A Taste of Home for California’s Punjabi Truck Drivers

A while ago, we ran a feature “Amid a record driver shortage, Indian-American Sikhs are taking to trucking”

With thousands of desi truck drivers taking to Californian roads, a few dhabas are now catering to this niche. A recent New York Times article features a family-run Punjabi Dhaba  operating out of a truck stop in Bakersfield, serving simple fare, like parathas stuffed with a mix of vegetables, to a growing population of Californian truckers with roots in Punjab.

Punjabi_Dhaba
from yelp.com

The NYT article “A Taste of Home for California’s Punjabi Truck Drivers” features

Next to a truck wash and a repair shop, Punjabi Dhaba is reminiscent of dhabas in India and Pakistan, the absolutely-no-frills roadside restaurants that cater to truckers and others passing through with cheap, hearty dishes of chole — chickpeas soaked in a gingery tomato sauce — and slick parathas.

Punjabi Dhaba caters to the growing community of Punjabi truckers with ample space to park semi trucks and a stack of free Punjabi Trucking magazines, filled with bilingual articles and ads. (A green-eyed cat comes around and naps on this occasionally.)

The kitchen is run by several fast-moving, masterly women who chat among themselves in Punjabi, as well as to their clientele, while handing out sweet, freshly boiled chai in Styrofoam cups.

Most of the dishes are vegetarian, but they’re still road-stop fare: thick and rich with sauces of reduced tomato and cream, and generously seasoned and spiced. The butter chicken packs heat and smoke — it’s made from the dark thigh meat and cooked in a clay tandoor. All of the food is ideal for drivers who might find themselves craving something familiar on the road, away from home for weeks at a time, moving freight up and down the highways.

Punjabi_DhabaNYT
CreditRozette Rago for The New York Times

A sampling of reviews of the Punjabi Dhaba

Tripadvisor review:  Tasty Indian food off I-5 on way to Vegas or Los Angeles Tasty Indian food on way to Los Angeles Vegas in Bakersfield. Ample seating with tables and chairs dhaba style. They did have heaters during winter. Fastest service and all are made to order food. Nice short ride off I-5 across farms to reach this place and its worth it for the food here. Person at the counter is great. Will return back.

Yelp review: “A true Punjabi Dhaba experience in the US. If you belong to Punjab and ever miss eating at the roadside restaurants on the highways while traveling from one place to the other then this is for you. This is also great for people who have never experienced eating roadside in northwestern parts of India but want to taste the true Punjabi fare.  We were driving from the Bay Area to LA. I had heard of this place and when I mapped it out, we figured we would be driving about 10-12 miles extra. I really didn’t want to stop at a chain restaurant to pick the usual food so we decided to just drive the distance. It was so worth it!

Sikh community raises over $263,775 for boy who lost entire family in head-on car crash

The Sikh community in Carteret, New Jersey, has rallied around an 11-year-old boy — raising more than $$263,775 for him and his future — after he lost his entire family in a head-on car crash last week.

11-year-old Yashveer, whose family lived in Carteret — a borough in Middlesex County — was traveling with them in Virginia when they got into the deadly crash last Thursday. His parents, Gurmeet Singh, 44, and Jasleen Kaur, 38, were both killed, as was his 6-year-old sister.

Friends of the family provided an update on Monday to NJ.com, saying Yashveer had been released from the hospital and was recovering at a relative’s home. Rosa Diaz, superintendent of Carteret schools, said the entire borough was torn up about what happened to him.

“As expected, this has been an extremely difficult time for our community,” Diaz explained. “Our district has lost a member of our school family and we are working to support [Yash] as he learns to adjust to a life without his loved ones.”

Image via GoFundMe

According to GoFundMe

Gurmeet Singh (of Milton Distributors) was a man of few words but many smiles. He met with a tragic auto accident in Virginia on August 15th. The extremely unfortunate accident took away the lives of Gurmeet Singh, Jasleen Kaur, and 6 year old Harjas Kaur.

11 year old Yash Singh, has survived, and is hospitalized with Pelvic Fracture and a few other injuries. In this immensely unfortunate moment, while we all get together to pray to almighty to rest their souls in peace, we are also praying for the speedy recovery of Yash. While nobody can ever fulfill the void in Yash’s life, as friends and family, the least we can do is to come together and contribute our share for the medical expenses of Yash, funeral expenses of the deceased, and more importantly, contribute towards the future of Yash.

No contribution is big or small – please do whatever you can to help Yash have some financial support for the future. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

Articles about the incident

 

Indian student from Kerala shot dead in Alabama, one suspect arrested

A 30-year-old Indian student, Neil Kumar, was recently shot to death at point-blank range in Alabama last week. The local police have arrested Leon Flowers suspected for killing an Neil.

Neil Kumar, who was pursuing his Master’s in Computer Science at the University of Troy in Brundidge, Alabama was shot to death in an apparent robbery. The 30-year-old was a student at the Sharjah Indian School and a native of Thrissur in Kerala. Neil was working as a part time cashier at a Gulf Gas station convenience store on the busy Highway 10 when the robbery and shooting took place last Wednesday morning.

NielKumar
source: facebook

 

Three CCTV visuals of the attack were released by the police personnel on Thursday. The visuals, carried by local newspapers, showed the assailant who is dressed in all black with white gloves and was carrying a gun. The time code on the CCTV visuals indicate that the suspect had been lurking around the area of the convenience store prior to the shooting. This suspicion was even raised by the Sheriff of Pike County who is investigating the homicide.

Officers have also told the media that this was the first time in years that Brundidge, which is the second biggest city in Pike County, has witnessed such a violent crime.

Born to parents Purushothaman Kumar and Seema, who are based in the UAE, Neil had been studying in the United States for a year after graduating from a Chennai college. His parents and sisters Neema and Natasha flew in to Alabama on hearing the news. Neil’s funeral will be held on Monday afternoon in Alabama, in the presence of friends and family. Apart from computers, Neil also nurtured a passion for photography.

Several friends and classmates remember Neil as a happy person who left a lasting impression on whoever he met. The community at Troy University also held a memorial for their late classmate.

 


Past stories of crime against Indians

Newly Published EB-5 Modernization Rules from USCIS: does it impact Indians?

On July 23, 2019, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) regulations to update the Immigrant Investor Program were published in the Federal Register. The new EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program Modernization rules (New Rules) amend the historic Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations governing the employment-based, fifth preference (EB-5) immigrant investor classification and associated regional centers to reflect statutory changes and modernize the EB-5 program. The New Rules are creating quite a buzz in the EB-5 community with good reason. Of particular note, the New Rules modify the EB-5 program by:

  • Increasing the required minimum investment amounts;

  • Providing the long-awaited priority date retention to EB-5 investors in certain cases;

  • Amending targeted employment area (TEA) designation criteria;

  • Centralizing TEA determination;

  • Clarifying USCIS procedures for the removal of conditions on permanent residence fulfilment;

  • Providing for periodic minimum investment increases henceforth; and

  • Implementing a myriad other amendments.

The New Rules are effective 120 days from publication, which is November 21, 2019. The effective date of the New Rules presupposes that Congress will extend the EB-5 Program’s current sunset date of September 30, 2019. USCIS clarified that it will adjudicate investors, who file a Form I-526 petition before November 21, 2019, under the current EB-5 program rules. Now the race is on to initiate and complete investments by the effective date. (Source natlawreview.com)

What is the impact of EB5 rule change on Indians?

The Indian media picked up this story and began analysis of the impact on Indians. However, a fact are worth noting: Although the number of EB5 visas  quadrupled from 100 to 500 (link), this is a reminisce number when one considers hundreds of thousands of Indians waiting for employment based (EB) and family (F) sponsored visas

eb5
image source https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/eb-5-visas-issued-to-indians-quadruple-over-two-years-300818040.html

The reason for so few EB5 visas issued to Indians is not hard to fathom. The number of Indians who have half or a million dollars to spare is minuscule. Those who have a million dollars (6 or 7 crore rupees) to ‘invest’ are probably the crème de la crème of Indian business, government and society. They are not likely to think of ‘investing’ a million dollars for an American Green Card when they can just as easily get long-term visa to other countries around the world.

Indians trolls discover that Boston Brahmins can be Black too!

A week ago, the famous Indian classical artist Sudha Rughanathan announced the wedding of her daughter Malavika, and the wedding invitation went viral on social media. The reason: the groom to be happens to be Black, an African American. Never mind the fact that Mr. Michael Murphy happens to be a well educated, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh; a Boston Brahmin in his own right.

Ms. Sudha Raghunathan happens to be the latest victim of unsolicited public scrutiny and judgmental remarks and incessant trolling, hate tweets and racial taunts. What makes the trolling appalling is the fact that Ms Rughanathan is a well-respected classical musician who was conferred India’s highest honors –  Padma Shri in 2004 and Padma Bhushan. She has performed and collaborated with other artists all over the world, including performances at the United Nations, and the Théâtre de la Ville, Paris.

Image result for sudha raghunathan daughter malavika

Some comments have been especially personal and tangential. A few bigots and Hindu fundamentalists went as far as questioning “her decision” to allow her daughter to marry a Christian. Fundamentalists asked her to relinquish her rights to perform in Carnatic ‘sabhas,’ supposedly a privilege accorded to ‘Brahmins only.’

The comments posted against Ms Malavika proudly introduces her mother at a concert in the US “I cant see a carnati (sic) singers Daughter waring such bhikari dress”

The groom to be, Mr. Murphy seems to be acutely aware of racism, and Brahmanism as he writes in his blog

“There’s a long standing maxim in the African American community that if you want to succeed in this country, you’ll have to work twice as hard as anyone else. Everywhere that I turn I am accosted by images of greatness that continue to exclude the multitude of incredible human beings who happen to be marked by some—more often than not intersectional— difference.”

The trolling issue is sure to blow over soon and become a non-issue soon. As expected, the trolls were soon drowned out by an outpouring of support for Sudha Rughanathan and her family, and articles and columns in the media jumped in, calling for their privacy.

Bottomline: Incidents like this shows the deep-rooted sense of parochialism and bigotry that exists in modern Indian society. Relative anonymity accorded by tools of social media, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp can enlighten the masses can also exacerbate and amplify such bigotry.

[Image and video posted from public sources]


Articles in the media:

Ashish Alfred Named 2019 Maryland Chef of the Year at Awards Gala

Seen as inspiration by fellow cooks, Chef Alfred’s work ethic and three restaurants elevate the food industry’s standard of excellence.

 (Bethesda, MD)–The Restaurant Association of Maryland just named Ashish Alfred of the Alfred Restaurant Group Maryland’s 2019 Chef of the Year. The prestigious honor, voted on by the dining public, recognizes overall excellence in the foodservice industry and Chef Alfred’s commitment to the community. The Association awards Chef of the Year to “an executive chef who demonstrates consistent standards of excellence, serves as an inspiration to other foodservice professionals, displays dedication to the artistry of food and exhibits ongoing commitment to the community.”

See the source image

“It is a real honor for my team and I to be recognized for all the hard work we put in,” says Chef Alfred, 33. “I’m truly grateful for our team that shows up every day and works toward making my visions a reality and making our clients as happy as possible. It’s really a proud moment when all the hard work, the long hours, and teamwork by our staff is recognized by such an important organization.”

The award reflects an honor-filled season for Alfred, chef and owner of the Alfred Restaurant Group, as he continues to earn rave reviews at his three Maryland-Washington, D.C. area restaurants: Duck Duck Goose Bethesda, George’s Chophouse in Bethesda, and Duck Duck Goose Baltimore.

Duck Duck Goose in Bethesda was recently named one of the top ten “Favorite New Restaurants” by Bethesda Magazine and “Best Restaurant in Maryland” by Southern Living Magazine. In a glowing review, The Washington Post says about Duck Duck Goose, “the delights are in the details.” Alfred recently opened Duck Duck Goose in Baltimore, which Baltimore Magazine honors as one of Charm City’s Best Restaurants.

Chef Alfred has recently been profiled by NBC’s TODAY Show, The Washington Post and Baltimore Magazine. He also held a command performance at the prestigious James Beard House, where he prepared a multi-course dinner for a sold-out audience. Alfred was classically trained at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan and honed his skills in some of Manhattan’s best kitchens. Grounded by his classical French discipline, he isn’t afraid to go beyond tradition, take risks and experiment with his offerings. He delivers contemporary dining concepts that are rooted in soulful cooking.

Alfred is a popular guest with the media, whether he’s sharing a cooking demo and insights on local TV, or battling it out as a contender on Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen and Chopped.

Indian sprinter Dutee Chand says she’s in same-sex relationship with soulmate

Same sex relationships and gay rights in India seem to be catching up with rest of the world. Of course, this is not universal or uniform. Some cities and states in India are more advanced than others when it comes to accommodating Gay rights. Some like Bengaluru have gone as far as having Public Toilets for Transgenders (link)

Now comes news that Dutee Chand is the first Indian sports star to openly acknowledge being in a same-sex relationship with her ‘soulmate’. Dutee Chand is the 100 m record holder and winner of two silver medals at the 2018 Asian Games.

Dutee spoke to The Sunday Express about her relationship, career plans and eventually settling down with the woman she loves. She is busy training for the Tokyo Olympics and that she hoped to settle down with her ‘soulmate’ in future.

“I have found someone who is my soulmate. I believe everyone should have the freedom to be with whoever they decide they want to be with. I have always supported the rights of those who want to be in a same-sex relationship,” she was quoted.

The 2018 Asian Games double silver medalist didn’t reveal the identity of her partner, and wants to safeguard her from being “the center of undue attention”, in a country that is still getting used to the decriminalization of homosexuality.


 

More about  Dutee Chand:

She is an Indian professional sprinter and current national champion in the women’s 100 metres event. She is the third Indian woman to ever qualify for the Women’s 100 meters event at the Summer Olympic Games. However in the 2016 Summer Olympics, her 11.69s in the preliminary round did not make her qualify to the next round. In 2018 Chand clinched silver in women’s 100m at the Jakarta Asian Games. It was India’s first medal in this event since 1998.

Also in New York Times:  Sprinter Dutee Chand Becomes India’s First Openly Gay Athlete – A champion sprinter with village roots has become India’s first openly gay professional athlete, less than a year after the country’s top court overturned a longstanding ban on gay sex.

 

Ben & Jerry’s will help support “We Are Sikhs initiative”

Maintaining ethnic culture and identity is especially hard for those who migrate across continents. The “We Are Sikhs initiative” is attempting an outreach to educate American and Western public about the rich culture and heritage of Sikhs.

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Image from wearesikhs.org

The earliest Sikh immigrants to America were young men. Carrying the weight of hungry families on their shoulders, they braved the difficult journey by boat from the Punjab region of India to the states of Washington and California. Leaving villages ravaged by British exploitation, these pioneering Sikhs saw in America a nation that rewarded hard work. And work hard, they did. From 1903-1908, thousands of Sikh laborers toiled to build our nation’s roads and railways in Northern California. They laid 700 miles of roadway between Oakland and Salt Lake City, remaining today as part of Interstate 80. Wearesikhs

The National Sikh Campaign announced that Ben & Jerry’s has signed up to support “We Are Sikhs initiative” to educate the public about the contributions of Sikh Americans and the meaning of the turban.

Also find an extensive listing of Gurudwaras across America  and in Canada

Indian dentist murdered in Australia, ex-boyfriend dies in subsequent road accident

A 32-year old Indian woman, who was practicing as dental surgeon in Australia, was found murdered in her car in Sydney. Her ex-boyfriend, who is the prime suspect, is said to have died in a ‘deliberate’ road accident later.

The body of Preethi Reddy was stuffed in a suitcase and was kept in the car, which was parked roadside. Preethi’s body had multiple stab injuries. The ghastly murder  is believed to have taken place on Sunday considering the details of her last contact with the family members. The victim hailed from Mahbubnagar district in Telangana. She was working as dental surgeon at Glenbrook Dental Surgery, a hospital about 70 km from Sydney. Reports say that she left home for a medical conference at St Leonards on Sunday (March 3) but failed to return home till evening. Her sister, Nithya Reddy, lodged a complaint with the Sydney police. Her family and friends also opened a Facebook page seeking help to trace her. After the cops declared tracing the mortal remains of Preethi, Nithya posted on the page, “Our dearest Preethi is no longer with us”.

Preethi, according to reports, went to a hotel where her ex-boyfriend Harshwardhan Narde was staying. CCTV footage showed her going to a nearby fast food joint on George Street around 2:15 am and then proceeded to her car. She was last seen at a line in McDonalds in the wee hours, where she bought a water bottle. The South Wales police traced her car parked in a street in Eastern Sydney.

“Preethi’s vehicle was parked on Strachan Street, Kingsford, about 9:30 pm on Tuesday. During a search of the vehicle, the police located Preethi’s body in a suitcase. Further inquiries have established that Preethi stayed at a hotel on Market Street in Sydney on Sunday with a man known to her. Strike Force Carlwood investigators have since been notified that the man died in a head-on collision on the New England Highway near Willow Tree at about 10 pm on Monday. Detectives from Oxley Police Area Command are investigating the circumstances surrounding the collision, which is believed to be a deliberate act,” a South Wales police statement said.

Harshawardhan, 34, was found lying dead after a head on collision. The police suspect it to be a case of suicide by ramming his BMW into a truck. The car later caught fire, reports further said. Narde was also a dentist. They both attended the same conference on Sunday. It is suspected that Narda might have murdered Preethi at the hotel and managed to stuff the body in a suitcase and leave it in her car seven kilometers away.

Preethi’s family moved to Australia many years ago. Her father Narasimha Reddy teaches at Western Sydney University.

An ode to Desi Ghee – Washington Post

A recent article in washingtonpost about good old desi-ghee makes for an interesting read. Awanthi Vardaraj starts off the article by describing

The very first solid food my mother fed me as a baby in our southern India household was mashed-up rice mixed with a little ghee. This set the stage for my lifelong love affair with this nutty, rich, golden clarified butter.

In recent years, ghee has become a global phenomenon, trending as a “superfood” and beloved by followers of the popular Keto diet. But its history — real and legendary — is long.

…….

Without the milk solids of butter, it can be used for frying and other high-heat cooking. Use the ghee as you would use any fat: roast vegetables with it; slather it onto meat to baste; fry eggs with it. You can even stir it into your coffee (for that trendy “bulletproof” approach) or your morning porridge (which I love to do). Refrigerate your ghee if you like, but it’s not a requirement and will keep at room temperature; it will solidify in the fridge but melt at room temperature or when heated.

Image result for ghee
Americans are truly smitten by Ghee. A while ago, Forbes ran a feature on “A brief history of ghee in the US”

It’s typical of Franzen, one of America’s shrewdest social novelists, to slip in this reference to a food that most Americans are unaware of but which has begun to attract a strong niche following. In the US, ghee is trending. Especially among millennial foodies smitten with super-foods like quinoa and kale, fair-trade organic produce, and Bulletproof Coffee, which is coffee blended with butter (or ghee) and a spoonful of coconut oil extract. It sounds expensive and ghastly, but it’s all the rage. At the hip new Bulletproof Coffee Café in Santa Monica, California, you can add ghee to your coffee for a dollar.

Ghee has also received a big boost from the Paleo diet, the latest food fad in the house, whose startling No. 1 guideline is that “a Paleo diet should be high in fat”. It provides recipes for ghee flavoured with garlic, ginger, mint-jalapeno and rosemary-thyme. Elsewhere, Michelin-starred restaurants advertise the use of ghee in their curries, and on Twitter, celebrity chef Alton Brown instructs his million-plus followers on the deceptively simple art of making it: “Do you know how to make clarified butter? Or know what ghee is? We’re big fans of both…,” he writes, embedding a link to a recipe.

India times article on : Here’s How Desi Ghee Went From An Indian Staple To An International Superfood!  Ghee has come into the spotlight lately, with everyone from Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar to reality television star Kourtney Kardashian endorsing it as a healthy superfood. And it’s about time, considering that this Ayurvedic concoction has a ton of health benefits.

Ghee has been an Indian staple for millennia. Now the rest of the world is catching on. – Washington Post

 


 

Ghee is widely available in Indian and ethnic stores , and even online (e.g on Amazon.com)