Dear Ornetters,

This week's article is a very interesting article submitted by one of our young and bright scientist from Troy, New York, Mr.Abinash Nayak. It's lot more than pleasant recollection of his life in USA. It's about the changes a student goes through. It's about adapting to a new culture and the change in attitude about different cultures. This article is different in the sense that it doesn't narrate childhood experiences in India. However, it projects the experiences of most of us who have left home and have chosen a life in a different culture and environment. In my opinion, Abinash has provided a precise picture of what we encounter when we first land in the USA based on our past dreams, aspirations, and hopes and how different it seems when we hit reality. Then comes struggle, frustration, setback, monotony, and we live on with the pleasure that Good Days are Ahead.

These are some of the facts reflected in his narration. Our reviewers have a lot more to say about it. May be you too want to add some of your viewpoints. We all would surely like to hear from you, the reader. So, seat back, enjoy the article and let us know.

I am thankful to Debasmita Misra and Amiya Mohanty of Detroit to have helped me with their kind postviews on the article.

With regards
Surjit Sahoo (8/25/95)

Posted By: Debasmita Misra (misra@maroon.tc.umn.edu)


It is our pleasure to WELCOME Mr. Sidhartha Mohanty as a member of the Weekend Thoughts team. He was the author of the article on June 2, 1995. Sidhartha will join us in our endeavour to keep the Weekend Thoughts moving. Welcome aboard Sidhartha.

Here's what Sidhartha replied to Surjit:
From: sid[SMTP:sid@aluxs.att.com]
Sent: Monday, August 14, 1995 6:16 PM
To: ssahoo
Subject: RE: Hello.

Hi Surjit,

No problem. I can help out with the Weekend thoughts. Let me know what has to be done. I will be out on tour towards the end of the month, otherwise I should be pretty much free. So let me know.



Debasmita Misra and Surjit Sahoo

Introduction by the Author

Abinash Nayak
Email: nayaka@rpi.edu

Born and brought up in REC campus, Rourkela.
B.Tech EE IIT Kanpur, 1987-1991
Joined RPI Biomedical program in 1991 Fall
Expect to graduate in a month or two.

Life In These United States ...

Hello Everyone!

In this weekend's article I will be writing about my experiences in US. From day one in Troy, NY, I found a place to live with 2 of IITK alumni. It was just like changing hostels at the end of every calendar year. Those guys had been in the US for 1-2 yrs. and told me all the whats and what nots of US culture. I reflected on the great america, melting pot, crap etc. People on the streets said "hi" to me when I walked to school from home. I was amazed by the divided highways and huge malls. It may sound bizarre but I drank only coke for the first two months here.No water. In fact, dinner was difficult without coke. A gallon of ice-cream was finished in 2-3 days. I was amazed with the number of channels on TV (cable 43) which I watched on an average for 5-6 hrs. per day. First snowfall was beautiful but the subsequent storms bugged me. For me it was mostly an extension of life at IITK hostels; study, play bridge, watch TV and rest of the time day-dream about someday meeting a beautiful women. The last part, unfortunately is still very much true :-)

The following summer '92 I started going to the school gym, you know to work out, to impress people, look cool and so on. The goal was to have a physical look that will turn any woman nuts. Damn thing was such a waste of time. Btw, I wasn't the only desi in the gym. Then, I used to hangout with a Puerto Rican, nice guy but his world revolved around bars.I went thru' the same routine for a short period. I realized that my pay check wasn't big enough to accommodate such frivolous expenditure. Borrowing and spending makes me very uncomfortable. I was introduced to the game of softball and realized that it is more boring than cricket test matches. Internet was used very frequently to send talk messages.

Realizing that I wasn't going to make it on the "coolness" ladder, I returned to things at which I was best: books. I fell into a daily routine of dept. to apt. and apt. to dept. "How u doing?" "howdy" etc. became a part of my lingo. I think from then on life has been pretty much normal by desi standards. Obviously, for many "cool" americans the very fact that I am working towards a Ph.D. is proof enough of my nerdity. Many ask dumb questions about the concept of cows being sacred and arranged marriages. Single women talk about their boyfriends or ex-husbands. Parents were sometimes addressed as "step-dad or step-mother". These things were new for me. Abortion is a topic of contention. To me the whole issue is strange because women carry the child but most of the anti-abortion protesters are males or aged females.

I have a friend here who took $8000.00 loan from his father with an agreement that it would be paid over a period of 3 years with 3-4% interest. Privacy is a big thing. Kids talk about having a life of their own at the age of 14-16 yrs. Anybody could sue anybody else with absolutely no reason whatsoever. Too many lawyers. Too many guns. For instance, a woman sued a hospital in the Albany-Troy area. She was sitting on a stool and watching her son's surgery in spite of repeated reminders by the attending physician that the sight of blood could be nauseating. As fate would have it she fell off the stool and then sued the hospital for not providing her with a chair with back rest. I am sure everybody is familiar with the story of a woman who sued Burger King because the coffee was too hot and she burnt her legs. Sex offenders like Buttafuco (spelling !!!) can become overnight millionaires.

However, all is not wrong in this society. Towards the end of my 4 years here I have learned many good things. Of which, I shall mention only a few. I like the excellent work culture here. In my opinion an average american is more honest than an average indian worker. This point is debatable and I could be wrong. I am impressed by the amount of enthusiasm the people have about their jobs. I guess that is the cornerstone to success. I like that kids here are made to understand the value of money from a very young age. All the work in McDonald's, Taco Bell etc. in my opinion makes them more independent which in turn enhances free thinking. Free thinking leads to innovations. In India peer pressure forces high school students to have just two options: doctors/ engineers. Maybe, Indian parents in India and US alike can use a chapter from the western way of raising kids. However, every upside is associated with a downside. Lack of control and too much independence can lead to rebellious kids.

In a professional setting modesty as defined here would be labeled as boastfulness in India. One has to sing his/her own praise to gain other's respect. Whether one has done anything or not his/her boss always likes to hear that he/she has been busy. "I have done nothing in the past week" could be trouble. I think moderate amount of aggressiveness pays in the professional world here. Many of the ornet subscribers who are either parents or veteran professionals or both should correct me if I am wrong. I am sure they can add a lot more from their years of living in the US. That's all for now.

In summary, I quote Forrest Gump "Life is like a box of chocolates." Does not matter if life is in India or US or Europe.

Review by Debasmita Misra

(Excerpt of a mail sent in reply to Abinash's article)
What the author has experienced and narrated through the article is a very common experience for each and every Indian coming to USA. However, most of them adapt to the environment in no time and then never give a thought over what they experienced prior to their individual transformation. It is good to adapt but it is essential to observe and adapt. Speaking a different lingo is not COOL but speaking the lingo in the right place at the right time is necessary. I personally admire your (Abinash's) courage in evaluating the difference and putting forth an analysis.
Review by Amiya R. Mohanty (Detroit, MI)

In my opinion the contributor has made a good compilation of his graduate life experience in U.S. For, most of us here in U.S. who have spent a few semesters/years in a school right after coming from India, the experiences are similar with minor variations. Some are funny, some are scary and some are just worth talking about with a bunch of old friends from school days over a six pack of Bud.

However, we should appreciate the important observation and the things the author has learned after the end of his/her four year stay in the U.S. Definitely the professionalism with which people deal with things in the U.S. has an impact on the success of the American society. Though the word success is debatable, depending on what aspects of the society you are talking about, and whom you are talking to, as has been pointed out by the author, like family values, and too much independence of young kids. On a positive note, one has to learn from the Americans on work ethics, I saw that myself in Graduate School and working in Corporate America. This has been essentially reflected by the author too.

In conclusion I strongly agree with him "Life is like a box of chocolates". I may add "Take it as it comes, have fun and enjoy life. Learn the good things, and IGNORE the bad things".

Supplementary to Abinash's quote about:

"Many ask dumb questions about the concept of cows being sacred and arranged marriages"

I am including the following humor contributed by Mr. Deepak Bose in india-town@cs.umn.edu.

Debasmita Misra

Subject: Answers to common "Indian" questions..

To help the new wave of incoming students from India,
here are the proper answers to awkward questions asked everyday: 

Q.  What does that red dot on women's forehead mean?
A.      Well, in ancient times, Indian men used to practice 
        archery skills by target practicing by aiming at their 
        wife's red dot. In fact, that is one of the reasons why 
        they had many wives. You see, once they mastered the art 
        of archery and hit the target.... 

Q.  You're from India?  I have read so much about the country.  
    All the wonderful places, the forests, the snake charmers, 
    the elephants. Do you still use elephants for transportation?
A.      Absolutely. In fact we used to have our own elephant in 
        our house. But later, we started participating in 
        elephant-ride sharing schemes with our neighbors, to save
        the air. You see elephants have an "emissions" problem...

Q.  Does India have cars?
A.      No.  We ride elephants to work. The government is trying 
        to encourage ride-sharing schemes.

Q.  Does India have TV?
A.      No. We only have cable.

Q.  Are all Indians vegetarian?
A.      Yes. Even tigers are vegetarian in India. 

Q.  How come you speak English so well?
A.      You see when the British were ruling India,they employed 
        Indians as servants. It took too long for the Indians to 
        learn English. So the British isolated an 
        "English-language" gene and infused their servants' 
        babies with it and since then all babies born are born 
        speaking English.

Q.  Are you a Hindi?
A.      Yes. I am spoken everyday in Northern India. 

Q.  Do you speak Hindu?
A.      Yes, I also speak Jewish, Islam and Christianity. 

Q.  Is it true that everyone there is very corrupt?
A.      Yes, in fact, I had to bribe my parents so that they 
        would let me go to school.

Q.  India is very hot, isn't it?
A.      It is so hot there that all the water boils 
        spontaneously. That is why tea is such a popular drink in

Q.  Are there any business companies in India?
A.      No. All Indians live on the Gandhian prinicples of 
        self-sufficiency. We all make our own clothes and grow 
        our own food. That is why you see all these thin skinny 
        Indians -- it is is a lot of hard work.

Q. Indians cannot eat beef, huh?
A.      Cows provide milk which is a very essential part of 
        Indian diet. So eating cows is forbidden.  However in 
        order to decrease the population of the country, the 
        government is trying to encourage everyone to eat human 

Q.  India is such a religious place.  Do you meditate regularly?
A.      Yes, sometimes I meditate for weeks without food and 
        drink. But it is difficult to keep my job, because I have
        to miss work when I meditate like that.  But the bosses 
        there do the same thing. That is why things are so 
        inefficient there.

Q.  I saw on TV that people there walk on burning coals. Why do 
    they do that? 
A.      We don't have shoes. So we burn the bottom of our feet to
        make it hard so that we can walk.

Q.  Why do you sometimes wear Indian clothes to work? 
A.      I prefer it to coming naked.

Your comments are always welcome...

Abinash Nayak

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