Didar Singh Bains started the parade tradition in Yuba City. He came to the US in 1958 from Nangal in Hoshiarpur and worked as a farm laborer. He and his father bought their first farm in 1962. At one time, he was one of the biggest peach growers in California and was called “Peach King of California.” He is probably the wealthiest farmer among Indians in the United States.
There are also large Punjabi farming communities in other cities in California such as Fresno, Bakersfield, El Centro and the areas surrounding these cities. Some of the farmers have earned name, fame and fortune. A Sikh farmer from Fresno has earned the title of “Raisin King of California.” The New York Times calls Harbhajan Singh Samra “the okra king of the USA”. Samra specializes in growing Indian vegetables such as okra, mooli, tinda, bitter melon, Indian eggplant, methi, etc. near Palm Springs, California.
Singh’s scholarships helped some Indian students including Gobind Behari Lal who came for graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley in 1912. He later became the science editor of San Francisco Examiner from 1925 to 1982 and in 1937 was the first Indian to win the coveted Pulitzer Prize
Punjabis have maintained their culture, religion and heritage and many Sikhs have also retained the distinguishing marks of their faith. They have invariably added to the ethnic and cultural diversity of America and have become part of the unique and distinctive multicultural character of the new society. They have contributed to the development of the country’s economy at all levels and reshaped the landscape of the cities and towns where they have their homes. At the same time, they have established themselves as a vibrant part of the society that has come to depend on their contributions in the local and national economies.
Philanthropy is an act of contributing personal wealth, goods, time, and/or effort to charitable or similar causes to promote the common good. Among Indian Americans, there are some socially conscious individuals who have donated liberally for various causes. One such person was Jawala Singh who in 1912 was motivated to fund the Guru Gobind Singh Sahib Educational Scholarships, which were given to students through a competition held in India for higher studies at an American university. Singh had started as an unskilled farm laborer in America and within a short span of a few years, he worked his way up to become a successful California potato farmer. He also contributed for the purchase of a hostel in Berkley by the Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan, where Indian students could stay rent-free. Singh’s scholarships helped some Indian students including Gobind Behari Lal who came for graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley in 1912. He later became the science editor of San Francisco Examiner from 1925 to 1982 and in 1937 was the first Indian to win the coveted Pulitzer Prize.
After the liberalization of US immigration laws in 1965, Indians who migrated to the United States were educated and qualified as doctors, engineers, accountants and high-tech professionals. A majority of the students from India also adopted America as their new home after acquiring higher education from American universities. Thus, higher education and professional qualifications helped them secure high level jobs providing a gateway to middle-class life. Over a period of time, several became successful professionals and entrepreneurs and some of them became generous with their wealth. These affluent Indian Americans have been transforming the Indian philanthropic landscape by funding educational projects, establishing hospitals, and supporting medical research that benefit the public at large. Some have gifted part of their wealth for local causes in the US where they have earned their wealth while others reached back to their roots and gave for India-centric projects. There are some who have directed their contributions at both India and America. These donors first used their energy, ability and time to earn wealth and then they walked away from part of it if not all, to give back to the society that had given them. Almost all the philanthropists who have given large donations, gifted to established institutions benefitting the society at large. But, whether the beneficiary is Indian society or American, Indian American philanthropists are making a difference with their increasing level of generosity.
To be continued...