My name is Amritjit Singh.

"And also Hawaii, culturally and socially, felt so much closer to India so I didn't even notice the difference."

Delhi, India

Honolulu, Hawaii





I came to the U.S. in August, 1968 as a 22 year old young lecturer in English from Delhi. I came on a Fulbright fellowship. I was part of a large group that came from India. There were about 80 of us and we were sent to different places for orientation. Some of us ended up at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. It was a pretty large group. It included Japanese people and also a lot of students from Latin America. So two weeks of orientation and I like to say that if you must have an orientation it should take place in Hawaii. I was delighted because I think of orientations as pretty boring phenomena, but it was good. And also Hawaii, culturally and socially, felt so much closer to India so I didn't even notice the difference. So it was a good way to transition me into New York which came next.

I arrived at JFK and fortunately for me, in contrast to many first arrivals at that time, I had a sister who lived in Long Island. She was an elementary school teacher and her husband was a medical doctor. They came to pick me up. I remember that they brought me to their home. It was a pretty fancy home. She still owns that home... that's almost now... what, forty-five years later... in an exclusive part of Long Island near Glen Cove. It's a little town called Upper Brookville. It's a private village practically, with their own police and they don't even have a post office (laughs) to this day. My brother-in-law was driving and the garage door opened and he says to me: "We just told Ramon to open the door, he saw us coming." Of course, I knew he had an automatic garage opener, but it was a nice little joke to play on someone just off the boat.

My classes were to start right after Labor Day, so I stayed with my sister and then started looking for an apartment in New York City. That was quite an adventure, but finally I found something in Brooklyn where the landlord was a German-American, big burly man with ruddy cheeks, and he had a four storied apartment. We got the walkup on the fourth floor. I started experiencing some of what I had sensed America was. In one of his conversations he told me that he can always recognize when a negro calls to rent an apartment from him. He had become very fond of Indian tenants. We were his second Indian tenants. He felt that the Indians are pretty regular with their payments (laughs) and they don't make demands. These apartments were just minimally furnished with old furniture. My wife came later in October, around Diwali-time, so I was a couple months in New York City by myself.