Your book gives the
impression that successful Sikhs are leading fairytale lives.
Also, why didn’t you include the ones who couldn’t make it?
I wanted to focus
on the success stories, but each one of the people I have talked
about had to go through a period of intense struggle and hard
work. When they landed in North America and England, an
uncertain future stared them in the face. Sikhs came to foreign
lands in search of opportunities and succeeded despite odds.
Jobs were difficult to come by and neighbours regarded them with
suspicion. Some gave up the outward symbols of their faith,
others upheld their traditions, striving to overcome the
prejudices of an alien people `85what really helped them was
hard work and emotional intelligence, that is control of
emotions and impulses.
In India it has
become almost a rule that to be rich and successful you have to
get close to politicians. Does this hold true for the USA as
In the US one
doesn’t face such compulsions. Nobody has to suck up to
political bosses to be successful but, yes, I would like to add
that things have changed after September 11. Now anybody can be
stopped and interrogated.
Does the concept
of Khalistan still have a following among the Sikhs abroad?
movement has died down. Even though the Sikhs abroad still talk
about discrimination against minorities in India and some are
still bitter about the 1984 riots but they don’t really talk
in terms of a separate homeland.
How do the Sikhs
and the Pakistanis relate to each other abroad?
They are good
friends. In fact, Sikhs and Pakistanis are even partners in
business and the political problems between India and Pakistan
have not affected their friendships. And at the place where I
work as counsellor (the Centre for Multicultural Human Services
in Falls Church), almost 50 per cent of the people who come to
me for help and advice are Pakistanis. They call me baaji and
I do try and reach out to families of South Asian descent.
What would say to
a young Sikh who is in his early 20s and heading for America?
I would tell him
that go ahead with a positive approach but be willing to go
through a period of disappointment and difficulties. To get the
first job is an ordeal and a big challenge.
You have gone
through upheavals on personal and professional fronts. What has
kept you going?
I went through tough times I read Sikh scriptures and got a lot
of solace and strength to go on with life.
Don’t you think
it is paradoxical that while Sikh teachings focus on simplicity,
the lifestyles of the rich are far from simple?
Yes, you could say
there’s a paradox. Sikhs are fun-loving people with the ‘eat
and drink and be merry’ attitude but that could be that
because of the geographical positioning of Punjab and its
frequent invasions in yesteryear, which made them so very unsure
of the next day.
Did you feel that
it was easier for these well-known Sikh families to open up and
talk to you about their days of struggle because you are also a
Yes, maybe my
being a Sikh helped. Also, don’t overlook the fact that I’m
a professional counsellor and that helped me relate to people.