Alas, the United States of America
Ajay Prasad’s determined journey to a new life
essay written by Akaash Prasad
Mr. Prasad followed his instinct in his decision to immigrate to the United States of America and pursue what mattered to him most – happiness. Mr. Prasad let his heart guide him to the better decision: moving to the America. Once he became settled, Mr. Prasad sought to climb the ladder of success until he reached his number one goal: to lead his own company. Although he did not escape from every challenge along the way unscathed, Mr. Prasad did accomplish what had dreamt of the moment he arrived here. This truly was the land of opportunity.
Ajay Prasad, born and raised in a highly unfavorable Indian society, could not have imagined what would become of his life because of a single trip to the greatest country in the world: America. As an overly but not excessively ambitious youth, Mr. Prasad came to America on a mission to obtain his Masters in Business Association at Georgia University. According to Mr. Prasad, “American business was absolutely the best in the world.” Initially, he planned to return to India after his graduation to pursue a life in the promising business sector. However, as he became exposed to America and all it had to offer, Mr. Prasad fell in love, and all the plans he had vanished.
Mr. Prasad spent his entire childhood and teen years in Patna, India and grew up in what is called a joint family and “lived in a huge home with [his] aunts, uncles, grandparents, and parents.” Such a large family provided Mr. Prasad with a bountiful source of inspiration, a key to his success later in life. A typical day in his life “was not very different from over here.” The only notable difference was the amount of time put into studies. Indian society stressed education above all else. Thus, Mr. Prasad was obligated to put an additional six to seven hours of studies into his already hectic schedule, which included school from nine in the morning till four in the evening. Scholars in India had to endure a grueling six day week, often studying or keeping up with school from dawn to dusk. The only day Indian scholars had to enjoy was Sunday. This was the single day of the week students could relax and enjoy their lives. On this day, Mr. Prasad preferred playing cricket with his cousins, who were also his best friends, all the while looking forward to a massive dinner prepared by his grandfather, the man who essentially kept the massive home in order. In the words of Mr. Prasad, “you study, you play.”
The city of Patna itself was nothing impressive. As most cities in India, it was extremely unorganized and unlike most cities in America. A vivid example of this is “in India, no one stops for [a] red light.” Simple things like this demonstrate how disorganized and unattractive some aspects of India were. There is no lane system in India on the streets and so driving a vehicle is deceptively dangerous. During school, teachers expected students to understand their point of view instead of their own. When students were administered tests, the only way to ensure a satisfactory grade was to provide answers that reflected that particular teacher’s own views on the selected topic. In this aspect, education in India differed from that in America, because in America, teachers expect students to form their own opinions and notions, not just that of the teacher.
The initial reason Mr. Prasad headed to America was to earn his Masters degree in Business Association. He believed that by attaining this degree, he would secure his future in Indian business. As he put it, “having an MBA would have helped [secure my future].” Mr. Prasad was never forced to leave India and immigrate to America; in fact, it was the other way around. Mr. Prasad’s parents tried endlessly to dissuade Mr. Prasad from going to America because “they thought [he] could be a big bureaucrat [in India].” A major reason his parents expressed this was fueled by India’s false propaganda about America. The Indian government promoted “much negative propaganda against America [by claiming] people are supposed to discriminate a lot [there, and] you can’t do anything you want.” But as Mr. Prasad quickly realized, America was the extreme opposite of what it had been portrayed as in India.
Thanks to his ambition and outstanding work habits, Mr. Prasad read an innumerable amount of books about America. Unlike many of his family members and friends, he was knowledgeable of the true America, not the fake one India depicted. In fact, he had read so much about the country that he was actually effectively able to disregard the negative propaganda India displayed about America. Moreover, his expectations of America were rather high as a result of his previous knowledge of the country. He envisioned a country that offered endless opportunities to succeed in life, yet realized that hard work and tenacity were requisites in order to do so. He expected nothing less than what he had read in those books. This mentality set up Mr. Prasad for a promising life in America. He “wanted to learn of the American way, to understand how the business [there] worked.”
Mr. Prasad’s journey itself to America lacked the expected drama and cliché hardships. He simply took an airplane from India to the United States of America. But the whirlwind of thoughts that swirled in his head overshadowed the dull trip itself. Thoughts of a bright future, a new world ceaselessly circled his mind; what was he to do upon arrival? He was “so curious to find out about America, that [he] was … completely excited in the plane on the way to USA.” Surprisingly, Mr. Prasad did not have too many difficulties coming to the United States of America. Again, thanks to his previous knowledge of America from the books he read, Mr. Prasad did not encounter any major problems during the journey. There is not much that can go wrong on an airplane ride, anyway. The bigger problems took place during the adjustment and assimilation phase of his life.
There were several aspects of America that made memorable first impressions on Mr. Prasad. One was the level of organization that was completely absent in Indian society. Cars stopped on red lights, people drove their vehicles with absolute courtesy, and above all, the American people welcomed Mr. Prasad, a true FOB – a person who had just arrived from their home country. Barely two minutes upon arrival at the airport, Mr. Prasad spotted a sport he had never seen before on a television set. He saw people passing an irregularly shaped ball, constantly stopping and commencing the action, and tackling into each other without the slightest disregard. Curiosity getting the best of him, Mr. Prasad queried a man who happened to sit next to him, of the sport; mainly, what it was. To Mr. Prasad’s pleasant surprise, the man responded with the utmost patience, enthusiasm, and warmth. The man mentioned the name “football.” Of course, “in India, football is soccer.” Henceforth, a difficulty Mr. Prasad faced in the new country was the way the English language was spoken – he could speak English very fluently, but the wording was a throw-off. For example, Mr. Prasad did not understand common American phrases at first such as “spill the beans” or “kick the bucket.” This often left him clueless in conversations with friends. Of course, over the years, all the gaps that existed between him and the English language quickly dissolved and were replaced by fluent English.
Aside from initial impressions, Mr. Prasad found many characteristics of American society to be interesting, unusual, and hard to adjust to. Mr. Prasad found the system of an ATM very intriguing when he first arrived here because in India, “to take out your own money, you have to stand in line … for 3 hours just to withdraw money.” It was a convenience he found especially interesting and definitely useful. The majority of characteristics Mr. Prasad found strange in America had to do with cultural things. For example, in India, a couple generally was not allowed to kiss, hold hands, or create any physical contact of any sort. It was and still is an accepted part of Indian culture. But in America, these attributes of relationships were common, regardless of where one was. When Mr. Prasad began attending his university, he would regularly see a large number of couples kissing. Due to his Indian heritage, this took him quite some time to get used to and hence was an unusual adjustment he was forced to make. Another cultural adjustment Mr. Prasad made was his decision to consume beef. In the Hindu religion, cows are a sacred animal and so cannot be consumed. A major reason Mr. Prasad chose to eat beef was because “[he] did not believe you are not Hindu if you do not eat beef.” Fortunately for Mr. Prasad, the adjustment to American food and couples’ kissing was a quick and trouble-free one, mainly owed to his undeterred willingness to assimilate.
A remarkable pleasure Mr. Prasad found in adjusting to American society was the abundance of freedom. First of all, he was here without his parents and hence could do what he pleased. He truly “could do whatever [he] wanted and no one could tell [him what to do]. In the initial months of his arrival, this independence was very important to him. Another pleasure of adjusting to American society was the means of how he did so. Mr. Prasad “maybe … was lucky, but [he] found some really good friends when [he] came here.” These were not any average friends. Mr. Prasad believes his friends played a tremendous role in making him feel comfortable in America, and they did it out of pure willingness. There was mutual respect between Mr. Prasad and his friends and that experience drastically decreased the amount of time Mr. Prasad spent in learning American customs.
Luckily, Mr. Prasad was able to successfully assimilate into American society in a relatively short amount of time. This was a result of a mentality that “… was not like [he] came in, resisted, and stuff. When [he] came here, [he] wanted to assimilate.” This thought process enabled Mr. Prasad to assimilate with ease rather than trying to repel all the American customs, traditions, and culture that was constantly being thrown at his face. And thus, it took merely six months, approximately, for Mr. Prasad to fully assimilate into American society. That is remarkable considering many immigrants take years upon years to become familiar with America and how it works. In this sense, Mr. Prasad was very fortunate because the unbelievably short amount of time allowed him to move on to his bigger goals with relative easiness. In a sentence, he summed up why his assimilation was as smooth and successful as it was: “it’s not America’s problem to understand me, it’s my problem to understand America.” This is the single most important piece of advice Mr. Prasad has to offer to foreigners considering immigrating to the United States.
Upon entering America, there were several choices Mr. Prasad was forced to make regarding his culture and what to retain or relinquish. One of them was the choice to eat beef. As previously mentioned, beef was not allowed to be eaten in traditional Hindu culture. But because Mr. Prasad knew the price of choosing not to eat beef in a country that was famous for it, it would become a major setback in his assimilation process and could hold even more complicated long term effects. An example that illustrated this choice occurred at a barbeque. Mr. Prasad “… had to [eat beef] because [he] was a really honored guest in a house and they did not know [about his culture]. When [he] went [to the barbeque], they had a big barbeque party with steak and everything and [he] just at that point said [he] better start eating it.” Again, the sole desire to assimilate into American society at whatever cost aided in his decision to relinquish this certain aspect of the Hindu religion. A decision that Mr. Prasad made about retaining a main piece of Indian culture came with his children. With their first child came a difficult choice in whether to speak Hindi or English more at home. The issue was that if they opted to force their child to speak Hindi solely in the household, he would have trouble at school communicating with ordinary American children, which could wreak dangerous long term effects. Yet if they chose to ignore the Hindu religion, their children would be entirely uncomfortable around Indian guests and such. Mr. Prasad’s wife, Minu, decided that at home, the children would speak Hindi, and only Hindi. To teach his children English and allow them to acclimate themselves with American children, Mr. Prasad decided to put his children in a preschool where they could learn the English language and also learn of the American way so that his children would be comfortable with American families and children, as well as Indian families and children. This solution was triumphant because “when [Akaash and Vishaal (his brother)] were 5 or 6 years old, everyone used to be surprised because [they] could speak fluent Hindi, turn around and … speak solid English without any problem.”
As he looks back, Mr. Prasad could not have been any more satisfied with his life. He sincerely believes “life has been an adventure for [him]. Life has been a roller coaster ride that has had bumps along the way. Life has had its fair share of challenges, but these only helped shape what would become a fantastic way to live it and enjoy it to the fullest. He has no regrets. Today, Mr. Prasad leads his own company, Global Marketing Resources, LLC, which assists other small businesses in website design and various transcription services. He hopes one day his company will be able to run on its own.
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