By Kassidy Hall | Echo
Eight years ago, Baljinder Singh moved from the country of India to the state of Indiana.
Singh, known as Balli to most, now owns and manages the Marathon gas station in Upland. He works seven days a week, for several hours a day.
"I came to America for better opportunities," Singh said. "I came to Indiana in 2010. Before coming to Upland, I worked in Indianapolis. In 2012, I was looking at businesses and someone said, 'We have one location in a small town, close to a university,' so I said, 'Okay, I can do that.'"
To keep in touch with his religious traditions, Singh occasionally attends Sikh services at a temple in Fishers, Indiana. Though the temple is located about an hour away via car, it is one way to stay connected to his international roots.
Sikhism is a religion that finds its origins in northern India. The holy book, written by Sikh Gurus, is the Guru Granth Sahib. The Sikhs believe in God, who they call 'Waheguru,' meaning God is great. Sikh teachings are based on principles of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of humankind, to live in family environments and serve the community as one way of following God.
Another way Singh carries on his Indian culture is by serving curry to his customers every Wednesday.
"A lot of Taylor students go to India and Nepal for studies and for missions work, and that's why they like the curry," Singh said. "They started asking, so I started making it last year in March. I'm not promoting it too much because I'm cooking it myself and I don't need a quantity of customers, just quality of customers."
Singh is hopeful for long-term changes and updates regarding his business, including a possible extension of the building with more gas pumps.
The majority of Singh's customers are regulars; many of them he knows by name. Additionally, a large number of Singh's regular customers are Taylor students and faculty members.
"A big number of customers are from Taylor," Singh said. "It's good, but decreasing now, (because on) the campus, (there are) a lot of new options, like Chick-fil-A. Also, with the extended hours, (the LaRita Boren Campus Center) is open until midnight. Also, now Greek's is up."
Singh recalled always having a good relationship with the Taylor football team. Junior James Ragan, a running back on Taylor's football team, lives in Upland and worked for Singh at the gas station.
Ragan moved to Upland during high school. Within a couple of days of moving into town, Ragan met Singh and was offered a job. Ragan worked at the gas station for four years before he stopped due to the demands of being a college student and athlete.
"All the coaches and players at Taylor know and love Balli," Ragan said. "After a lot of our home games, he caters pizza, or chicken and breadsticks for us. He is a really hard worker and is always ethical in the way that he conducts his business. Also, he has been very generous helping out people trying to raise money in the community. He supported me for a missions trip, and he supported the local Youth for Christ ministry that my mom heads up at Eastbrook Junior High."
Perhaps more so than for simply running a business, Singh is overall known for being relational and kind. According to Ragan and others, Singh not only knows many of his customers on a first-name basis, but has additionally memorized many of their regular orders. So whether someone needs gas, a bowl of curry or a friendly conversation, Singh offers it all.