Edited by Parven Chopra
How Indian background helped me success in America
Owner, Omega Storage
I am from New Delhi, having immigrated to the USA in 1984 and settled in Long Island. Initially when I came here, my goal was to study for an MBA. I belong to a Marwari business family of district Jaipur. In India my joint family run businesses included a Sugar Mill, Edible Oil and Solvent mills, Cold Storage Building and other industries spread over UP, Delhi, Punjab, etc.
Actually, besides the Indian values and culture ingrained in me, there is one more thing that helped me succeed in the US, and that is exposure to business practices and struggles that a business family has to go through.
When I came here, I experienced that I had a funny accent, wore different outfits, ate spicy food, etc. There were very few Indian owned businesses and major corporations were not headed by Indian born individuals then. At present, we see so many major companies run by India born IT professionals and business people. Even though the prosperity is not evenly distributed and some segments of the Indian community face severe social and economic problems, it is notable that the median annual income of an Indian household is over $105,000, which is twice the US median income.
Like other Indian immigrants, I was highly educated with a Master’s degree. In addition, I was highly trained in family business. My exposure to family business included working with my father and uncle seven days a week with no day off and only an occasional vacation. We supervised workers in our mills and managed daily operations. As a business person in India, I wore several hats including salesman of factory products, buyer of raw material, and supervisor in assembly line.
Immigrants who come to America face discrimination just as foreigners in any country do. Whenever I felt that I was discriminated against, I somehow thought about how I treated foreigners in India and said to myself it’s okay because we felt the same way when foreigners in Delhi wanted to work for us. People with dark skin or a foreign accent are always at a disadvantage in America. This means that they have to work harder and think smarter. Some Indian Immigrants such as myself who come from medium to higher social ladder in the communities that we leave behind, find ourselves at the lowest rung in the United States. This is a very uncomfortable experience and provides incredible motivation to do whatever it takes to succeed, as I can tell you from my personal experience.
The greatness of America is that a person who achieves success commands the highest level of respect, regardless of his or her background, race and religion. This is the American Dream. My goal from the beginning was to start my own business as soon as I was able to learn and understand how business is conducted in America. My past business experience taught me how to take risks and deal with it while making money and most importantly satisfaction of achievement.
I learned how to run the finances of a corporation, deal with banks, customers and vendors. Business culture in the US is different from India. The law and order does work better here than it does in India. The legal system has protection for landlords and business owners and we do get justice, eviction, judgments against tenants and debtors. The bureaucratic system, government machinery work better here and makes running a business somewhat less stressful.
There are no absolute barriers to upward social mobility in America: that is why immigrants thrive and why America leads the world. One of the biggest problems in India which holds us back is that people are divided by region, religion and caste. But as we come to America, we are all considered to be Indians, as are people from other parts of South Asia, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. To Americans, we are all the same. I learned quickly to put my differences aside and learned to live with all Indians in harmony. I learned to understand the key to an individual’s success is to network, learn and help each other. That is why I joined groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, Indian associations, religious associations, Indian business groups and even international associations such as Lions Club.
I always felt that I did not come to this country with nothing. I came with rich values, high culture and knowledge that is far beyond the money that I brought with me. I thank India’s education system where my parents paid 10 Paise a month as Donation to the Government run elementary school up to fifth grade and about 5 rupees a month for education from 6th to 8th grade. My college fee in Delhi School of Economics for Master’s was about Rs. 30 a month. We come from India where we got education for pennies and used it to earn millions here. We all need to be thankful to our motherland and people of India who we left behind for giving us what we have today, which made us successful in America. In this month when India became independent from the British rule, we should salute all who gave their lives for our freedom.
India-inspired inner exploration helped in journey of my outer self
Founder, The Giving Back Foundation
India abounds with the energy and wisdom of boundless youth as it celebrates its 75th Independence Day. For this wonderful occasion I am most happy to share my thoughts on our wonderful country and culture.
Strengths: A vast generation of youth, the first to have been born after globalization and the general economic upliftment of the 90s, are coming of age as the drivers of the new economy. They bring from their international perspective and world-class education an attitude of exploration along with a hunger to compete at a global level. The ideas they bring will catapult India to the forefront of economic, scientific, and cultural excellence.
Weaknesses: Poverty, crime, inadequate medical infrastructure and communal tensions are issues that India needs to overcome to put itself in a position of strength both as a nation and as a player in global affairs.
Opportunities: India is uniquely placed in a number of spheres like technology with a huge number of qualified innovators. The country must create policies that encourage turning this resource into a working asset.
Threats: Climate change has wreaked havoc in farming output across India as well as contributed to several natural disasters in recent years. While India is a world leader in creating sustainable energy projects, it still depends almost entirely on coal and other non-renewable energy to meet its energy demand. As one of the nations most under-threat by climate change, the sustained use of polluting energy is a major threat to Indian interests.
The greatest thing about experiencing the cultures of many different nations is not only to see the differences between them, but also points of resonance and similarity. The global world has become such a wonderful melting pot of shared connections and influences that tracing any one feeling or understanding to its source is almost impossible. That said, there still are instances when certain values feel more Indian than others.
One such feeling which I think has helped me immensely find myself and therefore my path is one of self-reflection. The Indian sphere of thought makes inner exploration an everyday part of awareness. Meditation, Yoga and other spiritual practices, many of which originate in India, are seen as the keys to investigating one’s journey and it is a practice that helped me discover the minutiae of my inner self, and thus control the journey of my outer self.
India@75 – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats
Brief disclosure: I and Independent India share the same birthday. Except I was born at midnight on August 15, 1940 and Independent India started its journey on the same day in 1947. I hope this gives me the liberty to talk about India’s glories and offer my overview of its journey to date.
Nature teaches us that at the beginning or at birth, everything often faces some calamities, but my Independent India experienced a little more disaster. India became an independent nation within the British Commonwealth on 15th August 1947. British rule came to an end and the subcontinent was partitioned along religious lines into two separate countries: India, with a majority of Hindus, and Pakistan, with a majority of Muslims.
It resulted in the largest mass migration in human history. Some 10 million people left their homes, and as many as one million civilians (Muslims and Hindus) were brutally killed in the accompanying riots and local-level fighting, particularly in the western region of Punjab, which was cut in two by the borders.
Concurrently, the newly formed India faced major problems, such as: a) rehabilitation of over 800 million refugees that entered India from Pakistan; b) assimilation of about 500 princely states that existed and c) ensuring the unity of a country, which was completely thrown into a catastrophic situation.
Since then, the Nation has been busy resolving religious violence, casteism, naxalism, terrorism and regional separatist insurgencies.
India is the largest democracy on earth, having a strong and independent judiciary system. However, unfortunately, most of the opposition politicians are self-oriented and provoke the public for various problems such as: religious extremism, casteism, naxalism, terrorist activities, secessionist sectarian violence in a region or states.
Also, India is a secular state. This means that the government is not concerned with the relation between citizens and God, their faith, and their race. There is no official religion or state religion, and all religions are considered at par.
Even at the time of partition, Muslims were given permission to stay in India or join Pakistan. Indians generally have a very patriotic view of their nation. But certain minority groups decline their ownership of being citizens of India and keep themselves busy in creating local disruption and riots. To me, that is a misuse of the word ‘DEMOCRACY’. Hope someday, India will overhaul the system.
Economic liberalization has created a large middle class and transformed the country into one of the world’s quickest-growing economies. India is the fifth largest economy in the world and the outlook for the year 2022 and thereafter is very positive. This has elevated its geopolitical clout as well. At the same time, one of the biggest weaknesses of India is poverty, huge gap between the rich and poor and rising inequality.
Further, droughts and floods are common occurrences, and their co-existence poses a potent threat, which cannot be ignored. In monetary terms, average annual damage from floods accounted for $2.9 billion. Transfer of the surplus monsoon water to areas of water deficit has potential, which may ease drought and produce hydro renewable energy.
There are many opportunities for India to pursue international businesses to invest in India. The cost of labor is low, and a skilled and English-speaking work force is available as well. I believe, if corruption is reduced, India is destined to play the biggest role to turn South Asia into a region of progress and safety. We pray and hope for the best.
Opportunities don’t come alone. India is facing its worst threat of Covid-19. It has experienced a deadly second wave of coronavirus infection and this is devastating India, leaving millions of people infected and putting stress on the country’s already overtaxed health care system. The official numbers show signs of easing. The major cities of Delhi and Mumbai, hit hard at the beginning of the second wave, recently have reported sharp drops in new infections and deaths.
Economic liberalization has created a large middle class and transformed the country into one of the world’s quickest-growing economies. Yet, several areas of economic stabilization remain unaddressed. The lockdowns in 2020 have pushed millions of people below the poverty line. Hopefully, COVID 19 crises will galvanize government’s actions to reduce leakage, creating fiscal space to serve the poor better, while setting the stage for recovery and sustained economic growth.
The country is facing security challenges from multiple fronts, including unresolved territorial disputes with China and Pakistan. Likewise, India has several competitors in different fields on the global stage and is preparing to reform its military to combat these challenges.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking at the recent meeting to mark 75th year of independence, said, “The 75th Independence Day will be the celebration of the spirit of freedom struggle and the reflection of the feeling of sacrifice. There should be a tribute to the martyrs of the country and a resolve to build an India of their dreams. It will have a glimpse of the pride of Sanatan India and the glow of modern India as well.”
He continued, “Freedom Struggle, Ideas at 75, Achievements at 75, Actions at 75 and Resolutions at 75 — we have to move forward with these Five Aspects. All these should include the ideas and feelings of 130 crore people of the country,”
He further said, “Today, India is doing things that could not be imagined until a few years ago. In this journey of 75 years, the country has reached here gradually. There are contributions of so many people to the country in this journey.”
Now India is having its Amrita Mahotsav (Mega Celebrations) to commemorate the 75th Independence Day. Let us all join with the citizens of India in sharing the inspiring events being held across the nation.
The strength of India is in its roots, its strong history
Urmilesh Arya, MD, FACP
President, National Association of Indians in America (AIA)
The strength of a nation depends on a strong executive, judiciary, military and civil services. The nation will be successful only when people’s aspirations are kept in mind. They must see progress is a possibility and not an empty dream.
The strength of India is in its roots, its strong history–how much skilled were its people to make massive temples and palaces. We were the largest economy, that’s why the whole of Europe was eager to come to India. Our science and astronomy were highly developed. Our rishis said that time vibrations in AUM are the vibrations of the SUN — Sheffield University of UK is making a study on the Sun’s vibrations now. YOGA to bring harmony in mind, body and soul is a gift to the world by our yogi forefathers. Family values and importance of Karma are the gift from Ramayana and Gita. Nonviolence, Truth, and charity are integral parts of our Heritage and culture. Also, India has to develop enough martial power to defend itself and needs unity among the people.
India’s biggest weakness is we are forgetting our roots. Schools are not teaching the true History of India. People were divided in the past as well as in the present, making the country weak. Family values and family relations are declining. Parents are not infusing our heritage and culture in children.
Opportunities are there in every walk of life, the key lies in education and removal of ignorance and control of corruption.
Divisions in India are the biggest threat. Other countries have taken advantage of it in the past, and are trying the same at present.
Most important for me was family relations, parental love, and guidance for education, respect for elders, kindness and care for younger siblings. Parental teaching for speaking the truth, not to hurt anyone’s feelings. My father stressed living a simple life and doing your best for education and achievements. Right from early childhood we children were given the teachings of Ramayana and Gita to infuse the value of discipline and Karma. My mother taught me to always help a needy person, we must do charity as much as we can. She told us, “God help those who help others”. We always had a pleasant atmosphere in the family, parents were highly caring and provided respect and care to the guests and relatives. We always celebrated all the festivals together with family, friends and relatives. Parents explained the importance of each festival – Diwali, Dushera, Holi and Raksha Bandhan – and why we celebrate it
These family values were infused in me and became key to my success in the life.
India teaches that society is bigger than any individual
President, India Association of Long Island
It is my honor to be of Indian origin. I beam with pride when our motherland starts to celebrate India @ 75. India is our motherland and we love to chant “Jai Hind” and “Vande Mataram ” every chance we get to vibrate these words in the air all over the globe.
We all have heard and read about India’s struggle for its freedom, sacrifices of many individuals who fought and gave their lives for this freedom. It is their struggle that gave birth to the largest democracy in the world today. To name a few of the freedom fighters: Mahatma Gandhi, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru, Tantia Tope, Nana Sahib, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Sukhdev, Kunwar Singh, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Mangal Pandey, Bhagat Singh, Dadabhai Naoroji, Ram Prasad Bismil, Chandra Shekhar Azad , Chittaranjan Das, Abdul Hafiz Mohamed Barakatullah, Ashfaqulla Khan, Rani Laxmi Bai, Begum Hazrat Mahal. These and many more brave Indian freedom fighters fought for our motherland and many among them sacrificed their lives for the freedom of our country. Let us remember all of these freedom fighters of India and be proud of them. India is also the birthplace of several authors, mathematicians, scientists, poets, historians, doctors, actors, economists, who are renowned in the world.
Indian culture and traditions are unique in the world — with a human population of more than 1.2 billion but amazingly we are united. We forget all our existing problems, misunderstandings and shortcomings when our Independence Day comes. The Indian diversity is unbelievable and does not limit itself just to culture, religion, caste, traditions, etc. Even the basic things like food, clothing and dialect have a wide range of diversity in India. Our India is a land of varied cultures. Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian, all live together because our Indian cultures teach us that society is bigger than any individual.
There will always be unknown challenges like COVID-19 to face. India could put more effort into strengthening the health system, infrastructure, and human resources, covering areas such as literacy. I have full confidence no matter what outside threat on the border or internal challenges, India is able to defend herself.
I had the privilege to work on the first computer in the Indian Army and learn programming. Initial education of computer training set me to continue the path on IT and become Chief Information Officer in America.
On this Independence Day whatever you can do for your motherland, with whatever you have, no matter where you are, just do it.