Synopsis of My Book: Immigrant Transformed

My memoir Immigrant Transformed:From the Land of Coconuts to the Big Apple spans 75 years of my life. Of these, I spent the earliest 22 years in the State of Kerala, India and the last 55 years in the USA, most of it in-and-around New York City. I was born and brought up in a small village with few amenities in a large, joint Brahmin family, with many siblings and relatives. My father sent me away to a Catholic Missionary Boarding School, eighty miles away from home, when I was barely 12 years old. Life was not quite easy there, but my father had decided that I needed proper discipline and an English-medium Education. There were moments of desperation, frustrations, self-doubts and utter loneliness, and the strict rules and poor food at the Convent did not help matters. I was miserable in the beginning, but my extroverted nature, resilience and street smartness paid off and, in a year, or so I became very popular and a role model for incoming students. Ten years of studies, Got me a Master’s degree in Zoology and Iwas ranked number ONE and received the Kerala University GOLD MEDAL.

I wanted to get a Doctoral degree, but my parents had other plans for me, marriage to a suitable groom by an arranged marriage and my horoscope was distributed to friends and neighbors to find potential grooms with matching horoscopes. Match makers, my parents, astrologers, and my stars finally found a match, a Kerala Brahmin boy who was finishing up his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in the USA. The boy was coming home looking for the right girl, his father wrote to my father, and I was one of the three girls they had lined up for him to see and select. The prospective groom arrived on Tuesday night, June 20, 1967, and I was the first girl he visited. Neither one of us had ever dated another person, we did not know each other, but after the visit we both agreed to the marriage. I married him on June 22, just two days after we met, in a small local Ganesh Temple with barely 25 people attending. Two perfect strangers, 22- and 26-year-old tying the knot and getting ready for a life full of adventure.

The first few years in the USA were quite challenging. My husband had just joined a new company and so a lot of pressure on him. I had to get to know him and get used to not having any servants to clean the house, to cook, and so on and so I had to learn to do them myself. We had to keep changing apartments for my commuting convenience. Getting used to cultural changes, wintry weather, long commutes, dealing with strangers during the commutes, finding part-time jobs to make enough money to pay my tuition, and other expenses were difficult, but God helped me to persist. New York City, where I spent many years was, and still is, an enchanting place.

I did get my Ph.D. in Genetics and had to struggle with one job after the other for a few years. I also had a miscarriage but luckily my first-born child, a son, was born the year after I got my Ph.D. After a few months at home, I had to get a babysitter and pursue different jobs. This continued for four years and then my daughter was born, and it became more difficult to raise the children and pursue a career. Job-hopping continued for a few more years and then I did find my dream job, starting as an Assistant Professor in a small Liberal Arts College. I worked there for 33 years, dealing with different types of colleagues, administrators, students, and fighting to get tenure which I did. Over the years I got promoted to a full Professorship and eventually retired as Professor Emeritus.

By this time, we were settled as suburbanites in a small town where we owned a house. The new challenges were mostly related to pursuing my career and raising two children a boy and girl, in a place where the values and child-rearing techniques are very different than what I was used to in India. My story probably is very similar to many other immigrant stories, but it is very important for me to record it so I penned it down, hoping that it will benefit my own children, other immigrants and their children knowing that in spite of early struggles they can and will be successful and happy. This is my story, and it spans 77 years. An Immigrant transformed, a village girl from the land of coconut balancing, living, and enjoying her life in her adopted country, never letting go of her birthplace and its values. I feel very firm footed with deep roots in India and I have grown to what I am today in the sunshine of this glorious, adopted country USA.