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World Sikh Route To Italy’s Cheese Empire


Apr 3, 2005
Sikh route to Italy’s cheese empire
Gabriele Catania
TRIENT, ITALY: Far away from
the lassi kingdom of Punjab,
Indian Sikhs are doing Chak
de Phatte in the province of
In Italy’s central Emilia-
Romagna region, home to the
famous cheese, cattlesheds
that produce milk for parmesan
are managed by Indians,
mainly from the 30,000-strong
Sikh community.
So the joke goes among
Italian parmesan makers: “If
Sikh workers go on strike, Italy
will not produce parmesan.”
Not a chance, their admirers
retort. “Sikhs are good,
honest guys, they work really
hard without complaining,”

said a policeman based in
Reggio Emilia, a wealthy city
in Emilia-Romagna, declining
to be named as he is not
allowed to speak to the media.
“They don’t drink, don’t quarrel,
it’s like they don’t exist.”
With its abundance of water,
endless fields, farms and cattlesheds,
Emilia-Romagna is,
in a sense, the ‘Punjab of Italy’.
And it is famous for its gastronomic
specialities, strong
socialist sympathies and racing
cars — its home to legends
like Ferrari, Maserati,
Lamborghini and Ducati.
“I’ve been in Italy since 1992.
I work very hard, but it’s good
here,” said a 40-year-old man
from Punjab’s Sangrur town.
“I’m well-paid, and on Sunday
I watch football on TV. I’m a
supporter of Juventus.”
Alongside football, faith is
alive too. A nearby town has
the second biggest gurudwara
of Europe, Gurudwara Singh
Sabha, opened in 2000 in the
presence of Romano Prodi,
then President of the EU. And
Emilia-Romagna’s parks often
have Sikh children playing
cricket, a little-known sport
in Italy.
But young Italians don’t
want to sweat in the farms
and dairies.
“Milking cows?” said a young
woman in Italian. “No man,
it’s a job for immigrants.”

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