My name is Karthik Sethuraman.

"Some students even learned to sign just to communicate with me! What an incredible feeling!"

Chennai, India

Chicago, Illinois





Hello. When I left India, I was 20 years old. Prior to my departure, my entire family, including relatives, came to see me off at the airport to send me off, say good-bye, give me their best wishes, etc. One of my aunts was teasing me, warning me to be careful in America. She jokingly told me, "Be careful, white people in America will make you their slave!" I knew she was just kidding and we all had a good laugh about it. Anyways, I entered the airport and got on my very long flight to come here, to America. My first stop (in the US) was to Chicago. That was a very long flight for two days with two stops! I was exhausted! By the time I arrived in Chicago, I was just spent and didn't have any mental energy at all. So there I was in Chicago and as I looked all around, I realized I was surrounded by white people! I didn't see any black people, there weren't any other Indians. I felt like I needed to see some color! I needed "my people," something that reminded me of home, something familiar, comforting, some orientation... I began to feel a little bit nervous. I was not imagining they would make me a slave, just nervousness, I guess. Just then, I noticed a black guy was sitting, eating pizza - some kind of fast food pizza. I rushed over and I sat right next to him. He looks over at me, startled, for invading his personal space. He became a little bit awkward and got up to leave. This American black guy something - who knows. So he left and again I'm in an uncomfortable situation that I'm trying to manage. The fellow running the pizza place, who was white, was nice to me, not at all mean. He saw me sitting there and asked if I wanted to order anything. I told him ", thank you" and sort of backed away.

Anyways, I flew again to enroll in college, at a hearing university. Anyways, I went on to my university where I began my studies and started meeting new people. I met a lot of Americans, Indians - that is to say, Indians who were international students like me. I have to say, I was always impressed meeting American people! They always struck me as being very nice, polite, and respectful. Some students even learned to sign just to communicate with me! What an incredible feeling! Talk about kind and respectful! I never used to get that kind of respect from the Indian community nor from Indian international students. I guess Indian students came from different regions of India and I guess some of them look down on deaf people. Americans, on the other hand, were a whole different story. So I eventually became very comfortable with white people too. That's my "First Days" story!