My name is Latha Ramdas.
INTERVIEWED BY Kamala Gururaja x 20


DEPARTED FROM
Mysore, India

ARRIVED IN
Houston, Texas

YEAR
1983

NOW LIVES IN
Bellaire, Texas

What brought you to the United States?

I got married, and my husband was living in this country. So when I got married, I came here.

What mode of transportation did you take and how was your trip?

I took a flight from India. And I don't recall how my trip was because everything was so new. But it probably was okay.

What were your first impressions of the country?

I was overwhelmed and a little bit scared because I didn’t know the person that I had come with and I didn’t know anybody here.

What did you do on your first day?

Nothing exciting, I just came in and met some friends who were there to welcome us.

What were some learning experiences you had when you came to the US in your first couple of weeks here?

I was just trying to figure out everything that's around. I was planning to do my graduate studies here so I was looking into that and trying to figure out what I could do because I was a graduate student back in India so I was trying to see how to get back into my graduate program, so I was focusing on that. Aside from that I just went around a little bit and met a few people.

What did you find was the biggest difference between America and India?

You don't see many people outside here. There, you have lots of people walking everywhere, and when you come here, you feel like there's nobody on the streets. That probably was the first thing that I noticed as a difference. But other than that, I went into the professional area, and I didn't see much of a difference; I was able to fit in pretty quickly and do what I do best, and then continue to be appreciated for the work I was doing.

Did you find any similarities in your first experiences here?

I was trying to go into graduate school so I was exploring the medical center area. And I felt like once I got into my familiar area, it was not that different; people were excited about their work, so I think that was a similarity I saw, that people were passionate about what they were doing here and back in India.

What did you find was the most difficult aspect of being an immigrant?

I think it was mainly just missing the family and people back home, but other than that, it was just getting into the rhythm of life here.

What was your favorite part of being an immigrant?

Telling people about our culture and our food and talking about it; and feeding people also, that is something I enjoy.

Compared to any expectations you had had or the perception of American life in India, what was life like?

The only expectation I had had, probably due to my ignorance, was when I came to Houston, Texas, which is a very hot place. I didn't expect it to be this hot, because the place I was living in India was much cooler, much more pleasant. And so when I came here, it was sometime in June, and it was boiling here. And I said, “Oh, my gosh, is this America? I thought America was cooler!” That was a wrong expectation. But I think other than that, I was expecting to see all these huge buildings, and cars all over the place and I saw those.

How were you able to find a South Asian community in the United States once you get settled here?

In a way, I was lucky, because I had my husband's family already here. So through them I got to know a lot more people initially. Then slowly, I started building my own circle of people with similar tastes and at a similar age and all that, and the group continued to grow. And of course, we have temples, we have a lot of other organizations, and a lot of activities that help us to be part of the community.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to a new immigrant today?

I think a new immigrant today is not as naive as I was when I came here and they could teach me more! Because we are now in the age of the internet, people are able to learn more about everything before they go anywhere, that was not an advantage we had when we came. The only advice I would like to give is that there is no need to abandon your culture, because the culture is appreciated here so you don't need to change completely to fit in. To some extent you can be what you are, that will be appreciated by the people here.

Overall, are you happy that you came to America?

Yes, because I came at quite a young age and I had not really lived an adult life in India that much, so this is where I grew up into a proper adult.


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