Industrial Sales Manager
All of my family lives within 10 miles. I have been here for 38 years and never lived anywhere else except Philadelphia, when I was a young child. But I have traveled the country for my work and have had the opportunity to visit large cities and many small towns in other states, which only makes me appreciate Vermont all the more. When I come home and see the mountains I am very glad that I live here.
My father emigrated to the United States from Mumbai, India, for his education. We lived in Philadelphia and moved to Vermont when my father came to work at the University of Vermont. At that time (1973) there were maybe 30 Indian families here, and most of them worked for IBM. We all knew each other.
Now, I walk down Church Street in Burlington and see Indians and have no idea who they are or where they have come from. There are young families that I don’t have a connection with. They may have moved here from large cities because they seem well-adjusted and modern. Possibly that is because India has changed and developed so much. The scene has improved now for Indians here because the numbers have increased and they tend to do things together.
When my mother came to the U.S. she spoke no English, wore traditional clothes and had me wear them too. She also had me wear the bindi (red dot), so I looked different. My parents were very strict and I couldn’t go to dances and so forth. So there was a cultural difference, rather than a racial difference, because my parents wouldn’t let me do things that other kids could do. Anyone who is not Christian has to deal with some cultural differences, like Christmas celebrations. My parents ended up getting a tree. By the time my younger sister came along they had eased up on their restrictions.
I have not experienced discrimination in Vermont. I have only one memory of someone not being very polite at a high school football game. When we moved here from Philadelphia I had to adjust to being in a white community. The area where we lived in Philadelphia was primarily African-American and I was picked on by African-Americans because my skin wasn’t dark enough. In Vermont most of my friends were white. I had very few Indian friends because there just were not any my age. In my high school class there was one Indian boy. My sister, who is 12 years younger, had more Indian friends because there were more families living here by then.
There is an India Club that is very organized and hosts events. It provides a way to bring the Indian community together. Gatherings used to be in high school cafeterias but over the years the club has become more sophisticated and broader. Some smaller groups spin off based on language and region. I attend occasional events.
My sister and I both ended up marrying white men and are pretty assimilated. My husband has been to India more times than I have, though he is not Indian. My last visit there was in 1999, and it is amazing to me that in this little state of Vermont I met someone who is so interested in and familiar with my parents’ country.
I have worked for the same company for 20 years, beginning as a receptionist after graduating from UVM. I have been the Industrial Sales Manager for 14 years. Our company, Rhino Foods, actively promotes a diverse workforce.
Today, newcomers who have come from bigger cities may miss Indian restaurants and other cultural opportunities. One difference I have noticed is that people seem to come here for jobs and they leave for jobs. When I was growing up people came here and stayed.