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Transcript "Two Homes, One Heart"

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Two Homes, One Heart:
Sacramento Sikh Women and Their Songs and Dances

Transcript

Narrator: Jann Taber
Song Descriptions: Tejinder Sandhu

00:23 Jann: This performance in Sacramento, California, celebrates Baisakhi, an annual harvest festival in India.

00:31 Jann: Most of the performers, as well as their songs and dances are from Punjab in northwestern India. The songs tell much about the women's lives in India and their thoughts and feelings.

00:45 Tejinder: This dance represents the family of the bride, going around the village at night, trying to tell the neighbors that there's going to be a wedding.

01:21 Ranbir: The dancing that we do in India, it's a little bit different than here because in India we do it in a much more natural way-and we learn in school when we are little girls during school functions, and when we get married and we do before weddings and special occasions.

01:52 Baljit: The dance is kind of funny - I never used to do any of these dances up until my brother got married in 1986 and at the wedding, everybody dances. My husband and I tried to dance and we didn't know, so we thought, "hey - we've got to do something about it."

02:18 Tejinder: A girl is asking her mother, what if her sister in law is unhappy, how does she please her? The mother replies, "You don't have to beg to her-stand up for your rights and face her."

02:33 Jann: Sikhs began to arrive in California about one hundred years ago seeking economic opportunity and religious freedom. Today, Sikh women may be homemakers or work outside of the home in a variety of occupations. Jeet owns a travel agency.

03:03 Dr. Sudan's specialty is family practice.

03:17 Manjeet works in a community clinic.

03:31 Sutter county, just 35 miles away has the largest community of Sikhs working in agriculture outside of India.

03:43 Ranbir: I am a housewife, but ever since my husband started his practice - he's a physician - so I go to his office and I help him with insurance, take care of his accounts, and things like that. I can do just about anything in his office, whatever needs to be done.

04:08 Jann: Nina came to America 15 years ago, and when she's not dancing works with her husband in their own business.

04:23 Tejinder: Here the women are imitating a peacock and talking about its beauty.

04:37 Jann: Some songs are humorous or serious and have more than one meaning. They describe feelings that can't be expressed in everyday life.

04:53 Tejinder: In this next dance, the girl is telling her friend that her brother in law's son is a very bad guy. First he winks at me in a very flirty way and still calls me an aunt. And then she's telling what happened one day. He bought her some eye make up and told her "Aunt, put it on your eyes and let our eyes meet together-look at me in a real loving manner."

05:33 Jann: Marriages are usually arranged by parents. In the past, the bride and groom did not meet until the wedding ceremony.

05:41 - Tejinder: They're saying, once you get married, life is going to be like being in a prison so have fun while you're single.

06:02: Jeet Sandhu: In our Sikh community, when the girls are in college, they're just about to finish their education the parents get real worried-oh my daughter's about to finish college - I have to find a match for her - they have their ears and eyes open, you know. I was just about to finish my college and my brother went out looking for a match for me. My husband's brother said, "Oh, I have a brother who is visiting from America and is looking for a bride."
"What type of girl does he want?"
"He wants a tall girl who can speak English."
"So Aha - I have a niece, she's five foot six and she speaks very good English."
My husband came to see me on Thursday....said yes, he likes the girl. Sunday we were engaged, Tuesday we were married and next month I was in America.

07:04 Jann: Today in India and America, most Sikhs do not date and marriages are still arranged by parents, but children are allowed to approve or disapprove of the potential partner.

07:18 Young Woman: My mother went to India, met several families there, came home with a list of families and photographs of, I should say bachelors, and went through them and and invited one of them over and he turned out to be the one. He stayed for a week. We had a chance to talk, we both agreed, so in a way it was arranged and in a way it wasn't.

07:45 Jann: After the engagement there are many events and ceremonies to prepare the bride and groom for the wedding.

08:25 Tejinder: In this dance they're talking about grinding the mendhi and the wife is telling her husband that she's not putting up with any nuisance from her inlaws. Mendhi is henna which is grind up into a paste and applied on the bride's hands and feet in designs for the wedding.

08:52 Tejinder: Here the girls are talking to their mother and asking her to talk to the father and tell him that all the others girls have been married and she's really looking forward to it. She's also telling him that there's this one guy who's studying in Patiala which is a famous city and telling, "Why don't you get me married to him?"

09:29 Jann: The Sikh house of worship is called Gurdwara or Sikh temple. It is both a religious and social center

09:41 The Sikh religion was founded in the 15th century by Guru Nanak, the son of a Hindu living in an area ruled by Muslims.

10:00 Nanak taught that there is one God, and all humans are equal in the eyes of God regardless of sex, caste or social standing.

10:21 Sikhs honor the founders of other religions. Their holy scriptures include the writing of many non-Sikh teachers and sages.

11:16 after Sunday religious services, lunch is available free to all. The food is vegetarian and usually quite spicy.

11:28 The meal includes chapattis which is a round, flat bread

12:00 Tejinder: in this dance a woman's brother in law is making chappatis...a kind of bread on a wood stove. The birds are laughing because you never see a man making chappatis.

12:15 Jann: The song and dance tradition continues in Sacramento every spring when about one hundred children and adults rehearse and perform for the Baisakhi festival.

12:49 Four groups rehearse at the same time in the same room, each with different music. It is a noisy and busy time.

13:20 Children are taught the songs and dances at age five or so. Some protest at first, but most become enthusiastic and join in year after year.

16:58 Teenagers both here and in India have altered the traditional dances to create contemporary versions.

17:11 Teen: We'll work together, like work in this room and we, like, pick up steps - pick up from movies - something that we saw and that we really like.

19:00 Jann: Sikh women wear traditional Punjabi clothing with pants called salwar and top called kameez and a sheer scarf called chuni. Often called a three piece suit, the outfit may be brought in from India, hand tailored in the USA or purchased from a local Indian specialty shop such as this one.

19:28 Some women prefer wearing Punjabi dress all the time. Others may choose western dress or the salwar kameez depending on the occasion.

19:45 Tejinder: Here in this song, they're talking about a girl named Taro and they say that she's taking food to the men in the field. And to take the food, she's all dressed up, wearing high heels, braids her hair fancy, rolls her eyes so everybody's looking at her and talking about her. Taro couldn't care less.

20:09 Jann: All members of the family are important. Traditionally, when a woman marries, she moves in with her husband and his parents. Today, many Sikhs have established separate households.

20:35 In an extended family, there is always someone in the house or neighborhood to care for young children and grandparents know they will be respected and cared for by their children.

20:49 Jeet: We care about our elders and we keep them with us. We would never ever put them in an elderly home.

20:56 Dr. Sudan: In our extended families we get a lot of loving support not just from our parents but from everybody around. Our neighbors are very important in our lives. When we first came to this country, it was shocking to me to learn that you had to pay someone to take care of your children while you went somewhere to have an important appointment to make. In India, your neighbors would volunteer even without asking

21:33 Dalbir: (When asked about India) I was born here, I was raised here. It's part of my life and I just never thought of living anywhere else. And I loved every part of it. I miss my country.

21:56 Jeet: I wanted to travel the whole world so I opened up a travel agency and I have been all over the world. I have been to the biggest countries as big as Russia and as small as Monaco. I've been to every country and I love visiting India. I love to go visit my family, my farm my father's old house but I wouldn't like to go back to stay there. I am extremely happy in America. I have gotten in America that I always dream for.

22:42 Manjeet: I miss that place where I grew up but I like it over here too. I settle down here, I have a good job, my husband has a good job. My kids, they're born here and they know more about American culture than Indian culture We are trying to teach them their background People in America they're very nice too. I think people are everywhere the same people. It's just wherever you're born, you miss that place.

Acknowledgements to: Joyce Middlebrook

For rights and permissions contact: 2005, Joyce Middlebrook

To view transcript notes for printing, please click here.

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