Profiles of some Yuba Sutter Punjabi Americans
Hardial Hunji: Farmer and Philanthropist
Hardial Hunji, a devout Sikh, came to the United States in 1948 and is a retired farmer. In the 1990s Hunji donated some of his land to build the Sri Narayan Hindu Temple, in memory of his late wife—a Hindu (first/only Hindu temple in Yuba City).
Harjit Singh: Software Engineer / Dance Instructor
Harjit Singh is currently a computer engineer and part-time dance instructor at Yuba City High School. Harjit Singh began teaching bhangra, a traditional dance from Punjab, to students at Yuba College in 1994 and has instructed hundreds of children, students, and adults in both Yuba City and the Bay Area who perform at festivals and in competition.
Jasjit Singh Kang: TV Producer / Health Inspector
Jasjit Singh Kang came to Yuba City in 1992 and is the co-producer and host of Apna Punjab (translated, Our Punjab), a weekly television program on Yuba City’s public access station (since1993), covers politics, religion, human rights, and community events in both the United States and India. Kang thinks television is the best platform for educating Sutter and Yuba Counties’ Punjabi community.
Tejinder Singh Maan: Councilman / Yuba County Environmental Health Director
Tejinder Maan came to the United States in 1975 and worked in orchards around Yuba City, attended local schools, and went on to graduate from UC Davis. In 2002, Maan was the first candidate of Punjabi descent to ever run for the City Council of Yuba City. Four years later, he was successfully elected as a city council member. He works as Director of Environmental Health (Yuba County). He got re-elected to City Council in 2010.
Didar S. Bains: Farmer and Community Leader
Didar Singh Bains came to Yuba City in 1958 and is among the third generation from his family to immigrate to the United States—his great uncle came in the 1920s and parents in 1948. By 1966, Bains began purchasing property and farming on his own to acquire thousands of acres. Bains has been an active member and organizer at the Tierra Buena Sikh Temple Gurdwara since it’s construction in 1969 and from 1979, has helped organized the Yuba City Nagar Kirtan (Sikh parade). He has served as the President of Gurdwara many times.
Davinder Deol: School Administrator and Community activist
Davinder Deol came to Yuba City in 1959 to reunite with her father who had immigrated to the United States when she was three months of age. She attended local schools and has a passion for learning. She attended CSU Chico (BS) and after teaching for sixteen years, she attended CSU Sacramento (MA) Her entire professional career has been in the area of education and is currently serving as an elementary school administrator. She is a active member of Punjabi American Heritage Society.
Jagroop Singh Atwal: “Missionary” and Educationist
Jagroop Singh Atwal came to Yuba City from India in 1971. He worked for Caltrans and later retired from the California Employment Office. Since 1974, Mr. Atwal has made it his cause to teach Punjabi language and religious studies as well as organizing sports activities for the Punjabi American community.
Jaswant Bains: Entrepreneur
Jaswant Bains immigrated in 1962 and is among the third generation of his family to come to Yuba City from India. He attended Yuba City High School, Yuba College, and received both a B.A. and M.A. from Cal State Sacramento in business and economics. For nearly twenty-five years Bains worked in agricultural real estate and in 1991, he started the Sacramento Packing Company, which buys and processes local prunes and markets them all over the world.
Leela Rai: Entrepreneur
Born and raised in Yuba City, Leela Rai is the daughter of Lal Singh and Mary S. Rai and is of both Punjabi and Punjabi/Mexican ancestry. She received her B.S. and M.S. from CSU Sacramento and has since worked in real estate, travel, public relations, event and campaign management. Rai has served in many capacities including: President, CEO of the Yuba-Sutter Chamber of Commerce (first woman to have served as Chairman of the Board of Directors), Yuba Community College District Board of Trustees. She was the recipient of the California State Legislature “Woman of the Year” Award in 2000 and the Yuba College “Alumna of the Year” award in 2002. She organized a three-month exhibit at the Sutter County museum highlighting the history and culture of Punjabi Sikhs in the Yuba-Sutter area.
Kashmir (Kash) Gill: Banker/Former Mayor & Councilman
Kashmir Singh Gill came to United States from Punjab, India in 1966. He attended Yuba High School, Yuba College, and received his B.S. from Chico State, and most recently completed a graduate program in banking at University of Colorado, Boulder. In 1995, he was selected the youngest president of the Yuba Sutter Chamber of Commerce. Since his college years, Gill has had an interested in politics. He was elected to the City Council of Yuba City in 2006 becoming the first Mayor of Punjabi descent in 2009.
Mike Singh: Developer
Mike Singh left India in 1976, spent several years in Europe, then came to United States in 1980, moving to Dallas, Texas. In 1985 he relocated to San Diego, California, where he got a real estate license and began dealing with commercial properties. After moving to Yuba City in the early-1990s, Singh expanded the development business he began in San Diego—building industrial, commercial, and residential properties.
Late Ted Sibia: Historian / Retired Librarian
Tejinder Sibia came to the United States in 1960 as a student and attended Kansas State University graduating with an M.S. in horticulture and several years later, he received a Master’s in Library Science from Emporia State University, Kansas. In 1964, Sibia began a career in library administration, from Kansas, then Missouri, Virginia, and finally at UC Davis, where in 1978 he was hired as the head of the BioAg Department at Shields Library. He created sikhpioneers.org in the early-1990s with the intent of educating the public on the Sikh experience in North America; it was the first of its kind on the internet. This website contains historic photographs and information collected by Sibia from all over the West Coast and Canada.
Parminder Singh Bains: Entrepreneur
Parminder Bains immigrated to Yuba City in 1963. His grandfather, Karm S. Bains, was among the first wave of Sikh pioneers, arriving in Yuba City in 1923. By the late 1970s, he started commercial harvesting on farms in the Yuba City area, including his family’s orchards. In 1983, Bains purchased his first 7-11 franchise, eventually opening four stores. By the late 1990s, Bains began several development projects, including a gas station and large truck stop along Highway 99, which opened in 2000.
Gary Thiara: Chairman of the Board
In 1969, Gary Thiara immigrated with his mother, Satinder, to the United States. Thiara was raised and schooled in Yuba City, earned a B.S. from Fresno State and an M.B.A. in finance from Santa Clara University. In 1997 he returned to his family’s farming operations after a career in banking. In 2000, Thiara became Chairman of the Board of the Sunsweet Growers Cooperative. He used his banking experience to help organize River Valley Community Bank in 2006 and now serves as the bank’s Chairman of the Board.
Kulwant Singh Johl: Farmer
Kulwant Singh Johl came to Yuba City in 1970. His grandfather, Nand Singh, was amongst the earliest Sikh pioneers in the area, arriving in 1906. Johl attended Yuba College and subsequently earned a B.S. from Chico State. He then began his life-long career marketing and selling fertilizer and farm products. In 1987 Johl established his own farm, growing peach, prunes and nuts. He has served on the board of the local Farm Bureau (also in the capacity of President). Johl has participated and volunteered for a number of professional and community organizations including: Yuba-Sutter Fair Board, USDA Farm Service Agency Board, California Clean Peach Association, and as secretary for the Tierra Buena Sikh Temple.
Hardeep Kaur: Realtor
Hardeep Kaur immigrated to Toronto, Canada in 1973. In 1982, her family moved to Illinois where she eventually graduated with a degree in accounting in 1990 from Depaul University in Chicago. Kaur relocated to the Yuba City-Orville area in mid nineties. She currently heads KGA Realty—purchasing and selling properties—and is actively involved in the economic development of Oroville.
Ravinder 'Ravie' Aujla – Entrepreneur, Software Company
Ravinder Aujla was born in 1973 in Gridley and grew up in both the communities of Live Oak and Gridley. She attended Gridley High School and CSU, Chico to obtain her Bachelors Degree in Human Resource Management, and subsequently, a Masters Degree in Business Administration. In 1996, Aujla established a software company specializing in the consulting and development of customized software which has been implemented across the United States, Canada, South America, and Europe. She also has served as Planning Commissioner for the City of Gridley and is actively involved in Quota International, Chamber of Commerce. She volunteers at the local elementary school, and as an industry advisor to the Minority Engineering Program at CSU, Chico.
Sarbjit 'Sarb' Johl - Diversified farmer and businessman
Sarb Johl immigrated in 1966 to the Yuba-Sutter area. He attended Yuba City High School and went on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and returned to join in his family farming operation in 1976. Since then, he has continued to farm peaches, prunes, walnuts and is involved in other business ventures (cold storage, irrigation supplies, and walnut processing facility) with his brother. Graduating from the California Ag Leadership Program, he has chaired the Northern California Growers Association, the California Cling Peach Growers Advisory Board, and Sacramento Growers Cooperative, as well as, serving on the board of the California Canning Peach Association.
Dr. Narinder Bajwa: Doctor
Narinder S. Bajwa arrived in the United States in 1982 after receiving his medical education in India. After completing residencies and fellowships in cardiology throughout the country, including in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Bajwa decided to settle in Yuba City because of its rich Punjabi culture, “a little Punjab” in the heart of California. He has worked as a cardiologist in the Yuba City area since 1992, providing care to patients at several medical practices and hospitals. When not practicing medicine, Bajwa supports booster clubs for athletics at various Yuba City area high schools, as well as little league.
Jasbir Singh Kang, MD, FHM : Medical Doctor and Community Outreach Activist
Jasbir Singh Kang MD is a medical doctor. He came to the United States in 1986 from Punjab, India and has lived in Yuba City, CA since 1991. In addition, Kang participates in several volunteer and community outreach activities including: Yuba City Foundation, Way Way off Broadway, relief efforts for the Red Cross, and giving presentations on health education and awareness, particularly for diabetes. Because of his deep commitment to create better understanding about Punjabi and Sikh history and culture amongst mainstream community, he is a founding member of the Punjabi American Heritage Society and Punjabi American Festival. He has assisted in the production of many educational documentaries and materials relating to Sikh Americans in the United States. In 2006, he was the recipient of the Local Hero Award given by KVIE, Sacramento's PBS affiliate. He has served as a Chief of Staff of local Hospitals and is recipient of “Physician of Year” award from Fremont Rideout Foundation.
Paramjit Singh Everest: Dentist
Paramjit Everest came to the United States in 1967 to reunite with his father, who had been living in California since 1955. He attended local schools, UC Davis, and eventually graduated from the University of Southern California in 1983 with a degree in dentistry (DDS). Paramjit Singh Everest is among the earliest members of the Punjabi American community to practice dentistry in the Yuba-Sutter area beginning in 1984. He has served as a dental advisor to the local Head Start program, giving free dental exams to regional school children. Everest is also active in local youth sports, including the Yuba City Hershey Track Meet, as well as basketball and track for Parks and Recreation, serving as a volunteer coach. Everest has been an avid photographer for many years and was a founding member of the Punjabi American Heritage Society.