Essay, Research Paper: Indians Immigrating To America

Geography

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Their homeland has the second largest population in the world, yet in America
they form one of our smallest minorities. Americans were influenced by their
beliefs long before the first immigrants arrived, and an important interchange
of ideas has continued to the present day. Although many came to America as
early as the turn of the century, they were denied citizenship until a
congressional act granted it in 1946. Now they are students and teachers in our
universities; they are artists and writers, musicians and scientists. Their
contributions to industry, commerce, and agriculture have been valuable to
America and to the world. Who are these people? They are the East Indians in
America. Asian Indians have supplied innumerable contributions to the culture
and well being of the United States; the majority of these contributions are
geared notably to engineering and the sciences. The reason for immigration in
the period from 1830-1890 is quite clear. India was in a great shape. However
when the British took over India, they depleted the country of all her wealth
and gave her poor citizens no choice but to leave. The main reason why everybody
wants to go to the United States is because if they would go somewhere else,
like France or Japan although they would get higher wages, there is much greater
chance of getting harassed, arrested or deported in those countries as opposed
to the United States (Takai 32). Here in the United States land remained
plentiful and cheap. Jobs were abundant and labor was scarce. The United States,
in the nineteenth century, remained a strong magnet to immigrants, with offers
of jobs and land for farms (Hess 12). The Jews came for religious freedom,
Italians and Asians came for work, and the Russians came to escape persecution.
America had jobs and religious freedom. Consequently, America was referred to in
many countries as the "Land of Opportunity". This is land is also
often called the "melting Pot of the World". This is because it is
believed that people from all over the world come to the United States and loose
their cultural identity and 'melt' into or assimilate into the American culture.
However, nowadays, the above is an unfair statement to make. Nowadays with the
growing Chinese restaurants, Indian grocery stores, and European languages is
school, etc., one can say that individual cultures are trying hard to voice
their distinction amongst the overall "American culture". One can
therefore refer to the United States as the "Salad Bowl of the World"
where every culture has its own flavor, just like in a salad, where every
vegetable has its own taste even though it has a common dressing, the American
culture. Amongst the Chinese, Japanese, Europeans, etc. and other immigrants,
the East Indians represented a big group of those people who wanted to be part
of the "American culture". The East Indians, who came to America, were
mostly spread out in little groups up and down the West Coast (Pavri 56). Their
story is an especially important part of the history of Asian Americans, for
they were a new kind of immigrant. The large majorities of the first immigrants
from India were Punjabis, from a region called the Punjab. Most of these
immigrants were young men, between 16 and 35 years old (Daniels 33). Many of
them were married; however, they did not bring their wives across the sea with
them. Their family and community ties remained strong after they left home; they
came to America in small groups of cousins and village neighbors, and these
relationships formed a network of interconnections among them in the new country
as they lived and worked together. They had many reasons for leaving their
homeland. They were being repressed by the British rule and had no land to farm
on. To make matters worse, famine devastated India from 1899 to 1902. Thus,
large-scale immigration began in 1906, when six hundred Asians applied to enter
the United States (Millis 32). These families became the basis for the new East
Indian communities. They had come to the United States with high hopes,
expecting to make their fortunes, but they discovered that life in America was
unexpectedly challenging. Some found it hard to get work. Moreover, those who
had jobs lived a life very different from the life they have known in India (Karitala
2). Instead of belonging to a settled community of families, they traveled from
place to place with their work gangs. And although most of them had been farmers
of farm laborers in the Punjab region of India, in America they often had to
turn to other kinds of work (Dayes 22). Many of them encountered prejudice, born
of ignorance and fear. White sometimes associated the Asian Indian immigrants
with blacks, Chinese, or Japanese (22). Often the Asian Indians were lumped
together with other Asian peoples as "Asiatics," whom prejudices
whites considered unfit to be part of American society (22). Samuel L. Gompers,
a leader of the American Labor Movement, said, "Sixty years' contact with
the Chinese, and twenty-five years' experience with the Japanese and two or
three years' acquaintance with Hindus should be sufficient to convince any
ordinarily intelligent person that they have no standards...(Brass 45)" The
Asians were often blamed for the violence directed against them by whites, who
knew nothing of Asian peoples and often misinterpreted their behavior. "In
all cases, we may say the Oriental is at fault," declared the Asiatic
Exclusion League, an organization whose goal was to keep Asian immigrants out of
western states (Pavri 24). The Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, a winner of the
Nobel Prize in literature, traveled to North America. When he applied for entry
to the United States, Tagore encountered difficulties and when he finally made
it to the country, he experienced racial prejudice in Los Angeles. Tagore
canceled his tour and promptly returned to India, saying in disgust, "Jesus
could not get into America because, first of all, He would not have the
necessary money, and secondly, He would be an Asiatic. (Hundley 45)"
Despite the difficulties they encountered, they felt that life in America had
more to offer than they could expect in their homeland. The definition of
"American" is becoming broader and more multicultural. At the same
time, however, a few people feeling threatened by the growing diversity that
they see around them in streets, stores, and schools, have lashed out in hate
crimes against people whose ethnic backgrounds are different from theirs. In
recent years, Asian Indians have been among the victims of violence fueled by
prejudice. (Hess 42) While many of these people have become self-employed
entrepreneurs by choice, others have found themselves pushed into
self-employment by discrimination. Similarly, an Asian Indian engineer who had
worked for a company for some twenty years told his friend, "They
[management] never give you [Asian Indians] an executive position in the
company. You can only go up so high and no more. (Brass 69)" Frustrated by
limited opportunities to advance in their careers, many Asian Indian
professionals have turned to opening their own businesses. Furthermore, their
turbans and their dark skin brought the Sikhs taunts and verbal abuse from
whites. They were called by insulting names such as "rag-heads" and
treated as inferior beings (Hundley 38). One California Sikh recounted, "I
used to go to Maryville every Saturday. One day a drunken white man came out of
a bar and motioned to me saying, 'Come here, slave!' I said I was no slave man.
He told me that his race ruled India and America, too. (39)" Assimilation
has been a powerful source in American life, particularly in policies and
attitudes toward immigrants in the twentieth century (Dayes 23) Furthermore,
members of American minorities had learned that assimilation is not an
all-or-nothing process. To complete the process, the enterprising minority
individual must jump through several hoops (23). Similarly, all immigrant groups
have faced the question of whether they should cling to their cultural roots or
try to become "American" as quickly as possible. Assimilation-blending
into the larger society-has been more difficult for Asian immigrants than for
European ones, for Asians can be identified by their physical appearance even
when their clothing, speech, and actions have been completely Americanized (Pavri
74). Those Asians who choose to follow traditional customs stand out even more
readily. The earliest Asian Indian immigrants to North America were singled out
as "strangers" because of their turbans. Today, the customs of Asian
Indian Americans continue to make them vulnerable to racism. Since they were
denied the right to own land until 1947, property ownership is a matter of pride
to East Indians (Daniels 47). In San Francisco East Indians own or lease more
than 50 hotels, forming the second largest Indian community group in America.
Most of the hotel owners from Gujarat, a state on the west coast of India (48).
East Indians have been assimilated into their country and city surroundings.
Their children are marrying Americans. Their enthusiasms have transferred from
cricket to baseball. In addition, East Indians are owners of machine shops,
photo studios, restaurants, and many other successful businesses, including
import-export firms and gift shops (Handlin 52). Some of the new comers were
less prosperous and less educated than their fellow immigrants who were the
professionals. Instead of entering law, medicine, or teaching, many of them
turned to business. Beginning around 1980, North America saw the arrival of many
Asian Indians who became self-employed and opened their own small business; some
of these businesses, such as Indian restaurants and clothing shops, serve the
needs of the growing ethnic community (54). Although the immigrants were often
called "Hindus" or "Hindoos" in America, many of them were
not followers of Hinduism, one of the major religions of India. Some of them
were Hindus and some were Muslims, followers of the Islamic faith, but most were
Sikhs. Their religion was Sikhism, a blend of elements from Hinduism and Islam.
Sikhs from the Punjab were highly regarded as soldiers by the British rulers of
India. Sikh men had several distinctive characteristics. To demonstrate their
religious commitment, they never shaved their religious commitment; they never
shaved their beards or cut their hair. They wore turbans, for their faith
required them to cover their heads in their temples. Many of them share the name
Singh (lion), a sacred to Sikhs (Koritala 3). In addition to appearance, many
immigrants tried to retain their religious habits. The workers generally
prepared their own food, and their diet depended upon their religion. Those who
were Muslims did not eat pork. As a rule, they would not buy meat that had been
prepared by other hands. The Hindus were vegetarians and usually had their own
cooks in the camps. The Sikhs ate mostly vegetables, fruit, and milk. In one of
the camps, an Asian Indian told a woman visitor, "We eat no meat, this is,
no beef-the cow is sacred." The women snapped, "But you drink milk?
And you cow gives you milk!" To which the man replied, "Yes, we drink
our mother's milk also, but we do not eat her! (Dayes 49)" India and
America, though half a world apart, have for a long time exchanged concepts of a
more perfect society for humankind. Immigrants from India feel quite at home in
America's climate of freedom and opportunity (Millis 33). Much of the conflict
between old and new revolves around family life, the roles of women and
children, and marriage-areas that in Indian culture are closely governed by
tradition. Many young people aggravate at the rules imposed by their parents,
who seem much stricter than other American parents do (38). Perhaps the single
most troublesome issue between parents and children in Asian Indian American
families has been dating. In traditional Indian culture, dating is unheard of;
boys and girls have very little contact with one another before marriage, which
is arranged by their parents. Dating is completely foreign to traditional Indian
ideas about the proper relationship between the sexes (40). The East Indian
culture is one of the most diverse and traditional of the world. Old and new
customs conflict with one another in the realm of marriage. Among traditional
Indians, marriages are arranged by families and are based upon such ideas as the
social status and the wealth of the bride's or groom's family. In North America,
on the other hand, marriage is regarded as a personal choice based on love.
(Hess 103) In addition, the children of immigrants, who have grown up in two
different worlds, face the special challenge of searching for their identity.
Asian Indian children are no exception. At times, they feel confused, not
knowing whether to think of themselves as Indians or as Americans. At home,
Indian values and customs remain strong-especially the tradition of
unquestioning obedience to one's father. Yet, at school and in the larger world,
young people feel the pull of American culture and its values, which include
questioning authority and making one's own decisions. The result is frequent
disagreement over how much freedom young Asian Indians should have. Asian Indian
parents often try to raise their children in the traditional Indian manner, but
young people increasingly feel the pull of Western styles. However, this
attraction to the Western culture has made is easier for many Indians to
understand and adapt to the Western world thus making significant contributions
for its well being. For more than hundred years, America had enjoyed India's
written philosophies. In 1893, Swami Vivekananda came to the United States from
the Parliament of Religions (Dayes 76). His eloquence and enthusiasm made him
one of the most popular speakers in the assembly of religious leaders from all
around the world (76). Vivekananda was offered full professorship at both
Harvard and Columbia Universities (76). His ideas and thoughts have influenced
many American philosophers and historians such as Aldous Huxley, Will Durant,
and Christopher Isherwood. Swami Vivekananda's brilliant service to unity
created a lasting link between India and America. Furthermore, Gobindram
Jhamandas was born in 1891 in Sind, an area that is now part of Pakistan
(Hundley 45). He established the Watumull Foundation, which has built
educational links between India and America. Today, This foundation brings
highly qualified men and women to American universities for doctoral degrees or
postgraduate work. India has bestowed several contributions to the United States
in the field of science and medicine. Some of these significant people are Dr.
Harbans L. Arora; a biologist from Rockefeller Institute, his work will tell us
more about man's brain, his memory systems, and his behavior (Handlin 73). Dr.
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar; the astrophysicist, his contributions enable us to
study the internal constitution of the stars (74). Dr. Har Gobind Khorana; his
scientific research work has contributed much to solving the mysteries of the
genetic code, cancer, infectious diseases, and the aging process (75). Dr.
Narinder Singh Kapany; a graduate of the Watumall Foundation, was recently
awarded honors for his invention of a laser instrument that performs an eye
operation (75). These men have facilitated the study of science and have
provided the society with valuable information. The East Indians have
contributed in several other fields such as arts and education. One of them is
Zubin Mehta; the great music conductor and music director (Pavri 101). His
romantic approach to conducting and his outstanding technical ability have been
praised by critics and enjoyed by audiences in many nations. In addition, Ravi
Shankar, one of India's outstanding musicians has influenced American Jazz as
well as popular music. He has popularized music of the sitar, a Hindu instrument
resembling a guitar. Mr. Shankar teaches sitar at the University of California's
Los Angeles Department of Ethno-Musicology (Pavri 102). Other Americans of East
Indian descent have made important contributions in the field of education. Such
as Santha Rama Rau; in the field of American literature and Dr. Chakravakti;
professor of oriental religions and literature at Smith College in Massachusetts
(Pavri 106). Today Indians are contributing in everything from the basic genetic
code of the human body to the constitution of the stars. Now, India is giving
American scientists who are improving and prolonging our lives, and extending
our environment from earth to space. Whether the Indians came initially thinking
they would stay only temporarily, or whether they came as settlers seeking a new
home, all of them found themselves changed by America as they built Sikh temples
in the valleys of California, farmed the new land, practiced medicine, operated
small businesses, and raised their children. The Asian Indian Americans have
been changed by their experiences in the West, in the process they have also
been changing America, making its society richer and more multicultural. Asian
Indians have supplied innumerable contributions to the culture and well being of
the US; the majority of these contributions are geared notably to engineering
and the sciences. In addition, growing up in two cultures is a great challenge,
yes, but not a problem. It is a difficult experience, but not one without its
benefits.

Bibliography
Brass, Paul. "Asian Indian Americans." Encyclopedia of
Multiculturalism. 1993 ed. Daniels, Rogers. Asian Americans: Emerging
Minorities. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1988. Dayes, Walter"U.S. Immigration
Commission:" The Asian American Encyclopedia. 1995ed. Handlin, Emma.
"India, Republic of:" The Asian American Encyclopedia. 1995 ed. Hess,
Gary. "The Forgotten Asian Americans: The East Indian Community in the
United States." Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. 1981 ed.
Hundley, Norris. The Asian American. California: American Bibliographical
Center, 1987. Koritala, Srirajasekhar. "A Historical Perspective of
Americans of Asian Indian Origin." 1997. http://www.tiac.net/users/koritala/india/history.htm
Millis, Harry. "East Indians of the West Coast." Makers of America-The
New Immigrants 1904-1913. 1981 ed. Pavri, Tinaz. "Asian American
Indians." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America. 1995 ed. Quotes about
Immigration, 1997 http://www.bergen.org/AAST/Proj...n/quotes_about_immigration.html
Takai, Ronald. Indians in the West: South Asians in America. New York: Chelsa
House Publishers, 1995.
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