Gurmit Kaur Takhar

Gurmit Kaur Takhar (July 14,1932 – September 24, 2019) was among the first generation of Punjabi women to settle in the Yuba City area after World War II.   She was born in the village of Bundala in the Jalandhar district of Punjab to Gurbax Singh and Beant Kaur Basi. Gurmit completed a third grade education at a local government school.  Despite her inability to further her education as it was customary not to educate rural girls in Punjab at the time, her love for learning was evident. She pursued the opportunity to learn basic English reading skills from a neighbor’s young son.  In 1947, she married Karnail Singh Takhar. Gurmit continued to carry out the duties of a Punjabi daughter-in-law in her husband’s home until she and her daughter migrated to the United States on December 20, 1959. Gurmit and her husband, Karnail, had three additional children: Kalbir, Parminder, and Kamaljit, and became members of the small close knit Punjabi community during the 1960s and 1970s.

Gurmit Kaur Takhar, Punjab, India, 1954.

Gurmit Kaur overcame adversity in her life in a state of chardi kala, a Punjabi concept for remaining in a mental state of optimism.  Having never stepped outside her home in India without being accompanied by others, she boarded a Pan American flight with her young daughter to the United States to join her husband who had emigrated earlier.  Advised by her Punjabi friend to fit into American society, she wore Western clothes when venturing out in public. She developed a taste for and learned how to cook ‘American’ dishes such as hamburgers, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy. At the same time, she worked hard at teaching her children the Punjabi language and maintaining their cultural heritage.

Over the years, Gurmit continued her pursuit of learning to read and write in English.  She obtained her driver’s license and met the English reading, writing and speaking requirements to become a Naturalized American citizen in 1965. With the Family Reunification Act of 1965, she and her husband sponsored their siblings and their families. She was an active participant in helping them settle in Yuba City. Gurmit, along with the other Punjabi women, developed a sisterhood. Together they demonstrated the Punjabi Sikh value of community service (seva) and enjoyed working together at large community events. Gurmit was known for her quiet, humble and giving nature. Growing up in a small village and living a very sheltered life in India, Gurmit Kaur Takhar overcame adversity in ‘chardi kala’ and was able to thrive as a contributing member of American society.  She is survived by her four children and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Photos courtesy of the Takhar Family.

Source: Interview with Gurmit Kaur Takhar by Nicole Ranganath and Davinder Deol, Yuba City, December 17, 2017.