My name is Saghir Quereshi.

"I arrived at Urbana Champaign, Illinois. It seemed so wide open, and wide roads, and a lot of cars, and it was scary."

Lahore, Pakistan

Champaign, Illinois




I came here as an Industrial trainee in Poultry productions. I got the job before I came here, it was a training program in a very small town in Forest, Illinois. I arrived at Urbana Champaign, Illinois. It seemed so wide open, and wide roads, and a lot of cars, and it was scary.

The luggage that I had was lost in transit. So when I got out of the small airport, I took a cab from there, and gave the cabdriver the address of my brother. And the cabdriver could not find it, and I was too scared to let him leave me on the street, so he took me to the student union of the U of I and he was a student at the same school. And he said he would get out at 11, and if we couldn’t find my brother he would take me home with him. It was very nice of him.

I was sitting there waiting, with just a briefcase in my hand, and no luggage. After a while I started to feel hungry, so I went downstairs to the cafeteria, and I had only 50 cents left in my pocket after paying the cabdriver, and I bought a pack of cigarettes for 35 cents, and a coffee for 5 cents, refills were free, so I had 3 or 4 refills with a lot of sugar in them. Then I came back upstairs and I was sitting there, waiting for him when I saw this other person walking by, who looked like a Pakistani from his face. I ran to him and I asked him “Are you from Pakistan?” and he said yes, and I asked him if he knew my brother, and he said yes. So he said, “What are you doing here? Your brother is on vacation to New York, and he didn’t know that you were coming.” I said I sent him a telegram from Paris, and apparently he had left before that, so his friend took me home, and that was how my first day was. And that, later that night, he told me my cousin was visiting from Canada; for the summer, he was a visiting professor at U of I. So after that, when my cousin came back from the library, he left me with my cousin. And after that, I was alright.

You see, at that time, when I came in 1970, Pakistan only had part-time TV, in the evenings only. And when I came here, it was the revolution time in America. You know, it was right after the Woodstock festival, and there was the student uprisings, and it was a totally different culture. I did not believe one could have that kind of freedom; freedom of expression, and freedom of movement, and all that. And I thought, okay, nothing to worry, if I work hard, I’ll make it. And I did.