Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Passports and Peach Trees (part one)

email from G.S. Gill to his eldest granddaughter on 11/23/05:

"I left India in June 1954 at age 19 with the intention of getting an education in U.S.A. My parents bought me a ticket to San Francisco with about five dollars left in my pocket. I took a bus to Stockton and was met by an elderly blind gentleman with an escort who brought me to Selma California to Labh Singh Gill's home. Labh Singh was in his sixties and had come to USA a long time before. He was from my home village. He helped me find farm work in the grape vineyards with local farmers and get admitted to Fresno State College. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I attended college and worked on the farms the rest of the time. It was difficult to pick peaches with a turban because it was getting caught in the branches all the time. So, I got a haircut and took the turban off. This was the first loss of a tradition from my culture. On the whole I stayed within the Indian community both inside and outside the college."

Gurcharan Singh Gill's passport, age 19

email from G.S. Gill to his extended family on 9/8/09:

"These bewildered pictures shows how nervous I was after spending two years of crop money to come to USA and blow it all up on the PAN AM Airline ticket of US 350 dollars. It included two years of my helping Dad on the farm full time. At the San Francisco Airport I had $5 left. The consolation was that money grew on trees in USA and I could pick it off the trees during the Summer if I flew instead of taking the boat. Well, the money on trees was picking peaches on a Peach Farm in Yuba City California. I was not told about the heat, sweat, Peach Fuzz, and nightly leg cramps etc. But I made enough money to make up for the splurging on the Airline Ticket and paid for my tuition at Fresno State College which is now University of California at Fresno. I also knew that Dad had no money to send me for college. So, I had to swim or sink. I chose to swim. It reminded me of learning to swim, when my buffalo grazing buddies picked me up when I was sleeping under a shady tree at noon and threw me in the water canal because I was not swimming with them! If you feel like complaining because college is hard etc; just remember that I made a choice of education over farming and have not regretted it. However, it took me over forty years to get the farming out of my head. Enjoy your college days while you can because they end all too quickly!"

Gurcharan Singh Gill with his brother Bachittar Singh Gill on
their share of the family farm in Dhudike, March 2005.


  1. will part two be coming anytime soon?

  2. I'm working on it...there are a number of directions I want to go, I'm trying to decide where to go next. Who knows how many parts there will end up being!


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