I was twelve years old when I was having this conversation with my dad about life in the USA. I was always fascinated about the USA as many of my parent’s cousins resided there and would visit us regularly. I believed that they have a much better lifestyle and are very blessed. So one thing led to another during this conversation and my dad told me about one of my uncle – Hemant Mehta who had left India for the USA the land of opportunities in the year 1969 with just eight dollars in his pocket. He shared a few experiences of my uncle of being in an unknown land. It is surely difficult, he said though it looks all glamorous.
On 27th June 2019, my uncle completed 50 years in the US.
He wrote his memoir and shared it with my dad. My daddy further shared it with the family on our family what’s app group with a disclaimer that my uncle’s story is very inspiring and we would wish to share it further after reading it but we shouldn’t without my Uncle’s permission.
I read it and I couldn’t stop myself. Immediately I made a phone call to my uncle and convinced him to let me post it on my blog. Not because I want to flaunt about it to the world, but because as a twelve-year-old it had a huge impact on me and today as a parent, I would want other parents to read about him. And once you read his story you will know why.
With Eight Bucks in My Pocket!
June 27, 1969, was an auspicious day in my life or another way to put it would be it was the day of my “Desh Nikaal”!** It was the day when I left my home, my parents and all of the family who had pampered me, loved me and taken care of me with all their hearts and ability putting me ahead of almost everything.
** Desh Nikaal means – bad elements driven out of the country.
I left all of them and my home, for a place I had never known, been to, but was thought of as heavenly where the common perception was “money grows on trees” – United States! I had seen it in movies, read a lot about it and had a very good idea about it such that when I began my new life in Worcester, Massachusetts, very few things surprised me – a bright sunny day in winter is still very cold!
Today, after fifty years, spending half a century in Massachusetts, I feel I did well, quite well, apart from missing the family and sort of isolated from them, although I have to credit them all, they all love me and respect me beyond belief, I experience it first hand, always!
And so when the thought of celebration or registering this major milestone of my life comes to my mind, I can only think of Hari Om Mota, the divine power who has guided me helped me to achieve what I have!
For all these fifty years, I strongly believe and have experienced, that Mota had kept his watch on me, safeguarded me, looked after me, pulled me out of any trouble spots and has clearly, always put me in the right place at the right time professionally to land me the perfect jobs that have put me in the front, leadership roles executing unique work as well as it being quite rewarding. I have had bosses who always supported me, stood behind me and pushed me forward even if they had to fight a battle with their superiors!
That’s on the work side, personally, also have been extremely blessed to have a great family – Pallavi, Neil, Ravi, Jenny and Shetal and the five grandchildren.
So with eight dollars in my pocket (that’s the currency transfer approved by the government at the time) … I left Home! For a place that was almost like a Black Hole to me and did not know a soul there!
I had an admission in Graduate School, a sponsor who I had never known but magically identified him correctly in a photo at the US Consulate in Mumbai when I went there for my visa, and magically he was in the same city where I was headed – Worcester, MA – This was all Mota’s magic! Blessings for me.
My parents were in no position to send me to the US, it was all Mota’s huge push on them to send me to the States and he made it all happen just like that in one evening at a session when my parents went to worship him!
So here I am fifty years from the day I left home with a mere eight dollars in my pocket at twenty-two years old, back then in Indian Society I was just a kid who had almost never made a decision on his own, had never lived on his own, as he was always told what to do and fully taken care of!
These fifty years were hard but a lot of fun, a sense of achievement and never ever felt that it was a struggle. Everything fell in its place just perfectly and even to this day I have always felt that Mota’s guiding power was always there. I only used my common sense, hard work and compassion for everyone who is around me. I kept the traits I learned from my parents to always put others before me and work hard. I can’t deviate from it even when I am partially disabled (temporarily, after knee surgery).
So a few words about my Fairy Tale … With Eight Bucks in My Pocket!
First it was meant to be with Pujya Mota’s direction; He promised to my parents and me, ( “Hemant’s hair will not be touched”) and for this half a century I have experienced it – believe it or not, in this space-age, this is hard to talk about but it is a simple truth, as no one has touched my hair, yet. Life has been great, the eight bucks have been more like Eight Blessings and an important fulfilling consideration for the 2016 onwards era is I (an immigrant) did not come empty-handed to this great nation, my (new) home!*
I have been extremely lucky to remain and make a successful living in Massachusetts for the last 50 years, most Indian engineers and other professionals had to relocate from State to State for jobs.
Well, let me say a few words about my arrival in the Black Hole!
I flew Air France from Bombay to Paris, changed planes in Paris to fly to Boston. I stepped on the tarmac at Karachi, Dharan, Athens, on way to Paris. For someone who had never taken a step out of the home, this exhibited a remarkable strength, confidence, courage … to me this was the positive energy I was granted by Mota! I had no fear! I always felt I was in charge!
Dr Upendra Patel, my sponsor, my maternal uncle on paper, who I had never known or heard of … came to pick me up at Logan Airport from Worcester .. after arrival an Air France agent helped me contact him!
I stayed with him for a day or two, the school had already started, he put me up at 26 Dayton Street, a housing for Indian students! A community living – an entirely a new experience. Buddy, now you are on your own – for the first time in my life!
I then was hand-picked to stay at an apartment for four Indian students, owned by Mrs Huff. Mrs Huff was like our second mother, she treated us like a close family, drove us around, did our beds, cleaned our rooms .. if you can believe it! And when I had immigration problems, she was ready to adopt me as her son so I can stay in the US!! – was this just a coincidence or Mota’s doing to put me under her care?! I will leave it up to you to make the judgment! We celebrated all holidays – Thanksgiving and Christmas at her summer cottage on a lake in Whitinsville, MA.
Well, the school was tough but made it through fine … going to American movies from fifth grade helped me a lot to understand, recognize the accent and fortunately never had an issue with understanding ‘American English’. Back then, money was ‘tight’, my father had borrowed money to send me to the US which was a huge burden on me to pay it back, I waited about three months before I had my first bottle of Coke from a machine for a mere ten cents! I worked in summer at Worcester Molded Plastics factory from 3 pm to 3 am and walked home about three miles. Shovelled snow from Worcester Auditorium steps, changed theatre seating to basketball stands in a few hours … worked hard and enjoyed every minute of it as an accomplishment to meet the overall objective of meeting my goals.
After Graduation, earning a Master’s Degree, from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, a well-recognized school, headed to Boston to face the real world, find a job!
What can I say about my first job at Abraham Woolf and Associates! Mr Woolf was like a general in an army, the toughest person one can think of but a real genius at all fronts. I learned the most from him, not only engineering but almost everything about management, behaviour, how to do ‘everything’ correctly, as he would tell us– this is where I really grew up. I had my real training, I became a professional. At AWA, we were screamed at, hollered at constantly, but this is how Mr Woolf made us perfectionists! And that’s what I thrive for …. to this day …
The rest of my professional work story – with United Engineers and Constructors where I spent 26 years takes the top place, working on many outstanding, amazing jobs has simply been marvellous, the people who I worked with were …. Like storybook characters. I excelled, and my bosses just loved it, this is where folks regarded me as someone special, that is still so dear to my heart. I did not know the benefit when I joined UE&C … but I enjoy a monthly pension today for the rest of my life!
The winning formula was to do more than what was expected of me, work with people and respect them, create a team that works well, work round the clock and stay a step ahead of all! Al along in my career, I never felt any discrimination, here in the States if you exhibit that you are focused and working diligently giving your 110%, you will continue to move ahead.
My favourite team in professional sports is New England Patriots, our football team which has one of the best if not the best record in all professional sports. And it is all due to their coach- Bill Belichick, whose slogan is – Do Your Job!
Enough about my professional life!
After a couple of years, came the issue of getting Green Card. Vietnam war and the draft was a concern for men under 26; then came the high unemployment which reduced chances for getting the Green Card.
One of the Eight Blessings (Ashirwad) came to rescue me again, this time it was a ‘two birds with one stone’ deal! Pallavi came to rescue with lifetime gifts! The Green Card was just a small fringe.
I became a U.S. Citizen also on June 27 in 1980!
We started our life together in Quincy, bought our first house in Stoughton, lived there for eleven years before moving to Sharon in 1986.
Along came the children, and later their families including lovely five grandchildren.
Ba and Bhai (parents) came here in 1991. Bhai felt good to spend his last year here with Girish and I and our families. Ba held the fort till 2016 and lived a great life and made an impression on everyone she came in touch with.
So on the eve of 27 June 2019, I am happy, feel great with the family and friends I have, and the Eight Bucks are still going on strong!!
If I were asked to offer two words for the younger generation, it would be –
YOU are in full control of your own life, it’s only YOU who must plan, lead and make everything happen. The good news is that if you did, the reward is always there. At the place of work, put yourself in your boss and/or your client’s shoes, think about their expectations, challenges and you be ready to address it, thereby be a step ahead of everyone on the team. It’s a competitive world everywhere and to keep up with it all, we need to keep us sharp an in tune!
Networking, teamwork, communication skills, respecting team members, common sense and hard work are some of the traits of successful professionals!
Filled with Gratitude
Thanks a lot, Hemantkaka for sharing your story with my readers. Your valuable advice will help us be better professionals and parents.