CALIFORNIA’S CHOTA PUNJAB
India Abroad September 25, 2015
M5 THE MAGAZINE
Afriend suggested I visit Yuba City to get a glimpse of the suc- cess of California’s Sikh farm- ers who have extensive acreage nearby, producing peaches,
prunes, almonds and walnuts. These are
Indians, about 50,000 of them, who made
a name for themselves long before information technology professionals enhanced
India’s brand equity in North America.
Another friend said while I was there, I
should meet multimillionaire Didar Singh
Bains, who in his accomplishments is very
representative of the Sikh farmer’s
American dream narrative. Bains is said to
be the largest peach farmer in America.
I took a bus going northeast from San
Francisco to Sacramento. There was no
direct onward connection from
Sacramento to Yuba City, so Bains offered
to have someone pick me up.
The man, who drove me to Yuba City and
had a typical Punjabi name, talked all
through the 45-minute drive about Adam
and Eve and was keen I introduce a US-
based evangelist organization, he knew, to
television channels in India. I was
bemused. My puzzlement got sorted out
when I later discovered he was Christian, in
spite of perhaps Sikh heritage.
I heard Bains’s life story, over a good
Punjabi breakfast, followed by lunch served
up by a Spanish-speaking housekeeper, but
her soft rotis tasted like they had come all
the way from Punjab.
Bains’s great grandfather came to the
Canada as long ago as 1889! His grandfather Ram Kartar Singh Bains arrived in
1922 and his father in 1948. Bains’ grandfather tried to settle in California but was not
allowed to stay, so he moved to Mexico.
And returned after three years.
‘The word fear never existed’
Sanjeev Nayyar journeys to the heart
of Sikh California and is fortunate to meet the
grand old man of the community — Didar
Didar Singh Bains came to America when he was 18 and worked as a farm laborer. Today he is a multimillionaire and he and his extended family own, it is believed, over 40,000 acres in the area.
Bains and his half Mexican, half Punjabi bride Santi Marie Bains on their wedding day, June 21, 1964.
Bains was one of the founders of the annual Sikh parade at Yuba City where nearly 100,000 Sikhs come together every year in one of the largest gathering of Sikhs in the US.
COURTES Y DIDAR SINGH BAINS