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We Are Scientists

(AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

Kirtan NautiyalBoulevard | Spring 2018 | 25 minutes (6,903 words)

In 1969, my father traveled alone from India to Boston so that he could enroll in the master’s program in geophysics at MIT.

I don’t know whether he flew or came by boat, so when I try to picture him setting foot in America for the first time, I don’t know what to imagine. I’ve tried to find the photographic evidence, but there aren’t any pictures of the fifteen years he spent in this country before he married my mother. Maybe he just threw out the tattered albums when we were moving between houses, but it’s more likely that he never took any photos at all. He’s never been a sentimental man.

I also don’t know why he chose to come in the first place. He has never had any great fascination with money; despite his making a good living, we lived in shabby rentals for most of my childhood, and my mother shopped for us from department store discount racks. I never felt that professional success was what he was after either. He never advanced past middle management, and except for one late-night discussion in which he made clear that he felt there was a glass ceiling for people with our skin color, I never heard one word of frustration from him about work. Maybe it was to help his family – along with his brother who came to Kansas State University earlier in the 1960s, he supported his parents in India for years with the money he earned. When trying to make us feel guilty about our second-generation lassitude, which is often, he tells us of how at MIT he had to work all hours of the night in the cafeteria and library while keeping up a full courseload, so maybe we need to be a little more appreciative that he helped with the room and board during our own time in college. Read more…