, kick scooters, skateboards, and inline skating. It is not a ski helmet. So every helmet you use for a different sport has a different safety certification or testing that it has to go through. So, this helmet is called ‘multi-sport’ because it covers those four sports but I wouldn’t take this helmet and use it for skiing. I’d have to make sure that this helmet, or a helmet like this, gets certified for various other standards for other sports.

Makes sense! I want to change the course of the conversation here a bit and talk more about how you pivoted from Mombossof3 to innovating your very first product. How was that experience?

So what I did throughout this journey was that I went from marketing myself as ‘mombossof3’ to ‘Tina Singh’ because I was sharing more of my life’s journey as my kids were getting older and in an effort to respect my children’s space as well, and letting them decide how much — or how little — they want to be involved with what I was doing online. And part of that was about the journey of what I was doing next, and the transition came naturally to me.

I think right now, truthfully, I’m struggling in the space where I kind of have a shift in audience and so my usual, everyday self that I share on social seems like it doesn’t work. I feel like I need to find a new balance; I will always be true to who I am, and I will never present myself as something that I’m not. But, just finding a space for me to continue creating content while also taking on this new endeavor with Bold Helmets, is important right now.

Aside from this struggle of finding that new balance, what is that one challenge that really sticks out to you from this journey?

I think my biggest challenge being an entrepreneur is finding that balance between my responsibilities as a parent, which is my number one role in my life and there’s no one that can take that role for me — my husband and I are the only parents — and passions outside of that.

Do you think it helped that you were creating a helmet for Sikh children so it allowed you to pursue your passion but also work with your kids in some capacity since they inspired the whole idea?

I never thought of it that way, but yes actually, it did! So all my entrepreneurial projects have involved my kids. Even now they were involved in picking the colors, all the sample tests we did they tried the helmets on! They’re probably sick of it since they’re constantly trying on helmets, but I get their opinion on them. Even as we pivoted with the name, we involved them and got their feedback on it also. So, they were involved in very large parts of this project.

And my husband is also a huge part of this project. He’s been heavily involved in this process, too!

You have a huge online presence, and I know that you’re probably not new to trolling and bullying that comes with being on social media. More recently, Bold Helmets was subject to a lot of backlashes. Is there something that you took away from this recent experience? Was it different this time around?

The extent to which things got was different this time around and that’s not something I have faced in the past. But I have been in the online space for about seven years now, and I’m accustomed to it. I think what I learned this time around is that sometimes silence and reflection is the best thing you can do. Sometimes reflecting and not being defensive on feedback that you get — and this may be something that comes with age as well as experience — is best.

But, I’m happy with the pivots we made, the feedback we’ve gotten, and the way we’re moving forward.

You mentioned that this isn’t your first entrepreneurial venture. But each experience teaches you something different. What did you learn while working on Bold Helmets?

I learned to be okay with taking things slow. I’ve never been that person; I’ve always jumped the gun on lots of things. It’s understanding that it’s ok to slow down and recognize that things have to just run their course.

And while the interview wraps up there, there is more to come with Singh on her journey! Catch Lifestyle Editor Sandeep on Instagram LIVE this Saturday, January 28, at 10 a.m. EST, as she has a more in-depth conversation with Singh on Bold Helmets and more!

In the meantime, Bold Helmets are available for pre-order now, and as a small token of appreciation, Canadian pre-orders will get $10 off their purchase until the end of January 2023!

By Sandeep Panesar

Sandeep Panesar is an editor, and freelance writer, based out of Toronto. She enjoys everything from the holiday season to … Read more ›