Punjabi immigrants seek better life in United States


From the agrarian fields of Punjab, a world so far removed from our own, a pair of immigrants came to the United States seeking out better lives for themselves.

Gurinder Sangha and Sukhmanpreet Singh were the sons of farmworkers in India. Not unusual for teenage boys, they enjoyed sports, including soccer and volleyball. But their lives were turned upside down when their families sold some of their farmland, affording them passage to California. A few months ago, they arrived in Stockton, and are now sophomores at Bear Creek.

The two migrants have had to rapidly adapt to life in America and at Bear Creek. America and India are worlds apart: the two lived out in the country, though they were not farmworkers, in stark contrast to the suburbs of Stockton.

Moreover, the two are Sikhs — a religious minority in the US — and struggle to speak English, though fellow student Sukhraj Singh is helping them adjust to Bear Creek.

They do not want the language barrier to hold them back, and though they have only been in the United States a few months, are quickly becoming fluent in English. Small wonder why: both hope to go to college, as they have big ambitions for their life in America. Sangha wants to become a software engineer, while Singh wants to become a mechanical engineer.

Along with their academic and career aspirations, both Sangha and Singh said that they hope to be married and raise a family by the age of 25.

The whole Sangha family moved to the United States, but most of Singh’s family still lives in India; he lives with his uncle, a trucker, and his cousin, a college student.

Singh proudly wears a shirt depicting Toofan Singh, a freedom fighter for the Sikh people.

“If people do bad things, Toofan wants to stop them,” Singh said. “There’s a movie about him.”

Though the two note that they can’t get away with certain things — like unlicensed motorcycling — here in the United States, there have been certain benefits to moving here.

“America is a nice country and it’s clean,” Sangha said. “Everyone is equal and no one is different.”

More specifically, Sangha and Singh said that they hope to visit some of California’s popular attractions, such as Disneyland.

And though Californians are notorious for complaining about heat, drought, and dress codes, Indians have to deal with much worse.

“We don’t have to wear dresses in school [in America],” Singh said. “And the weather is nicer. Summers are too hot in India and winters are too cold.”

They also praised the religious liberties of America, which are lacking in the divided nations of South Asia.

“In India, it’s like they say ‘we are Hindu, and we are Muslim’,” Sangha said. “Sikhs think we are not different than others; we say we are equal. That’s why the Hindus and Muslims fight, but we Sikhs don’t fight.”

Sukhraj Singh helped to translate for this article.