The Greatest Journey
Sunil Gupta’s 1982 journey from Rajasthan, India to pursue a better life
essay written by Prakhar Gupta
This essay is about the life of Sunil Gupta. This essay depicts his life, his memories, and his adventures. These adventures and memories go back to when Sunil Gupta was just a kid and playing with little toys in his small two bedroom apartment. It then moves on to his life as a student. It also talks about how and why he came to America and became an immigrant. Also this essay shows how he adapted to life in a new country and the different customs he had to adjust to in order to survive.
Sunil Gupta’s journey to the United States did not happen overnight. Instead it was a long process which required much thinking because it was not a decision that could be made blindly. When he came to the United States at a young age, there was much chance of him settling here because he would lose touch with his family and relatives in India.
Though Sunil Gupta now resides in Irvine, California, he once lived in the Northern part of India. He grew up in Rajasthan, in a small city called Jaipur. This city led to the many adventures of Sunil Gupta, my dad, and the adversity he faced growing up. He was born there in 1960 and a lived a “lower middle class life” because his parents were always moving from one place to another and could not afford much of the things they have now. 1 He never had the chance to stay in one place for too long because of his father’s job as an income tax department employee.
Gupta lived in a house that was like an apartment, except it had only two bedrooms to support a family of five. His brother and sister shared one room with him, while his parents stayed in the other room. They had just a kitchen and a living/ family room. The landlord and the tenants lived in one house. “The landlord lived behind us and did not like us very much because of all the noise we made”2. However, my dad’s family was always moving around from one place to another because of my dad’s father’s job, was a transferrable job. Because his family moved around India, he did not have the luxury to keep the same friends and same school and teachers throughout his childhood.
My father’s daily life in India was actually quite interesting. Every morning my father would have to go to the market and get fresh milk in a container, which he took from his house and he would have it filled up with fresh milk from a cow. This he would have to do every morning, in the cold weather when one could freeze his hands. An intriguing story that my father told me during the interview was what happened one day during his early morning run to get the milk. He was riding on his bicycle to the market and in one hand he had the container which he was going to use to store the milk in and the other hand was used to navigate the bicycle around. After he had reached the market and secured his milk in the container he was riding back on the bicycle. It was so “cold that morning that I did not realize my hands had frozen and I had dropped the container of milk until I had reached back home“. 3 When he reached back home, he realized that he had dropped the milk and he would have to go back and get more milk in the cold weather and ask his parents for more money which was all ready tight since they were not very rich and lived a lower middle class family. This story portrays the difficulties that Sunil Gupta had to go through to get where he is today. Also he never asked for more money to buy the milk instead used his own. This shows that Sunil, wanted his family to keep the money they had and not have to waste anymore because of his mishap. Having done this, it shows that he cares about the family and knows what the family needs are.
Another one of the many adventures in the daily life of my dad was that one day he was in the house and this guy came to the house to give the parents their wheat. He was about seven or eight years old at the time and him and his brother decided to go outside. The man that had come had come on a horse and a carriage type of vehicle. The two brothers decided to go and get on this horse and my father said “tch tch” and the “tonga started”. 4 They soon had started going on the carriage and with the man running after them, but it was not enough to stop them going into the market. Soon enough they had reached the market where there were cars, buses, bicycles, trucks, and every kind of vehicle that could have hit them and seriously injured them. Though nothing of this sort happened, the carriage was stopped and the two brothers received a beating from the parents and it was another average day in their lives. The old country was something of this sort. It had its fun times but also its hard times. For example, my father was never allowed to participate in outdoor activities such as sports, because his father believed that if his son was not studying then he would not become anything in life. Though that statement is true, my father was a child who had not experienced the joy of playing sports in school and in a structured manner, which was competitive, challenging, yet still fun. His parents valued education very much even though he was a mediocre student, unlike his brother who received very good grades. This was the daily life of my father in the old country.
The next big step in Gupta’s life was when he was accepted into a very good college for engineering, called Indian Institute of Technology, in the state of Kanpur. His passion for the subject math had really shown in high school when his teachers started appreciating him and sometimes even depended on him for answers to questions that they did not understand. Because math came easily to him, he decided to focus in that area. After my dad finished school at IIT, he decided that he really needed a stable job. To get this he needed to go to America and expand his horizon and really become a more independent person. He applied to colleges in the United States of America and he soon received a letter from the “Texas Tech University”, where he would decide to go to school. 5 So the reason that he left India was to pursue a chance for a better job and a better pay and to expand his horizon mentally. By being accepted there he would have to work on his master degree, by taking classes and also do a job for them which would take care of all of his expenses there. All of the food and living costs were taken care by the school in exchange for him helping the professors there teach. One could think of this as a full ride scholarship to the school since he had to pay for nothing. This was a big step for him because he had never truly done this sort of thing before, and the fact that he had a job there also made him feel as if he was a part of the society.
His expectation of America was the same as most other immigrants. Meaning that he had heard the same things about America as most other people in India. He heard that America is a place of opportunity, it is a beautiful place, and everyone is rich. He believed in the idea that America was a place for opportunities and a place where someone could settle down and begin a life without having any worries or problems. All he had to do was get a green card after he was done with his “student visa” and then soon “I wanted to become a citizen of the United States because I believed that I wanted to spend the rest of my life in America because I had gotten so used to it”. 6 Another thing that he thought was that this place was a very nice place to live in because the people were always mannered and the country was really clean. It would have fewer diseases than India and this place was somewhere he had never imagined he could go to. He had also heard that there were beaches here, which were beautiful and gorgeous and it was almost as if he was getting paid to come to America. His expectations were high of the place and it lived up to his standards.
The first impressions that my father had were that this was the place he had expected and that it met his requirements. He just had to adjust to the different life style in America, but other than that he was exceptionally well there. One of the major things he had to adjust to was the culture. This was a difficult because his religion was not the same as the people’s in America, so he had to find people from his culture and make friends. This was so he could feel more comfortable in a new country and have friends who have the same type culture. He really liked it here in the United States of America and wanted to somewhat stay here but only if he could get a stable job because he did not want to be like his father who kept getting transferred all the time making it hard on the kids to have a stable life style. This sort of thinking landed him a job in California.
Another thing that Gupta really had to get used to was the food because it was not home cooking and it was not his moms so he had to get to the different flavors here. He also had to learn how to cook because eating outside everyday was a dull part of his life and could get really disgusting and sick at times. The unusual thing for him in America was that everyone was nice and every one smiled at you when you were walking around. Everyone was not serious all the time unlike India where one does not smile very often to everyone he or she sees. This new way of living was a different experience to him but otherwise he expected to see beauty everywhere and he expected to feel different and he knew that he had to adjust as an immigrant because he was different but that did not stop him.
The hardships that my father went through in America were just getting accustomed to the different people, lifestyles, and culture in the United States. He had to learn how to do things differently and find a better way to outlet his energy in this environment. He had to learn how to deal with the people here and how to get what he wants from them because not everyone will be nice to you and give everything to you on a silver platter. He had to really work for his place here as a citizen. He also had to acquire a job from someone so he could allowed to stay here in America because he really wanted to continue his life here instead of in India because he liked the atmosphere here better. He felt that he could get more accomplished here as an employee instead of back home where he would have to get in touch with his family again and it could take him some time to get somewhere over there. He also felt that the had a better chance in America to become something and have a very decent paying job because he had been here so long that he really loved how everything was managed here. Also he had worked very hard to get his life straight here and he had worked in his college to get his master’s degree which maybe only good in America to get him a sufficient job. 9 All of this planning went into him deciding to stay in America and try to get a stable job here so he could settle down and start a life of his own. He also felt more comfortable here since he had been here so long and he could adapt to the conditions here because he was still young. By the time it was time for him to make a decision to go back or not he was a more older guy and did not really want to move around. He also did not want to go back because he had not been in touch with his whole family for a very long time meaning that he would not really feel comfortable in India like he did before. These were the adjustments he had to make in order for him to live comfortably in the United States of America. The hardships he went through were to have a better chance in the land of opportunity, America.
Sunil now resides in Irvine, California where he works as a civil engineer for the government in a company called Caltrans. My dad chose this job because it was a government job and he did not want to work in a private company because it was too much work and stress since there were a lot of deadlines and projects that he had to complete which would have to be “flawless.” 10 He likes living here with his family which includes his daughter, Ashna Gupta, and his wife, Vinita Gutpa. He has been here for more than twenty five years now and has adjusted to the customs and cultures here very well. He has told me that he has no regrets about moving here except that he does miss his parents sometimes. However, his brother lives here also in California but in San Francisco where he resides with his family. He feels that he has done a wonderful job with his job and life and has no regrets about choosing to live here because he has a wonderful home and family and a job that he has a passion for. He is excited to be an immigrant that came to America.
1. Gupta, Sunil. Personal interview. 24 May 2009. 1
2. Gupta, Sunil. Personal interview. 24 May 2009, 2.
3. Gupta, Sunil. Personal interview. 24 May 2009, 3.
4. Gupta, Sunil. Personal interview. 24 May 2009, 4.
5. Gupta, Sunil. Personal interview. 24 May 2009, 5.
6. Gupta, Sunil. Personal interview. 24 May 2009, 6.
7. Gupta, Sunil. Personal interview. 24 May 2009, 7.
8. Gupta, Sunil. Personal interview. 24 May 2009, 8.
9. Gupta, Sunil. Personal interview. 24 May 2009, 9.
10. Gupta, Sunil. Personal interview. 24 May 2009, 10.