“I felt this was my way to create a more accessible educational moment on the Internet that has the potential for making a more tolerant world,” said Vishavjit Singh, also the creator of Sikhtoons.com.
The idea came from Comic Con, he said.
Billed as “the biggest and most exciting popular culture convention” on the East coast, New York’s Comic Con plays host to the biggest names in comics, graphic novels, animation, video games, toys, movies, and television. According to its Web site, Comic Con attracted more than 100,000 attendees last year, easily making it the second largest comic book and pop culture gathering in the country.
“People really liked my work,” Vishavjit Singh said. There were very few South Asians there. No one knew who Sikhs were. They assumed we were Muslims.
“Many teachers came by. They were into comics and were looking for tools to take back to introduce to students,” he said.
His book "is an awesome reminder that we are many under the sun but one thing we all want is to be respectfully understood,” said Shanequa Green, a New York City teacher, by email. "He gently tugs at the reader's mind with humor, then holds it firm with knowledge wrapped in hues of red, green, orange and blue. Life experiences comprised of many chapters shape all individuals and at times we forget what's unique about us makes us special. Vishavjit's clever dialogue through art certainly freed me from intimidation and fear of what I don't understand. Not only was I able to learn more about Sikhs, but as an African American, I see myself and my experiences weaved throughout this book too."
Although the book was available for purchase, Vishavjit Singh decided to provide it in a form that anyone can use. The solution was designed to work for lowest common denominator, and works across a variety of platforms. Anyone can flip through it, using an Internet browser. It is available on the front page of Sikhtoons.com.
“I wanted it to become a tool,” he said. “Think about education and taking it to schools. As we go forward people going more and more online.”
The online book was released in December. This may not be the first Sikh ebook, but it certainly is the first one about dastaars, he added. It is a quick introduction to the Sikh dastaar. It presents a variety of Sikh personalities wearing their own personal style of dastaar.
The online version is free. The published version was a struggle to market. Like most Sikh books, sales were dismal. Then when feedback came from educators, Vishavjit Singh thought non-Sikhs would find it more useful, he said.
“People said it was a great education resource,” he added. “Even if 15 or 30 people learn about the turban, it’s worth it.”
"Making this book available online and pushing the awesome factor another notch by making it free is the express version of breaking down barriers of ignorance and fear in an instant," Green added. "I look through the streets of New York with new eyes. With eyes of understanding and respect. Instead of being perplexed and anxious in the presence of a Sikh, I feel connected by the struggle of acceptance we all battle and have a little celebration deep inside my soul that diversity is indeed beautiful."