My name is Seetha Srinivasan.

"So, there was those kinds of small little dissonances, but there were not major things that made me feel oh, I don't belong."

Bangalore, India

San Francisco, California



Jackson, Mississippi



Of course, I'm going way back in 1967. And we came here, my husband was a graduate student. So what I remember is that how warm and open and how friendly people were, they were curious. But in a very, in a very nice way, not out of it was not a hostile curiosity, but a friendly curiosity. And we had a big advantage because we had some really close friends. This Van Kennedy, he was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and he and his wife were known to both my husband family and my family. So we had their home as a kind of a home away from home. So we had built in support in that way. But I have very fond memories of my first few days for that reason. And when we landed in the San Francisco airport, I had, in those days, one had to have a film of a chest X ray, which, which I had to bring with me because I was arriving in the United States for the first time. And that was to show that I did not have that I had tested negative for tuberculosis. I had that. But I had to have a chest X ray. And I had packed that chest X-ray in my checked bag, not knowing not realizing that I needed to have it to show the immigration officer whom I would encounter before I could get access to my bag. And I realized that and I was really nervous. And I told that to the officer. And he said, “Alright, that's not a problem.” So he walked with me, my husband had to wait at immigration. Because immigration officer walked with me to the baggage claim, waited till my bag got there. I took my X ray out, we came back in, and he processed my papers. And he said, “Welcome to the United States.”

And a couple of years later, we heard from a friend of ours that oh, you know, it's very easy to get a green card. We had no idea, Yousef, of staying on in this country. We were graduate students. We intended to get our degrees, work for a couple of years and go back, my husband's family-owned land outside of Bangalore, he was studying entomology, we fully expected it to go back. And that was our plan. And so we said, oh, well, we get a green card, it looks like immigration were just giving it away. So we went to the local Woolworth and got a photograph taken. And we applied and we just breezed through the process. In six months, we had a green card.

But prior to that, and this is a really warm experience that I go back to, I had enrolled in Mills College, which is a women's college in Oakland for a master's degree. And I needed then to change my visa to a student visa. And I had to go to the immigration office in San Francisco, and the foreign student advisor at Mills College, had called the office in San Francisco to say that this [inaudible] I would be coming. So when I walked into that office, and I asked for a particular individual, he said, “Oh, you're the Mills girl, aren't you? [laughs]” so, and I said, “Yes,” he said, “Okay. Yeah, we have your paperwork. So it's all here.” That's just a wonderfully, you know, again, an encounter with immigration, which was so different from what we hear now.

Well, again, I'm going back to actually one thing, we didn't have TV, of course, in those days, but I used to belong to a circulating library, you probably don't even know what that is, but the circulating libraries were like kiosks and their vendors would have magazines of all different types. And my sister and I used to go and borrow a magazine called Photo Play, which was full of news about Hollywood, and we would just devour all these magazines, because that was that was our window in some ways, to the popular culture of the West, though, of course, again, I didn't see it in that way. I was just devouring all the culture. And we would read these stories about people getting, you know, robbed and murdered, and so on and so forth. And so I had this, not a fear, but one day when my husband had gone to work, and I was all alone in the Kennedy’s house, they had gone camping, and had asked us to stay in their place. And somebody knocked on the door. And I was just petrified, and I said I'm not going to open that door because I'm not quite sure who's on the other side of the door. And now when I think about it, I think how naive I was but there was that sort of that perception of violence in American culture that I had gotten from these magazines that I was reading in India. And then of course, I realized how mistaken that perception was just from my after my very few days in, in Berkeley.

As for differences. Remember at that time, there were very few Indians, there were a handful of Indian students. We were friends with all of them. And I don't see I was not jarred by differences in, in culture. And there were little things that would strike me like one time a friend of ours invited us to dinner, and she was serving something and she said, “Oh, no, come on, y'all have to finish this up so I can put the pot away.” And I thought we would never say that in India [laughs], we would never let the guests know, that whatever dish we have prepared, so it was a small, cultural kind of thing. I think as she would prepare the meal, she would lick our fingers and do that. And at that, we would never do that, you know the old concept of Jhoota it's just not done in India. So there was those kinds of small little dissonances, but there were not major things that made me feel oh, I don't belong. And again, I was young I was naive. This was a new chapter in my life. So again, my whole perspective was colored by those. By the time in my life that I encountered these experiences.