Bhupen A.

As Interviewed by Avik A., March 21, 2015

Bhupen A.: In His Own Words

Hi, My name is Bhupen A. I came to the US about thirty years ago. Iíve lived in Austin, Texas, for over 20 years. I was born in Western India in 1964 at a place called Bandikui. My parents live in India. My dad is 86 and mom is 82. I have 5 siblings, 3 brothers and 2 sisters. Most of them live in the US. My spouse is also from India. I have two children, [ages] 15 and 13. I have been a software engineer for over fifteen years.

Life in India was different than it is in the United States. We spent a lot of time with friends and family. Not a day went by when we didnít meet a lot of friends. Family visited every month or you visited them. It was quite different. In the twenty years I was in India we traveled everywhere. Most of our vacations were to visit holy places. In Hindu culture there are four primary holy places. We used to take my grandmother to these holy places. I think we visited all four of these holy places. My dad was in the Indian railways, so we always traveled by train. We never traveled by car, plane, or bus. I have fond memories of those trips.

When I was doing my undergraduate in India I was trying to decide what I will do. I could either work in India or I could start my college all over again in United States. My brother, who had come to the United States earlier, was my role model. When I got accepted to go to school in US in the summer of 1985 I went to the US consulate in New Delhi to get my visa. This was a long and hard process. You had to prove that you could sustain yourself and not be a burden to the US society. I still had no idea that I would go to US. The visa issuance rate was very low so I did not know until a week before I left that I would be leaving. It was another six or seven years before I had a chance to go back. I remember the last week when I was in India. I was thinking, will I ever see this environment again, those friends and neighbors I pretty much grew up with? That never happened. Time doesnít stop for anybody.

The first time I left India was in 1985. My first memory of US is getting off the plane. The one-way ticket was paid for by my dad. My brother was waiting for me. It took a long time to get through the immigration and customs. I had no idea what was happening. But as soon as I saw my brother, I knew I did not have to worry. As my brother drove on the highway, I looked on both sides and it looked barren. Just a bunch of cars moving back and forth. No people, no nothing.

I immigrated to America from India, like many people did in those days, to go to school. I came to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to get an Electrical Engineering degree. From there, I went to Ohio for a Masterís. After that I took a software engineer job in Illinois and then Texas. My brother paid for most of my college. I worked a little but was not allowed to work a lot on my student Visa.

Is it fair that you worked so hard to come to the US while there are many uneducated people inside the US?

Well, US has to keep a balance with the talents that they have here. They also have to make sure that the immigrants are hard-working and wonít be a burden to the society and will make an effort to succeed. When I came to US, all my friends thought I was the luckiest guy, but looking back they are doing as well if not better than me. Itís just where life takes you. One friend called me three years ago and we hadnít talked in fifteen years, but we talked as if we had just spoken yesterday. Good friendships stay there forever.

What are your final thoughts about America?

The biggest change I saw in America was after 9/11. I sensed that a little bit of hate, but I think America is wiser than people give it credit for, but I think it is very open. After 9/11 I also got my citizenship after years on green card status.