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Bombshell Bandit, the Woman Who Inspired Kangana Ranaut’s ‘Simran’

Sandeep Kaur’s is indeed a dramatic journey from being an educated nurse to a bank robber.

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World
3 min read
Bombshell Bandit, the Woman Who Inspired Kangana Ranaut’s ‘Simran’
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Kangana Ranaut’s Simran is releasing on 15 September. The Hansal Mehta film revolves around Praful Patel, a Gujarati divorcee, who, among other things, has a thing for theft and gambling. The Simran trailer shows Kangana pursuing men, fighting parental pressures, stealing hearts and cash in wigs of various shades, and fleeing the police.

Simran is in fact, based on the real life story of US-based Sandeep Kaur, a 24-year-old Sikh nurse better known as the ‘Bombshell Bandit’. In 2014, she made it to the headlines after successfully conducting a one-woman, five-week crime spree, robbing banks in Arizona, California, and Utah.

In an interview with BBC News Magazine, Sandeep shared her dramatic journey from an educated nurse to a bank robber. Here’s a peek into the life of the woman who has inspired Kangana Ranaut’s Simran.

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Sandeep Kaur’s childhood - she moved to the US from Punjab with her parents when she was seven - is sadly rather stereotypical of the West’s view of Indian families. A strict and broken household with her parents privately divorced (they pretended all was well in public functions), Sandeep and her siblings were brought up on severe physical punishments and a ban on mobile phones, televisions and friends. And after 9/11, Sandeep’s feeling of alienation grew with racial tension escalating in school.

I was called a terrorist in school. They were like, ‘Did your Dad do this?’
Sandeep Kaur aka Bombshell Bandit

Sandeep however, overcame it all to start college at 15. By 19, she was a licensed vocational nurse in San Francisco, earning up to $6,000 a month and working back-to-back shifts at various Bay area hospitals. When in 2008, the American economy crashed, a string of clever investments made Sandeep’s bank balance clock in a cool $200,000.

Money brought freedom and she started enjoying parties, boys and all things forbidden, just like her peers. Her 21st birthday came as a turning point. She headed with her friends to Sin City, tried her hand at blackjack in casinos there and unbelievably, won $4,000.

Like many others before her, Sandeep Kaur was hooked. She took to visiting Las Vegas very regularly, and soon discovered the dizzying attraction of blackjack.

I can walk past roulette. But if I even see baccarat, my heart leaps.

Sandeep became a regular, splurging on designer goods, fancy hotel suites, and treated as royalty at the casino she visited. She had a reputation of a “fearless but fortunate gambler”. What she won was all spent on luxury brands.

But as always, the wheel of fortune turned. Sandeep started losing enormous amounts of money at play and transferred all her investment moolah to pay for her addiction. But like all gamblers, she believed her luck would just turn at the next hand.

Completely broke, she even accepted $20,000 from a complete stranger at an exorbitant interest rate. After 16 hours at play, she was broke to the last penny.

I’m sitting there… hoping it’ll all change. At one point I had $38,000. Then it all just went down the drain. I can’t believe that I’ve done this.  

In May 2012, Sandeep moved with her mother to Union City, California, looking for a new start. She maxed out her on credit cards to pay the deposit for a family home and cover for her losses. She worked 96-hour weeks as a nurse to pay her secret mortgage. But anyway, there was a warrant for her arrest by 11 December 2012. Soon, her mother discovered the truth, which predictably led to a long chain of emotional ballistics.

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Though Sandeep says she stayed away from Vegas that year, her cousin Amundeep said in interviews that she visited the gambling holes regularly. In the meantime, Sandeep’s mother started looking for potential husbands for her.

Sandeep however eloped in September 2013. According to Amundeep, her husband gave Sandeep $1,000-a-week allowance. In January 2014, her car was impounded for unpaid bills. By April 2014, the marriage was over with her allowance stopped May onwards.

Soon her stranger friends were back in her life, asking her to pay the money - loads and loads of it - back or face the consequences. The idea of a bank robbery struck then and Sandeep conducted the first one at the Bank of the West in Valencia, California. All she did was hand over a note to a bank employee saying she had a bomb. That was enough for the bank to hand over the cash to her. It earned her the moniker “bombshell bandit” and she got away with four such heists.

But her friends were not so easily satisfied. She was finally arrested after a long chase after her fifth robbery. The court sentenced her to 66 months in jail with orders to pay back every dollar she stole.

(Source: BBC News Magazine)

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