Anurag Sobti still remembers feeling alone and like “the odd one out” after migrating to Australia from India at age 13. The son of Sikhs had suddenly become the only boy wearing a turban at his school in Sydney, a stark contrast to a life of belonging and community in Punjab.
Now 29, the geotechnical engineer is ready to show his face to all of Australia when he competes on ‘The Amazing Race Australia’ next month. Alongside his partner on the show, longtime friend Jaskirat Dhingra, he hopes to challenge stereotypes about Sikh people so the younger generation doesn’t question their sense of selves like he did growing up.
“Being a teenager, it was a big change,” Anurag told HuffPost Australia about moving to Australia with his family in the early 2000s.
“At times, because of my identity, I would feel like the odd one out, and I would question myself,” he said, adding that it took him years to “be really proud” of himself.
“The stereotype out there might be that Sikhs are generally taxi drivers and 7-Eleven workers, but we want the world to know through the show that Sikhs are very successful [regardless of occupation] because of the values that have been instilled in them through their religion and their beliefs,” Anurag said.
At the core of these values are “compassion and generosity”.
“That’s how Anurag and I have been brought up. If we see anybody in need, we help out,” Jaskirat said. “It’s not something somebody tells us to do. It’s just the values that have been instilled in us.”
Jaskirat, a 30-year-old strategic consultant who moved to Australia from India with his parents when he was four, said many people aren’t even aware of Sikhism.
“The unfortunate thing is people just don’t really know who we are. When people see somebody out in the public with a turban, they’re not able to identify them as a Sikh. Sure, people are, but not as many as we would probably like.”
He said representation is key to educating the public, and he hopes appearing on the show will help young Sikhs.
“If we can come out of this [show] and have one [Sikh] kid not bullied in a courtyard, that’s perfect for us,” he said.
Jaskirat and Anurag form one of 14 teams competing on ‘The Amazing Race’ this year.
There’s $250,000 in prize money up for grabs, and the challenges were filmed in Australia instead of overseas due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The show is hosted again by Beau Ryan.
‘The Amazing Race Australia’ premieres at 7:30pm Monday, February 1, on Channel 10.
Never miss a thing. Sign up to HuffPost Australia’s weekly newsletter for the latest news, exclusives and guides to achieving the good life.