I didn't have much chance to sit back and think about how far I had really come from home.: Becoming Minnesotan

Sudhansu Misra, c.1995.
  • Name - Sudhansu Misra
  • Age at interview - 64
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview -
  • Sarah Gerdes, IAM Oral History Project 3 Celebration, Minnesota History Center.

    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

    In India, extended families are normally very close.  In fact, it is common for grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, and cousins to all live together in the same house.  The children all grow up together more like brothers and sisters than cousins, and all of the adults work together to take care of all of the kids.  Family members support one another, and have a lot of respect for what it means to be part of the family.  Because of these tight-knit families, it is a very difficult decision to move away from important family support systems to come to the U.S.   However, many Indians still make this choice in order to have better educational and job opportunities.

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

    • Chapter 1

    Download Sudhansu Misra 2
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    Narrator: Sudhansu Misra (SM)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    PS:  Can you describe your journey? 

    SM:  That was again the adventure because in the mid-50's when I got the admission and decided to come to the United States, the safest and most usual way to travel was by ship, ocean liners.  P&O and there are other few companies, I can't remember the names now.  They were all full.  So, finally, when the days came closer, we just decided to go by the TWA airlines.  And that's how I came.

    PS:  So that was 1956.

    SM:  The day we left we took a big group picture of the family, of everybody.  My cousin who has a black and white camera in those days, he took a bunch of people standing together.  I was in Western clothes and everybody was kind of sad-faced and not able to cope with the separation.

    PS: Were you sad-faced also?

    SM: I was sad-faced too.  Yes, it was a big separation that day.  But, I had two or three escorts to come with me off to Bombay and that's a long distance.  That's like two night's travel.  We had to come to Cuttack, where we can take the train.  To come to Cuttack, I think that time there was a problem or something; we had to cross the river by boat. We said good-bye to some of the relatives there.  Then myself, my older brother, my sister, my brother-in-law, and another brother, 5 of us came together. We had a little route planned out, because this train goes through Allahaabad, where another friend of mine lives.  I can't remember the reason why we went through Allahabad, because we had to go to Calcutta and then through Allahabad, and then from Allahabad to Bombay.  So, the trip was planned that way. 

    Then, in Bombay, we arrived and stayed in a hotel.  As a matter of fact, I don't remember staying in a hotel, because the same day we arrived in the morning, that evening I was supposed to take off.  But the rest of them stayed in the hotel in Bombay.  That evening it was raining just like a thunder storm, and pouring rain in Bombay.  The plane that was going to take us was one of those "super-constellations", a TWA plane with three fins at the back.  They used to make those at Boeing aircraft.  Those are all propeller driven, no jet planes in those days.  So, I got inside, I was kind of warm because of all these Western woolen clothes I was wearing, thinking that Western countries are all cold.

    I didn't have a topcoat in those days, but they were all custom-made woolen clothes.  And I got inside and I was sweating, and before I realized that the plane was going to take off, it was already in the air.  So, I didn't have much chance to sit back and think as to how far I had really come from home. 

    But I heard that when the plane took off, my brother broke down sobbing because he thought the airplane had gone someplace and he couldn't find me anymore.  So, that's how I left India. 

    Then, I spent the night in Paris.  Of course, on the way, we stopped in Cairo for refuelling.  So that was a long flight.  But from there we went to New York.  On the way it was Shannon, Newfoundland, and then to New York.  The trip from Shannon to Newfoundland was quite long--about 9 or 10 hours, which normally takes about 8 hours these days from London to New York.  From Newfoundland to New York was another 3 or 4 hours.  The amazing thing is as soon as we reached New York, we got a certificate that we crossed the Atlantic with TWA.  They used to give out certificates.  Those days were the pioneering days - even in the 50's!!

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  Power or permission to enter somewhere.


    Verb:  To deal effectively with something difficult.  (copes, coping, coped)


    Noun:  Someone who accompanies another person.


    Adjective:  Leading the way; trailblazing.


    Adjective:  Of, relating to, or characteristic of the West, that is, the noncommunist countries of Europe, the Americas and Australia.


    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
    nid: 602