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Sikh News Soft Transition From India To America


Jun 1, 2004
Sikh group seeks to soften transition from India to America

Sometimes when Sikh students come to the United States from the Punjab region of India, they initially find themselves without the means to survive, said a Sikh Students Association member.

This is when the work of the Sikh Students Association begins.

Depinder Sandhu, a graduate student in electrical engineering, said it is routine for members of the Sikh Students Association to meet incoming international SJSU students via Facebook or MySpace, and weeks later, pick them up at the airport and house them until they get settle into life in the United States.

"We want to keep everybody together," Sandhu said. "Sometimes when Muslim students come from India, they won't have the means here. They don't have their parents to support them or friends or any kind of family, so we try to help any new students who come here."

During this brief period of adjustment for newly arrived students, the Sikh Students Association helps them set up a bank account, register for classes, find housing and process all legal documentation, Sandhu said.

"I really enjoy helping those students that have just arrived here in the United States," said Divyajot Kaur, a graduate student in electrical engineering and Sikh Students Association member. "We help them get settled, and we help bridge the gap between the community and the students."

"Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world, and not a lot of people know about that." Sandhu said. "A lot of people don't understand what Sikhs represent and who they are."

Today, approximately half a million Sikhs live in the United States, according to Pluralism Project Web site.

The word Sikh, which literally means student, is the name given to people who practice the Sikhism religion, Sandhu said.

Sikhism is a belief system that blends Hindu traditions with Islamic monotheistic traditions, according to the Regents Prep Web site.

Most Sikhs hail from the region of Punjab, which is situated between Pakistan and India, Sandhu said.

The Sikh Students Association said it is in the process of determining how many Sikh students attend SJSU.

In more than one and a half years, the Sikh Students Association has grown from an idea Sandhu and a few of his friends had into an approximate 100-member organization that continues to swell in number, Sandhu said.

"The Sikh Student Association provides a venue for Sikh students to share their experiences at San Jose State University," said Avtar Singh, electrical engineering department chair and adviser to the Sikh Students Association. "It allows them to remain connected with their way of life while getting educated with that of others."

The Sikh Students Association has been around for about 20 years, Sandhu said.

It had to be reestablished during Fall 2008, after members of its committee graduated, Sandhu said.

He said the organization has many goals.

The main goal of the organization is to share and promote Sikh culture, history, and heritage with an objective to achieve an understanding and friendship through knowledge, according to the Sikh Students Association constitution.

The culture and history is expressed in events such as National Turban Day, when all Sikhs at SJSU were asked to wear turbans and to express their significance to the campus community, Sandhu said.

"We also want to promote understanding between Sikhs and non-Sikh communities on and off campus," Sandhu said. "We want to learn the problems that Sikh students face, and find some solutions for them."

The Sikh Students Association is open to all SJSU students, faculty, staff and alumni, according to its constitution.

The Sikh Students Association is currently trying to garner response from the Sikh student population at SJSU in regards to which problems the students face when they arrive in the United States from their native region, Sandhu said.

Once the problems are determined, the group will try to find solutions to the far-reaching problems, he said.

Sandhu said he expects no major problems to be revealed, but he expects minor problems to surface such as difficulty choosing classes and finding a place to live once they arrive in the United States.

Regardless of what problems arise from the group's inquiry, association president Harvinder Singh Kang said the organization would attempt to ease the students' transitions from Punjab to the United States.

"The service part is a great source of enjoyment for me," Kang said.


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Here we go again...:unsure: Right in the middle of a good read, the reporter reports something like this: Sikhism is a belief system that blends Hindu traditions with Islamic monotheistic traditions, according to the Regents Prep Web site.

This is actually an old belief among the tiny percentage of Americans who know about Sikhs. This is what I was told when I was in high school. We need to write letters to the editor whenever this pops up in order to clear the smog.

Mai Harinder Kaur

Oct 5, 2006
British Columbia, Canada
I was also taught that in school and, fortunately for me, the teacher was more interested in accuracy than in being right. That particular teacher was actually quite interested.

On the other hand, a while back I read that same statement in someone's blog. I corrected him and got back the answer that he had read that in a Hindu site, so it was correct and that is that.

I wrote him back, explaining in some detail how the Hindus keep trying to assimilate us into Hinduism. I guess he wasn't impressed because it never appeared in the moderated comments in his blog.

As a side note, if a Sikh does become a Hindu (horrors!) what varna/caste does s/he belong to? They try to say that we're the military wing of Hinduism. Does that make us all Kshatriyas (in their eyes, I mean)? This is something I have been curious about for a long time, but have never asked.



1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Mai ji

I think this can only be helped along one incident at a time. If I had a lot of money I would fund campaigns across the US to raise the level of understanding with programs and reading materials. But I do not have real wealth -- so my next doable step will be writing a standardized paragraph which I will copy into a letter/email to the editor every time I see this -- not to the reporter -- with references. And then just shoot the letter/email off to its destination.
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