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A Sikh IN USA 1950's
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A SIKH IN USA - 1950's
 

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Turban was a definite attention grabber not only with children but with mothers who would hush their child but could not resist taking side glances themselves. The general feel amongst the local students was that Swarn is bound to be rich to be able to travel overseas (foreign travel was a luxury even for Americans). Swarn once got a traffic ticket on campus saying "Maharaja, you parked your elephant in a wrong place". When traveling outside the University Campus, people were curios and wanted to meet and befriend him. Newspapers found the turban newsworthy. Swarn got invited by a nearby town to inaugurate a Bengali film as they thought he, with a turban, truly represented India, never mind whether he understood Bengali or not. In Business Shows, he was a VIP to be met and photographed with. On taking up a job, he became even more of a curiosity because, unlike the University, there were very few foreigners and still less Indians, and no Sikhs. Newspapers, Church Groups, Schools, and Professional Clubs wanted him to speak to them about India, Sikhs, and his experiences in USA. Many of Swarn's talks got coverage in the newspapers which are what this scrap book is all about. In Wheeling, W.Va., he was invited on a Sunday to speak on their weekly TV programme "Downtown Personalities". This was followed by a repeat appearance next Sunday to answer questions from the viewers. Americans were generous in asking him to talk of his country and religion - even the Church Groups. They would want to pay him for his talks but he refused. They would, instead, present him with gifts (some are still with him). It felt good on seeing news headlines such as "Indian Engineer says India needs time to solve its problems". In retrospect Swarn is impressed with himself that he could be so statesmen like at that young age! People's warm hospitality can be gauged from the fact that before he could order a drink, in a bar, some one would be offering him the same. There were odd cases of scary experiences. The one I remember most vividly was in a night club (bar with dance floor) when he was dancing close with a lady. This guy, no relation or friend of the lady, came menacingly to hit him and succeeded in pushing him. Swarn's host ran to the car to get his revolver to shoot the guy who had insulted his Indian friend. It took long pleadings from his wife to cool down the situation. Of course, the offending person was thrown out of the bar.

This collection is a "Thank You" note to the Americans for their hospitality and generosity. Swarn has tried to return these kind gestures through offering help to foreigners he meets in India. In addition to what is included here, Swarn has many episodes to share but this compilation focuses on 'scrap book' related stories...

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