Mr. Harish Jajoo is currently serving as president of HJ Consulting, Inc., a small engineering consulting firm experienced in design and construction management of municipal projects. He has a twenty-nine-year track record of successfully managing large Public Works and Infrastructure programs for the City of Houston. He has been responsible for managing the planning, design and construction for the City of Houston. He also is a Councilman for the city of Sugar Land, Texas.
Where (city and country) were you living before you came to the U.S.?
I spent most of my childhood years in New Delhi. I went to school there and went to college there.
What caused you to migrate from your home country to the US?
Most of my family lived in the USA in Canada. I'm the youngest sibling in my family. So I was fresh from college and they thought I would have a better life in this part of the world. That was the reason for my moving from India to the US, and I'm glad I did.
How old were you when you came to the US?
I was 21 when I arrived in Canada, and 26 when I came to the US in 1980. It’s been 44 years since I migrated to this part of the world.
What year and where (city and state) did you arrive in the United States?
I arrived in the US in Detroit, MI in 1980.
What are your memories of your first day?
In the US, as compared to India, there is amazing infrastructure and rule of the law. There's lots of organization and the right of free speech is wonderful. Comparing my life here to my life in India is interesting. So in India, I was going to school but didn't have any work experience over there. When I came to this country, I realized that you can do both. You can go to school, and work as well. And that's what I did. I went to school and worked in summers. I worked in a ice factory where I would take a large cube of ice and put it in a crusher to make ice cubes. It was at freezing temperatures. The workers were always looking for 20 minutes of break every three hours, to stand outside in sunshine. And that was a unique experience for me. I also worked part time in a school library, where I used to work evening hours from 7pm to midnight. I also worked in a bar as a bartender, and so I had multiple opportunities to make money while I was going to school.
What was your most wonderful or memorable experience after immigrating to the US?
I always ended up sitting in the wrong seat of my car (laughs). Because, in India, the driver sits on the right side. I used to try to go to the driver side (thinking it was the passenger seat) when I was not allowed to drive. I tried to learn driving from my family and it all ended in a fight because I wasn't a great learner and they lost patience ;). I started learning from a driving school.
What was the best thing about being an immigrant to the US?
This country is a land of opportunities. You can pursue any passion that you believe in, you can pursue an opportunity that you think you will be successful in. I think that's the biggest thing you get out of this country. You are free to choose your own destiny. I went to school here and ran for public office and worked here.
What did the land of opportunity help you achieve? How did you harness that opportunity?
I was very interested in public policies. And what better place than to do it in the local government where you live? So, your local government, the city that you live in, and the laws that are applicable in your local city, in this case, Sugar Land, Texas impact you the most. The water that you get, the toilet that you flush, the roads that come clean, the drainage, all these services are provided by your city, and you can be an effective citizen by pursuing better laws and rules and policies. I think that makes life easier for your fellow citizens.
What was the hardest thing about being an immigrant to the US?
Making friends of different cultures was not very natural to me, but over time, I tried to improve on that and opened up myself. And you will find that the people here are extremely friendly. But you have to be adaptable and be available for them.
What are some of the cultural differences you saw from India vs. Canada vs. the US?
I think in India, we were living in a place where all cultures are similar or the same, whereas when you come to the US, we are living in a melting pot. You have communities of different religions, different customs different rules. They all come together and become Americans. This is absolutely unique. It is also very entertaining and educational. You learn a lot about other cultures. I've been to a wedding of a Korean couple, I've been a wedding for a Muslim couple, so in this country you can be part of different weddings or different ceremonial events and different cultures. I think that is so cool.