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ou might be surprised to learn that Dalbir Singh, the creator of “Sikh Park,” a new cartoon series that mixes the cute and simple look of a certain notorious animated show with its own distinctive brand of Sikh humor, has “never seen a single episode of South Park.” The 34-year-old Singh, a graduate of Calcutta University, lives in Budapest, Hungary, and works as creative director at one of the world’s largest advertising agencies, Ogilvy & Mather. His cartoons seek to create an “awareness for Sikhs in a post 9/11 world.”

Why hasn’t he tuned into the Comedy Central staple yet? Though he’s seen images from the popular series online and in print, Singh explains that “In the last 10 years I have lived in mostly non-English speaking countries where they never ran it or it was not popular, so I never really got to see it.” caught up with Singh to find out how “Sikh Park” came to be.

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How did you get started drawing cartoons?
As a kid I was making my own little comic books and also had some of my political cartoons featured in leading Indian newspapers. Growing up in India where everyone played cricket, there was not much choice if you didn’t, so we spent time reading comics and books and drawing.

When did you start Sikh Park, and what inspired you to start the series?
I started Sikh Park about two months ago. I was working with Toronto-based attorney T. Sher Singh on his site, SikhChic.com. It’s about the art and culture of Sikh diaspora, and we decided to add a humor section. That’s when I came up with the idea of “Sikh Park.”

Sikhs have been the object of ridicule in some Indian humor. There are even respectable Web sites, magazines, etc. dedicated to “sardarji jokes.” You will find them even in some Bollywood movies. I wanted to offer an alternative and a new way of looking at Sikhs.

Sikh Is Chic

Emphasizing Sikh arts and culture with columnists from varied professional backgrounds and countries across the world, SikhChic.com speaks to the Sikh diaspora, covering everything from Turban Shakespeare to rising young athletes in cricket and golf.

The site’s look and style can be attributed to design wizard and “Sikh Park” creator Dalbir Singh. Lawyer and writer T. Sher Singh, 57, of Toronto, founded the site in 2006 and believes that it speaks to Sikhs who haven’t grown up in India: “We felt a need to cover and provide an added focus on art and culture as the community takes root in and becomes part of the local scene in virtually every corner of the globe.”

However, most of my audience is from the diaspora, and I would also like to educate the non-desis about Sikhs, as it is becoming very necessary post 9/11 when Sikhs have been wrongly targeted because of their looks.

Are the cartoons based on your life experiences or those of people you know?
It’s all in good humor, but it has snapshots from our life as well. I am also trying to address the issue of desi identity and growing up in the diaspora. This is one reason perhaps why even non-Sikhs find the cartoons interesting.

Where do you get your ideas for the “Sikh Park” cartoons?
The ideas come naturally. After all, I do this for a living. Also, living in the diaspora itself gives you so many experiences that I can put them in the series.

How long does it take you to make them?
The idea takes time, but execution is easy. This is one reason I like the South Park style; it doesn’t take much time but looks cute and funny at the same time.

Do you have a specific audience in mind when you are creating the cartoons?
The primary target is obviously Sikhs, as some of the jokes are very much linked to being Sikh [and] to our religious and cultural beliefs. But I am getting feedback from all desis, irrespective of their religion or culture background.

How would you describe the response so far to “Sikh Park”?
The response has been great—all positive. In the first month alone I got several desi Web sites interested in featuring the cartoon on their site.

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Did you ask the South Park creators for permission to imitate their style? Are you worried about any legal ramifications?
When I started making the strip, I didn’t realize it would become such a big hit in such a short time. I was also making it more out of fun just for sharing between friends than as a commercial venture, but as it is growing I am also checking with some lawyers about the copyright issues.

What is your favorite “Sikh Park” creation so far, and why?
My favorite is “Sexy Back” with the guy drying his hair and people mistaking him for a girl. This is based so much on real insight and has actually happened to me once.

It happened to you? What’s the story?
Well, not in the same way, but my friend totally missed me on the beach even when he was standing just behind me—he thought I was a girl. I opened my hair when he had gone to get some stuff. Of course, he would not admit that he was checking me out.

Any plans to make animated “Sikh Park” episodes?
Yes, it is in the pipeline. I want the cartoon to grow for a few months before I get down into animation. I have also been approached by people to make T-shirts, books, merchandise, etc … you will see soon.n

Pavani Yalamanchili will trade you the sports section for the comics anytime.
Published on April 16, 2007.
Photography: Courtesy of Dalbir Singh.
Comments are closed.
  1. April 17, 2007, 8:19 pm Akhil N.

    Very humourous! Dalbir; paji, you must be making a fortune outta this! Congrats! I can’t wait for the actual shows and I’ll be saying, I knew this person from MySpace! I actually know him through MySpace!

    -Akhil

  2. April 17, 2007, 8:21 pm Akhil N.
  3. June 21, 2007, 5:07 am Rachit

    While Satbir is a rockstar here, creating ripples in the Indian advertising industry; Dalbir is not far behind. Both these brother duo rock.

    keep doing the good work man. we are all proud of U2.

    This world is such a small place.

  4. March 18, 2008, 11:42 am Alka

    This is hilarious! Just found the skin head and Sardar cartoon. Wonderfully creative.

    Desis 101
    http://www.desis101.wordpress.com

  5. April 6, 2008, 7:23 pm Guri Singh

    I am impressed. You have introduced humor without putting Sikhs down.

    I look forward to what you do in the future.

    Do me a favor and don’t sell out and with that I mean you should retain all creative control and not some other entity.

    Best of luck,
    Guri