This is part 2 of the series “Immigrant: Expectations vs. Reality”. Read part 1 before scrolling down.
Last time, I left you with the first part of my immigrant story. Now it’s time to tell you what happened when we landed, and the exciting new life that was ahead for me.
ARE WE THERE YET?
Our TWA flight finally made it to Los Angeles after that rough flight. The fun wasn’t over. Aprils in Los Angeles can bring heavy rains, and 1986 was no different. We were on our way to Utah. Our connecting flight to Salt Lake City was canceled due to the weather, so we were really late for our very own welcome.
After we collected our luggage, had our British passports stamped, presented our green cards, we had to figure out where we would stay for the night. The airline wasn’t much help in getting us accommodations, and being new to the States, we had to go from door-to-door…in the rain…until we found a hotel that had a room available for us. We had to splurge on a basic room a the Hilton LAX on Century Blvd. Luckily, they had a shuttle that was able to take us to the airport the next morning. After a couple of days of traveling, we made it.
It may seem like a peculiar place for an Indian family to reside, but my aunt and uncle moved there for work and settled down in the area. When my parents came to visit, they liked it so much, they bought a plot of land and built a home — all before I was born.
They were visionaries. They believed that this would be the best place to raise me, and live the American dream. Our immigration paperwork took a few years.
Once we made it to Salt Lake City, we immediately made a beeline to a one-bedroom apartment in downtown. My folks arranged for this apartment prior to our move because our home had tenants, and we had to wait until their lease was up before we could move in.
The house was located in Sandy, a predominantly white suburb on the south end of town. I’m not exaggerating when I say this, but…in 1986, we might have been the first brown family to step foot in the neighborhood.
In fact…our neighborhood was called “White City”.
I didn’t know this at the time, but “White City” would be the place where I would receive my “American/White” name.
Before we go any further you should know that my name is not Dave. It’s a name I go by.
My full name is Gurudev Sudhir Nadkarni. I have a wonderful name, and one I am VERY proud of. It’s a name that was carefully selected for me. It’s not very common.
You can call me Dave, Gurudev, or G. Please, do not call me David, Davis, Davey, or Steve (apparently it sounds like Dave on the phone).
In any case, on my first day of school at Edgemont Elementary (more on school later…keep reading), the principal received my parents and me into her office.
Her name: Moya Kessig. A seemingly stern woman, with a Staten Island flair. She took one look at my name and asked, “How do I say your name, Mr. Nadkarni?”
I politely replied with that sweet and innocent British accent: “Guru-Dave”.
She politely replied if it would be okay if she called me “Dave” since that sounded like the last part of my name.’
I was more than okay with this because I immediately felt “American” and not an immigrant. I had a new identity in my new home!
Dave was going to fit right in and everything was going to be okay!
Now that it’s 2020, I’m pretty sure Mrs. Kessig wouldn’t have renamed me, she would’ve honored my beautiful birth name.
I don’t hold any negativity over her offering me a new name. It’s very common for Indians to have an “American” name and you should all know that because you’ve all spoken with an Indian who works in a call center.
Let me repeat this one more time: my name is Gurudev Sudhir Nadkarni. You can call me Dave, and I won’t be offended.
AN IMMIGRANT MAKING FRIENDS
So at this point, I had a “new” name, but I was still the lonely, only child with no friends. I was in school for about 90 days at Edgemont before the school year ended.
I spent that first summer in Sandy, watching loads of Mister Rogers, Sesame Street, and reruns of the Brady Bunch and I Love Lucy. I also read a lot of books that my dad got from the Library.
My Dad started his new job as a salesman for an electronics company, and my Mom started work as a housekeeper at a large apartment building. Very standard immigrant jobs at the time.
I didn’t have a sitter. That wasn’t a thing for us. And yes, it’s perfectly safe to leave a six-year-old at home all alone if they are responsible (I’d never leave a kid alone because I was an exception).
My parents never treated me like a kid. It was just generally accepted that when my parents weren’t home, I stayed inside the house with the doors locked, and I could read, write or watch whatever TV we had.
When my Mom would come home, I was able to explore a small part of the neighborhood and play with the kids who lived nearby. Particularly the three kids who became my first friends that lived in the house behind ours: Vicky, Debbie, and Brian.
They were very nice to me and although white, never questioned my skin color. I was just another kid.
I had my first set of friends and felt lucky to have made some friends so quickly.
I had the expectation that moving to America means I will make friends just like the ones I have right now.
When I met my neighbors, I thought this expectation would be fulfilled.
The only thing next, was to go to school.
If you made it this far, THANK YOU for reading! This was part two in my Immigrant series. If you’d like to go back and read part one, please do.
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Are you an immigrant too? Or has my story helped you better understand what it’s like to move to the United States? Drop me a line!