We are going to Minny-sota.: 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
  • Junior Dance Troupe, SILC, Como High School, St. Paul, April 13, 2002.

    The Journey

    Asian Indian, Travel to U.S.

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    Essential Question

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

    The Journey: How did this person get to the U.S.?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Many Indian immigrants come to the U.S. to find a better job, so it is common for one working parent to come alone and later apply to bring the rest of the family.  However, even though it is easier to get a visa if you have family already living in the U.S., it is still a difficult process.  There is a lot of paperwork that needs to be completed for anyone applying for an immigration visa and it sometimes takes a long time.

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

    • Chapter 1

    Download Nayana Ramakrishnan 3
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    Narrator: Nayana Ramakrishnan (NR)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    PS:  What did you imagine that America would be like?

    NR:  I didn’t have any thoughts about what it would be like. Just everyone seemed to give us a lot of attention when we said that, especially in school. When we said, “We’re going to America,” my teacher would say, “You’re going to America. Wow.” And then she would tell the class.  So I knew that going to America was something very special.

    PS:  But you hadn’t seen any picture books or read stories about America, or you didn’t have any ideas about what America was like?

    NR:  Right. Not too many, not too many. I don’t think my parents thought that we should be prepared for what we would see. Where parents go, the children go. They said, “Well, whatever it is, we’ll adjust to it.”

    The thing is, my father was very good at - within his department, he was very close to the people there. Everyone used to say, “Oh, when your children come, do this. When your children come, buy a house.” They used to guide him quite a bit because he also was completely unfamiliar with this country and what to do, but everyone was extremely helpful to him. So no, we had no idea what America meant.

    I remember playing a game with my cousins because we were all very close as a big family unit, and we made up a plan. “We are going to Minny-sota.” I mean, our own language. “Minny-sota.” Whatever that meant, they were just words.

    PS:  So you knew for about a year and a half that you were going to go?

    NR:  Yes, that’s right. We thought so. The year and a half, actually, it should have been a lot less time, but for a lot of visa complications. The visa office in Bombay. My mother would go from Pune to Bombay on the train because they’d call her to answer some questions. She’d go there. Sometimes you had to bring everyone who’s going, so then she’d have to take us also, and then they’d ask her a bunch of questions and she wouldn’t know how to answer them so she would send a letter to my father, asking these questions. And then he would find whatever paperwork and send it back, and then four months later they’d call her again and say, “Oh, there are still a few more questions that we have, or a few more documents that we need.”

    So they really kind of made her life miserable. I remember her crying quite a few times, just because she was frustrated. She was being led around by them. I think the visas finally came, and I remember, it was a very joyful event. Everyone was saying, “Oh, you’re going, finally going,” etc., and so we were also happy. I didn’t know why, but, you know, we were children. It was my mother that took the brunt of that.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  The major part; the bulk.


    Noun:  Problems; things that complicate or confuse.


    Noun:  An official paper that provides proof of something, like birth or citizenship.

    Verb: To record. (documents, documenting, documented)


    Noun:  A permit to enter and leave a country, normally issued by the authorities of the country to be visited.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
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