WEBVTT 00:00:00.000 --> 01:00:04.000 [JITESH JAGGI]: This is Jitesh Jaggi for the National Indo-American Museum’s Oral History Archive, today interviewing Mrs. Krishna Chakrabarthy at her residence. So, thank-you, and before we start, can you please state and spell your name for us? 00:00:00.001 --> 01:00:04.001 [KRISHNA CHAKRABARTY]: Yes. I am Krishna Chakraborty, that’s how we say it in Bengali. In English, we say say Krishna Chakrabarty. And, it’s spelled this way, k r i s h n a and then c h a k r a b a r t y. 00:00:00.002 --> 01:00:04.002 [JJ]: You can just speak at your regular volume, this is very powerful, it can catch even a whisper. So, when and where were you born? 00:00:00.003 --> 01:00:04.003 [KC]: I was born in Puna, now it’s called Pune. And this was in 1940, now it's part of Maharashtra. At that time, I think it was part of Bombay, or Mumbai. 00:00:00.004 --> 01:00:04.004 [JJ]: What languages did you speak growing up? 00:00:00.005 --> 01:00:04.005 [KC]: Okay, so growing up, when I was born, little after couple of years later, I spoke a little Marathi. That's what my mother told me. Then I spoke Gujrati. Which is what, we lived in a place called Morbi, which is near Rajkot, and everybody spoke Gujrati there. It’s also part of Saurashtra. So, I spoke Gujrati and of course I spoke my mother tongue, which is Bengali. 00:00:00.006 --> 01:00:04.006 [JJ]: Tell us a little bit about your experience growing up in India, Pune and Gujrat. 00:00:00.007 --> 01:00:04.007 [KC]: Yes, Pune don't remember that much. But, my father was there, professor of physics in Wadia College. Wadia College still exists. And, my parents were born in East Bengal, then part of India, somewhere near Dhaka. So, when I came to Gujrat, I was about 3 I think, and so my father taught me at home. He had tutors for me. So, I did not enter kindergarten right away. He arranged it so that I entered in fifth grade for the first time. Because the tutors had already taught me. And my mother taught me Bengali, my father taught me English. So that’s how my education began. 00:00:00.008 --> 01:00:04.008 [JJ]: And when did you enter school then? 00:00:00.009 --> 01:00:04.009 [KC]: I don’t remember the exact age, but, I know I graduated from high-school, at that time it was called matric, or matriculation. I graduated when I was 14. And I entered in grade five right away. 00:00:00.010 --> 01:00:04.010 [JJ]: How about your mother's siblings, who else. 00:00:00.011 --> 01:00:04.011 [KC]: Okay, my mother had several siblings, my mother's siblings were four brothers and another sister. My mother’s father had died very early. And my father didn't have any siblings, he had a brother and a sister but they had also died. So, I never met any of my brother’s siblings. 00:00:00.012 --> 01:00:04.012 [JJ]: Did you have siblings? 00:00:00.013 --> 01:00:04.013 [KC]: Yes, I have two siblings, I have my sister and my brother. Younger, both younger than me. 00:00:00.014 --> 01:00:04.014 [JJ]: You’re the eldest, I see. Any experiences you want to share, growing up in India? Anything stands out, for you? How was your childhood? 00:00:00.015 --> 01:00:04.015 [KC]: My childhood was very nice. We lived--my father was like the head of engineering college there. It was actually a technical institute called Morbi Technical Institute. And my father was the principal. Later, he formed that into an engineering college and so he was the head of that. He was an educator, so it was nice. I guess I was kind of lonely. We lived, in Gujarati we say same khate, which means in the opposite bank. On the opposite bank from the actual city. And there was a river called Machchhu which was dry in the summer and there was a lot of crocodiles. So, I remember my father took me, he taught me how to swim. There, most people never swam, because, I don't know why. Gujratis don’t have the swimming culture, I guess. So, he taught me, I remember there were, I used to walk across the river because the river was dry, and there was a crocodiles. **laughs** Crocodiles who were sunning themselves. I felt perfectly comfortable with the crocodiles around me. They were more dangerous in water. And then, I was a good student, I was always first in my class. But, as I said, I was a little lonely. I still have one friend, alive, who used to be with me. She was my only friend. She is still there in Ahmedabad. 00:00:00.016 --> 01:00:04.016 [JJ]: So, did you practice any certain religion? Does your family practice religion, are you religious? 00:00:00.017 --> 01:00:04.017 [KC]: Yes. Well, my father was not particularly religious. My mother performed puja at home. Lakshmi puja. There we call, you know every Thursday, Guruvara, my mother would fast and perform puja. And, she taught me how to read, in Bengali we call it Panchali, which is like a story that is repeated. So, I learned that, and then there was a Hanuman mandir. Hanuman god was very popular in Gujrat. He’s not in Bengal, but in Gujrat. I used to go there, I think every Saturday, and lot of nice sweets to eat. And I have remained religious all my life. I go to all the pujas. And, I don’t have a deity at home, but I do these things. In my mind, I'm not overly religious, I don't believe that other religions are not good. I believe that all religions are good. I go to church, I go to mosque, if somebody invites me, I go. But I’m not like, I'm not extremely devout, in the sense that I don't look down upon people with other religions. 00:00:00.018 --> 01:00:04.018 [JJ]: So, what brought you to the United States and when did you come here? 00:00:00.019 --> 01:00:04.019 [KC]: Okay, I came here in 1961. I was about 20 years old. The reason I came was my father. My father always wanted to go to a foreign country. In those days, it was England. You know, we called it, in Bengali, we say bilit, in Gujrati, vilayat. He wanted to go, but he never could, he didn’t have money. So, he wanted me to go. So, when I got my master's degree from Calcutta University, I was about 20. He said I should apply and I didn't want to apply, because I was like number three in my class. And I said to him, to my father, that, Father, there are students who have done better than me. There’s number one, number two, they have applied, so I will never get in. And my father says that, “My child that is ridiculous because there are many universities in United States, and if they apply to one, they're not going to compare, you're not going to be compared with them. You'll be compared in your own merits.” So, I then applied to University of California, there are some teachers who recommended me, and I got a fellowship, NIH fellowship. It was not much money, but it was enough for me. 00:00:00.020 --> 01:00:04.020 [JJ]: What did you study in Calcutta and then in California? 00:00:00.021 --> 01:00:04.021 [KC]: Okay, so in Calcutta, well, it’s a long story. I was in Gujarat, then my father went to a place called Bilaspur, and he put me in a hostel in Mumbai, on Chowpatty, it was right next to the aquarium. It was the girls’ hostel and I was not supposed to be there, because I was younger than most other people, but they made a special concession for me. So, I went to a Gujrati school called New Era School. And I was kind of looked down upon by other students, because they were rich Gujrati people, and I was Bengali, and nobody knew me. But, I was okay. I was the teacher's pet. I did well there, and then I went to St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai for two years and I got a degree, at that time it was called ISC, Intermediate Science. And then, we all came to Calcutta, my father had a good job as an educator, and I was, you know, naturally I came to Calcutta, I went to a college called Scottish Church College. And I finish my bachelor's degree with honors in chemistry, and then, I continued in University of Calcutta, and I got a master's degree, and that degree was in Biochemistry. And after that, I came to United States. 00:00:00.022 --> 01:00:04.022 [JJ]: And before you came to the United States, did you have any mental image of the US, or any expectations, what you were going to see in the US? 00:00:00.023 --> 01:00:04.023 [KC]: Actually I didn't, except my professors who had been to California, they told me it was a good place. At that time, there was no TV, so I never watched anything. Now, everybody in India knows everything about here, but at that time I didn't know, except what I had heard. I knew there will be good education, that's all I knew. 00:00:00.024 --> 01:00:04.024 [JJ]: So, when you did arrive here, you said in 1961, what were some of the challenges you faced? 00:00:00.025 --> 01:00:04.025 [KC]: Okay, challenges. 00:00:00.026 --> 01:00:04.026 [JJ]: Hardships? 00:00:00.027 --> 01:00:04.027 [KC]: I didn’t have hardships, but I knew that I had to do well in my school. And if I didn't do well, I would lose my fellowship and I would have to come back to India. So, I guess my first challenges might be that I didn't understand the English that the Americans were speaking. Especially the men, they spoke rather fast and I had never heard an American accent before. So, I guess that would be my challenge, but after some time, I managed to understand. And then I was okay, I was always kind of stressed-out thinking, “I have to do well, I have to get all A's, otherwise, I’ll be thrown out.” So, in that sense, I was the only girl in University of California at Davis Campus. We call that UCDavis, University of California Dav—only Indian girl. And they were 17 Indian boys, but I didn't date anybody because I was worried that you know I might fail or something. So, I continued my studies. 00:00:00.028 --> 01:00:04.028 [JJ]: And culturally, like now you say, you were the only Indian girl there. Were you able to adapt, did you feel a pressure to adapt? Or were you struggling, like with the culture shock? 00:00:00.029 --> 01:00:04.029 [KC]: Well, I was a little bit shocked because I saw all the boys and the girls reacting with each other, which I was not accustomed to. But I was not unhappy to see that. That was a new culture, but I did not really become American. In that sense, I continued wearing saris, which I am still wearing, even to this day when I'm 80 years old and it is a bit of an exception. ‘Cause most of my friends changed to Western attire. And I never even bought any Western clothes. So, in that sense, I guess there wasn't any challenge. But I wanted to eat Indian food, there was no Indian food. So, I had to order daal from some company called Kalustyan, which was in New York. So, no daal was available, nobody had ever heard of daal. But I cooked, I cook some Indian food and invited some people. 00:00:00.030 --> 01:00:04.030 [JJ]: I see. And, you mentioned the sari which you’re wearing to this day as I see. Was that an intentional decision to stick to it, to be closer to your roots or is it just, you never cared for anything else? 00:00:00.031 --> 01:00:04.031 [KC]: You know, I will state this expression, American expression that I have heard a lot. And which says, If it ain’t broken you can't fix it. In other words, if there’s nothing wrong, why should I change something? And I felt that I looked better in a sari. I don't have the figure, the height, etcetera that American girls have. And I wanted to stick to my roots, that's also wanting and if Indians don’t wear Indian clothing, how are the Americans going to know about India? So, I felt like a little ambassador, where I should continue my culture. And, I just never felt the need to wear other kinds of clothing. 00:00:00.032 --> 01:00:04.032 [JJ]: So, how was your education there, what did you study? 00:00:00.033 --> 01:00:04.033 [KC]: Education, I got a degree in Comparative Biochemistry, it’s called. I got a PhD in about three and a half years, 1964 December, I got my degree, PhD degree. And I was a good student, even, I was always a good student, but not necessarily friendly with everybody. So, there were only seven graduate students, in those days, in the biochemistry department. And the other six got married to each other, in other words the six students became three couples. Whereas I remained by myself **laughs** And part of the reason was, my father had told me, my mother also, that you know, “If you go to America, don't marry somebody there. And, if you marry, that person should be Bengali, and that person should be Brahmin.” So where am I going to find a Bengali Brahmin in Davis where there were no other Indian boys? So, I did not make a huge amount of effort to find anybody. Although, there were people who were interested in me, but they were not Bengali Brahmins, so I figured, why should I even bother? ‘Cause my father's going to find somebody for me, and he did, which I'll tell you in a minute. 00:00:00.034 --> 01:00:04.034 [JJ]: But in the meantime, did you feel left out? Or maybe a little bit lonely? Struggle, was that a struggle for you? 00:00:00.035 --> 01:00:04.035 [KC]: I might say I was a little bit lonely, because there weren't people exactly like me there, but I don't think I ever felt left out. I had some difficulties, I didn't have enough money to buy a car, so I needed a bicycle. And, luckily for me, Davis is a bicycle town. Everybody had a bicycle, even now, I visited recently, everybody has bicycle. So, I had been taught how to ride a bicycle in my childhood, but I had not for a while. So, I simply got a bicycle, got on it, started riding it, I fell down a couple of times. Fell down a couple of times. But, I learned. They say, you never forget how to ride a bicycle, which is true. I also was a good swimmer, and there was nice swimming pool, continue to swim. I don't have any other sports activity and even to this day, today, I can swim, I can ride my bike. 00:00:00.036 --> 01:00:04.036 [JJ]: So, what was your first job experience like in the US? 00:00:00.037 --> 01:00:04.037 [KC]: Okay, there was no job, because I left. As soon as I got my PhD, I came back to India. And then in India, I had a job, a research assistant like job, in which I did not do too well. I didn't have--was working under a professor, there were like 15 students working for him, and I didn't have any of the equipment, so that job did not work out too well. But then, I got married in India. And this is where I'm about to tell you the rest of the story is one of my classmate, when I was, I was an MSC student in India, my father and his professor, they arranged my marriage. Even though knew him, it was not my idea, it was not his idea, but his professor and my dad were friends from long time ago, and they already decided that I was going to marry him. So, when I came back to India, I was told I'm already engaged and my would-be husband also knew it. But, we did not talk too much about marriage, but we kind of dated, if you could call that a date. We went to see movies, because we knew that our parents had already arranged the marriage. 00:00:00.038 --> 01:00:04.038 [JJ]: Was that a shock though? Or, surprise? 00:00:00.039 --> 01:00:04.039 [KC]: Not surprised, because I knew my father was going to find somebody. It was a pleasant surprise. If I had tried to find somebody on my own, I might not have been able to do as well, and he was a Bengali Brahmin. So, my father was happy. And my would-be husband, he did not object to the--otherwise, there would have been no marriage. Although, he often said that if he had married somewhere in Sainthia, Sainthia is a town in West Bengal where he grew up, that he could have gotten more money in dowry. And car maybe **laughs** and he kept saying, Oh if I only had married somebody my parents chose, I would be rich. But I said to him, “I'm earning money now.” **laughs** 00:00:00.040 --> 01:00:04.040 [JJ]: So yeah, tell us about your husband. 00:00:00.041 --> 01:00:04.041 [KC]: Okay, so my husband his name was Ananda Chakrabarty, he died last year at age 82. He was a very fun-loving person, he was my classmate. But when he was my classmate, I didn't speak much with him. In those days, there were five boys and three girls, those days boys and girls didn't intermix that much. They didn't talk that much with each other. When the professor came, the boys would already be sitting in a class and the girls would walk in after the professor came. And we would sit in the front row, boys would sit in the back row. So, I heard him, I liked his sense of humor. But there was really not much interaction. And the next year, all of us, all eight of us, actually seven of us, one boy didn't go, we went on a tour of South India. So, we saw different places, we had a person who was escorting us, a professor. So, I got to know him a little bit at that time. Not a whole lot. The only thing I remember is, one time we were going by a cornfield and he picked out, he tore a corn cob and suddenly gave it to me. And I thought, “What is he giving me? This is not flowers, it’s a corn cob.” And now I realize that, maybe he was afraid that somebody was going to catch him for stealing the corn cob, and he was giving it to me so that he wouldn't get caught. Anyway, that was the only expression of love that I had from him. And then years later, of course, we were married. 00:00:00.042 --> 01:00:04.042 [JJ]: Yeah, firstly, sorry to hear about your loss, that must be hard for you. How did you take it? Did you have some emotional support in terms of any friends, family around last year? 00:00:00.043 --> 01:00:04.043 [KC]: Yes, I had a lot of support. We had moved into a retirement home. We lived in Chicago for the last 40 years, from 1979 we moved to Chicago. Before that, my husband had achieved a lot of fame. He was one of the first persons, he was the first person, who was awarded a patent for a live bacteria. Later, I will show you a picture in which—there was even a Jeopardy question created after him. Anyway, he was always the prominent person in our relationship. Everybody knew him, all the Bengalis, other Indians, and he went to India many times. And more or less, he shaped the way that my professional career would have been totally different. If I had married somebody else, or if I was single, I would have chosen to go to some big university. Since, I was a good student, I would have achieved a lot of fame, perhaps, as a professor or researcher. That didn't happen. I was kind of shadowed by him, but I never regretted it, you know. I had two children, we had two children, we raised them. And when he died, there was a lot of support from the Bengali community here, from our friends who are all over United States, as well as India, my family members, and even the resident of this place, this is a retirement home, they knew him, some of them knew him, and they gave me a lot of support. So, I did not feel abandoned. You know, I felt, I wasn't happy that he died. He died very suddenly. He was slowly losing his memory, but one day, he just got up and, he just lay down on the floor, he couldn't walk anymore. And he said something like, “Oh, maybe the Covid got me.” Because, he thought that he had Covid. Turns out that he didn't have Covid. But, he did not die in a great deal of pain. Suddenly, he just stopped breathing. And I called the ambulance and immediately the support came, the hospital is right next door. People came, they took him away, but they could not revive him. So, I was sad that he didn't live to enjoy his retirement years, but on the other hand, because he was losing his memory, he couldn't continue his work. And he might have ended up with dementia, and that would not have been good. So, it was a blessing in that sense. 00:00:00.044 --> 01:00:04.044 [JJ]: So did both of you decide, when you were in India, after getting married, how did you decide to come to America? 00:00:00.045 --> 01:00:04.045 [KC]: Okay, that happened because--now he had not been to America. But, he had been applying to different places. And somebody in Urbana Illinois read a paper that he had written, and he was invited for a post-doctoral position here in Urbana. Urbana, Illinois. So, of course, this is the first job offer he had and he wanted to come. In the meantime, when I was doing my PhD, he also did his PhD in India, with the same professor who had arranged our marriage. So, of course he wanted to come, so of course I had no choice, I had to come with him. And I was not unhappy about that, but after that, whatever he did more or less decided my fate. I could not go somewhere else. And here, after he got his job, somebody else gave me a job in Urbana, and then I started working as a post-doc with another professor, who also liked me very much, and I liked him and we did good research. And then, in 1971, he got an offer from General Electric company for a job. My husband did. So, I of course followed him. By that time, we had had one daughter. And then, after we went there, we had a son. So, we had two children at that point. And then I got a job there with a drug company called Sterling-Winthrop Research Institute, where I worked for about six years. By that time, my husband had achieved a lot of fame, although he had not received this patent yet, but the fight was going on. And then he decided to come back to academia, so he accepted a job here at University of Illinois Chicago, also called UIC. So when he came here, I also came with the kids. But at that time, my son, our son, he had epilepsy. We had found out that he had epilepsy, but he was okay. But, I had to take care of it, so I only worked kind of part-time. My daughter was in high-school, and so our life continued. I was trying to get a grant but I was never successful in getting a good grant. But, I did research, but at that time, the Dean who was present at UIC, he recruited me, he found out that I was a good teacher. Because I was allowed to teach some lectures in some courses. And he put me in charge of the minority students, which is Black, Hispanic and American Indian. So, that was my job. Tutorial, I was conducting tutorials. So, I loved that job and the students came to me, a lot of students. I would have like 60 students sometimes I would have more students than the main lecturers. And I taught them twice a week, two hours each, and that was my job for many years. And, at one point I just could no longer get grant money, so I stopped my research, and this is what I was doing. And I retired about 20 years ago and I'm still teaching, I'm still tutoring at UIC. Now, I just go like once a week and I have very few students, but I'm still learning things, teaching things. So, this is sort of my calling, you might say. 00:00:00.046 --> 01:00:04.046 [JJ]: It seems like this was also your way of establishing your own identity, a little separate from your husband. Is that how you see it? 00:00:00.047 --> 01:00:04.047 [KC]: Yes, I see that way. I never thought of my husband as in any way controlling me, but of course, whatever--since he was much more dominant in research, in every way. Of course he dominated our lives, but he was not able to pay that much attention to the children. So, I would go, you know, I would go everywhere with the kids, attended their concerts, attended their graduations, etcetera. But, I have never regretted, you know there are some families where the wife wants to pursue her own career. And then she would even live separately from the husband. Husband would be in one place and wife would be in another place. And they're happy too, I'm not saying anything against that. But in my case, that's something I didn't want. I wanted to stay close to the children. So, one tragedy happened in our lives is that, about 12 years ago, my son suddenly died. He died, he was only 36. And we still don't know what happened, why did he die. But we found him in his own house, he was alone and the autopsy didn't reveal any particular cause, but they thought maybe because he had epilepsy, maybe he had an epileptic attack. All sorts of possibilities are there. So, that was very, very sad. And my daughter is okay. So we had two children, now only one is alive. My daughter is also a school teacher. But her health is not too great, but she's okay, she provides me with a lot of support, mental support. And my sister and her husband live in Cleveland, they also support me a lot. I have many friends and I have also made many friends here, in Park Place. So, I am very blessed with that situation, currently. 00:00:00.048 --> 01:00:04.048 [JJ]: And would you say, on that same line, making friends in the US was easy for you or difficult for you over the years? 00:00:00.049 --> 01:00:04.049 [KC]: Making friends has been easy for me. I was not so outgoing when I was a child. I think maybe because I was dominated by my father, my mother also talked a lot with other people, so I kind of didn't want to meet anybody. When I came here, I realized I had to do that. Otherwise, I would be alone. Over the years, I feel like I have a lot of friends. I like to cook, I like to invite people, my mother used to cook quite well, my sister cooks well, even my brother cooks well. My brother is right now is in India. I think making friends was not difficult for me, it sort of came to me. 00:00:00.050 --> 01:00:04.050 [JJ]: Were you homesick ever, while you were in India? How did you stay in touch with family, how did you maintain correspondence? 00:00:00.051 --> 01:00:04.051 [KC]: Okay, well, I've been here most of my life. It's been sixty years. I was not home sick, except when I first came. When I first came as a student, I was homesick. In fact, I was in the dorm room crying, thinking all these four walls is all I'll ever see. But after that, I was not. I have family and I have friends and we go to India. We went to India every single year, in the latter years. Originally, we didn't, because we didn't have so much money. But the airplane tickets, the prices came down, and we could go my husband tried to do anything he's could for India. He was a part of many different committees and he tried to advance some of the research. He had a drug which was in clinical stages, he tried to do something so that it could be tested in India and in Bangladesh. It didn't work out, because he didn't live. But it could have done that. So, no, I wouldn’t say I was homesick. I have so many friends here. Even now. 00:00:00.052 --> 01:00:04.052 [JJ]: …Is there something specific about India, though, that you missed while living here? 00:00:00.053 --> 01:00:04.053 [KC]: Okay. I think that what I will say is that I miss seeing my relatives, you know, I have a lot of relatives that I never see. Especially the one in my husband's family, because most of them live in this town called Shaintia. It’s very crowded now but I kind of miss seeing them, and their children, and my other relatives on my father's and mother's side. Not being able to see their growth, you know how they grew. I also miss the fact that I could not be with my parents. My mother died when I was away, in fact, at that time I was visiting Kailash in Tibet, my husband and I were visiting, and when I was there, I got the news that she had died. So, I could not take care of them, which is what I miss. I did take care of my father for a while, after my mother died, but then father also passed away. So, I kind of missed the Indian culture where people visit each other. You know, all the time here, our doors are closed, people don't come, just uninvited they don't come. And, I sort of miss that. I miss the food, even though there’s good food here, it's not exactly the same kind of food that people cook at home. Here too we get invited a lot in people's homes. I think I kind of miss that sort of interaction. I also felt that as a teacher, I might be more useful in India. 00:00:00.054 --> 01:00:04.054 [JJ]: And were you involved in the Indian community here? Any organizations, any associations? 00:00:00.055 --> 01:00:04.055 [KC]: Yes. Well, we have the Bengali community, which is called Bengali Association of Greater Chicago. I have been involved with that right from the beginning, and I go to every puja, every function, everything they do. I write in a group call Unmesh, which is a literary society group where we write in Bengali. And that group has been going on for 28 years now. I go every week to their events and meetings where I meet other people who are also writers. And then, I have, I am also the founder, director of another organization called Varosha. Varosha means support, we spell it v a r o s h a. And there, we collect money from our friends here and we spend it in West Bengal, trying to help women and children. Women, so that they can get jobs, they can get a vocation, we are training nurses, we are training beauticians. And children for their education, like tutorials. And we are, there are about seven of us now, started with three people. The main organizer was a man called Santi Banerjee, he's still there. And I was there, another person was there, the third person died. And it still continues, we’re still doing whatever we can. I also participated in some voluntary things, like soup kitchen for years, and yeah, I guess basically that's it. I'm still an alumna of UC Davis, so they have many meetings that I go to--I just love Davis. And, at one point I wanted to settle down. My husband and I both thought, maybe we'll go to California and settle down. My husband had some plans post-retirement, but they didn't work out, because his health was not good. And California is also a different place now. Lot of traffic, which I don't like. Earthquakes, fires, so now I think I'm happy in Illinois. 00:00:00.056 --> 01:00:04.056 [JJ]: So, about Chicago specifically, what was your connection with Chicago? How did you see it over the years change? And first impressions, current impression? 00:00:00.057 --> 01:00:04.057 [KC]: Chicago, when we lived in Urbana, we occasionally came. It’s a beautiful city. It’s also crime-ridden. I, myself, have not been attacked by anybody, but my friends have. Kind of dangerous to go there, but beauty is just, there's no parallel, it’s so beautiful. You know, all the skyscrapers and the buildings. When I first came to Chicago to live, I took my children to every museum, you know I’m not that much of a food fan, but people tell me that Chicago has wonderful restaurants. But I was mainly interested in different museums. I love flowers. I grew flowers in my home, I grew some flowers in my balcony here, but now that it’s cold, they are no longer there. And there is a beautiful park, it's not Chicago itself, but a suburb of Chicago, here that we go to. There are light ceremonies, there are zoos— 00:00:00.058 --> 01:00:04.058 [JJ]: Elmhurst? 00:00:00.059 --> 01:00:04.059 [KC]: Well, in Lombard, there’s a beautiful park called Lilacia Park, where I go to see lilacs. You know, so there are so many things in Chicago. Now, I just love Chicago for over all, different communities, you know. Gujratis, Bengalis, the three other Indians who live here are from Kerala, they speak Malayali. So, there are all these people, and it’s a great place. It is cold, but the season change excites me, you know. Otherwise, in India, it’s always the same, hot, hot, hot. 00:00:00.060 --> 01:00:04.060 [JJ]: What kind of impact do you think Indian Americans have made on Chicago, but also in America in general? 00:00:00.061 --> 01:00:04.061 [KC]: It’s not in any one field, but I see people, I see people in politics, I see teachers, some teachers are well-known, but others are not. Like, UIC, a lot of faculty members are Indian, but when students of Indian descent come and look at them, they must feel good, that these Indians are doing well. And, as I said, I’m not seeing any particular field where Indians have excelled, but I'm glad to see that they have entered the American life and made it better. My husband was one of them, but there are many people like that. Scientists, mathematicians, politicians, and now Kamala Harris is partly India, so, we are going upwards, so that's what I’ll say. Gujratis are very good in business and they are mainly responsible for bringing all these stores, you know food stores, especially, now we can get anything. So, that has helped us a lot, foodwise. 00:00:00.062 --> 01:00:04.062 [JJ]: Tell us a little more about your own role, especially in Varosha, because you have been the founder, director. Like what kind of efforts did it take? What were your responsibilities? What kind of impact were you trying to make, have you made? 00:00:00.063 --> 01:00:04.063 [KC]: Okay, as I told you, Santi Banerjee was the main person. He approached me when he first started saying, I want to do this ‘cause I want to do something for India. You know, here we are comfortable situation, in India there’s so many people. So, because he was my friend and like my younger brother, I decided to help him. So, initially, it was just like somebody wants my help, I will join. But then, I became very enthused, you know, very, I really wanted to help, so I have been going to India every year, just like the other directors. I have been seeing these--you know, we first started with women. Women were in the buses, in the slums, and they were poor and their husbands often would drink and spend all their money. And we found things that they could do, things that they could learn. And sewing is the first thing we started. They would make designs on saris or they will also make jewellery. So, when I saw these women, I thought, We are trying to do something to improve their life so that they can have some say. Sometimes, our effort was lost because the women were married, and they had to give up, and they were back where they started from. But, there was children who were being educated, tutored, and many of the students are doing well. We didn't have too much for men, at that time. But now, we have something where driving is taught or computers. So, I think that together, we have made a lot of progress, we have involved our friends. Even yesterday, I got a letter from one of my friends and said he wants to contribute money towards this nursing education. And the friends, the fact that they are my friends, and who are trying to help me and the organization, I think says a great deal for us, together. 00:00:00.064 --> 01:00:04.064 [JJ]: Absolutely. And about your students, like what kind of connection do you share with your students? Do you— 00:00:00.065 --> 01:00:04.065 [KC]: Okay, so right now, all my students are medical students. I have been teaching mainly medical students, although I did teach community college, I was a TA, but, so—the students are really a big part of my life. I am still in touch with them, about 20 of them still are in touch with me. They would come and see me, they would remember my birthday. One student like, recently, I had lost touch with him but long time ago, when he was doing poorly school, I helped him and he contributes his success to me. And suddenly, he showed up to celebrate 25 years after graduation, you know reunion. Students have reunions all the time. So, my husband was alive at that time, and he called me and said, I want to invite you to the reunion program. And I said, “Oh that's great.” And so, we went on a cruise, boat cruise like thing, on Lake Michigan. His wife was with him, and I was so touched because there were so many people he could have invited, and he invited me. Of course, some of these people have died, you know the teacher that taught him, at that time. But the fact that I continued to keep in touch with the university helps me to get in touch with these—some of them still come and see me in my old office. They look for me, I’m not always there **laughs** but they look for me. They send me Christmas card. So, I think these students helped me survive my personal tragedies. You know, when I lost my son I thought to myself, other people have sons and I can help them, you know. And why don't I just do that, instead of grieving over my own sorrow? So, I think that they helped me a lot. And hopefully, since they’re all doctors, they will help me in my health situation, if it gets bad. Hopefully, they will help me survive. 00:00:00.066 --> 01:00:04.066 [JJ]: Are there any recommendations, now that you have lived here for 60 years, you would give to someone who is planning to leave India? Or is currently living here, just recently arrived, Indian immigrant— 00:00:00.067 --> 01:00:04.067 [KC]: Recently arrived, yeah. What I would say is, yes, you must assimilate yourself to the, you know, you should get into the community. And you should do what Americans do. However, do not lose the site where you came from. Never forget that, you know, your parents, what kind of culture did you come from, and what is good in it, that you can incorporate. Now that you are American, or about to become American, why not take the good parts of Indian culture and incorporate them into the American culture, rather than—you know, one thing that I noticed, sometimes not always, when people come, they pick up some bad habits. You know, bad habits such as cursing or saying, being disrespectful to other people. Now, as Indian children, we never did that. Because we were told you have to show respect. And if we did something bad, we wouldn't, at least we wouldn't do it in front of the elders. Like we would not be smoking in front of the elders. When I went back to India recently, I feel that Indians are picking up bad habits from whatever they see on TV. Girls are smoking, and they're smoking not secretly, but in front of, you know, on the street. And that makes me very sad. I think we should learn good things from American people, who control their own life, because they're so hard-working. They do so many things, and they try to do it themselves. For instance, some of them pay for their own education. And here we are, you know, looking to parents for money, and yet, not--and as soon as you are able to earn some money, you leave your parents and you don't take care of them. These are not good things that we are learning. So, what I feel that yes, don't forget your roots, and try to keep the good things that you have learned. 00:00:00.068 --> 01:00:04.068 [JJ]: What do you like to do in your leisure time? 00:00:00.069 --> 01:00:04.069 [KC]: Leisure time. I have a lot of leisure time right now. I didn't, I'm retired so, I do like to do the things that I used to do, like teaching. So, as I said, part-time, very small time, I do attend the lectures that other professors give, so I can learn, I can review them and teach them. Secondly, I like whatever Sports activity I had, like I swim here every day. It's possible to swim, because we have a swimming pool right in the complex. I have to work a little hard, because I have to find the partner, you are not allowed to go alone and swim. When my husband was alive, he would go and he would sit there. But he's not here, so I have to find people. And that makes, I try to make more friends. I don't have--I used to garden. I can't garden here. We still have my old house, so summertime, do a little bit of gardening. Now, I'm learning how to play table tennis. I have never played, I have never played any kind of game, in fact, I was never good at any sports activities. But, even though late, I'm picking that up now. And I am like, a lot of people here play table tennis regularly. We have a time when we are supposed to go. I'm definitely the worst player in the whole bunch, but I'm not embarrassed, you know. I do the best I can and that's all one can do. My eyesight is poor, hand coordination is poor, but I'm not deterred by it, I'm not embarrassed by it. I feel like, yeah okay, so what? It’s better to try to do something than do nothing. So, I try to keep myself active. And one thing I have learned coming to this retirement complex, is that life is very temporary, as they say in Gita. That you are here, as people change their clothes, you change your body. And we see that every day here, every day we hear about somebody who might have fallen, who might have gotten sick, who might have gotten stroke, and their life changes completely, or they die. And we see this every day, so it's given me good perspective on life. That enjoy your life while you can, try to do something for others if you can, if whatever you're capable of, in order so that I don't lose my memory, I have gotten, I play a brain game like thing. Which kids do all the time. And I didn't need it when I was young, because my brain was active, but now it's not. And I am now getting very excited about this brain game, even though I'm, again, not doing that well. I used to think that I was good in math, but now I'm not even able to get some easier problems. But I'm not upset, you know, I'm old and I'm not going to have all my neurons. So whatever neurons I have, I try to preserve, try to enjoy life. They have concerts, music, I go and listen to them. And I look forward to seeing people. People I know, I see people in the elevator, I get excited if I can remember who they are. So these things are, these small things keep me happy. So that's about it. 00:00:00.071 --> 01:00:04.071 [JJ]: Is there anything else you would like to add that we haven’t talked about? 00:00:00.072 --> 01:00:04.072 [KC]: No, but I do want to say that, thank-you for coming and talking to me. This is one other way that I can express my thoughts and hope that somebody else will listen to it. 00:00:00.073 --> 01:00:04.073 [JJ]: Absolutely, that’s the whole purpose of this. So, with that, we would like to conclude our interview. Thank-you so much, Mrs. Charkabarty for contributing your voice to the National Indo-American Museum’s Oral History Project. 00:00:00.074 --> 01:00:04.074 [KC]: Thank-you, Jitesh.