Hanging With The Sikh Motorcycle Club Of America

Apr 10, 2022 1.3M Views 4.4K Comments

In all of my travels, one of the coolest cultures I’ve met are the Sikhs from Northern India. So when I heard there was a huge Sikh population in Northern California I knew I had to meet them. Join me as we learn about this light-hearted group of guys who find escape through motorcycles and love to joke around while dropping Sikh wisdom and a unique perspective on living in America.

Sikh Motorcycle Club USA:

► Video edited by: Natalia Santenello

[motorcycles revving]
♪ rock ♪
[music fades]
Good morning, guys.
Of all of my travels around the world
one of the coolest cultures
I’ve come into contact with
are the Sikhs of Northern India.
So today, we have the great privilege
to ride along
with a Sikh motorcycle club.
We’re gonna get into the bigger questions
of what they feel about living in America.
America today.
Arranged marriages
and why they’re always
getting misrepresented
as being somebody else.
Should be an interesting journey.
Let’s do this.
♪ rock ♪
Here we are.
Stockton, California.
Deep in the Central Valley.
For me, definitely an unassuming place
for a large population of Sikhs to be.
But I guess this is one of the
biggest populations in the country.
[Harleys idling]
[engines revving]
[engines cut off]
-How you guys doing?
-Hi sir, very good morning. How are you?
Good morning.
-Inder, nice to meet you.
What is this little device?
You can keep your hairs like…
The hairs are outside.
-Okay, gotcha.
-You can adjust it like this.
Are you the legendary Dale?
Not legendary.
So you know a little bit
about Sikh temples.
There’s always
a community kitchen in there.
-Anybody can go in and eat.
-Anybody, non-Sikhs can go in?
That’s what I was saying
to my gardener yesterday.
Any temple, if you’re hungry
or anything, you know?
You find a temple close by,
walk in, “Hey, need food, man.”
-Just be respectful?
Take your shoes off, right?
You don’t smoke inside
and stuff like that.
This is the shoe zone.
Pretty much.
Thank you.
My community, basically,
everything starts with a prayer.
Your life starts with a prayer,
it ends with a prayer.
[people chattering]
Punjab food, the Punjab region of India
has some of the best food in my opinion.
It’s mostly vegetarian but a lot of spice.
It’s all vegetarian?
It’s only a 500 year old religion
but there’s been a few genocides.
We’ve been constantly under attack
but we persisted.
We’re a warrior class.
Why no turbans here?
So when a lot of them
started coming over
and there was a a lot of legislation
that didn’t allow families to come over
and there was only single men
would come over.
A lot of them started just becoming
more Americanized
and started removing their turbans
but you’ve brought the turbans back
but you’ve put the American flags
on your jackets.
Because it’s a dual sense of home.
-I was born here.
So this is the only home I know.
We see in the news,
there’s been hate crimes, right?
After 9/11, the first hate crime
that happened
was against a member
of the Sikh community.
So America has its instances,
it has its moments
but for (the) overwhelming community…
Majority of us
America has been great to us…
So after 9/11…
Well, you were super-young then.
But after 9/11, people were
confusing Sikhs for Muslims, right?
-They still do.
-They still do, okay.
Because of the turban, right?
The turban, the beard
being brown, being foreigners…
We’re not sure what, but…
That has to be very frustrating,
being labeled something that you’re not.
I look like a cop, some people
think I’m a cop all the time.
I’m like, “All right.”
I laugh at it.
[all laughing]
But the labels get annoying.
How do you deal with it?
Constantly getting labeled?
If we look at Sikh American history
It’s something that’s
always been there, right?
Since we first migrated,
we’re actually labeled as Hindus.
When Saudi Arabia came onto the map,
then we’re Saudi Arabians.
Then when the Iran crisis happened,
then we were Iranians
And now, post 9/11 America,
we’re Muslims.
So it’s this constant shift
and this constant labeling of Sikhs
and that’s why Sikhs are…
It’s a different community
and we’re a
completely independent community
but there’s this constant feeling
of the need to kind of educate
other Americans and other folks
about who the Sikh community is
’cause a lot of folks just don’t know.
You’re the sergeant, what does that mean?
It’s like the border guard of the group.
Like the club.
So anything goes wrong…
So I’m here first.
You know, to protect all my brothers.
-You’re like the bouncer?
-Yeah, yeah.
The club bouncer, so…
You know?
-You got some knife skills just in case?
Secretary, what does that mean?
Secretary of the club?
That is correct, I’m also
the founder of this club
and the Californian chapter.
It means when we go out to eat,
I have to pay for them.
Does everyone pitch in with the club?
They do, we have membership fees,
so everybody does.
How long has that existed
on this planet, this beard?
I never cut it, sir.
-Since you were young?
Oh, wow.
Is it still growing?
I got to, like, that level once.
and then I was like
It feels like a cat’s on my face,
I gotta get rid of this thing.
You’re saying you’re doing the club
to bring awareness about Sikhism.
Do you do motorcycles because it
connects you with other motorcycle riders?
Very true, yes.
Motorcycle community is really
a big American community, you know?
Everybody love to ride.
And you’re protected by
the Second Amendment.
That is correct, I have a CCW.
So I’m carrying one and I’m proud of it.
Our scripture, our holy scriptures
and the constitution, the go hand in hand.
It’s a very good thing that
the Sikh community have also pride
to carry a weapon with them.
You have seen the baptized Sikhs,
they carry a sword with them.
So I’m proud that I’m able
to carry a gun with me.
Oh yeah, so most Sikhs have a sword,
why is that?
They are baptized Sikhs.
That is to protect the under-served,
There are risky environments out here
everywhere, back in the day,
500 years back.
Even today, and that’s why
the American constitution
allow us to carry a weapon.
Same thing, you know?
Our beliefs are to protect one another.
You’re not a Bollywood star?
No, I’m not Bollywood star.
-You are coming with us, right?
-Yeah, we’re going to follow you.
♪ Punjabi music ♪
[bike revving]
♪ hip hop ♪
♪ rock ♪
[rock music fades]
♪ hip hop ♪
So how do you get the turban
under the helmet?
A little bit of modification here.
So you guys will never take off your turban
to put on a helmet?
I never take off my turban.
We are law abiding citizens here, right?
So we need to wear this helmet
and everything.
Wear my turban at home
and I have this ball inside
and this is stretching
and everything, right?
The ball is preventing
my turban [unclear] inside
and this is preventing come outside.
So it stays like this.
And then you go regular style
with the helmet?
That’s right.
What are your professions, mostly?
As far as Sikhs go?
I’m an ink technician in the printing.
I’m working with a trucking company.
So a lot of Sikhs do trucking, fair to say?
Especially the Punjabi community,
they are more in the trucking business.
Trucking business, liquor stores…
-I’m a diesel mechanic.
I own a shop.
The truckers have a good insight
into a culture
’cause they see many different things
and they can compare
’cause they’re always on the road.
What are you seeing in the country?
What are the truckers saying?
He’s driving the truck.
He sees everything.
It’s really getting tough
for truckers out there.
You know, I don’t want to just tell you
all the secrets about that.
You won’t like it.
Now I’m interested.
How we get treated is not the way
we got treated in the 80s and 70s.
Before, people used to
love truckers, you know?
When they’re going to a small town.
They used to pump, everything, you know,
the kids used to do that.
It’s just getting…
It’s declining every day.
You’re saying people don’t
respect the truckers these days?
No, not anymore.
Why do you think?
They think we are in their way to the work.
You know?
They see,
“It’s a truck, he’s gonna slow driver.”
“He’s in our way.” you know?
So they can’t make the connection that
the food they eat
or the mattress they sleep on
comes in by a truck?
-They don’t understand that.
The car they’re driving
came from a truck.
Everything, the socks they’re (wearing)
came from a truck.
In Sikhism, what’s the power dynamic
with women and men?
How does that work out?
-Equal rights, equal everything.
If you can see in the United States
or England, Canada
our girls, especially our womens
doing very well
and especially in the medicine
biggest neurologist and gynecologist
are doing very, very well.
Who controls the home?
When you go home
and the doors are closed from society?
-Your dad connected you with your wife?
It’s like Hindu culture in that sense?
Well no, in Sikh culture,
in our culture too, actually
there is arranged marriage going on
and these days he kinda twist my arm.
He said,
“Go India with me.”
“You have to get married,
the girl I’m gonna choose for you.”
Like he said before, he said,
“Hey, there’s a girl.”
I said, “Oh, she’s beautiful
and I wanna hang out with her.”
They said, “You can’t go out with her.
You can talk to her, that’s all.”
“You can talk in front of us.”
I said,
“No, I can’t talk in front of you guys.”
and they just arranged a table on the side
and then we had
a little dinner together and then
hey, we agreed to each other
and now I’m married to her 19 years.
I’m okay.
What do you guys think
of the arranged marriages?
Because I’ve heard in India
you get married and then you spend
the rest of your life falling in love.
Versus Western style is you fall in love
in the beginning and then…
[all laughing]
Strongly, strongly, I strongly believe
in arranged marriage
just because our parents get together
and there’s a lot of transparency.
They can tell you the financial status.
They can tell you
your status and everything.
When you are in a love marriage,
the young kids
they said, “Hey, you know what?
I have this, I have that.”
but the reality, they have nothing.
So they lie to each other
because they are young (at) that time.
But when our parents, they hook us up
they know the whole village
they know the reputation
they know their financial situation
and everything.
So I think it’s more successful
than the love marriage.
Is that consensus?
Arranged marriages?
Yes, we agree on it.
-In our country it is the…
-Yep, Yep.
Is it fair to say there is
little homelessness in the Sikh community
because the families are so tight
or how does that work?
-There is little homelessness.
-Very little.
Recently actually more than before.
Because last few years, you know?
How in India too
people have gone into drugs and stuff
and that’s what the reason is.
What were you saying when I first
met you in front of the temple today?
You were saying America is
getting too soft or too lenient.
I was saying it’s over-tolerance, you know?
The law is too tolerant
and that’s why just,
kind of, a lot of things are different now
than they were 30 years ago.
It is just everybody is taking…
A lot of people, not everyone.
A lot of people take advantage of the law.
This is my understanding, you know,
single person’s, right?
Seems like the bad guys are
a few steps ahead, you know?
In 1970s, American law was saying
if you have a…
When they find a good student
somewhere in a third world country
or any country
they went over there,
they pick up the guy, they brought him here
and they were the good scientists
we were back there, one of the
fastest growing countries
in 1970s and ’80s.
Right now
law is too soft
everyone is coming and putting
too much burden on this country.
That is a fact.
I know it’a very harsh word
but this is a fact.
We are now realizing it.
We are on the down slope.
America is going down.
Look at the China right now.
Look at the other countries.
People study here,
went back to their country.
They are doing good over there.
Because our law is getting weaker.
So you’re saying
the law is getting weaker meaning…
It’s not about only immigration law.
It’s in every department
Industry, technology
if you go to any university,
you see at Stanford or Harvard
people come here
they take advantage of the system
they went back to their country
but back then it was not the case.
-That’s why we were ahead.
-Too lenient, people take advantage.
And I’m working,
somebody else is not
You know, look at the case
on this pandemic
writing the checks to whatever they call…
You are paying higher taxes
and they’re just sitting at home
and getting money.
Few months ago, hard to find labor
because they were getting checks at home.
That’s right.
Who’s they do you think?
It’s the corruption, man.
The corrupt government
for own benefits, you know?
So coming from another country,
you can see
America in a different way than
most of us Americans that grew up here?
Hop over here, yeah.
One of the things is
the weaker the laws are
the weaker the country gonna get.
It used to be if you go to store
and commit a robbery
if you don’t get any big violence
or you don’t go to jail,
at least you get a ticket
but now if you rob somebody
and it’s less than $900
you just walk away.
Yeah, because we own grocery stores.
-So you’re suffering with this right now?
Like, we had caught people that’s stealing
but we can’t do anything because…
So people, they decide instead
stealing $2,000 or $3,000
they do two $900 theft.
-So they don’t go to jail.
More in California
than other states though for sure.
-California is pretty bad.
-But we love it over here, man.
-We all love it because, you know…
-It’s hard to leave.
It’s like, there’s no place like this still
because you still have the freedom to say
what you’re doing right now.
We can speak freely.
-Oh, you mean you love it, the US?
-The US, yeah.
So US, California, same thing.
I don’t mind other countries are growing,
I don’t mind that.
But I want this country
to lead in everything.
Oh man
this is my nirvana
Get on the bike, you don’t have to
listen to anyone, you’re by yourself.
There’s nothing better than that.
It’s therapy.
[engines revving]
♪ rock ♪
I was just asking Dale if
there’s ever any problems
with the Hell’s Angels or Mongols or…
No, actually we have friends everywhere.
They do really good causes too.
It’s a persona that is attached
with the motorcycles…
Something bad.
Which is entirely not true.
Everybody (has) their own perceptions
about bad and good.
You can’t really say someone
is doing bad
unless you really, really know them.
Other than that,
everybody’s trying to do something good
and we love doing food drives,
charity runs, toy runs on Christmas.
Even if we’re not doing it,
some other organization is doing it.
So we’ll go support them.
This is just a mode of making
a bigger community ’cause everybody…
-The motorcycle is the vehicle to do it?
-It’s like a common point.
If someone comes to me like,
“Hey man, can you please help me?”
“I’m in danger.”
It’s my obligation to help them.
That’s baked into the religion?
That’s baked into the religion.
That’s baked into my history.
That’s baked into, basically my beliefs.
You can walk to a guy
who’s wearing a turban or anything
“Hey, you need something?”
You can walk up to him and like
“Hey man, haven’t eaten anything
in a day, can you help me?”
He’ll more than be obliged to help you out.
That part of the world,
the turban was a sign of royalty.
Not everybody can wear the turban
and you were pretty much persecuted
if you wear the turban.
How did that change?
‘Cause everyone wears it now.
It changed that the tenth prophet,
he said that
“My Sikh shouldn’t be hiding.”
“He should look unique.”
So he gave us the right
to wear the turban
we should look like kings.
This is our crown.
So each of us is a king.
That’s what it is.
We don’t bow down to anyone else
but our group.
That’s it.
-Did he say that perfectly?
-Yes, sir.
He’s the president so, you know about that.
-He’s the president?
-Yeah. [laughs]
You guys hungry?
We ate like an hour and a half ago.
[chairs moving]
It’s a personal decision
with Sikhs in the US
if they can eat meat or vegetable
if you’re baptized….
Then you have to stay vegetarian.
And this applies to the Sikhs
throughout the world
not only just in States.
Oh, okay, I thought
that would be a US thing.
-No, no, it’s just a common…
-All over the world.
So you guys aren’t hard on each other
if one person’s eating meat and one’s not?
-No, no.
Did you guys watch
that commercial that said
“Why divorce is so expensive?”
and the other guy answer, he said
“Because it’s worth it.”
Oh, wow.
Some say,
“It’s cheaper to keep her.” you know?
Depending which direction you’re going.
But you guys, nobody is getting divorced
in the Sikh community?
-No, no.
After tonight if you put out the video
we don’t know.
[all laughing]
Our customer, we call them ma’am, sir.
“Have a nice day.”
“Hi, how are you?”
So Grass Valley, small town California?
Small town California,
it’s a beautiful town.
Beautiful people, right?
When I came to Sacramento
and I said, “Good morning, sir.”
and one guy almost like, [claps]
“You call me sir?
Come outside.”
“I’ll show you sir.”
So you don’t call them sir.
-What’s up dog?
-What’s up dog?
[all giggling]
Like, you just go, “Hey, whaddup?”
It’s totally different so I just
actually walk away from that store.
You know what, I don’t belong here.
It’s like whenever I ask my wife,
“What time is it?”
“Hey, you gonna drink with your friend?”
Said, “No, I’m just asking you,
‘What time is it?’ that’s all.”
[all laughing]
So you were saying in your store
in Grass Valley
not one robbery, not one crime in 18 years?
No crime, no robbery.
-You have three stores, right?
-I do.
You started from nothing?
What we have here…
We have family members or friends.
We help each other.
Some might have family members…
I have, like, so much money, I help them
to go get a store and then…
I mean, no interest.
They pay when they have the money.
So when my turn to get a store,
they help me
and then that’s how it works.
‘Cause I was always wondering how
you’ll go in the middle of Nevada
and there’ll be a gas station
and a Sikh owner
and I’m like,
“How did they figure that out?”
Usually people come into cities
and they stay in the cities
but your people have
figured it out everywhere it seems like.
Grass Valley is like the middle of nowhere.
18 years ago we bought that market
another Sikh person,
while driving through
and he said,
“Oh, Sikh already here too?”
I said, “Yes.”
Around the globe no matter where you go.
Hard working, will help you survive
hard working is not gonna make you rich.
You have to think big.
Then you’ll become big.
Don’t work hard for money,
let money work for you.
That’s what the principle my dad teach me.
So that’s what I was learning
That’s how I just get into the real estate
and all that.
And at the same time,
you gotta have the money
to put the money to work for you.
If you don’t have the money
to put it to work, how can you do that?
Job (has) a cap.
Look, a job can be $50,000 a year
or $200,000 a year, that’s it.
But a business, you can do unlimited.
You can do a little, you can do big.
and another thing
about a business versus job
if you have a job, you go to the job
in order to get paid.
Versus a business, I was in Mexico
and I was making money.
I’m sitting right now
I’m making money
you know, so a business makes you money
with you not being there.
And we are goal oriented.
Everyone back home
had their houses back in India.
So when they come here, they work hard.
Their goal is to build their own house.
So whatever they say,
home-cooked food and everything…
until they build their house.
That’s the goal.
So you guys really embrace
the American dream
of getting your own home?
Do you guys all have your own homes?
Here, plus in India.
-You all have a couple homes?
I just come here (to) US in 2015
and I have already a home.
Just work hard and save?
That’s it.
I was 21 years old
and after three years when I was 24,
I bought my house.
I bought a junker van.
I used to deliver the copy paper,
printer paper and it’s 50 pounds each
and I used to deliver inside the stores.
One here and one here.
You know, my “this thing” (wrists)
would hurt the whole day.
‘Cause I’m picking so much heavy weight.
So I did my struggle.
-And now you’re trucking?
-I’m in trucking, yeah.
-Five days a week to Reno?
I was 21 when I got my first home,
brand new home.
-21, when did you come here?
When I was 18.
Three years later.
Okay guys, it sounds almost
too good to be true
but you had help because of
your community, right?
They gave you loans?
Yeah, technically,
you know, family members.
Why we came here, you know,
we were good in India.
We came here to do something.
You know, make a better life.
But overall, how is it these days?
Are people pretty accepting or…
I heard some stories from my kid
and other people
that they have…
They met some racist people and all that
but personally, me, I went to all over
the United States.
I never had any problem
but I think I just get along with anybody.
Even when we are going on the rides
we are going
with the other communities also.
They appreciate us when we go there.
They see the Sikh Motorcycle Club is here.
-They can appreciate us.
-Oh, yeah.
And that feels good to us also.
Yeah, I could see that.
Because they had known about us,
“Okay, these are the Sikhs.”
So they also appreciate us.
That’s great.
Well guys, I’m gonna wrap this up.
Thank yo so much.
Thank you, we appreciate
you have us, Peter.
No, I appreciate it
and it’s great to see
this beautiful motorcycle club.
I love motorcycles also
and there’s a unity
that comes through them
and also guys,
it’s a great window into a culture
that perhaps you don’t
have an understanding of
or if you do,
maybe you didn’t know it existed here
in Northern California.
Thanks for coming along on that journey.
Thank you, guys.
[all] Thank you, thanks a lot.
Until the next one.
♪ rock ♪

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