This is the story of my first day.*
INTERVIEWED BY Kamala Gururaja x 7


DEPARTED FROM
Visakhapatnam, India

ARRIVED IN
New York City, New York

YEAR
1976

AGE
33

NOW LIVES IN
Houston, Texas

FIRST DAY

TRANSCRIPT

What year did you arrive in the United States?
1976.

How old were you then?
33.

Which city and country were you living in before you came to the United States?
Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, South India.

Which city and state did you spend your first day in the United States in?
New York City, New York.

Which city and state do you live in now?
Houston, Texas.

What brought you to the United States?
There are two reasons; one is intellectual curiosity, to learn new cultures and learn new technology and also the United States was spending a great deal of money on research and development, they were coming up with new instruments, new equipment, new technology, so I wanted to experience that new technology. Second, both my mentors in pediatric surgery, in which I specialized in the surgical field, recommended me to go abroad because both of them were trained in England and spent a great deal of time abroad. From their experiences they recommended me to go abroad and learn some new things.

What mode of transportation did you take and how was your trip?
As usual, a combination of train and air. I came through Chennai and in Bombay (now it is called Mumbai) and London and New York City; landed in New York City, where I had my first job, too.

Who, if anyone, met you when you arrived in New York?
Yes, my wife's sister's husband.

What were your first impressions of the country?
It was different; culturally it was entirely different. There was a cultural shock, as a matter of fact, in spite of the fact that I studied many novels written by US authors, but experiencing it and reading and learning about it are two different things.

What did you do on your first day?
Not very much, I tried to catch up with my relatives and call back to India to inform them that I had reached this nation safely.

What were some learning experiences you had when you came to the United States?
A lot of things. Culturally it is quite different from what I had experienced back in India and particularly the ‘70s were a transition period from the “hippie” age, if you're familiar with that word, there were instances that reminded me about the hippie nature and the hippie culture and there was still that transition going on. Second thing was, I was not used to civilians exposed to firearms and I had many patients I saw come with the history that they were shot and they had their wounds, healed wounds and fresh wounds, and it was an experience to witness that firsthand. Looking into the causation of those incidences was related to drugs, alcohol, and prostitution, so those were the main three components creating these civil injuries that were the result of the use of firearms and other deadly instruments.

What was the biggest difference between America and your home and the greatest similarity?
Here, those who are ambitious have the opportunities that they can fulfill, and there are various means and modes to accomplish things that they desire to accomplish, provided they work hard, provided they're focused on what they want to accomplish, provided they set their goals and work hard to reach their goals. That is feasible, very much feasible here.

What do you think was the most difficult aspect of being an immigrant to America in your time?
Then, as well as now, because of the cultural differences and people's expectations, perceptions, and perspectives are different between the two nations, it is a little more difficult to integrate into the local community, in spite of the fact that we work hard to integrate with the local community.

What do you think is your favorite part about being in America?
I think as human beings we make our own lives; we are responsible, accountable for our own lives, first and foremost. There are opportunities to progress continuously, and I'm of the opinion that I'm a student throughout my life, so I keep learning and accomplishing to the extent that I can within my power.

How do you think the culture socially and the people in America were different than what you were used to in India?
People here, at least their perspective is, they are more liberated, so they want to exhibit that liberation. It was different back home, they were more modest, their value system was different, their focus was different. Cultural differences are there but that does not prevent anyone [from accomplishing] their goals, provided they work hard towards those goals.

If you could give advice to an Indian immigrant coming to the US today, what do you think you would tell them?
Definitely, we as immigrants have to learn the local culture, put in our effort to integrate and not find faults with others for our own difficulties. Try to identify the problems and find the most equitable solution and practice those solutions, or put into effect those solutions.

Overall, are you happy that you came to the United States?
Without doubt, I have accomplished more than what I [previously] felt that I could accomplish in my lifetime and it has been a journey, a long journey, it’s a learning journey, but I think that I bear the fruits of my hard work and the long journey.

If you could do anything differently, what do you think you would do, if anything?
I think, when people migrate to a different country at a younger age, at a younger, tender age, they are more amenable to learn the local cultures faster. Spending time in educational institutions along with the other students, for example, they learn from the other students the local culture and the different aspects of their social mounts. They can integrate those into their life and be part of the local community much more easily than someone who came at my age to this country. But still, it is feasible for anyone to accomplish.



* The contributor of this story has asked that their name be withheld.

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