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PIO girl suspended for piercing nose

PIO girl suspended for piercing nose

Author: AP
Publication: The Times of India
Date: November 10, 2009

Introduction: Suzaannah Pabla's suspension from her school is emblematic of how it is still difficult for the American melting pot culture to absorb aspects of different religious traditions

To 12-year-old Suzannah Pabla, piercing her nose was a way to connect with her roots in India. To Suzannah's school, it was a dress-code violation worthy of a suspension.

To other Indians, the incident was emblematic of how it can still be difficult for the American melting pot to absorb certain aspects of their cultural and religious traditions.

Suzannah was briefly suspended last month from her public school in Bountiful, Utah, for violating a body-piercing ban. School officials - who noted that nose piercing is an Indian cultural choice, not a religious requirement - compromised and said she could wear a clear, unobtrusive stud in her nose, and Suzannah returned to her seventh-grade class.

"I wanted to feel more closer to my family in India because I really love my family," said Suzannah, who was born in Bountiful. Her father was born in India.

"I just thought it would be OK to let her embrace her heritage and her culture," said Suzannah's mother, Shirley Pabla, a Mormon born in nearby Salt Lake City. "I didn't know it would be such a big deal."

It shouldn't have been, said Suzannah's father, Amardeep Singh, a Sikh who was raised in the US and works as an English professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. "It's true that the nose ring is mainly a cultural thing for most Indians," Singh said. "Even if it is just culture, culture matters."

About 2.6 million people of Indian ancestry live in the US, including immigrants and natives, according to a 2007 US Census estimate. The Indian population increased rapidly after a 1965 change to immigration law, which ended preferences given to specific European nations.

Sandhya Nankani, who moved to the US from India at age 12, said religion and culture in India are tightly intertwined.

Each morning, after Nankani bathes her 2-month-old daughter, she makes a small ash mark called the "vibhuti" on the baby's forehead, which for her signifies the "third eye" in her Hindu religion.

"Sometimes people ask what is on her forehead," said Nankani, a writer and editor who lives in Manhattan. "I will probably not send her with the vibuthi to the playground soon. I don't want her to be the center of attention in a way that makes her feel like she doesn't belong."

But differences - like Savannah's pierced nose - are part of what make the world interesting.

"Are we all trying to look alike? Is that what makes a better student, a better school?" Singh asked. "Or a better country?"


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