While growing up, best mates, Anurag Sobti and Jaskirat Dhingra, never thought that a mainstream Australian TV channel would take two turbaned Indian guys as contestants on a reality show. Fast forward to 2021, the pair came third out of 16 teams on the fifth season of ‘The Amazing Race Australia’. ‘The Amazing Race Australia’ is a TV series where teams of two (in a pre-existing relationship such as friends or family) compete in a race around the world. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the most recent season which aired through February and March on Network 10, was shot exclusively in Australia. Teams travelled across states to complete challenges and race to the pit stop of each leg of the race.
This season of ‘The Amazing Race Australia’ was applauded for its diverse cast, more accurately representing the Australian social landscape than other shows by including contestants of different cultural backgrounds, ages, and professions. The Sydney-based team were named the ‘Super Sikhs’ in nod to their heritage and values. Anurag, a 29-year-old geotechnical engineer, noted that while the show may have taken the duo on to represent a certain demographic, Jaskirat and he both went on as two Australian friends who happen to be Sikh.
Credit: The Latch
“We had made it clear to the producers that ‘if you are going to put us on just because we are Sikhs and because we may be different, then thank you very much but no,’” 30-year-old strategy consultant Jaskirat said. That said, the boys are very proud that they were able to increase awareness of Sikhism and what it stands for. “We are really proud of being Sikhs, and we are glad that they showed this aspect of our identity,” Jaskirat added, while Anurag noted that “if your identity puts you in the spotlight, embrace it and make the most of it.”
While the pair are proud of the mark that they have left by being one of the first all-Indian teams on a mainstream Australian TV series, they acknowledged that there is still a fair way to go. For Jaskirat, the diversity he saw around him in his day-to-day life in Sydney was not reflected on the TV. It made him question “where is all of that? Why isn’t the real Australia being shown?”. “Where we are now is a big step forward, but we do have a long way to go. While we can say that the show is very diverse, really it’s just an accurate representation of Australia,” he said. Anurag added that while the ball has started rolling, this should not be a one-off. “We have started something good here and we want something to come of it,” he said, acknowledging the South Asian representation on the current season of ‘Masterchef Australia’.
What an incredible run for The Super Sikhs ?— Amazing Race AU (@amazingrace_au) March 31, 2021
With their endless perseverance, positivity and willingness to help friends in need, Jaskirat and Anurag showed us all what Sikhs stand for ? #AmazingRaceAU pic.twitter.com/NzfsAoep8t
Anurag and Jaskirat met 10 years ago at a Sikh youth camp and have been best friends ever since. They have travelled across the world together, noting South East Asia, and South America as two highlights. Having wanted to apply for ‘The Amazing Race Australia’ show for a long time, the pair used the pandemic as motivation and said “let’s give it a shot” when applications opened in the middle of last year.
Once through, they knew that preparation was key. “We knew that it was a mental game as well as a physical game,” Anurag said. While working out for physical fitness was one element, the Super Sikhs also tried to overcome their fears. For example, Anurag is afraid of heights, so he challenged himself to do high-ropes courses in preparation. Also, the pair are not confident swimmers, so they took to kayaking to try to be more comfortable around water.
Prior to commencement of the race, all contestants and crew had to quarantine in a Queensland hotel for 14 days. “In those two weeks, we tried to learn a new skill every day through YouTube,” Anurag said. Knowing that the race was based on home soil this time around, the boys cleverly thought “what are the most Australian things to do?”. This included learning to tie knots, learning to play a didgeridoo, learning to throw a boomerang and, as luck would have it since it was one of the challenges, learning how to shuck oysters.
Credit: Network 10
Throughout the race, Anurag and Jaskirat were commended for their positive attitude and willingness to help others. In a particular episode, a rival contestant had fought with their teammate and stopped racing. After completing their respective challenge, the Super Sikhs stopped their own racing to speak to Dwes, the disheartened competitor, and motivated him to keep going.
“[The Amazing Race Australia] was an opportunity to challenge ourselves, but also to showcase the Sikh fighting spirit and the values we uphold. Sikhism as a culture is all about community and service,” Anurag said. “Everyone sacrifices a lot to be on it [the race] so seeing a fellow contestant feeling down then he or she are no longer a competitor, they are a friend. You feel for them… you don’t want to win thinking that you put someone down,” Jaskirat added.
Having completed numerous diverse challenges, the boys note that competing in ‘The Amazing Race Australia’ gave them experiences that money could not buy. A shared favourite for them was the Army challenge, where teams were given the opportunity to not only complete an Army boot camp with personnel from Australian Defence Force, but also sit in an Australian Army Boeing CH-47 Chinook with the back open.
Credit: Network 10
The hardest challenges the boys faced forced them to face their fears and push themselves. For Anurag, it was in Episode 20 when he had to dig deep to overcome his fear of heights and cross a suspended ladder bridge in the Blue Mountains. For Jaskirat, it was the wakeboarding challenge in the finale because he was violently ill that day – something that was not shown in the final cut of the episode. “I had thrown up eight times that morning and could not keep any food or water down,” he said. Jaskirat had to dig deep and not lose hope as he tried to balance on the board in freezing cold water, highlighting once again that fighting spirit that the team was known for. “The producers actually told us to stop racing three times that day, but we pushed through and kept going… we actually finished the race with tears of pain in our eyes,” he added.
Credit: Network 10
The pair are excited to see the next wave of South Asian contestants on Australian TV, and especially note the diverse participants of the current season of Masterchef Australia. For those considering applying for TV shows or the like, the boys’ message is clear: “go for it!”. “The opportunities we have now were not there a few years ago. All it takes is that commitment to give it a shot,” Jaskirat said.
They also acknowledge that at the end of the day, it is TV and it will be edited to curate a story or be entertaining. However, being true to who you are is the key. “All we can control is what we give… whether someone likes that image of you is irrelevant, but you have to at least try to be yourselves as then that is what they have to work with,” Jaskirat said, noting that the boys were happy with how they were portrayed on the show.
Credit: Network 10
With memories to last a lifetime (and a copy of it recorded and stored on Network 10’s on-demand streaming service, 10Play), Anurag and Jaskirat are thankful for the opportunity and reminisce fondly on their time on the race. From building strong friendships with some of the other teams to ticking bucket-list experiences off, ‘The Amazing Race Australia’ gave the boys an adventure of a lifetime. For the young South Asian audience watching closely at home, the fifth series of the show and the Super Sikhs gave them something as well – representation.
You can watch the 2021 season of ‘The Amazing Race Australia’ via Network 10’s streaming service, ‘10Play’
Tia Singh is a lawyer, public servant and freelance journalist from Sydney.