SIKHS IN CONNECTICUT

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COMMUNITY AND ITS SPREAD

The history of Sikh immigration or residence in Connecticut will undoubtedly go back several decades. Many of the early residents came for higher education to the Universities like Yale, Uconn, Hartford and several other schools and moved on after their education. There were others who went to school in other places and came to work in CT. and again moved to some other place. I recently met Dr. Harbans Lal who worked with CT’s pharmaceutical industry over 30 years back after his doctoral program. So far there has not been any documented study of the pattern of Sikh presence in recent CT. history.

The number of Sikhs in CT has been growing. Even though no enumeration seems to have been ever attempted I was struck by my own observation on the sudden increase in the size of our congregation when we acquired our own building and moved our house of worship, in Oct 99, from a rented premises in Ansonia to Southington. Our mailing list, then around 60 families soon increased to around 250. The mailing list of the other house of worship in Norwalk is also said to be around the same size.

PROFILE

Initial Sikh presence in CT like in the other parts of the country consisted mainly of those who came for higher education and stayed on. After the changes in immigration policy in mid-60’s allowing family reunion the Sikh immigration pattern has become more diverse. My impression is that the more recent Sikh influx into Connecticut is of the following types:

  • Those who have joined their family already in CT
  • Those who moved from urban New York city etc as they accumulated some capital/experience and got into small family businesses like stores, pizza shops or other self employed occupations
  • Those who were well qualified and came on H1 visas etc.

Sikhs are more dispersed in their choice of residence. This is obvious also from their occupation mix. More of them will be found in counties closer to NY/NJ or in towns closer to major industries/schools. They are likely to be found living predominantly in suburbs.

There is a considerable number of Sikhs in professions like medicine, engineering, computers, scientific research, teaching, management etc. Presently the fastest growing segment will be self employed or family businesses. Some have established technology companies of varying sizes and success.

Education is given a high family priority. Most have had some college education before venturing out. The family focus is also to educate the next generation.

The main focus of the Sikhs has been to pool their resources first to establish Gurdwaras but even now several travel for an hour or two to reach a house of worship. The Sikh cultural activities are beginning to take place. In the overall they are self supporting albeit with limited cash surplus as a community. The demands on Sikh resources are heavy and may be expected to remain that way as long as public interest in them and their travails remains dormant.

Sikhs are not political news or close to the political elite in the State. Their benign presence does not create any waves in the public interest domain possibly because fortunately they have been just plain law abiding, tax paying citizens. So the dynamics of growth and spread of Sikh expatriates in the CT society and the emergence of Sikh religious and cultural activities has not invoked any perceptible interest in the mainstream media, TV or other organizations engaged in promoting a diverse range of studies in cultural pluralism and creating an environment of cross-cultural conversations and understanding.

SIKH HOUSES OF WORSHIP

At present there are two Sikh Gurdwaras in the State both having come up in the last 5-7 years. Prior to that Sikhs held prayer services in homes in groups or traveled to Massachusetts or New York. The Gurdwara locations are:

  • Guru Tegh Bahadur ji Foundation, 662 West Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06850

[203] 857- 4460

  • Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar, 1610 West Street, Southington, CT 06489

[860] 621-3015

OTHER ACTIVITIES

Some Sikhs have been active in inter-faith and multi cultural activities. Post Sep. 11, the community has come under a lot of stress because of mistaken association with Muslim terrorism because the Sikhs wear turbans and keep beards as a part of their religious observance. Creating awareness about themselves has become a necessity for their continued security.

Sikhs have a loose cultural activities organization. They have held two or three major cultural events in the last three years using local talent. A couple of functions have also been organized by inviting well known artistes from India but these tend to end up carrying higher price tags. Even then the ticket rates for their performances are way below those charged in the mainstream sector.

Nirmal Singh

Farmington, CT

Oct. 30, 2002

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