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Sat Sri Akal:

So, tired of being the only Sikh in the area? Feel like moving to Punjab, but can't adjust to Indian life anymore? Well, this future development shows some intriguing possibilities... grin.gif :e: :nihungsmile:

(Source: http://www.sikhnet.com/Sikhnet/news.nsf/Si...33;OpenDocument )


New tract: Sikh and Ye Shall Find

By ROBERT PRICE, Californian staff columnist

e-mail: rprice@bakersfield.com

Talk about a bargain. Buy a doughnut, get spiritual enlightenment at no extra charge.

Well, technically, you're just supposed to get a free cup of coffee, but for some customers, caffeine alone doesn't cut it anymore.

The sign board out in front of People's Market, a modest little convenience store on the rural southeastern edge of Bakersfield, only mentions the coffee.

For the full story, you'll have to pull aside the proprietor, Nazar Singh Kooner, who also runs an adjacent pizza parlor on Weedpatch Highway just south of Highway 58.

The Sikh

businessman can tell you about population trends, too -- specifically as they relate to Sikhs in Kern County.

Kooner, with his white turban, flowing white linen banaand full, white, curly beard, looks undeniably like a spiritual adviser, though he would no doubt reject that label.

The word "developer" is a more apt description, though Kooner might like that even less.

But, fact is, Kooner is -- or plans to soon be -- in the home-building business.

Keenly aware that like-minded people find comfort in mutual proximity, Kooner, who is 52, is getting set to build a cluster of 60 single-family houses on 20 acres behind his businesses, near the Sikh temple he built in 1991.

"We (practicing Sikhs) don't eat meat, we don't drink, we don't smoke," said Kooner, who moved to the United States from India's Punjab province 24years ago. "A lot of people will like that."

Kooner emphasizes that anybody with the interest and the means can buy a house in the still-unnamed development, and he points out that one non-Sikh has already made inquiries.

So he was a tad offended when, at last week's county Planning Commission hearing, someone referred to the project as an "enclave."

(The commission unanimously OK'd a zone change for the land, from mobile-home park to single-family housing. The project must next go before the Board of Supervisors Jan. 25.)

"If we say, 'Only you (Sikhs) can come to live here,' Americans will feel mad," said Kooner, who is developing the land along with his brother, Major Kooner. "We don't want that."

Just the same, Kooner expects that the 2,000 square-foot homes, on half-acre lots, will be attractive to members of Bakersfield's community of Indian Sikhs.

And it is a substantial community.

Kern County, by Kooner's estimate, has 17,000 to 20,000 Sikhs, including about 12,000 in the Bakersfield area.

And many Sikh-owned businesses are already concentrated in the

area around Guru Ram Das Court, where Kooner plans to build his not-an-enclave.

Most of those businesses cater to the long-haul truckers who might be inclined to take a break from the road just east of the spot where state Highways 58 and 99 intersect.

Within a single square-mile area, Sikhs own a 24-hour truck stop, three truck washes, a truck repair shop and two motels, in addition to Kooner's People's Market and People's Pizza.

The new housing development, still a good six months from ground-breaking, will only bring more Sikhs to this corner of Weedpatch Highway.

And if people really stop to think about it, Kooner said, they'll realize that's a good thing.

Sikhs, he said, are humble, peaceful, law-abiding people who place a high value on family stability.

"We have too much 'ex' in this country," Kooner said. "Ex-wives, ex-children. I have had people ask me, 'How do you (Sikhs) do it?' They want to learn, and we can show."

He said the community on Guru Ram Das Court -- the street is named for the fourth of the 10 Indian gurus who helped develop the Sikh religion over a period of about 260 years -- will not impose covenants, conditions or restrictions on home buyers.

There will be no need, according to Kooner.

"No rules, because the people will respect each other," he said.

"There will be social pressure to do things the right way. People will say, 'What will people think if we do this wrong?'

"That's the way they live in India. Little villages, 100 or 200 homes. They solve their own problems; they help each other."

And if they can't, they can always seek out some guidance from leaders of Bakersfield's Sikh community. Kooner may even choose to waive the doughnut requirement.

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