Differing Perspective on India and the United States
Crossing The Valley Project
by Patty Holley

Flag of IndiaThis is the flag of India.  It consists of three horizontal strips, golden, white and green. Here is Vinay showing his family object during class.


The majesty and mystery of India always appealed to the world explorer in me when I was younger.  The pictures of the Taj Mahal, seeing people riding around on the backs of elephants, most bedecked with jewels seemed to bring to life an image of splendor and greatness.  Why, then, would people who live in this fascinating country want to leave and move to the United States?  That is the focus of this interview.  I had originally planned to interview my neighbor, Anant S., who currently teaches International Finance at Thunderbird International School of Business Management.  However, before we could complete the interview, Anant was called out of town on personal family business.  While talking to Vinay Singh, a classmate in my Migration & Culture class, and relating what had happened regarding my interview session, Vinay stated that he was from India also and would be happy to help me out.  Therefore, this paper will focus on Vinay and his story, while inserting information that I received from Anant and his situation as well.


            Vinay and his family first migrated to the United States in 1981 and have always lived here in Phoenix.  At the time of the migration, Vinay was only nine years old.  Vinay’s parents made the tough decision to leave their homeland and move half way around the world for the benefit of their two young boys.  Anant migrated to the U.S. at approximately the same time as Vinay’s family; however, Anant was in college at the time.  He moved to this country to gain a college education.  According to Vinay, they felt that he and his brother would have a better education and more opportunity career wise living in the United States.  Another powerful “pull” factor was the fact that Vinay’s mother’s family had already made the move to Phoenix and exhibited pressure for them to join the family living in the United States.

            There were “push” factors as well.  “In India in order to receive a decent education at a university or even to get a good job, one has to pay a bribe, no matter how qualified one may be.”  This corresponds to a talk I had with Anant regarding the educational system in India.  Anant told me “no matter how smart you are, you cannot get into the best universities without some “help”.” 

            Those family members served as the “bridge” for Vinay and his family.  His maternal grandmother and two aunts live in Phoenix.  In fact, one aunt and her husband sponsored them.  They “assisted in paying for the plane tickets, because in India plane tickets can cost three times as much compared to the U.S.”  Anant also had relatives living in the United States, which acted as a bridge for him.  He has a sister living in the Chicago area. 

            Vinay related that he has always been mistaken as Hispanic and noticed discrimination based upon that assumption.  He said that even though his name is “clearly not Hispanic yet people did not notice that or question that.”  However, he has seen the impacts of discrimination against migrants from India through the experiences of his father.  “He has been laid-off from work many times.  Once he was told by his employer that he would be better off going back to India.” 

            Personally, Vinay is working hard to build a life that he can be proud of.  He works full time as a counselor for mentally ill adults providing in-home counseling.  At the same time, is attends ASU West, working towards a degree.  He anticipates graduating fall, 2004.  He is a single dad, raising a young son while balancing all the aspects of his life.  Anant’s family situation is different from Vinay’s.  He is married with two young children.  His wife is a professor who teaches at Dartmouth. 

            Others from Vinay’s family have followed the family from India to Phoenix.  His mother’s brother and family migrated in 1988 and continue to live in this area.  Vinay has been to India recently only one time in 2000.  He was there for about one month.  However, his parents just returned from a visit earlier this spring.  Vinay and his family do have a trip planned for December 2004. 

            When asked about expectations prior to coming to the U.S., Vinay said, “The biggest misconception people in India have of the U.S, is that it is heaven on earth (literally).  Since being here, my parents have had a lot of struggles.  They gave up great jobs.  My mom was a high school teacher and my dad was a mechanical engineer.  Their biggest disappointment was that the education, the status and the respect they had achieved there meant nothing here.”  However, Vinay stated that he personally would not consider returning to India on a permanent basis.  He feels that the issue of over-population in India along with the inconvenience of getting around in the country would be prohibitive.  He states that since he has been here for majority of his life, he is too used to the United States.  “However, I would have to say that my family and I would have been much better off had we never come to the U.S.”  When speaking with Anant, he offered a different outlook.  He has migrant students in most of his classes at Thunderbird.  Through discussions with Indian students, he has learned that views are changing regarding the opportunities associated with returning to India to live and work.  Just recently, many students have told him that after graduation, they do plan on returning to India on a permanent basis.  The influences of globalization and job opportunities moving to India have opened up management opportunities as well.

            Vinay and I talked about funny experiences.  “I remember when I was in the 4th grade, my first year here.  The teacher was talking about a storm that was on its way to Phoenix.  She used the analogy that it would be raining “cats and dogs;”  I got really excited inside thinking to myself that I would be able to get a dog, as strange as it sounded.  Another time that same year, we went to church and I dropped something on the floor.  As I went to pick it up, I noticed the feet of the lady sitting behind me.  I got up and told my dad that the ladies in America have connected toes.  My dad told me that those are panty hose that ladies wear underneath their dresses.”  Vinay and I shared a laugh over those stories. 

            His worst experience since coming to this country was the times that he saw the disappointment on his dad’s face whenever he got laid off of work.  He also mentioned when he had to tell his mother that he was having a child out of wedlock.  That relates directly, however, to his best experience.  Vinay stated the best thing that has ever happened to him was getting custody of his son, Anthony, who is five years old.  The experience he is looking forward to the most is his graduation this fall.

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