My name is Alka Kothari.

"It is so much fun, being in this country, because there were many more celebrations."

Gujarat, India

Queens, New York



Blauvelt, New York

I was 23 years old. My husband Bharat came to the US from Gujarat, India in 1985 on a student visa to study for a masters in engineering. After one year at his new job he returned to India for marriage. Our marriage was a completely arranged marriage. I had never seen him before, I had never talked to him before, we were set up by our families. I was chosen because they (the families) thought my background in pharmacy was more helpful when you come here (to the US) so you don’t struggle as much. Bharat and I met on April 13, 1987, we were married on April 26, Bharat came back on May 17th to do paperwork for me as a spouse and I came here on July 1st.

I felt like I was hallucinating or like I was not myself. I felt like someone had been picked up from one place and dropped in a completely new place where I did not know people, I did not know the culture, and I did not even know the language. I felt like I was dreaming. I knew no one, I did not know the culture or language. I barely knew my husband. I did not know where I was. How I did that (immigrate), I still cannot say. I studied English grammar, I knew it very well, except for the accents because I did not speak it routinely and I could not understand it that well. When I turned on the tv (in the US) I could not understand what was happening because I could not understand the accents. I still, after 30 years, have a hard time. Even today, sometimes at work my friends talk and laugh and I have to go back and ask them to help me understand why it was funny because I did not get it.

Friends were my biggest support because we did not have any family members here, not on my side, not on Bharat’s. I felt out of my comfort zone in the culture, but Bharat had friends who were also from India. They came under the same circumstances and they got married. Their wives came here same as me, more or less. I made friends getting my masters at pharmacy school. It is so much fun, being in this country, because there were many more celebrations. You go with the flow. Every culture has its own values and I am very flexible. I would change myself right away but make sure that I stick to my values. For example, I am vegetarian but if I am offered food with meat, I will just take the meat out of it, but I would not refuse it because I do not want to offend anyone. We are all people, just different cultures.