Little India: Overseas Indian, NRI, Asian Indian, Indian American

The Real Story of America’s Bombshell Bandit Sandeep Kaur

Kangana Ranaut’s film Simran, based on the real-life story of the Indian-American nurse-turned-robber Sandeep Kaur, is out in theatres on Sept. 15. Kaur, notoriously known in the United States as “Bombshell Bandit” and “Gambling Queen”, is currently serving a 66-month jail sentence in the country for bank robbery.

Kaur’s life is the stuff that films are made of, with shades of emotion, thrill, crime, and punishment, often considered the pre-requisite elements for a commercial movie.

Isolated Childhood

Kaur was born on Nov. 11, 1989 in Chandigarh, and moved to the United States at the age of seven along with her mother and brother to join her father.

She talked about her life in an interview given to the BBC in 2015, and recalled the way in which a simple girl from Punjab turned into one of the most wanted criminals in the United States.

Things took an unexpected turn in her life when she faced severe bullying from native American students following the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I was called a terrorist at school. They were like, ‘Did your Dad do this?’ “, said Kaur, BBC reported. Due to the racial abuse, Kaur and her brother started skipping classes, which later resulted in their suspension from the school. She was then sent to a boarding school in the Eastern Himalayas as punishment by her parents.

Back in the US, she was treated badly by her parents and was disallowed mobile phones, internet access, and friends, which pulled her into a state of isolation.

“We would have to stand there with a chair up in our hands for like an hour until our arms hurt. That was how [we] were raised, we knew not to go tell the school, we were beaten with a stick. This is how parenting is,” she said.

The World of Gambling

After completing her bachelor’s degree in nursing, Kaur started developing an interest in the stock exchange. In 2008, during the American financial recession, she began investing in the stock market, and ended up making a whopping $200,000.

On her 21st birthday, Kaur and with her cousin Amundeep Singh headed for the first time to a Las Vagos casino. She made $4,000 in her first bet. Kaur soon got obsessed with gambling and quit her nursing profession.

“When I gambled it was like an escape from everything. The pressure from my mom to do this and that, she wanted me to buy a house… I would go there for an escape,” she recalled in the interview.

Kaur became an elite gambler at Las Vegas casinos. But then the losing streak started and within a year, she lost over $60,000. Creditors started chasing her to retrieve their money, and as an escape measure, she fled to a new address. To pay off her mortgage, she even worked as a nurse in 96-hour shifts.

She got married in 2013, but within a year, the couple separated due to Kaur’s gambling addiction.

Bank Robbery

Kaur revealed that two unknown men compelled her to commit the first bank robbery of her life in 2014. They asked her to pay $35,000 in two days, or start working for them.

“I didn’t know what working for them meant. I was thinking some drug stuff, I don’t know, prostitution… They said, ‘You can rob a bank. Go rob a house, do this do that, we need the money.’ They tried to give me a gun,” Kaur told the BBC.

She successfully conducted her first bank robbery and looted $21,200 at the Bank of West branch in Valencia, California.  Facing threats from the men, she looted banks again, and at one instance, she threatened to explode a bomb, which fetched her the title “Bombshell Bandit”.

She was finally captured at St George, and sentenced to 66-month imprisonment, with orders to pay back every dollar she stole.

Kaur’s Story Comes Alive in Simran

Kangana Ranaut is now known as a performer who has the mettle to carry a movie on her shoulders alone. With acclaimed performances in movies like Queen, the actress now has a dedicated fan following across the world. Her latest film, which is backed by the fascinating story of Simran Kaur, also opens with high expectations from the audience. For director Hansal Mehta, who last came up with the critically-hailed Manoj Bajpayee-starrer Aligarh, Simran seems to be his safest bet until now.