Currently Browsing: Punjabi
Sikhnet Gracefully Pushing the Limits of Punjabi Sikh Perspectives on Courtship

This past week, I saw this advertisement about the GurSikh Speed Meeting. For those of you who have no idea the Sikhnets Gursikh Speed Meeting is obviously (and admittedly) the Sikh version of speed dating. According to the organizersof the program:0.92B0_OpenElement_FieldElemFormat_jpg.jpeg

The concept is quite simple. An equal number of Sardars and Sardarnis register. On the event date, each Sardar will meet each Sardarni one-on-one and chat for a specified number of minutes rotating till they have met all the Singhnis. This face to face style of meeting has spurred much interest, in addition to, respecting the participant’s privacy. Only if there is an agreed CLICK will an exchange of contact information occur.

I remember when I first saw Sikhnet advertising this a couple of years ago and thinking to myself, this is bold. I dont necessarily think dating for Sikhs is anti-gurmat, but dating is definitely still taboo in A LOT of Punjabi Sikh families.


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Sikh Woman In Malaysia: The Face Of HIV/AIDS Victims

Langa(w)riters have posted on AIDS/HIV infection amongst Sikh women here and here. We have discussed issues around support groups and causes of infection. One of the number one risk factors for contracting HIV/AIDS for Punjabi Sikh women is marriage. Many women are infected by their husbands who are intravenous drug addicts and/or clients of prostitutes. Not only are these womens lives reaped with more havoc at no fault of their own, but there is also an insurmountable amount of stigma these women endure.

This past week, a Sikh woman, Kiranjit Kaur, stood up with tremendous strength and bravery to help combat this stigma. She become the poster-woman for people living with HIV/AIDS in Malaysia. At the age of 35, Kaur has decided to put her face to this disease because I am here to help the ‘positive’ community and empower them and tell them they are not alone.

Kiranjit Kaur contracted HIV in 1996 through her husband who was a former drug addict and has since passed away.

After contracting the disease she began working full-time with the Asian Pacific Council on AIDS Services as an advocate for other HIV/AIDS patients.

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Sikh Man Recently Killed In Arizona: Occupational Struggles Faced By Panjabi Sikh Immigrants

From 7-Elevens to liquor and 99 cents stores, many Panjabi Sikh immigrants build a life for themselves as store workers. Working at these locations gives them a start in America, while engaging with its harsh realities. Regardless of educational background or the pind/shari divide, Panjabi Sikh immigrants work long hours into the night seven days of week trying to build a stable economic future for them and their families. On August 04, 2008, Inderjit Singh Jassal at the age of 62, was one of these Panjabi Sikh immigrants, who was murdered at a 7-11 store during his usual 13-hour shift in Phoenix, Arizona. Jassal had moved to the US nearly 20 years ago, while his wife and two adult children remained in India.

SALDEF reports that:

Mr. Jassal was working at a 7-11 store in West Phoenix when a black male, later identified as 27 year-old Jermaine Canada, walked in with his two children, aged 2 and 6. According to the surveillance video, the two individuals had a short conversation, at the end of which Mr. Canada pulled a concealed firearm from his shirt and fatally shot Mr. Jassal.

The most ironic aspect of this case is that no motive as been found. According to surveillance video there was no angry exchange between Jassal and Canada and nothing was stolen by the murderer.

SALDEF believes that this killing was nothing other than a heinous crime motivated by hate.

According to one of Canadas relatives, he had a history of drug abuse and mental illness. At the time of the killing, he was under supervised release following 2 years in prison for violating his probation, for a prior dug conviction, with a weapons charge.

Currently, Tajinder Singh Jassal, a nephew of Inderjit Singh Jassal and co-worker, is working to get immigration visas for Inderjits wife and children. He is considering sending an appeal letter to Arizona Senator John McCains Office for assistance with the visas because “The family is suffering right now. They want to see their father’s face.”

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Cheena-Punjabi Bhai Bhai

At one time Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in Ludhiana, Punjab was THE agricultural university in Asia. Largely due to this university’s role in promoting the Green Revolution (fellow Langa(w)r-iters have described the Green Revolution’s darker sides, another monograph is by Vandana Shiva), students from throughout East Asia came to Ludhiana to study at PAU. In California, I have always been surprised to randomly meet some Chinese men that know Punjabi. However, here is an impressive Malaysian-Chinese man Kian You (AKA Karam Singh) that will leave your mouth wide open. He discusses the importance of continuing the Punjabi language and can even recite the first Pauri of Japji Sahib. On this Friday as many of us tune in to watch the Olympics in China, take a few minutes to watch this video of an ethnically Chinese man teach us about our maboli.

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Sikh Woman: First Turbaned Pilot In America

The Sikh Research Institute (SikhRI) reported today that Arpinder Kaur, 28, of San Antonio, Texas has become the first turbaned pilot hired by a commercial airline in the Unitedimage002.jpg States. As a Sikhni, she has helped pave the way for both Sikh men and women who wear a dastaar/turban to fulfill their passion for flying. No longer does flying just have to be an extra-curricular activity for these Sikhs, but it can also be an every-day job!

In March 2008, after resolving the issue of wearing her dastaar on-the-job, with the help of the Sikh Coalition, Arpinder Kaur was officially hired by American Airlines Corporation (AMR) as a First Officer. She filed her grievance for accommodation of her religious article of faith based on American Airlines allowance of regulation approved hats. An agreement was reached that is consistent with state and federal anti-discrimination law. In June 2008 she finished her pilot training program and is now flying Embraer Jets for American Eagle, a regional airline that is part of AMR based out of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

When Arpinder Kaur was asked why she chose to do this, she said:

Two of the reasons I did this were: first, my love of flying and, second, to set a precedent for the community so they know you can be in your Sikh appearance and do anything out there; so that my younger brothers and sisters [the rising generation] will pursue their passions while practicing their Sikh faith.

Her passion for flying first started when at the age of 15 she got to sit in the cockpit of an airplane when moving from Panjab. Despite having a degree in Information Systems and her mothers belief that it was too dangerous for a girl to be a pilot, Kaur has chosen to follow her passion; while using it as a means for supporting her family. Kaur said it was the love and support of her husband, Pritpal Singh that pushed her forward on the path toward becoming a pilot. Kulbir Singh Sandhu, captain with AMR mentored her throughout her aviation career. From 2003 to 2005 Kaur was trained by Jesse Sherwood in Kansas. With the help of these individuals and others along with her own perseverance and determination, Kaur and American Airlines have shown that accommodation and not assimilation is the way to harness the strength of diversity in America.

Harinder Singh, executive director of the Sikh Research Institute (SikhRI) in San Antonio, Texas said, This is a great day for the Sikhs in America. Religious accommodation, not assimilation, is what the founders of this great nation envisioned and we are thrilled American Airlines celebrates the rich religious and cultural diversity of all American populations.

Here is a short film on Arpinder Kaur and “piloting”:

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High School Panjabi Classes

Langa(w)riters have posted in the past on issues surrounding the preservation of the Panjabi language here, here, and here. Be it anywhere from Panjab to North America, the preservation of the Panjabi language is intimately tied to the preservation of a Panjabi and Sikh heritage. For example, in a recent article on Live Oaks High School offering Panjabi courses, Mohinder Singh Ghag, director of Live Oaks Schools Foundation stated:

“The language is the only reason we have a link to our ancestors.”gurmukhi-poster-195x300.jpg

Thus, the discussion around solutions has understandably centered around learning Panjabi in homes, gurdwaras, high schools and universities. I personally think having these learning opportunities available at all these different sites is a much-needed step towards maintaining the Panjabi language. I have always found the process of getting Panjabi classes taught in high schools particularly interesting because of how they require engaging the community, the reasons for creating them, and how they are incorporated into the public K-12 educational system.

For example, commendably in Live Oaks, California (located about 10 miles north of Yuba City, California):

Punjabi community members knocked on doors and made announcements in temples to get teenagers to sign a petition expressing interest in a Punjabi language class at Live Oak High School.

About 25 students signed-up.

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Jessica Alba and Batnaa

02120801-178x300.jpgSo its wedding season for many Panjabis in the Diaspora and one key product commonly used across South Asian groups is batnaa (the yellow mixture used on a groom/bride a day before the wedding to clear up the complexion). Guess what? Jessica Alba is now on boxes of Batnaa! When I saw this I laughed and got confused what is going on here? I find it interesting that Alba is on the box maybe its because she looks more South Asian than say Hillary Duff? Any other ideas?

Also, American stars are being used to market traditional South Asian products rather than relying on Bollywood stars. Anyone else out there seen something similar in marketing other traditional South Asian products?

Sikh Tradition in Translation

Over the past few years the website Sikhitothemax.com has become one of the premier tools for English-fluent Sikh youth to access their Guru Granth Sahib. While STTM has problems that can be addressed at another time, it is important to realize the effect that this tool has had. sikh_kid.jpgMany Gurdwaras throughout the world have added STTM translations as part of their regular programs and the projection system in the Gurdwara is fast becoming the norm.

But is it enough?

In a recent article in the Fresno Bee, reporter Vanessa Colon looks at the question of losing tradition in translation.

Colon interviews a number of Central Valley Sikhs and finds that the Sikh youth are often not engaged with their Gurdwara. Although there a number of reasons, she delves into the question of language first and foremost. Some local Fresno Sikhs blamed the Sikh youth for not learning enough Punjabi. However, I see that this approach has problematic for there are now a number of Punjabi/Khalsa schools in California and beyond. However, instruction one day a week for an hour will not ever provide a sufficient language base for one to understand Gurbani.

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Is this Singh king?

There’s been some controversy over the upcoming film, ‘Singh is Kinng,’ [sic] starring Akshay Kumar and a host of other Indian actors I don’t know, scheduled to hit theatres on August 8th.SinghisKinng.jpg

Singh is Kinng is a story about Happy Singh, a Punjabi Sikh. He is very mischievous and gets involved in a number of disastrous situations, so the villagers plan to send him to Australia to bring back his fellow villager, Lucky Singh. It is then revealed that Lucky is a underworld Don in Australia. Then, in a accident, Happy saves Lucky but still Lucky becomes paralysed. Hence, Happy becomes the new King of the Australian Underworld. [link]

For those who haven’t been following the controversy- the problem revolved around the portrayal of Sikhs in the movie (physical appearance as well as particular scenes). I haven’t seen much information on the scenes, but am assuming that they involve explicit conduct that was found offensive to screeners’ moral sensibilities. As for the the physical appearance, I can’t exactly blame critics after seeing what “Singhs” look like in the movie… (see picture on right). Um… I don’t know who tied his pag or what it’s made of or what type of fashion statement the movie is trying to make, but I don’t think any Singh I know would ever wear that.

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Panjab’s Got Talent

So this week, I blogged about two unfortunate murders in the community. Maybe as a release, maybe just to cheer everyone up for the weekend, I am returning to my Friday lite post.

We’ve seen the talent in Britain, with Suleman Mirza and Madhu Singh together as Signature. And as brilliant as they may be, I have a partiality towards Sardool Sikandar.

Sardool Sikandar is often known more for his marriage to the beautiful Amar Noorie than for his own singing talent. However, hits like Tor Punjaban Di and Mittran Nu Margiya still remain some of my favorites.

Here is a recording from the mid 1980s at Doordarshan’s Amritsar studios. It was this performance that launched the Sufiana classically-trained Sikandar’s career. Here he does various impressions of Mohammad Siddique and Ranjit Kaur’s classic “Aagay Roadways di lari, na koi sheesha na koi bari….

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While I am partial to his amazing Kuldip Manak and Yamla Jatt, do you have a favorite?

Punjabi: The Secret Language

A couple of weeks ago while driving with my friend Rajpreet, I started speaking Punjabi in the middle of an English conversation. I was caught off-guard by Rajpreets response, why are we speaking the secret language when its just us two in the car? Rajpreet for some reason thought we only spoke Punjabi amongst ourselves around other English speakers when we had something secret to say [in the past we also spoke it when there was another Punjabi-dominant speaker with us]. However, for myself, it just happened, after some thought I feel I spoke out of the comfort of knowing that Rajpreet also understood Punjabi not to say anything secret. Rajpreet’s statement made me think about how at department stores and other official places of business, I sometimes spoke a mixture of Punjabi/English to family and friends because we did not want other English speakers to know what we were saying in translation but it was not always the case. Sometimes it was out of comfort, group/ethnic solidarity, or just plain funny. In my eyes, I wasnt using Punjabi as a secret language, but more as a form of code-switching or hybrid language use.

Code-switching is a sociolinguistic phenomenon where bilingual speakers (i.e. Spanish/English and Punjabi/English) use terms from both languages in a sentence or conversation. In the past researchers have argued that code-switching was a sign of language inability. For example, the speaker did not know the terms for bowl or potato in English so used the Spanish or Punjabi terms. However, now sociolinguistic researchers believe it is a marker of group identity, ethnic solidarity, and relationship-building. I remember one person telling me that as part of his research on hybrid language use at a major state-owned park, he found that one park employee spoke Spanglish to their largely Latino cliental because she wanted to convey safety, comfort, and other feelings of home at this large American “place”. By creating such an environment through language she felt that the Latino cliental was more likely to explore the site and ask questions.

Thus, I ask do you ever speak Punjabi to English-speaking friends and family? If so, when?

Do you code-switch? Why?

Avneet And Her Bandook

As some of us shoot rifles as a recreational activity, while others view them as a defense plan or just admire the way rifles look, it was nice to come across a Punjabian, Avneet Kaur Sidhu, an international rifle shooter, who excels at using them as part of a sport!avneet1.jpg

According to the The Tribune, she recently … won a gold medal in the womens individual 10m Air Rifle event of the Australia Cup Shooting Championship held at Sydney International Shooting Centre (SISC) in 2006 (yea this news is kinda old, but I thought it was still worth highlighting since it’s a Punjabian Sikhni in sports).

Hailing from Bathinda, Avneet has earned a bearth for the Beijing Olympics, representing Team India! Congratulations! Watch out for the eye and steadiness of this Sheerni!

According to her facebook group (all of you can join now: “Avneet Kaur Sidhu”), Avneet is a 2001 alumnus of Dashmesh Girls College, Badal (Muktsar) with an English Literature degree and currently an Assistant Manager at Air India. You go girl an affection for books and guns, while promoting the hawayee jhahajaz (i.e. airplane)!

Wishing you the best of luck in Beijing Avneet! Its wonderful to see a Punjabian excelling in sports and representing us on the world scene!

Mawaa Thandiyaa Chawaa

On this Mothers Day lets celebrate by listening to Punjabi musics tributes to our mothers!

To start off, I would like to share a BEAUTIFUL song by Gurdas Mann, Mawaa Thandiyaa Chawaa.

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There is also the song, Maa, sung by Malkit Singh with the beautiful line maa daa rishtaa sab toau sachaa maa hai rab da roop [a mothers relationship is the most truthful . A mother is the beauty of God].

Please share your favorite Maa song and I hope you can dedicate it to her too!

Punjabi Maboli Zindabad!

Early last month, UNESCO ‘supposedly’ released a report that said Punjabi will become extinct in the next 50 years. Soon our one-man PR campaigners (we have many in our community) came to the forefront. In the lead was Kuldip Nayar, who said:

I have gone through a report prepared by Unesco which says the Punjabi language will disappear from the world in 50 years. It shocked me. I am out to save Punjabi language and culture Our roots, Punjabi language and culture, are decaying and none in Punjab is worried about it, he said, adding, I have been to Pakistan and people there also feel their new generation feels hesitant to converse in Punjabi. [link]

Ranked in the top 20 most spoken languages in the world, it created quite a sensation to believe that within 50 years the Punjabi language would go extinct. However, some ACTUAL journalists that took the time to delve into the subject without jumping on the hysteria-bandwagon found that no UNESCO report ever existed. So I guess it begs the question, what was Kuldip Nayar reading when he said he ‘[went] through the report’? What was he reading that ‘shocked’ him?

So while Punjabi does not seem to be endangered for the time being, it is under severe threat due to Punjabi Sikhs own lackadaisical treatment of it, as well as it not being a language of commerce. The World Sikh News report has some fine suggestions for its preservations. One of our own langa(w)riters had their own take as well.

So as we get ready for the weekend, I celebrate my maboli as a universal language. Punjabi Maboli Zindabad! Chak De!

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Punjabi Fathers And Discipline

Recently, I read a 1997 research article in the Journal of Marriage and Family on Fathering And Acculturation: Immigrant Indian Families With Young Children, which stated that:

Older fathers spent less time playing with their child more educated fathers engaged more in disciplining than other fathers, and that more father-child play occurred when there were fewer children in the home and when the target child was the only child ….

I was excited to read a study that focused on fathers as parents and not just mothers, particularly in the Indian context. Generally when it comes to Indian parenting, the focus is on the mothers because they are traditionally viewed as primarily responsible for their childrens day-to-day emotional and social well-being. Fathers in the parenthood are often given little notice, as their duties are usually associted wtih providing financial security.

However, we know parenting is far more complex and nuanced. Gender roles in a family are never quite so separate and distinct. Even though many of our fathers were not involved in our daily predicaments, kept a distance, and focused on making money, they still influenced our emotional and social upbringing through discipline, protection, and/or silence.

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Knock Knock At The Door: Ladoos or Missionaries?

As I was exiting the parking lot of a major grocery store in a heavily concentrated Punjabi area the other day, I saw in my rear-view mirror a woman wearing a salwar-kaamez and holding a Bible with two Indian boys dressed in their Sunday best and carrying leather book bags, while they approached a man with a friendly smile. How surprised was I to see a Jehovah’s Witness woman wearing Punjabi clothing while she and these two boys proselytized in this Punjabi-concentrated area.

A few weeks prior, a friend of mine who lives in this same area, shared with me the story of how her family was confused to find a Punjabi couple at their front door delivering the message of God as Jehovah’s Witnesses. She told me that after hearing the door bell she ran to the door and peeped out the window and saw a man wearing a coat-pant and a woman wearing a salwar-kameez. Instantly, she knew they were Jehovah’s Witnesses because of the Bible they were holding and the other paraphernalia in their hands. My friend hollered to her dad that there was an Auntie and Uncle ringing the door-bell, but they looked like Jehovah’s Witnesses so she wasnt going to answer the door. However, her dad responded rightfully so, ekaan thaa teekh nahi laghdhaa ladoo na dhaan ai hon (that doesnt look right they might be here to give ladoos).

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Happy Vaisakhi!

In one of the rare years in which Vaisakhi falls on April 14th, I wanted to wish everyone a happy Vaisakhi! How did you/your family celebrate? Personally, I totally forgot until reminded by Ms. Phulkari, at which point I coerced my roommate into imitating a dhol while we both danced around. Having settled the cultural side of the day, I’m looking forward to next Sunday’s services.

Hope today found you in good health, and here’s to a fantastic new year!

The Rights of Punjabi Farmworkers

In the past few months, New America Media has reported on the treatment and exploitation of Punjabi farmworkers and the cultural isolation they are experiencing. This is not a new issue nor is it unique to Punjabi farmworkers, but it is a growing trend that is beginning to be addressed by workers’ rights organizations. One of the most recent articles by NAM speaks about the exploitation of farmworkers who are here on temporary visas.

yubaupdate_1130.gifIn California’s rural Central Valley farmland, there are rumors that American farmers of Indian origin are, in an ironic twist, also abusing the temporary work visa program. In 2005, the case against a prominent Yuba City, Calif. grower, Harbans Bath, was settled in favor of his workers. He had been accused of housing hundreds of temporary workers, including some of his own relatives, in trailers, pesticide storage sheds and other structures that didn’t meet housing safety and health standards. According to Lee Pliscou, a lead attorney at California Rural Legal Assistance, the workers weren’t provided with food – instead, they were made to eat the crops they picked. They were also told that they wouldn’t be paid until the end of the harvest season. The workers from the Indian state of Punjab readily accepted this condition, since that is how payment has often worked on Punjabi farms.

An interesting statistic suggests that while South Asian growers account for less than one percent of the farmers in California, records show that they have been the targets of five percent of civil actions. Related to labor violations, Punjabi farmworkers are also experiencing cultural isolation that is adversely impacting their health. California governmental agencies that are responsible for protecting the rights of farm workers do not have Punjabi-speaking outreach workers. Many farm-working Punjabis often endure hazardous conditions, substandard pay, and little or no access to health care. Indian American growers in California have paid more than $15,000 in field violation fines to county agricultural commissioners in the past two years.

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NRI Women and Grooms-For-Money-And-Visas: What is Going On In Punjab And Abroad?

Recently on “The Langar Hall” there has been discussion about “Runaway Grooms” who with their immigration status abroad marry women from Punjab, only to abandon them after receiving the dowry. Along with being deserted by their husbands, these womens dreams of going abroad are also shattered. These dreams were generally a primary reason many of the women were married to these men. Hasit Shah writes in his BBC news article,

“You can see it around you. There is a lot of foreign money in this city [Jalandhar]. The NRIs have been coming back and building huge houses and flaunting their success. The locals see this and want a better life for their daughters, but when the husband is unscrupulous, the women’s lives are ruined.”

Many Punjabi men in Punjab/India are also tremendously influenced by this wealth and have dreams of going abroad (a lot of it has to do with lack of job/economic opportunities in Punjab). NRI womens green cards and citizenship status become routes for gaining permanent residency abroad. Interestingly, it is the unscrupulousness behavior of husbands and gendered power dynamics prevalent in Runaway Groom situations that translate into the predicaments faced by a growing number of NRI women who are also manipulated and abused by their Punjabi Sikh husbands from Punjab/India. Their husbands were not interested in a marriage … they really only wanted the money and permanent residency abroad. I completely agree that this is not the outcome of all NRI and non-NRI marriages. Many couples are very happy. Yes, I acknowledge that the circumstances are different for NRI and non-NRI women based on the power hierarchy between the US and Punjab, which influence the choices these women make. However, with these issues aside, in this post I would like to focus on the similarity of situations between NRI and non-NRI Punjabi Sikh women and highlight the unique circumstances of NRI women.

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Looking After Our Elders

Old_Sikh_man_with_stick.jpgA recent documentary on BBC Asian Network discusses the growing population of South Asians entering old age and the impact that is being felt on the middle generations who look after them. The documentary discusses the responsibilities second-generation Asians have to look after their elderly family members while balancing a career at the same time. The documentary illustrates the difficulties and sacrifices people make when looking after their parents/grandparents and the subsequent loss of dignity the elderly experience when suffering with illnesses and a loss of independence. I’m glad the documentary brought attention to an important issue that we have not readily addressed in our community.

0fdadb5e_1d75_401c_86ba_c75a28c6826d_c985edca_0858_4b28_88ef_92eca2810e85.webjpg.jpgHaving had recent personal experience with this issue, it is something I have thought about extensively. In our community, it is natural for children and grandchildren to take care of their parents or grandparents. It is an integral part of our culture and in fact, I think it creates a special bond between generations who are often pulled apart by language and culture. The documentary talks about the duty to look after our elders and the guilt individuals feel when they are faced with the decision to put their parents/grandparents in a nursing home. As one individual says,

I never thought I’d be speaking to meals on blooming wheels for my father… and having to resort to the [government] to take care of him.

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