It was a major step to leave your country, to come here on a piece of paper.: Becoming Minnesotan

Nayana Ramakrishnan, July 24, 2008.
  • Name - Nayana Ramakrishnan
  • Age at interview - 47
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 04.03.2001
  • Walter Mondale speaks to a crowd during a trip to India, 1967.

    Asian Indian, Work

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    Essential Question

    Coming to America: What did coming to America symbolize for this person?

    Push & Pull Factors: Why did this person come to the U.S.?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    India’s economy has often struggled over the past 100 years.  Under British rule, they lost much of their wealth as the British destroyed the local economy to fuel its Industrial revolution.  Even after gaining its independence from Great Britain in 1947, it took many years for India to build up its economy.  In the early years of independence the Indian government employed many of people, but jobs were still limited.  Because India is such a huge country with so many different ethnic groups, there has been a lot of competition for the few jobs that there are.  Many well-educated Indians have moved to the U.S. for specialized jobs that they cannot find in India.  To get a work visa a person must have a specialized skill that is needed by a U.S. employer, which must sponsor the individual.  Eventually this person may apply for a green card and then citizenship.  Once a person has a green card, which represents permanent residency, he or she is no longer limited by employer sponsorship. 

    To learn more about Asian Indian history and culture, visit our Asian Indian Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Nayana Ramakrishnan 2
    1:48 Minutes | 1.73Mb


    Narrator: Nayana Ramakrishnan (NR)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    PS: Why did your father decide to leave India?

    NR: That’s a little hazy to me, because I was a child and I didn’t really know the politics of it, but I believe he was unhappy with the work that he was doing, or the fact that he was not being promoted, as he should have been, for his experience. He was a PhD and he had some other younger people working, promoted. He was a hard worker and a good researcher, etc.

    Actually, what happened is, he would have stayed, except for the fact that many years before - my father was in this country for about two years, in 1953 and ‘54. He came here as a, I don’t know, was it maybe a government exchange program, and he came to do research in Cleveland, so he was in Cleveland for about two years.

    He met several people, and one of his bosses, he joined the University of Minnesota as head of the Department of Anatomy. They were going to set up the Department of Anatomy and he was asked to be the head, and at that time, he remembered my father and he sent all the paperwork and gave him an offer, whether he would like to join. My father did think long and hard about that, I think. It was a major step to leave your country, to come here on a piece of paper. He didn’t know really what that meant. But it was an opportunity, although my father, I don’t think was a big risk-taker, he took that risk. Maybe it was just the right time for him to leave. So it was very unusual in those days to go outside of India.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  1. Participation in events, leading to knowledge, opinons, or skills.  2. The knowledge thus gathered.


    Adjective:  Not clear; uncertain.


    Noun:  A chance for advancement, progress, or profit.


    Noun:  The highest degree awarded by a university; literally means "Doctor of Philosophy."


    Adjective:  Social relations involving intrigue to gain authority or power.


    Verb:  1. To raise someone or something to a more important or responsible job, rank, or position.  2. To advocate or urge on behalf of something or someone.  (promotes, promoting, promoted)


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 600