My name is Sanjay Patel.

"Those few minutes in outdoors seemed like an eternity."

Vidyanagar, India

Niles, Illinois



Streamwood, Illinois

I came to USA from India on March 31st, 1987. The weather back in India on the day I left was warmer. So my brother and I dressed accordingly. We wore shirts but did not put on (or pack) jackets. We took a train ride from our home town to Bombay. There we boarded a British Airways flight to London. We landed at the Heathrow Airport. Our layover was supposed to be of 4 hours. However we landed later than our scheduled time. That did not leave a whole lot of time before we catch our connecting flight. We almost ran from one gate to another before we barely boarded the flight to Chicago. Lucky us.

Our flight to Chicago was uneventful. As we approached the O'Hare airport, the pilot announced, among other things, the temperature at the airport. He said it is 37 degrees Fahrenheit. I grew up where the temperature was measured in degrees Celsius. Luckily I remembered the conversion formula. I made mental calculations to convert 37 degrees Fahrenheit. The answer came back - 4 degrees Celsius. In my entire life in India, I had never seen such a low temperature. I started shivering just thinking about this low temperature. I also realized that I am not properly dressed for Chicago's March weather. The plane landed. In those days, planes did not connect with terminal gates. Buses used to shuttle passengers from planes to the inside of terminals. We deplaned. We were standing on top of the plane ladder. We were told to wait there as the bus was full and we had to wait for the next bus. There I was - on the ladder, waiting for the bus, shivering in 37 degree Chicago weather without a jacket. And the wind!!!! Welcome to Chicago the windy city. Those few minutes in outdoors seemed like an eternity. Finally the next bus came, picked us up and transported us to the terminal. We went inside in a nice warm terminal.

We went through immigration process and then proceeded to the baggage claim. We were told that our bags are still in London. Remember we had to run at London airport to catch the connecting flight. We made it but apparently our luggage did not. We talked to someone in charge and explained our situation. I gave him our address in Chicago. He told us that our bags will be delivered to our home next day. After finishing those formalities, we came out hoping to see my uncle (who was supposed to pick us up). Guess what - we couldn't find him.

I started to look for a pay phone. Once I found a phone, I read the instructions of how to use it. Remember cell phones were not invented yet so we did not have one with us. Finally I figured out how to make a collect call since we did not have proper change. I called my uncle but no one picked up the phone. What should we do now? Wait, try to call again, or try to find a cab? Just as I was trying to figure out how to use a cab, my uncle and other family members showed up to pick us up. We were so happy to see them. Apparently they may have been stuck in a traffic. We hugged each other, got into his car and went to his home.

This is what happened to a 23 year old who came to the land of opportunity on his day one!!!!