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Dr. Jasbir Singh Kang Of Yuba City: Unsung Hero

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Dr Bond of Yuba City: Jasbir Kang


By Gurmukh Singh

YUBA CITY: Back in the 1980s when every Indian professional going to the US settled in big cities, one young doctor made a different choice.
Dr Jasbir Kang, who came from Patiala to the US in 1986, decided to settle in the small but famous Yuba City which is known for producing the world’s biggest peach farmer Didar Singh Bains.

“I came to the US after finishing my MBBS from the Patiala Medical College and my marriage to my wife who is from the Bay (San Francisco) area. After doing my three-year residency in Chicago, I decided to settle in Yuba City,’’ says Dr Kang who was to go on to make a name for himself as a Sikh community leader.

“I could have taken a job in any bigger city. But a clinic in the Yuba City area was desperately looking for a physician. So I came here just to explore the opportunity. I did some temporary work here and soon doctor inside me felt that patients here were in desperate need of physicians. I also liked the similarity of Yuba City with Punjab and gradually started feeling at home here,’’ recalls Dr Kang who currently serves as Medical Director of Hospitalist Program at the local Rideout Memorial Hospital.

Coming from a highly educated family of Patiala, the young doctor felt that Yuba City’s Punjabi community was restricted to itself even though they had been living in the area for decades.

“At the time, all our social and religious activities were limited to our homes and our gurdwaras. So I, along with some others, thought that we need to reach out to society at large,’’ says Dr Kang.

Over the next two decades, even as he set about building his medical career in small-town America, the young Patiala doctor, along with like-minded people, decided to change the profile of the Punjabi community of America’s famous Punjab-da-pind called Yuba City.

“So in 1993, we set up the Punjabi American Heritage Society, and our aim was to raise awareness among the Americans about our identity and culture and who we are. We started a Teachers’ Appreciation Evening where we invited white teachers to understand our religion, culture and values. This worked wonders. Teachers were now able to better connect with Sikh students in classroom. Then we started our first Punjabi program on the local cable channel,’’ says Dr Kang.

In 1994, they made presentations to the Yuba City Unified School District to start Punjabi as a subject in schools. “They were nice and accepted our demand. Punjabi was introduced in schools in 1994.’’

And in 1995, Dr Kang and his friends started the Punjabi-American Festival which has become a roaring success over the years.

Today, Yuba City is famous for two biggest Punjabi events – its Nagar Kirtan to mark Gurugadi Divas ( installation of the holy Granth as the living guru) in November and its Punjabi-American Mela or festival – in North America.



“The festival has grown into a big annual event attracting thousands of people, including whites, from far and wide’’ says Dr Kang.

After 9/11, the good doctor and his Punjabi American Heritage Society helped New York-based Vina Sarkar produce the documentary `Mistaken Identity’ in 2002 to raise awareness about Sikhs.

Later, they helped produce another documentary `Sikhs in America’ which went on to win an Emmy in 2009.

For his tireless work to promote intra-faith understanding, Dr Kang has been given the Unsung Hero award by America’s PBS network.

Indeed, the initiatives taken by this Patiala doctor 20 years ago have borne fruit now as the 15,000-strong Punjabi community of Yuba City (which has a population of about 65,000) has become an integral part of the American mainstream.

“Now Punjabis and whites do bhangra together at our festivals,’’ he laughs.

And to honour its Punjabi population, the local Community Memorial Museum of Sutter County opened a multimedia permanent exhibit on the Sikhs called `Becoming American’ last year.

“The exhibit is the story of Punjabis in America and their hardships since their arrival in California in the early twentieth century. It tells the story of our contribution to America. It tells that we are an American story,” says Kang.

Indeed, when Yuba City’s Punjabi community held a candle-light vigil in August for the six victims of the Winconsin Sikh Temple shooting, all communities joined them in expressing solidarity with them.

- See more at: http://newseastwest.com/dr-bond-of-yuba-city-jasbir-kang/#sthash.3G3xaEbs.dpuf
 

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spnadmin

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Tejwant ji

I agree with you You know sangats in Yuba City have sustained some negative events recently. This is a place that is close to a paradise, and one where some of the earliest Sikh immigration to the US occurred. The history of the Sikh immigration there is poignant and also a story of overcoming odds and reaching heights. With Dr. Kang offering constructive energies he is a true model for everyone as to how one person can make a difference and turn negative forces away.
 

Tejwant Singh

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Tejwant ji

I agree with you You know sangats in Yuba City have sustained some negative events recently. This is a place that is close to a paradise, and one where some of the earliest Sikh immigration to the US occurred. The history of the Sikh immigration there is poignant and also a story of overcoming odds and reaching heights. With Dr. Kang offering constructive energies he is a true model for everyone as to how one person can make a difference and turn negative forces away.
Spmadmin ji,

Guru Fateh.

I have been to you Yuba city many times and love it. Didar Singh Bains the largest peach farmer is a family friend and a gem of a person. In fact he was present at my Anand Karaj. His idea that many are not aware of helped the city save water for irrigation and other purposes. In the 80's he convinced the City Council to build a reservoir with the drainage system all around the city which will drain all the rain water in that reservoir. His son helped to collect the $100k fund for the wounded Police Chief of Oak Creek, Wisconsin after the horrible tragedy. One more interesting anecdote is that his wife is half Mexican/Sikh from the Imperial Valley in California. There are many like her in Yuba City.

Dr. Kang is another gem in the Sikh community of Yuba City. I wish we had more people like him and Didar Singh all over rather than the infighting in the Gurdwaras.

We as Americans have the duty to make this country better for all. Sikhi demands this from us and this can only happen if we actively take part in this from all aspects. No matter what our roots are, they should become a sheen for this Americana rather than a rust. Gurmat values glazed with the Sikh way of life is perfectly in-sync with the Bill of Rights and we can only claim it our right, provided we come out of the four walls of the Gurdwaras and from our self created ghettos.

Regards

Tejwant Singh
 
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spnadmin

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Just to give a bow to the Punjabi American Heritage Society. This is the link to their web site http://www.punjabiheritage.org/

And part of the site is the Becoming American Museum. Among its many online exhibits is Punjabi Pioneers. The link below navigates to an online album of Sikh Pioneers and two with Mexican Brides

http://www.punjabipioneers.com/exhibits/California

The stories behind the photos are poignant stories. Somewhere on the web are the oral histories of these couples, in the digital archives of one of the major California universities. I will go looking for that.

To the right, in the navigation pane are links to many different exhibits that chronicle the story of Sikh immigration to the Punjab. These are priceless albums.

These are the topics in the Early Arrivals section of the site

Immigration Laws
Finding Work
Challenging Exclusion
Komagata Maru
Living in California
Favorable Immigration
Settling In
Legislation of 1965
Faith & Culture
Preserving Traditions

At the bottom of this page http://www.punjabipioneers.com/exhibits/Arrivals you can see a timeline. Mouse over a particular year and a pop-up will describe the important events that occurred.

The picture I have just uploaded is from "Leaving Home." These are sardars from 1910 - a group portrait - all keshdhari/dastari and notice the neatly tailored suits. And they were not rich, just proud.

You need to explore the entire site to see how rich it is.
 

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