If you’re wearing a turban, it isn’t always easy to go through airport security in North America, as two recent incidents involving Sikh celebrities showed.
In one incident, Indian-American actor and model Waris Ahluwalia was asked to remove his turban in a public place before being allowed to board a flight from Mexico to New York City. Ahluwalia refused and the flight left without him, which was not only unfair to him but also to all those passengers who missed an opportunity to brag to their friends: “I shared a flight with the Sikh guy from the Gap ads.”
In another incident, Indo-Canadian comedian Jasmeet Singh was forced to remove his turban at San Francisco International Airport. Putting Singh through a body-scan machine and patting him down from head to toe with a metal detector did not satisfy security personnel. They led Singh to a private room, where he had to remove his turban, so it could be X-rayed. They did not find any weapons hidden in the turban; nor did they find copies of the banned pamphlet “A Comedian’s Guide to Hijacking a Plane.”
These two incidents received plenty of media coverage because they involved high-profile members of the Sikh community. But hundreds, if not thousands, of ordinary Sikh and Muslim men have probably endured the indignity of having their turbans removed at airport security. And even more have had to stand calmly while their turbans were prodded with a metal detector, while the pretty woman with the 50-pound blond wig sailed through security.
Thankfully, renowned inventor Hemant Shah of New Delhi has come up with a solution to this problem: the Turban Seal. You may not have heard of Shah, but I’m sure you’ve heard of some of his previous inventions, such as the self-drumming tabla, the Velcro-enhanced sari, and the semi-automatic Holi-powder gun.
Shah is a very busy man, but allowed me to interview him by phone about his latest invention.
Me: “Congratulations on the Turban Seal. Can you tell me how it works?”
Shah: “Well, it’s a special seal that you can put on a turban once it has been tied. It lets everyone know that the turban is safe and nothing has been hidden inside. It’s similar to the seals that you might find on official envelopes or prescription medicine. When the seal is broken, everyone knows.”
Me: “How would this work? Would a Sikh man put a seal on his turban himself?”
Shah: “No, we would have Turban Seal booths inside every major airport. These would be private enterprises, independent of airport security. Before boarding a plane, a turbaned man would come to our booth. We would treat him with utmost dignity, ensure that his turban is perfectly safe, and then place a seal on his turban. After that, he can just glide through airport security like one of the Kardashians.”
Me: “Would there be a fee for this service?”
Shah: “Yes, but it would be nominal. We would get the airlines to help subsidize our service.”
Me: “Why would they be willing to do that?”
Shah: “Well, it would allow their other passengers to relax. Some of them mistakenly believe that they’re at greater risk when a man wearing a turban is flying with them. The Turban Seal would help put them at ease. And it would allow turban-wearing passengers to relax too. They’d be able to get up to use the washroom without someone whispering, ‘Oh no, we’re gonna die!’”
Me: “Do you think you’d be able to get enough revenue to make Turban Seal a viable operation?”
Shah: “In some airports, like Toronto and Vancouver, there will be an abundance of turban-wearing passengers, so revenue will not be an issue. But in other airports, we may have to offer several more services, such as Shoe Seal and Underwear Seal.”
Me: “What would those involve?”
Shah: “Well, you’ve probably heard of the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber. By having your shoes and underwear sealed, you’ll be able to go through airport security much faster. You won’t have to remove your shoes or have your underwear patted down with a metal detector.”
Me: “You’re going to check people’s undergarments?”
Shah: “Yes, we would gently pat it down to see if they have a package in there or something. More than the usual package, of course.”