It was 1962, and as a student from India newly arrived in Tennessee, I was a target for all sorts of well-meaning advice. My friends back in Punjab had assured me that I would pass all my classes because my professors would take it easy on me, understanding that I was so far from home. This proved to be miles from the truth. Then, there were my new Indian friends, fellow UT classmates, who wasted no time by filling me in on “dating,” a term entirely new to me.
Being an Indian in Tennessee, I remember feeling like a celebrity. People would drive by and gawk at my friend and I in our best suits and one wearing turban. We even took part in a downtown fair, standing at a booth and wearing traditional Indian clothing while people took pictures and asked us questions.
My early adventures in the U.S. brought me experience and excitement as well as confusion and hardship. Looking for my first job, hitchhiking from Georgia back to Tennessee, finding the scare of my life when I returned to the street where my roommate and I shared a house. My friend and I found ourselves temporarily homeless, but not without discovering the kindness of strangers who helped us in a time of need. As I jumped at any work experience that I could find, I made sure to make time for fun and play, even dabbling in a bit of cave exploration. For a newly arrived student from India, I felt I was fitting into American culture just fine. I was willing to try any new experience that came my way, all the while trying my best to implement the advice my friends gave.