Scripture, Service, and Being Sikh in West Sacramento

The soaring white domes of the Sikh Temple of Sacramento, or “Gurdwara Sahib”, are a familiar sight to many West Sacramento residents. But for West Sacramento resident Parveen Kaur Tumber, the temple evokes family memories that extend back to the early days of the local Sikh community.
Thirty-four years ago, her grandfather, Vichitra Singh Sandhu, was one of the founding members of the temple. In June of 1983, this group of Sikh men purchased the land on Evergreen Avenue where the temple now sits. The temple became a meeting place for Sikhs to socialize, enjoy community meals, and venerate the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhism.
The first ever copy of this scripture to be used at the West Sac temple was procured by another member of Parveen’s family: her father, Avtar Singh Dosanjh. In 1976, Dosanjh traveled back to India to purchase a copy of the holy book, which is always treated with great respect and carried on the head. The first leg of his journey home began with a flight from India to London, during which he held the 1430-page book on his head the entire time. In London, a fellow Sikh traveler approached him to suggest that he say a prayer and rest the book on his lap for the remainder of the journey. He heeded her advice, and was relieved to finally rest his fatigued arms.
That copy of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib was venerated at the West Sac temple for many years before being passed on to another temple. Today, Parveen still attends the Gurdwara regularly, now with her own spouse and children. “I love the sense of community and comfort. And now my kids love going there too.”
Having lived in the Bay area for a time, Parveen moved back to West Sacramento five years ago. Her experience as a member of the Sikh community here has been primarily positive. “In West Sac, there is a lot of awareness of who we are as Sikhs. We are very engaged in the community.”
“Seva”, or selfless service, is a key principle of the Sikh faith. The Gurdwara Sahib attracted media attention earlier this year when it opened its doors to hundreds of evacuees from the Oroville dam flooding. Parveen points out the temple’s community meals as another form of “seva”. They regularly feed the homeless as well as members of the congregation. “Nobody is turned away.”
Community service plays a key role in Parveen’s life too. Since moving back to West Sacramento, she has earned a name for herself by serving on the City’s Planning Commission from 2014-2016. Currently, she serves as an Assembly-level Delegate for the Democratic Party. (Her wedding at the Gurdwara Sahib was also featured on an episode of the PBS Show Viewfinder called “Sikhs in America”, which won an Emmy in 2008 for Best Historic/Cultural Program.)
Parveen says that being Sikh comes with challenges too, including prejudice and even violence. She attributes some of this aggression to “post-9/11 bigotry” by those who use that tragedy as an excuse to target minority groups. Although Sikhism is a separate religion from Islam and Hinduism, many Sikhs feel that targeting any faith is wrong.
This issue of discrimination motivated Parveen to apply to law school in 2004. Today, her practice focuses on employment law, including cases of discrimination against South Asian and Middle Eastern communities. “We’re all brothers and sisters in this, and we’re all from a peaceful background.”
With a passion for fairness and equality that align strongly with Sikh core values, Parveen feels gratitude for all those who came before her and paved the way for her current vocation. “People like [my father and grandfather] did the work… so the foundation is there for the advocacy work I do now. Everything I do is in the shade of the trees they planted decades ago.”

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