SOME Sikhs migrated to San Francisco Bay area perhaps more than 100 years ago. Some of the Gaddri Baba’s lived in this area. After the Second World War quite a few Sikh students came to this area to attend Universities in the area and then returned back to India and very few settled here on the basis of marriage to citizens or on the basis of limited quota (100/year) system.

In the fifties large number of students came to the area for higher education and for undergraduate engineering studies. Most of them sailed all the way from India thru Pacific Ocean because of low cost compared with flying cost in those days. I can recall all the fun I had along with other Sikh boys in the ship heading for different parts of U.S.A. From Hong Kong to San Francisco it was two weeks of sailing. You could practice to speak well in English. Most of these students came from average families and almost all of them went to Universities and supported themselves by working in summer vacation or by holding a part-time job.

Generally, mature students who came for higher degrees for short period, one or two years, returned back home to take care of their families or returned back to their Jobs in India. Young undergraduate students took four to five years to finish their education, worked themselves into the American system and ended up staying here permanently either thru marriage or thru employer sponsored visa. Very few maintained traditional Sikh identity for various reasons. Some new comers may not realize it but getting a job with beard and turban was not easy even for highly qualified engineers. I can still remember, a turbaned boy was turned down for a summer job in a furniture factory because of safety hazard as an excuse. Some turbaned boys went for second degree because of no job after their first degree. Some of them clean shaved after some resistance. With time this job discrimination problem got solved by itself as Civil rights legislations were enacted. Hippie movement was definitely a factor in changing American attitude toward long hair.

On professional jobs Sikhs were only Scientists, Engineers, or Engineering managers in the area until only 78 years ago when some physicians began to move in the area. After the immigration act was amended in 1965, relatives of Sikhs in the area have been arriving in large numbers and have

been settling in various areas at aul level of jobs. Because of the nature of jobs in the area, totally non-English speaking Sikhs had to relocate in the farming areas. Now, the situation is different. In some factories there are full crews of Punjabis only with a Punjabi speaking supervisor of a manager. English speaking is no longer a requirement to get a job at places.

Some management in the high technology manufacturing facilities recognizes that girls from Punjab can produce more than other average American worker.

Some Sikhs are highly successful and play a major role in the Bay Area economy. Number of Sikhs has founded their own companies and their product is marketed all over the world and has become millionaires. Except in American politics, Sikh men and women hold all level of jobs and they are quite successful at each level.

Article extracted from this publication >>  May 8, 1987