This is the 42nd story of Our Life Logs.
Kolhapur, a historic city in the west Indian state of Maharashtra, was my first home.
I lived the first 12 years of my life in a joint family of about 16 people. The home consisted of my immediate family, grandparents, uncles, and their families. We were thankful to have a large enough house to accommodate us, but it did get crowded sometimes. We rarely ate all together because the table wasn’t big enough to fit us all at once. When my father’s sisters would visit, our number increased to about 25 people in one house. Though it got to be a lot sometimes, I loved growing up this way. I got close with my extended family and was taught the importance of family. It made me feel more responsible to carve my own path to support them.
As I turned 12, my father and uncles decided to get their own homes. I went from sharing a home with dozens of people to sharing a home with three. The transition felt strange, but I soon got used to it. My father was a businessman, and my mother stayed at home with my brother and me. I went to a Christian all-girls school that made learning English an important staple in my education.
In the 10th grade, it came time to decide what program I wanted to work toward for my future. I could go on the science or accounting stream. With science, I could do things in the medical and engineering field. The accounting path led to banking and business jobs. I ended up choosing science because I had an interest in engineering. To continue the program into college, I knew I would have to work hard to get a good score.
By the 12th grade, I began to notice a change in my father’s mood. I found out that his business wasn’t doing well. I knew this meant that there wouldn’t be any money at all to spare. While my friends got luxuries like cars and new clothes, I avoided asking my father for these things. I didn’t want to be a burden to him because I knew he was struggling. This was the most difficult part of my youth, but I didn’t let it kill my spirit. Finding out about the business’ problems motivated me to work even harder toward a scholarship to get into the college engineering program. I didn’t want my father to worry about paying for my higher education.
I ended up scoring a 91%. This score was incredible, but not enough to get me a full scholarship for the Computer Engineering program that I had my heart set on. I did get into the Electronics Engineering program and settled for that since I was offered a full ride in it. As I started the program, I found out that there was still a chance for me to get into my desired program as long as I was one of the best students in the department. Learning this thrilled me. It motivated me to buckle down and work even harder. My determination paid off. I won the scholarship and shifted to Computer Engineering where my heart was.
After my graduation in 2002, I was ready to join the workforce. I wanted to begin making an income to help my family out if they needed it. The university I had gone to offered me an assistant teaching position soon after my graduation, and I accepted it.
Around the time of my graduation, my parents began searching for an eligible young man for me to marry. I was dating a man in my last year of college whom I liked very much. Unfortunately, he was from a different caste, so my parents refused to allow me to pursue a future with him. This was a tradition I was raised to follow, so despite sadness, I broke up with him soon after my graduation. My parents introduced me to a man from India who was pursuing his Master’s degree in the US in Michigan. He and I spoke over the phone and Skype for eight months before we decided that we wanted to form a family.
In November of 2003, we got married. By that time, he had landed a computer programming job in Columbus, Ohio. In January of 2004, I followed the footsteps of my husband and moved to the United States. Ahead of me was a brand-new start. I knew nothing about Columbus, but left India ecstatic to learn all about its culture.
Columbus was so different from India. I came from a climate with an average of 75 degrees, to a place where it was winter and only 15 degrees. I had no idea how to dress for the weather, but I still loved it! It was so quiet. This was something I wasn’t used to coming from a country with a population of more than a billion people. But I soon adapted. I felt at home.
With a dependent visa, I wasn’t able to work in the U.S. at first, so I spent my time learning to cook and watching American TV and movies, so I could get a better understanding of the American culture. I watched a lot of Friends and Seinfeld and loved the shows. From watching things on the TV, I realized that many of my earlier impressions of America were not accurate. I assumed that everyone in the country would be rich and successful. I quickly learned that this was not the case. There were plenty of opportunities, but success only came with hard work. This concept was something taught to me in my youth, so I came to realize that the US was similar in some ways to my home country. I began to get comfortable in Columbus and blended into the city.
When I finally became eligible to work, I started looking for jobs. In April of 2005, I found a decent engineering job. The catch was that it was in Toledo, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Columbus. I wanted to put my degree to use, so I made the choice to spend 5 business days of the week living up there. I got an apartment near my job with a roommate. I would travel to Toledo Monday morning and come home to Columbus on Friday night. This was a difficult time because I was away from my husband who was still working in Columbus. My husband and I planned to have him move to Toledo, but the job pool for his line of work was very small there. In the end, we decided that it would be best for me to find a job back in Columbus. By December of 2005, I was back in Columbus working for an IT group as a developer.
It was during those years we had our two children. Having them was the most amazing thing in my life, though I can’t deny that raising them was difficult, especially when they were very little. I was so used to seeing families in India have their parents or relatives help take care of their children. Living in the US, we didn’t have that luxury. I had to balance between family and work. I was thankful to have my husband helping me, but it was still difficult to maintain. It did get easier as they grew up and became more autonomous.
While I was working hard to raise my kids, I had several opportunities to advance my career which I grasped. I worked for another company for seven years before I moved on to work for Chase in the fall of 2013. I stayed with Chase until last year when I decided to start fresh at a new company now that I had more experience. Life has been filled with hope and excitement.
My trek to America wasn’t marked with many negative speed bumps, which I’m very grateful for. I was more privileged than many others who came to the US to make a living, but I never took it for granted. My father taught me by example to work hard for what I wanted. I worked to find success and a new life in a foreign country by my devotion to getting a strong education and walking the extra mile at every endeavor. Immigrating to the US was just about everything I thought it would be. I’m content with the path that was laid out for me. I will try all my best to live, and to thrive, every day.
-This is the story of Krupali Bhayani-
Krupali lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and two children. She came from India to the United States through an arranged marriage without too much knowledge of the city. Through watching movies and working in the country, she learned about the culture, found her place, and built a home. She always works hard and tries to bring the best out of herself. In her, we see the truth that opportunities only come with hard work.
This story first touched our hearts on October 26, 2017.
| Writer: Kristen Petronio | Editors: Colleen Walker; Manqing Jin|