Pablo Bartholomew in conversation with Mrs. Ohri - Yuba City, California.
(Mrs. Ohri, can you tell me how you came to America first, whether your family was here or ...?)
No, I just came as a visitor. Then I became a student there in San Francisco.
(What age were you and what year was this?)
That was in '56. And then I was learning the beauty - hair, beauty and then .... Then we got marry in '57. And after I go once in a while to San Francisco. My adopted brother is there which he gave me a marriage - Mr. Jainand. He's Punjabi. And I came from Bombay to Japan, from Japan to Vancouver, Canada and then I came to this country.
(All on your own? Or you came with other people?)
No, no. I just came alone and my nephew and niece, they were study there in San Francisco in Catholic school. So vacation time they have to come home. So I have home there. Then they went back to Japan. Then I stay here and study myself. And then we get married.
(But when you first came alone, with what intention did you come? To live in America or to study?)
No, no. Only for visit few months or something like that. Then my nephew and niece, she got graduate and they went back to father in Japan. And so decide I'm not going to go back to Japan. So I decide to study here and go back to India and Bombay and do my business.
(You had relatives in Japan?)
Yes. My cousin was there.
(What were they doing?)
They have own business there - was export and import. And then the army also gets apartment from us. So we were staying there that way.
(Then how long did you do your beauty course?)
Beauty course - I got eight months. Only four months left when I supposed to be graduate. Before that I got marry and I take ....
(After that ... then you didn't practice.)
No. I want practice but my husband got sick right away so I have to take care of him. And he doesn't like (me) to work, you know. So he said, "You don't have to work any how so you don't have to get finished your education."
(Then you helped your husband in the farm work or ...?)
Yes, yes. Little bit - not very much. Very little. I help him only picking time.
(Then how did you used to spend your days when your husband was working on the farm?)
Well, I got lots ... my friends and neighbors and we get good company always. And I was enjoying. But nothing ... he doesn't like me to work any where. So I didn't work at all.
(Did you go to the gurudwara and do ...?)
Yes, I do. Yes. I like religion. I went so many times but not now much because I cannot drive. And my husband cannot walk much so we don't go much. Unless we have to - something, wedding ....
(You still have relatives in Bombay?)
Yes. In Bombay and in the Gandhidham - my brother and sister they are living in Gandhidham ... that Bombay, from south side, something like that. Ahmedabad, you know Ahmedabad?
Yeah, in Gujarat. So my parents were living there those days but now my parents gone. Now only my brother and sister - two are living there. And then the two brother and one sister they are living in - near San Francisco - in Union City.
(What do they do?)
They work in the company - this boat company and one my brother is engineer in San Francisco.
(And in Bombay?)
Bombay, my nephew and niece. And my nephew came now in America to the Missouri. He's doctor there. Niece got marry and one nephew's still there in Bombay.
That's the way our life is. (Laughs) I was telling her story. I was telling her that I don't hate relation to any religion, anything, you know. But these people nowadays are, you know, changing. But we are not. I like religion but now I don't go much in the gurudwara. Only that purpose they are fighting, you know.
(There are two gurudwaras here, aren't there?)
Yes, there are two gurudwaras.
(You go to the one near Chanchal Rai's?)
Yeah, near the Bogue Road. Yeah. That's the nearest to us. Other one is little far.
(Which one is bigger?)
Oh, I think that first one is bigger. That's very big. Did you see? One is in the Bogue Road - that's very near. He gave you the address for Chanchal?
(We went and saw him. We drank mild and orange juice with him.)
It's all right. Doesn't matter these things. Here it doesn't matter. In India it's different. They don't just even offer you anything. But here everybody offer you.
(This Balwant Singh Sidhu, he lives how far from here?)
I think two/three miles.
Mr. Ohri: no, no. Two/three is Yuba City from here. He lives other side.
Yeah, he lives ....
(Was there a possibility that you may have been married to a Sikh or something like that?)
No, no, no. Good thing that I didn't. I like this religion but I don't like these Sikh people - crazy people. I don't like Sikhs. They don't know what religion is. They don't understand. They are sending the money to India and giving to poor people and you kill so and so , you kill so and so , you kill so and so .... That's all they are doing. Only money. They don't hear in our conscience what we are doing - so many people killing.
(Do you drive yourself?)
No, I don't that's because of my eyesight no good.
One language, you know, Madrasi language. I think maybe he talk Madrasi language but he born there so he know English and he is doctor. He works first here in Yuba County. He was working here. So then finally my brother-in-law got sick. He went in that county and then I find out the doctor. That's a Madrasi doctor and he liked us very much and he was coming to our house. And I was ... chicken, you know, curry, rice, chicken and he loved those things - Indian food. So now he left. He went to Walkerville - from here about, I think, forty miles, from Yuba City to there Walkerville. Now he's working there, Kaiser.
Gurudwara so many only for the fighting. Nothing else. Each one, some go to this gurudwara, some cannot go to this gurudwara, some cannot go to that gurudwara, some sant cannot go from this gurudwara to other gurudwara. That way they are making more, more gurudwara. Fighting. they say we are going to keep the chair because old people cannot sit. So they want have other gurudwara. So they make other gurudwara. Then they take out he chairs for only a few days. Then they take out the gurudwara again.
Now my husband is, you know, 84. He became that day before yesterday. Now he won't drive much.
(How old are you now?)
I'm 70 - I became in 17th April. Old lady now.
(What did you do for your husband's birthday?)
Oh, we went on the Restaurant Loin(sic) Just we do that, you know. And later his nephew kids they said "Happy Birthday Grandpa! Happy Birthday!" That's all. The little girl born on same day. His nephew, you know, got one little girl. The same day she was born. I say same day his birthday same day the girl is born she's going to be lucky I think. My husband is very lucky.
(Lots of Sikhs here?)
Lots of Sikhs are here. Everywhere - own houses, own farms. They brought family to family, family to family, you know - one family brought a brother, sister and then the wife brought the brother and sister and goes on and on. There might be 5,000, might be more.
(This is mainly in the younger Sikhs no? This ....)
Yeah, younger Sikhs wants to work for the old no more. They all come young, want get a visa. That's all. When they get visa then that's all, they are free. They can go wherever they like. They just come for first to get the visa.
Other man there, I don't know how come. This doctor ... he has . they have never stopped him. They cannot force him I think.
(Why is that?)
Maybe he don't want because he's doctor. He gets lots of American patients and maybe he want to .... One boy he got - policeman and one other boy, he's working in the farm.
Mary - Mexican lady. That was ... same ... share together - Chanchal Singh and Lal Singh Rai. They were both ... they're only village people.
(You used to know Mary?)
Yes. I did and she lives on Franklin Road.
(Mary is how old now?)
She might be .... She have only one boy, one girl. Husband died fourteen years ago. He was nice, such a nice .... Chanchal and they both look like real brother because they were the same village and they were Rais. They were best friends and did business together.
(Your husband never had any partner?)
He did. He did have partner with some other guy - first year. Then which year they bought this, same year they got good crop, you know. They bought in 50,000 and crop was 95. First year. Then they told that guy, he was working here, you allowed to go. Then my husband say then you keep it or either I keep it because you are not working here any how. So if I am just working, you are working outside so what's the use? Either you take for the farm or either I take care for the farm. So he said O.K. you gave me share. So my husband give him half and then he keep farm. He was good worker - my husband was very good worker. But after that I told him, "We have no children, what for you are dying? Knee problem and getting old. Why?" I never did work on the farm - only the picking time I help him little bit but I never go in the farm. I told him before marriage because I know farmer get from woman lots of work. I said, "I'm not for the farm lady." I told him, "I cannot help you because I don't know farm work and I don't like to go in the farm." You know, when you cannot go, you never been, it's hard for you to go to farm work. So I said, "I'm not fit for farm work." He said, "Ladies don't work there."
Old days we were living in the old house - our house, you know, opposite was one big house? In our house opposite? Big house? There we were living.
(Who lives there now?)
Now the, which guy he bought it, Mr. Brady. Those people bought it, you know, he gave on the rent. He have one house ... so he gave on the rent.
(The big house is on rent?)
(Also the trailer?)
Trailer is ours. But that house belongs to him. It goes with the farm - all the equipment and all this houses go to the farm. Only the ... we build the new house so we keep the make up(?). That's all we have: fruit - all kind and vegetables. That's all we need. We don't need any big ....
(How far are the canneries here?)
Canneries - some are about two miles, some is one mile, some goes to the Valley or some other part to can there. But before they have in Yuba City also can but now they stop it. So we can go to make the can there - take our own fruit, sugar and fix there. But now they quit. Was on the Live Oak but they quit.
All photographs by Pablo Bartholomew.
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