Okay, my name is Mian Salam. Now I am, I think almost 55 years old. When I was here in America, I was at that time, hopefully 26, 27. Yes, before that, I just got newly married and then I had one daughter. She was almost just about 3 months old, and then I left my wife and my first daughter back home. I was doing well in my back home. I was involved in business, which was import/export business especially, I was doing fine. I didn’t think about it. I was going to go or come to the United States. I just had my Visa to visit USA and then I came to America. I was planning on coming to America as soon as I obtained my Visa. I was thinking about my family, my wife, my daughter, what was going to happen to them and how long I was going to stay here or there. A lot of things I was thinking about and then finally I made my plan. I am going to go to the United States. The first day, the first time when I was coming, that was a really sad experience, especially with my family. They were all going to miss me and I am going to miss them. Finally I had to make it true. When I was leaving the airport, my whole family, they were there and they were… my daughter, my wife… I left them… and I was coming to America. I started my journey. I boarded the plane. I came to the airport in London and then from there to New York.
What were some of your thoughts on the plane?
The thoughts I was thinking… “Where I am going” “What’s I am going to be doing”… since I don’t have any family members in here. I don’t have any, you know, friends, family, relatives... nobody. I don’t know anybody… what was going to be happen… where I am going to do what I was going to be doing… who was going to come to see me from the airport? I had nobody. I was thinking all the way to come to New York all by myself. I was thinking in the aircraft because I had no people, nobody, no family members.
Were you scared?
I was kind of scared, not scared, I was kind of concerned. I was kind of concerned where I am going. This is new to me, completely new environment, new society, everything is new. Finally I came and arrived to JFK and then more or less everybody had their own family, friends, that came to get them that at the airport but I was still waiting. I don’t know where to go. I don’t know my destiny. Finally I thought “I had one”. My good friend, early, me and him went to school together, and he left the country even long time ago and I didn’t know his address but I know he is in America. He is living in New York, but I know the city where he live. Finally one of the cabbie, yellow cab driver, I met him in the airport. When I was walking here and there and then he just he just came to the airport at that day to receive his relative…I mean his family members, whatever it is I don’t even know, he missed the plane or misplaced or displaced the gate number or like plane information, whatever it is, and then he was looking and finally he just saw me and I saw him and there was like eye contact and he asked me “Who are you? Where are you going? Where you come? Are you actually just trying to find your way through me?” Is that his relative came with me and he was looking for somebody and finally I told him “No”, its not like that. When he talked to me and I had some opportunity to talk to him and I ask him and I explain to him my situation, you know, I am alone here by myself… my first time… first day. I do not know where to go, is there anyway he can help me, and he ask me “Where do you want to go” and I say “I don’t know” because I had a friend in mind I think he lives in here and I don’t even know the location where he live. But he is living in the United States a long time, he’d been driving yellow cabs. He knows where those kind of people and the community gather and where he can take me and so he was getting himself and then he took me someplace called like Long Island City, which is Astoria, and he was asking the grocery shop “Do you know such and such name guy?” that I was looking for. And then, the guy, he finally found the person, he located and gave me the phone number. I talked to him and then I just went to his house. That was that. The first time I was getting into the United States and getting to his house.
And so, this friend, he was from Bangladesh in Faridpur?
No he was not Bangladesh in Faridpur, he was a different part of Bangladesh. He was from Sylhet.
Sylhet, oh, okay.
He was from Sylhet. Me and him we went to the school, like in the high school, together.
And where was this, in Faridpur?
That was in Dhaka. The capital, Dhaka. My high school friend. He helped me a lot, slowly and gradually, and finally I met a lot of community people and I get along with them… and I start my new life over here.
Community people…what kind of people were they?
They are community leaders, community activists, community, you know, those kinds of people.
Yes, Bangladeshi guys, and they helped me a lot. They gave me all kind of all support… and I just get their help. Finally, I just get into and get to know each another, get to know the neighborhood locations, and all this area. And that’s how I started my life from there, and then I decided to stay here in America to bring my family because I see a lot of difference.. a lot of opportunity in my life for my family, for my children. I stayed and then I started my new life and since then, I am still here and I am continuing to get my children a better education, better life, and better future. I mean aspect of future. Destiny. That’s why I’m still here.
Okay, so let’s go back to your very first day again. So, you talked to the cab driver and he was able to…so where did you stay? So that night, where did you sleep?
That night, actually, to be honest, I couldn’t even find that friend. He just talked to me over the phone, I don’t know he was in, had been in work, or where he was. He couldn’t come and get me. He said he would talk to me later and that he’s busy. He can’t come see me or I can’t go and see him. That was a really awkward situation that I was really facing because I was looking for some house, some shelter, or somebody’s help so that I can go to his house or so that I can at least take a deep breath and breathe so that, you know, I’m safe or I’ve found somebody that I can live with him or that I can be healthful for myself and call back home and tell my family “So don’t worry about me, I’m good I’m fine” and the guy didn’t even come. And then, the cab driver, he and another friend of his, phone number or location, and the cab driver, he drove me over there and he just let me down there and I had to stay with the other friend that night.
Were they Bengali?
He was Bengali too, that was a different city in Brooklyn. That cab driver actually helped me a lot. Finally, I found that cab driver, I actually owe him a lot. If he don’t help me at that night, actually, I didn’t know where to go. And I was going to stay in the airport, I wasn’t going to be looking for somebody…I do really appreciate it. I will never forget about that cab driver who helped me a lot in my life. Actually, I… him because he really helped me. Without his help, I don’t know where to go.
Do you still keep in contact with him?
When I was in New York, I was in contact with him. I talked with him….I called him and we get along very nice and then, since then, when I left the city, I had to come to Michigan. I don’t know for the better thing. I mean, somehow I left New York City and I started living in Michigan. So since then, I’m in here in Michigan. I met a lot of community people, community activists. I’m feeling good. I’m feeling better. This society also is very nice. It’s fantastic. I love Michigan.
So, that’s the story. Long story short.
Is there…so if you can use one word to describe your first day experience in America…what word would that be?
The first day in America actually…
How would you describe it in one word?
That was good experience. That wasn’t bad, that was good.
So you weren’t scared? You weren’t nervous?
No I wasn’t scared, I was little concerned what was going to happen to my life… which direction I am going to go, what’s I am going to be doing. That was the biggest concern I had, but I wasn’t scared. I knew I would be able to handle. I could manage it, I knew what to do. So God helped me, I do really appreciate people who really helped me. God thank you very much.