UC Berkeley IBER

I was talking yesterday with Jane Singh, and it got me to thinking that you, too, might be interested in the updates to our webpage on investigation case files. As you may recall, we have been putting on-line the index to NARA San Bruno's holdings of investigation case files 1882-1953 at The latest round of updates brings the total number of casefiles that have been indexed to 90,000--that is, up through the early 1920s. If you go to the search page on the site and go to the "Birth Place" part, there is a pull-down menu. You can scroll down to "India" , change the "Retrieve" to (say) 500 records, then do a search. You should get about 200+ names of people "born in India". Have fun. Hope this finds you well. Cheers, --Bob Bob Barde, Deputy Director Institute of Business and Economic Research F502 Haas, UC Berkeley 94720-1922 tel. (510) 642-8351 Fax 642-5018 IBER web page: Personal web page:


Why the Punjabi Matters

Why the Punjabi Matters Because they have come to embody a resurgent India. Because they have become the synonym for entrepreneurship. Because their music is kicking some serious you-know-what globally. Because Bhajji is Dada’s secret weapon again. Because they are conquering taste buds across the world—soldiers in Ole Blighty are insisting on their chicken tikka masala before embarking on operations, in case you haven’t noticed. Because they can teach the world more about resilience and joie de vivre than any other ethnic group, because you can’t ever translate chak de phatte. Because no one can make you feel-good as much as them. Because way before Bobby M cferrin sang Don’t Worry be Happy, there was koi gal nahi, Gurmukh Singh profiles this Punjabi culture. Read these three sayings, and you will get a glimpse into the Punjabi psyche: Khada peeta lahe da, baaki Ahmed Shahe da (Grab whatever you can before invade Ahmed Abdali comes). Khande pinde maaro. (Eat, drink and be merry) Punjab de jummian nu nit muhiman. (Punjabis are condemned to be on the campaigns). Characteristically, a Punjabi is a romantic by heart. That’s why all the famous love sagas (Heer-Ranjha, Mirza-Sahiban, Sohni-Mahiwal) were played out on Punjabi soil. A Punjabi is a fighter by instinct. That’s why Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Hari Singh Nalwa (he weighed 280 mounds) put an end to centuries-long invasions from the northwest. A Punjabi is a connoisseur by taste. That’s why every Indian talks about Maaki-di-roti aur Saang. And a Punjabi is an achiever by nature.

He relished challenges and uncertainties. As a writer has said, the Punjabi wants to own the world. Many Punjabis have crossed Saat Samundar and made it big in whatever they undertook. Look at how they became big farm owners in Canada and outshone their white counterparts. British Columbia’s Purewal brothers, who started in 1980 with just a few acres, today own thousands of acres and are the biggest producers of blueberries in North America. Their secret? “Be smarter than your competition and reduce costs. By the process, we became more profitable than white farmers. Many white farmers sold their land to us and got out of farming. Today we produce more than 60 million dollars worth of blueberries every year,” says G urjit Purewal.

In California, Harbhajan Samra, who has been rated as the “okra king” by The New York Times, too started out with a few acres in the 1990s. Today, he produces the best okra and 40 other goods and sends truckloads of produce the best okra and 40 other goods and sends truckloads of produce all across America and Canada. His formula: don’t take the trodden path and go where no one has gone before. “Nobody grew okra in California when I came here in 1985. With a huge south Asian populatio n here, I hit upon the idea of growing okra.” Samra is a multi-millionaire today.

Dr. Narinder Kapany, who is called the father of fibre optics, reached Silicon Valley and became a millionaire much before even the name Silicon Valley was coined. “Success is a sort of magnet for Punjabis. America has that magnetic pull. It just spells success. That’s what the Punjabi wants,” says Dr Kapany.

Canadian health minister Ujjal Singh Dosanjh put their success down to two traits: charhdi kala (optimism) and never-say-die attitude. “Give the Punjabi an opportunity and he will grab it both hands. He is very demonstrative by nature. He wants to show off. That’s why he wants to dress well, eat well and live well. That’s the reason for Punjabis’ success wherever they have gone,” says Dosanjh.

According to Bhajan Singh of the Singapore Sikh Education Fund, what makes a Punjabi tick in his high AQ. Spelling it out, he says, “In management, first they said that a person who surpasses others has high intelligence quotient (IQ), then they put it down to high emotional quotient (EQ) and now they say success is related adversity quotient (AQ). Because of their historically adverse circumstances, nature has equipped the Punjabi with a very high AQ. Be it the Terai or Kutchh in India or California or British Columbia, the Punjabis have spelt success in agriculture. They just love taming nature and opponents.” Singapore’s Kartar Singh never sit twiddling their thumbs. Chakde phatte. Tell them that something is not possible, and they will go the whole hog after it. That’s the formula which has made them world beaters,” says Bains.

Kim Bolan of the Vancouver Sun in Canada, who has covered this south Asian community for her newspaper for two decades, says Punjabis succeed because they are a cut above the rest.

Gurinder Mann of the University of California, opines, “The Punjabi steamroller abroad has just begun. There will be more Thakral, who is by far the richest Sikh in south-east Asia, says the Punjabi is very competitive. This spirit, coupled with their discipline is a sure recipe for success.

Up in northern Queensland in Australia is a Punjabi who grows more sugarcane than anyone in Australia. Gian Singh Bains’s forefathers came here in search of opportunities. “Punjabis CREATE opportunity. They and more Punjabs away from India in the future.”

Punjabi is one of the main languages in Canada and Singapore. Board any Air Canada flight, and you will read signs in Punjabi. With eight Punjabis in the parliament in Ottawa, three in London, and two in Singapore, the Punjabis have arrived on the world stage. --

Source: Amritsar Times, Vol. 1, Issue 12, pg. 9-10, 2005

Ted Sibia, a prominent member of the Punjabi community in Sacramento,
says "this film has helped promote understanding of our culture in
Northern California and I am pleased that now so many others all over
the world have access to this information.",108

Two Homes, One Heart: Sacramento Sikh Women and their Songs & Dances

Cover Image
Film by Joyce Middlebrook
Produced by Joyce Middlebrook
Cinematographer: Steve Field, Marc Page, Joyce Middlebrook
Editing: Duane Tyler, Joyce Middlebrook
Copyright: 1992, Joyce Middlebrook
26 minutes, Color
Original format: 3/4 tape, 1992
Distributor Contact: Joyce Middlebrook
More Film Facts

Punjabi Culture Film Added to Folkstreams Internet Archive

Folkstreams, a nonprofit, premier site for historical films, has added Two Homes, One Heart, a documentary about Sikh Punjabi culture in Sacramento to its Internet archive.  The film is now available for viewing free of charge at,108 .

Two Homes, One Heart was produced by Yuba County's Joyce Middlebrook, thanks to a folk-art grant and generous contributions from the Sikh Temple Sacramento,Yuba Sutter Regional Arts Council and many others. The film features Punjabi women dancing and singing during an annual festival, telling about their lives in America and India, and keeping traditions alive by teaching children folk dances and customs.

According to Ted Sibia, a prominent member of the Punjabi community in Sacramento, "This film has helped promote understanding of our culture in Northern California and I am pleased that now so many others all over the world have access to this information." (Sibia's web site is
Founded in 2001, is a National Preserve of Documentary Films about American Roots Cultures. In addition to the films, the site includes transcriptions, study and teaching guides, suggested readings, and links to related websites.  Although many of these documentaries have won film festival awards and critical acclaim, they do  not fit easily into mass market outlets like movie theaters, video shops, and broadcast and cable television.  Thanks to Folkstreams, these films are now always available, the audience can build over time through word of mouth, search engines, and partnerships with special-interest, academic, and media sites. There is no charge to view this and other films in the Folkstreams collection.

On March 11, 2007, The American Film Institute honored in Silver Spring, Maryland, with a screening of one of the films from the Folkstreams collection.

Pioneer Sikhs in Arizona
Basant and Martina Singh
Bisham C and Edna Singh
Deljit Sagharia Singh
Jiwan and Trinidad Singh
Albert and Carmen Singh
Sovran Singh
Bhajan and Guadalupe Singh
Rala Singh
Ernestina Z. Singh
Here's a link to our site:
Vince Murray
Arizona Historical Research
1739 E. Broadway, #271
Tempe, AZ 85282
(480) 829-0267 office

Sikh Pioneers of Australia

> Sikh Pioneers of Australia
> Most of us think that Sikh or South Asian migration to Australia is a 
> recent phenomenon, spanning just the past few decades. But not many of 
> us know that
> our Sikh forefathers first came to Australia more than 150 years ago - at
> a
> time when the dust was yet to settle from the fall of Ranjit Singh's
> empire.
> Displaying their true enterprising spirit, they crossed the seven seas 
> to come to the land Down Under, in search of a better lifestyle and 
> wages, and quickly endeared themselves to the local population here. 
> Country towns all
> over Australia are dotted with memories of these brave Punjabi migrants,
> who
> seem to have been welcomed by the locals despite the official "White
> Australia" policy. 
> Sadly, they are also forgotten in the annals of history.
> Initially, the migrants from India were indentured labourers, who 
> worked on sheep stations and farms around Australia. Some adventurers 
> followed during
> the gold rush of the 1850's. 
> A census from 1861 indicates that there were around 200 Indians in 
> Victoria of whom 20 were in Ballarat, the town which was at the 
> epicenter of the gold
> rush. Thereafter, many more came and worked as hawkers - going from house
> to
> house, town to town, traversing thousands of kilometers, making a living
> by
> selling a variety of products. 
> A record of shipping arrivals of the day shows that S.S Clitus and 
> S.S. Jullundur arrived in Melbourne in 1898 carrying many Punjabis, 
> some of whom like Nutta Singh, Hurman Singh, Indur Singh, Isur Singh, 
> Sundi and Sunda Singh went on to become hawkers. (Please note that the 
> names were written phonetically by a clerk on arrival, so the 
> spellings are as recorded, not necessarily as they are meant to be 
> spelt).
> There is enough anecdotal evidence from local Australians that the 
> Sikh hawkers were much loved members of the community. The womenfolk 
> loved them because they provided a welcome break from their mundane 
> existence - the hawkers brought beautiful clothes, goods, all things 
> exotic, and a fleeting
> glimpse of the big wide world beyond their farmlands. 
> The Australian men liked the hawkers because they were tough - they 
> knew how to survive in difficult bush land and, more importantly, they 
> played cricket!
> The Aussie kids adored the hawkers because of the stories they told of 
> another world, because of their playful spirit and their wonderfully 
> aromatic curries.
> Now meet Len Kenna, an Australian historian, playwright and poet who 
> has been commissioned by the Victorian government to write the 
> official history of Indian migration to Victoria (the south-eastern 
> state of Australia with
> Melbourne as its capital city). His brief is to `research and preserve
> anything of Indian cultural significance' in Victoria. Although the
> subject
> matter of his research can't be released yet, he is convinced that Indian
> migration to Australia began a long time ago. He personally remembers a
> hawker by the name of Gunter Singh (probably Ganda Singh), who came to
> his
> house in Hamilton (in county Victoria) where he grew up in the 1940's. 
> Says Kenna: "The Indian hawkers were better educated than most others 
> in those days, they were polite and well-cultured. They spoke English, 
> so we had great conversations. I used to hop into Gunter Singh's horse 
> wagon, marvel at his goods and listen to his stories all night. I 
> shared some scones with him and he cooked absolutely wonderful curries 
> for us. That smell is still fresh in my mind, so many decades later!"
> Kenna says his mother and her friend used to take turns to wash Gunter 
> Singh's turbans and Singh cooked for them in return. "I remember those 
> bright turbans on our clothesline, flapping wildly in the wind," 
> recalls Kenna. He adds, "The country women loved the Sikh hawkers. 
> They were such a wonderful change from the Aussie farm men who were 
> stuck knee-deep in cow manure for most of the day and still treated 
> their women with an air of Victorian superiority.
> The women loved the way the hawkers respected them and treated them like
> `ladies'!" 
> As a tribute to these hawkers, Kenna penned a play, `It happened in 
> Heywood', which has been staged in Melbourne and many country towns of 
> Victoria. At the end of many shows, people from the audience have come 
> up and shared their own memories of the Sikh hawkers and Kenna is 
> hoping to preserve all of these stories for posterity.
> `It Happened in Heywood' revolves around a true story of three Sikh 
> brothers, who were all hawkers near the country town of Heywood around 
> the year 1900. One of the brothers was burnt alive while sleeping in 
> his wagon
> overnight - apparently these horse wagons were extremely flammable being
> made of wood and canvas, and would burn down completely in a matter of
> seconds, leaving someone sleeping inside with no possibility of escape. 
> The second brother Kahn Singh died in an accident when a tree-branch 
> fell on his head. The third surviving brother Ganda Singh wanted to 
> cremate Kahn's
> dead body. But cremation was illegal in those days (although it was
> legalized thereafter). 
> The play shows how the whole country town rallied together to make 
> sure that Kahn Singh received a befitting funeral in accordance with 
> his own traditions. The play essentially captures the spirit of the 
> local Australians who almost felt a sense of camaraderie with Sikh 
> hawkers, something that the Chinese and hawkers of other nationalities 
> rarely enjoyed.
> The countryside of Victoria is now dotted with cremation sites and 
> headstones marking the spot where a hawker's ashes were buried after 
> cremation.
> (See photo of Gunga Singh's headstone, which has a lengthy inscription 
> in Punjabi and, beneath it, the English portion
> reads: "In loving memory of Gunga Singh, beloved son of Dava Singh, 
> native of Poloolla, Punjab, India. Died 6th Sept 1901, aged 45
> years.") 
> Apparently, if a hawker died and had no other relatives here, his 
> horse, cart, goods and wagon were auctioned off. With the money 
> raised, the hawker would be cremated, the site marked with a memorial, 
> and the remaining money
> would be sent back to India along with the ashes. Many death notices
> published in newspapers of more than a century ago indicate relocation of
> ashes to India, `to be dispersed in the Ganges', or according to the last
> wishes of the deceased. 
> Hawking in those days was a lucrative business, but required a lot of 
> grit and hard work. The sheer distances between towns in Australia 
> could prove prohibitive for some people, but Sikh hawkers seemed to 
> thrive on it. According to the records, 213 country licenses were 
> issued for hawkers in Hamilton alone, which is just one of the country 
> towns of Victoria. It is mind-boggling to think of what the actual 
> population of Sikh hawkers might
> have been Australia-wide, especially since there were many more Indians
> in
> New South Wales compared to Victoria. 
> According to the Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages, 377 people 
> with the name `Singh' died in New South Wales during the period 1898 - 
> 1939. Therefore, it is anybody's guess how many were alive and working 
> in that same period.
> Typically a hawker would have to pay a bond of nearly $100 upon 
> entering the country. Then, before they began hawking, they had to go 
> to court to obtain
> a permit, had to prove that they were of good character and needed to be
> debt-free. Then, they would either begin hawking on foot or on
> horse-drawn
> carts and pay an annual hawking fee. 
> A wagon (see photo) would have a large canvas hood, and the shelves 
> would be stacked with wares to sell. There would be an elevated bed 
> right in the middle of the wagon and more goods were stored under it. 
> Goods included dress material, laces, buttons, threads, perfumes, 
> footwear, jewellery, jewellery boxes, spices, utensils and even 
> indigenous medicine.
> If a buyer couldn't get what they wanted, they could place an order 
> and receive what they needed within a day or two. Some hawkers made so 
> much money that they bought sheep stations, land and property, while 
> others were content with sending the money back to Punjab.
> But the hawkers led very lonely lives - tramping repetitively on 
> country roads where the nearest town would be at least 100 kms away. 
> Hardly any of them had their family here and they rarely inter-married 
> locals. Letters were their only source of contact with family back 
> home and they could go for a long time without speaking or hearing 
> their native language, since each hawker had a specifically marked 
> territory to work in. They tended to
> form friendships with local country people and twice a year, all the
> hawkers
> converged at a pre-arranged spot where they spent a few weeks of holidays
> together, typically during Christmas and Easter. 
> Sadly, there are some records of hawkers being assaulted or murdered 
> and also of some crimes committed by hawkers themselves out of sheer 
> frustration and loneliness. Many were even admitted to institutions in 
> later life since
> they had no immediate family to take care of them. 
> But happily, the personal anecdotes and memories of good times with 
> these Punjabi pioneers outnumber the sad ones. Locals all over country 
> towns recall innumerable stories about individual Sikh hawkers with 
> great fondness.
> Eileen Tierney distinctly remembers Lucca Singh (probably Lakha), who 
> had a very highly polished van, well fitted-out with shelves along 
> each side and
> along the back. One section was for women's wear exclusively, with a
> built-in, lift-out box for jewels and scents. 
> Recalls Tierney, "I can remember Lucca coming to our home at Wando 
> Vale when I was a child - it was a red letter day as everybody waited 
> in great anticipation for Lucca to open his van on arrival.
> He was the bearer of good news and bad. He traveled extensively and heard
> of
> all the district's happenings. He would stay some weeks in each district
> and
> always had his special places where he would stay for up to a fortnight
> at a
> time. He was a great old fellow and as children, we loved him. He loved
> to
> play cards, liked to win and would play all night if necessary until he
> finally won." 
> Lucca Singh spent his last days in a tent close to the Peach family of 
> Edenhope around the end of the Second World War Says Tierney, "Lucca 
> lived a very long life. I think he must have had a lot of herbal 
> remedies to back up
> his health. He had a brother in India. I can't remember Lucca ever having
> to
> go to hospital until near the end of his life when he just became ill." 
> He died in Casterton Hospital in 1943 and his ashes were spread in a 
> nearby river on his request.
> Then there was Sunda Singh (probably Sunder), who started his hawking 
> career on foot, with his goods strapped in a bundle on his back. Soon, 
> he saved enough to buy a wagon and two horses, which gave him greater 
> reach. After many years, he bought a farm near Allestree. He paid for 
> the local hospital
> at Portland to be painted, as a gesture of his gratitude to the people
> for
> the love they had given him. 
> He died in Ballarat Hospital leaving behind his wife and family in 
> Raipur in India. By all accounts, he was dearly loved in the whole of 
> the district.
> Another hawker, Indar Sondhu, was so wealthy that he donated land for 
> the construction of Coleraine Shire offices - that was his way of 
> saying thank you to the people of the area. He set up a business in 
> Coleraine and later
> owned shops and a sheep station. 
> There are also stories about a famous Punjabi wrestler by the name of 
> Bagshot Singh. He wrestled at the Hotspur Show every year and it is 
> said that he had a great rivalry with a local wrestler called Mr. 
> Edge. Bagshot Singh died at the age of 39 at Hamilton Base Hospital 
> and his ashes were sent to India.
> So, as the stories and anecdotes abound, it's truly amazing to sense 
> the fondness with which these Sikh hawkers are remembered, despite the 
> deep-rooted racism that was intitutionalised in Australian society 
> during those days. The White Australia policy, although prevalent in 
> spirit during the late 19th century, was officially adopted by the 
> Australian government
> in 1901, which precluded migrants on the basis of their colour and race.
> Although the basis for exclusion was more subtle - prospective migrants
> were
> asked to take a language test and only those who passed were allowed to
> migrate - the idea was to stop the influx of Asian and even central
> European
> migrants to Australia. 
> Despite this, hundreds of Sikh hawkers continued to operate all over 
> Australia, providing essential services to many country towns. Their 
> wagons carried goods both mundane and exotic; their conversation 
> carried the news of the day, both good and bad; their hearts bore 
> goodwill that created long lasting friendships and their vibrant 
> personalities brought colour into boring lives. Above all, they 
> provided the country people a life-line as well as a dream of the 
> mystique of lands far beyond the shores of Australia.
> We owe much to the enterprise and free spirit of these Sikh 
> forefathers, and hope that they are accorded their rightful place in 
> history.
> [Courtesy: India Today]
  Sant S. Virmani


Rajinder Brar <>

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    Rajinder Brar: 559-243-8275(O)


    Ted S Sibia