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Eldurkar Bhaskar and Sucheta Bhaskar Oral History Interview, August 25, 2016

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 ST: OK. So my name is Sravya Tadepalli and I'm here with...

EB: My name is Bhaskar.

SB: And I'm Sucheta.

ST: And the date is August 25th, 2016, and we are in their home in Corvallis, Oregon. So to start with, where and when were you born?

SB: I was born in Vellore, India, in Tamil Nadu. I was born '49.

EB: My name is Eldurkar Bhaskar--actually, it is Bhaskar Eldurkar. And I was born in Chennai, or it was called Madras at that time, in Tamil Nadu. And I was born 1942.

ST: As of now or previously, what were your occupations or are are your occupations?


SB: I was a teacher. Preschool teacher here and then in India, I was...there also I was a teacher in preparatory. Preparatory class means it's...like kindergarten, so...yeah, that's what I used to do.

EB: So, I'm retired currently. And I used to work in Hewlett-Packard as a manager. And then an engineer manager...and then before that, I was...in India also I was in engineering. I was a manager there too, in a solar photovoltaic factory. And basically, my background is engineering background. And that is what I have pursued in all my career.


ST: OK. And could you tell me what are your parents' names and when and where your parents were born? You can just say the year.

SB: My parents' names are Keshavrao, my mother, and my mom's name is Surabai. And my father I think was also born in Vellore. And my mother...I don't know where she was born. Probably, I'm thinking--Madras. I don't know.

EB: Tamil Nadu.

SB: Tamil Nadu. And...what else?

EB: Your father was born. When was he born?

SB: He was born in 1910. And my mom was born in 1928.

EB: And your father is no more.

SB: My father is no more and he used to work in Indian bank. And my mom was a housewife.


EB: And she lives in--

SB: She is in Bangalore right now.

EB: And you're father is no more.

SB: My mom was a housewife.

EB: So my father's name is...or was Raman Rao, Lakshman Rao, Raman Rao. And he...I'm not sure. But he was born in 1904 and he died pretty young. And he was in railways. And he died in accident, a railway accident. And my mother was...name was...name is Shakuntalabhai, and she was born in 1911 and...she lived with us here in Corvallis until she died in 1995. And she was a housewife too.


ST: OK. So can you tell me a little bit about your family growing up in India? Brothers and sisters, what was your family like? What do your siblings do now?

SB: I have a sister, older sister, and she is...you know, in Bangalore right now. She used to live in Thanjavur, and right now, she...my brother-in-law passed away, so she is in Bangalore. And my brother also lives in Bangalore. He used to work for bank. Now he's retired. And...what else?

EB: Your brother is married--

SB: Yeah, my brother is married and he's got three children.


ST: Just talk about your family, growing up, how it was.

SB: We had a really good time when we were growing up. And even now when we go and visit, we have a good time.

EB: Good relationship.

SB: Good relationship with brother and sister.

EB: You went to a school--first...

SB: Went to school very close by to our house.

EB: In the college also. There was a number of families around.

SB: I have a lot of uncles and aunts and cousins. We all...we are all very close.

EB: You have something like forty-six cousins?

SB: No, thirty-six first cousins. First cousins. These are all first cousins.

EB: So you have how many uncles?


SB: Yeah, I have...my father has got...he had...now all of them are gone. He had...there were seven brothers and two sisters. So we all had...you know. Whenever there was any kind of...you know, like weddings or anything, anything going on, any occasion, we all get together and we have a very good--

EB: My wife's family, as she was saying, she has seven uncles and three aunts, all siblings. Eight brothers...basically, eight boys and three girls is what the...the grandfather had...grandparents had. And they all had a very big family. They all get together very nicely. They're all very close to each other. They all support very nicely each other. And any function in anybody's house, 00:07:00everyone comes around and pitches in and does a lot of supportive...way. In a supportive way. And actually, there...also, we are very...what should I say...spiritual in nature. The brothers, cousins, they're all very spiritual in nature. And support religious activities and religious functions. And extremely nice family. Maybe I'll stop there, OK?

ST: OK. Do you want to talk about your family?

EB: Right, my family. My family...as I told you, my father died when he was very 00:08:00young. So I was...myself and my mother were supported by my uncle and aunt. They really took care of us when I was growing up. And I have one older sister...or I had one older sister. Big gap between my sister and myself. Like...eleven or twelve...or thirteen years gap, I think. And she was married off very early in our age. When I was just about one year old, she was married off. And...but she also supported us financially and morally when I was growing up through my 00:09:00school and college years. And again, very supportive family we had. My grandfather and his brother, my grandfather's brother's family, they supported us. My mother being a widow and I was an only child...boy, that she had to take care of. So as I said, my uncle, my father's younger brother, was the one who took care of us. And...that kind of a very supportive family is what...you know, made us survive through some difficult times. And...I went...I went to a very...what should I say...kind of a nationalistic school. In the sense that 00:10:00this was a...when I was going to school, we just had independence at that time. Indian independence, we had received from English rule. And so our high school...many of the teachers and the...the whole school system was a freedom fighter kind of a...freedom fighters are the ones that...who managed the school.

So we...our school itself provided a very nationalistic background when I grew up in the high school time. Fortunately I did pretty well in my school and so I 00:11:00was able to go through school and college on scholarship and free-ships and things like that, which...did not fortunately burden either my mother or my uncle financially that much. I went to...I did my engineering in the engineering college in Bangalore. And then I went on to do my Masters in India Institute of Science. And then I worked in Bombay for sometime...for about almost three years before I came to U.S.A in '69, for the first time. And I was here...I went to OSU first time, and I was here just about a year and got another Masters, and then went on to Bay Area for a couple of years, then went back to India to be of 00:12:00service to Indian system. And I was there for about eight years...back in India before I came back again in 1980. And since 1980, I have been living here in U.S.

ST: OK. So I guess I'll just ask you the next question while we're waiting. In India, can you tell a little about what your life was like in India? Do you have any memories of India that you want to share?

EB: Oh, yeah. So when we are growing up, we...we have seen a number of situations where we had to go through...hard times. We used to have what is called a ration system, where the grains that you would get would be limited. 00:13:00And most of us...we grew up as vegetarians. We are basically vegetarians by...by...I won't say necessity, but definitely by social structure, we were vegetarians. So we had to really depend upon grains, like rice and wheat and...so when we were growing up, it was hard. But more recently, of course, you know, because of various...agricultural improvements, things have improved to such an extent that there is no really...possibility of...anything really...any 00:14:00need of rice, any things like that. So the other thing that we...as Sucheta was mentioning, family was very supportive family. And so...not only family, but even the friends around...the friends and relatives and your neighbors were all very supportive. In many ways. And not necessarily giving us anything. But just being there to help us if necessary, and just being there to...you know, we...I don't think we ever had a need for...to find a babysitter or any such thing. You could just go and we would be playing outside in the road. And there was no fear 00:15:00at any time of anyone coming and picking us off and taking us away or...such things were not there. Very safe environment that we grew up in. And...there was no...the children around, we are lots of friends...children and boys and girls of similar age all the time around. So no problem finding...finding friends to go and have fun.

And cricket was a big thing for us. And we were playing cricket quite a lot. And cricket and...many games, you know. I don't know if there is a...English term 00:16:00for this...there is no English term for that. There is a game called...gulli-danda. Gulli-danda? So, it was...you...basically, you had a small, little piece of wood that you strike with another longer piece of wood to play with that, you know. That was a fun game that we all as kids we enjoyed. And of course, cricket. We would play, we would go to the playground and play cricket with a tennis ball or a rubber ball. And later on when we went to college, we would play with a real cricket ball. And the school itself, you know, as I mentioned earlier, very nationalistic school, where we learned to do 00:17:00what is called...be volunteers. Volunteerism was something kind of instilled in us, in school. That is...in other words, you know, we had to go and help with whatever needed to be done in the school for various functions, activities, and so on. And lots of holidays...many holidays for various religious functions. And there, they were also followed in schools and we went and helped with those activities too. And some of my best friends are from my high school. Even now, when I go back to India, I meet with those high school friends to...you know, once a month or whenever we go back, we meet with them, go out, have lunch or 00:18:00brunch or whatever. A bunch of us, maybe ten, fifteen of us, who all grew up together in high school. In fact I also go and meet my high school teacher, who is fortunately still alive. And he's probably one of the best high school teachers I have had. So...really, a very solid foundation we got. Some of the best memories of my high school for me are my high school days. And college, again, I also meet with my engineering college students at least once a year. And also I am in touch with many of my college classmates. My engineering 00:19:00college classmates. Yeah. Maybe I bored enough.

ST: No, no, no. It's interesting, actually. The freedom fighters ran the school. So do you want to share any memories that you want to share about growing up in India?

SB: What are the memories? Like I said, my family, we are a close-knit family, so we always...for every occasion we still get together. For any kind of occasion, we all get together. And basically...that's what we do.

EB: What about your friends? You had friends right opposite you, right? Around the--

SB: We had, lot of...our neighbors, and we always, after coming back from school 00:20:00and all, we always used to...you know, play together and...you know...then...

EB: You still meet with some of your...

SB: Some of my friends I meet. But right now, you know, everybody has moved out, far away and it is very difficult to meet.

ST: Do you want to share anything about what your education was like or your school?

SB: Yeah, I went to a school. Like I said, it was very close to our house. College also I went right there only. And...you know...it was...

EB: It was an all girl's school.

SB: Yeah, it was all girls school.

EB: But--

SB: Yeah, it was a girls school.


EB: And my school was all boys' school. But now it is a coeducational school. In her case it's still a girls school.

SB: Girls school. I think only up to 8th they have--8th or 6th, something like that, they have coeducation.

EB: Oh, now they have co-education?

SB: No, they have--

EB: They had even earlier?

SB: Yeah.

EB: Oh, OK.

SB: And then from high school it is just for girls.

ST: OK. Is there anything else you want to share about living in India, or your experiences in India or anything you want to talk about that? I'm just transitioning to the next--that's why.

EB: Right, right. So...the...this society in general, you know, there, is somewhat feudalistic. You know...if your parents said something, you listened to 00:22:00it, you know. Almost no questions asked, you listened to it. Or if your boss told you something, you just went and did it. So that is how we grew up, OK? And of course now, to see here, in our children and in our grandchildren growing up...and then...we try to reason with them, we try to talk to them, about...you know, why we do this, what you do this for and so on. And that...I mean, that is a different...different thing that we have to kind of get used to, you know. Also, you know...the food and things like that...I remember whatever my mom gave 00:23:00me or my aunt or uncle gave me, that is what I would have to eat. I'm pretty sure that is the same case with Sucheta. But that is not the case with...obviously the children here. They have to be coaxed into eating what we think is good, what we think is good, right? So...anyway, so these are some obvious differences that we have to...we have to understand and we have to kind of internalize and...maybe change, you know. Though, you know, with our children, we were pretty strict. They had to eat what we gave. So just like what 00:24:00we...but that may not be the case with our grandchildren. Anyway, that's a different matter. So the life...it's interesting. Obviously when we grew up, we did not have...you know, cars or any such thing. We had bicycling...was our main...after at least college, bicycling, walking, taking bus. That...what is that...local bus. Those were the modes of transportation that we used. Only after I started working, I got a motorbike, OK? Before that, it was any of these public transportation or as I said, bicycling or walking.


So...I don't think we found it hard, but now when I go back to India, to visit, I don't think I would dare using the bicycle, because of the...the so much increase in traffic there. I go for walks, but mostly, and fortunately, we use a car. We use a taxi. And...probably that's another big reason we have found, we think, we see, that people are getting less healthy, you know. They have cars in their home, they...they also, like here, they just get into the car and go off and come back, and wherever they are going, then come back. So they don't do much walking. Lot of--majority of people do, but the people...the 00:26:00so-called...the "growing middle class" now, is all getting used to all these luxuries. Kind of luxuries. So when we were growing up, the biggest expense for us would be the food. Our...from our...I worked in India, too, right...both of us worked in India. And we found our biggest budget amount was the food. And...so that was the...we had to really...what we had to afford...that's how we could not save much money to buy an apartment or a house or whatever in those 00:27:00days. And that was probably...also when we were there, this was in...I'm talking about early...in the '70s. The...you could see that the life was very, very competitive. Even now it is very competitive. But definitely it was very competitive at that time. And that was probably one of the reasons why we came to this country, back in 1980, and...to give a better life, better opportunity for our children. That's probably one of the reasons we wanted to come back.

ST: OK. OK. So then to transition to the next part, which is basically...when 00:28:00did you move to the United States and what made you come to the United States?

EB: So the first time when we came here--I came in '69--just after our wedding, and at that time I came here for studies. Higher studies, OK? I had a Master's in India, but I wanted to do...another...maybe Master's or a PhD, I wanted to do. So I came here to do a Master's and I changed my subject. So the Master's I had in India was in electrical engineering, and when I came here, I did it in solid state devices. And basically that was the reason, to higher studies...and to get an experience of having come to a foreign land and working here and 00:29:00seeing how it is. So...but my intention, main intention was to go back to India, which we did, three years later, after getting the Master's, working for some time. Went back to India. And I did get a good job and I worked for a company called CDIL in the same field, in the solid state field for a few years. And this was a company run by...it was a private company. So this was run by kind of a one-man show. So you could see how the management was run.

Since it was a one-man show it was kind of very authoritative and very autocratic. So...so I moved to another...a government run company. And there, we 00:30:00set up the solar photovoltaic manufacturing unit, and it was first in R&D and then manufacturing unit we set up. I worked there for about...almost four years, yeah, four years. And basically by that time, I...it was kind of oppressive, in the sense it was...actually, the management was very good. I liked the management, I liked the atmosphere, everything. But it so happened that the...as I mentioned, the living conditions were not great, and the competitiveness was 00:31:00too much, and the...I did not see the opportunity for the children that much. So that is why we decided to come back here, to U.S. And that is what we did in 1980, we came back here. And I started...I came back to study, I wanted to do a PhD. I was working towards a PhD. After one year, I was fortunate to get a job with Hewlett-Packard in Corvallis. And I was...so that's when I joined Hewlett-Packard. Then the family came and joined us. After joining HP too, I was working towards my PhD, but did not get to complete it because of various family 00:32:00circumstances and so on.

ST: What was it like to move to the United States for each of you? What were some of the major cultural differences or culture shocks that you had to adjust to?

SB: When I first came here, I couldn't understand their accent. Then slowly, you know, I was able to understand and talk to them. And cultural shocks--

EB: So...what did you think about having your children grow up here?


SB: Children...I think they were OK in schools. We always used to tell our children to be careful with...you know, friends. And...we don't know if they had some--

EB: Drugs?

SB: Drugs or something. So we always used to tell them to be careful not to accept any kind of drugs or any such thing. So...and I think...they were good.


EB: So I mean...obviously it's a very big cultural change for us. And as I mentioned earlier, it was a kind of...ours was a feudal...growing up in a feudal 00:34:00system where you just listen to your parents or bosses or teachers or whatever. Here...you have to question everything here. You have to understand before you did something. So that kind of...so that was a big cultural adjustment we had to make. The other thing was obviously...we could see the children, when they were growing up here--I mean they grew up for part of the time there. Jayanth when he came here, he was 10 year old and Jyoti was 8 years old and when they came here, they also had a little difficulty first adjusting to the language and all that. 00:35:00But they were pretty quick, as youngsters, they were pretty quick. And then after that, you could see...I mean I...definitely we could see, that they had to live two or three different lives. One was being an Indian firstly, at home, and being an American in school. So you could see they had that multicultural personality that they had to develop and be that way. And also we were vegetarians at home, so they have to, when they go out...they have to be...I mean that's what they were used to. All of a sudden they could not go and change to being a non-vegetarian outside. So those are the things that...and are kind of...back of our mind it worked. But not necessarily they didn't show it. 00:36:00But...to some extent the difficulty that we are putting them through, the children through, for having to adjust...when they come home, and adjust differently when they go to play with their...be with their friends. One good thing was they had a number of Indian friends that they had. Fortunately this was not too isolated. There were enough children and adults that were growing up here that they had a good set of friends. Indian friends and American friends. 00:37:00So that helped their growth. And also this small town definitely helped a lot. Corvallis is absolutely a wonderful place. The school system, at least at that time--and the other big thing that we found was most of our friends here were either college professors or engineers or managers from HP. So they had a very good...they had a very good ideal to look up to. So that was a good...so if you were in a big city, it is not necessary we would have had that. Being in a small 00:38:00city and being a small, close-knit structure...so it really helped to have all these...this so called "it takes a village to grow a child." I think that really helped, that way. Even our neighbors, very nice people. They were school teachers, or...other people working in HP, or you know...basically very good educational background and well-brought-up people. So...who really helped our kids. So I think that was the other important thing.

And culturally...at work...again, as an engineer, I had to work with mostly 00:39:00engineers. So generally, a liberal atmosphere. At least no overt discrimination. No overt...I mean you could here some things, sometimes you would hear something which is not...which is not...favorable. But potentially you could ignore that. Otherwise, overall...this being also a school town it happens a lot of people had seen foreigners, immigrants. So that kind of helped. I...it's interesting. 00:40:00More recently I had an interesting experience, which is...which I would like to relate to. That is...what happened...the other day we were walking in the downtown, walking along the river. So it's a long time since I...I have been...I have not spoken to or conversed...after retirement, I have not conversed with many of the local Americans. I mean I am an American now, but you know...so my language may not be as...or my accent may be more pronounced in terms of being Indian, because I speak mostly to other Indians, right. Not that many Americans. 00:41:00So what happened was we were walking and somebody just said "hi", and then I said something. So it was surprising to hear that man turn to me and say, "Are you saying you're hungry?" So...whereas I told him something about something else. Some weather or something. It was totally different. I can't imagine how "hungry" came. So I was thinking a lot about it. And I was thinking, maybe he thought I was begging. He saw my color, OK? And maybe he thought I was begging. So I was really surprised at that...that response, you know. So why would 00:42:00anyone...afterwards, I was thinking so much, "Do I look hungry?" Here I am going with this big tummy and he's asking! So, that was an interesting cultural thing in the sense...

SUCHETA: I think he did not understand properly.

BHASKAR: But still..yeah, he did not understand. Obviously he did not understand.

SUCHETA: That's why he said "Are you hungry?"

BHASKAR: "Are you saying you're hungry?" I don't know. I'm just relating. Sometimes these so called prejudices, or so called...what is this? You see somebody and you make up your mind, OK, this is what this person is, you know. 00:43:00On the other hand, I have another very...almost a very negative thing that I have to say about myself, you know. This is also important, really important, because we Indians think we are all above all this race and all that but we are also so racist. We were once--this was long back when my mother was here, this was probably twenty-five years back. We were in Salem one day. We were in a shopping mall. And Sucheta and my mother, they all are gone into the store. I was just napping at the steering wheel. And then I had my door open, I was just napping. And then after some time I got up, about to get out, and I saw at a 00:44:00distance a black guy was walking by towards the store. Immediately my reaction was to close the door. So I feel...even now when I think about it, I feel so bad. That--I am a hundred percent sure if it was a white person walking, I wouldn't have done that. OK? So this is a kind of an in-built...unfortunate prejudice. So I really think...we should...I should get over that.

ST: OK. Do you have anything more to say about the cultural differences that you've experienced? Or any likes or dislikes of the U.S.?

SB: No, I have...my friends and all, my colleagues that I worked with...we still 00:45:00get together, once in six months, we get together and we have a good time actually. It's very nice.

EB: One thing to say--her colleagues from the school, very nice.

SB: Very, very nice.

EB: They're very nice people.

ST: OK. So my next question is what sort of things were going on in the U.S. politically or culturally that you found significant when you moved here, to the U.S.? Either the first time or the second time.

EB: Politically...so this was in '80s. Of course that's when Reagan came into power. So it was interesting. We were going through a depression...not depression, we were going through a recession. And then we were all...so even 00:46:00though basically, we are neither Democrats or...I mean basically we are Democrats, all right? At least that is what I want to think. The...but I think we were kind of rooting for Reagan to come to power, or become president at that time because he was the one who probably was going to change the economy. And which it did. It really helped at that time for the country to somewhat come back to economic stability. '80 I'm talking about. Of course, there might be other repercussions now which we are not sure of. But anyway, that is...I 00:47:00remember distinctly when I first came in '80, I mean second time when I came in '80, I also unfortunately...Carter had a really bad time at that time, having lost a number of hostages to the Iran crisis and all that. Not lost...meaning captured. And that fiasco at trying to rescue them, there was a fiasco. All of that was not good. So...but one thing he did was the system itself seemed to be really good. Though definitely more...it is getting deteriorated now. It is 00:48:00deteriorating now. But definitely the system was very impressive, the way the elections went, the way the other person was chosen. All that was wonderful. So...culturally, I don't...I can't think of anything. You know, you could also 00:49:00say, lot of things going up and down...kind of early, mid-60s, there was...even though we were not...the hippy movement, that was going on. And then the war, the Vietnam War. I remember in '69 when we came, the Vietnam War was still going on and that really affected the morale for the youngsters quite a bit. And then there was all this campus shooting that happened in the protest and so some of those things were kind of hard to understand, hard to...yeah.

ST: So what made you--so this is kind of transitioning to Corvallis. But what 00:50:00made you want to move specifically to Corvallis? Either to study or to move here permanently. The second time.

EB: Because this is the school that I wanted to go to. So that's why. That is mainly the reason. And it so happened, fortunately, HP was right here, and they offered me a job. And then that's how we decided. And of course, the city grew on us.

ST: So...what...what was Corvallis like when you first moved here in terms of how it may be different from now, maybe how the ethnic makeup was different from now or how the town in general was different from now?


EB: Obviously a much smaller city. I remember the first time when we came here, we used to get gas for 25 cents a gallon. '69...I mean it was gas wartime...otherwise it will...probably 40 cents. Sometimes you would go on Highway 20 and you can get 25 cent gas. And the first time when we came here, I arrived in Corvallis airport from Portland. When I came I came through Calcutta to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Tokyo, Tokyo to Hawaii, Honolulu. Honolulu to Portland. And Portland, in the airport, they had rooms at that time to stay 00:52:00overnight. So I stayed overnight in the room, next day, early morning, there was a flight from Portland to Corvallis. Took that. And when I arrived in Corvallis airport, there was a host family waiting there with a big sign saying, "Welcome to Corvallis". And that was very nice. And that's how they took me home, I stayed with them for a few days, and then I found a room to stay and all that. This was in '69. So in fact we were in touch with them for a long time. Afterwards we lost contact. And in fact Sucheta also flew into Corvallis the first time that she came and one of my Japanese friends, actually...when I say Japanese, actually he was a Hawaiian-American. Japanese-American. He had a 00:53:00beautiful mustang. He came to the airport to pick up Sucheta and come. So this was...again, when she came...first time she came in '70, the...the first time when I came here, I had to go to the Post Office to send a telegram to tell them that I have arrived safely. Of course now, we just call, not even do this. The second time that we came here, I could make a call. But it was also...we had to wait. '80 also, we couldn't make a direct call. We had to ask for a line to be 00:54:00connected to the...their phone to talk to them. But anyway, this was still...I mean...I remember the first time '69, maybe the population was 25,000...I don't remember now...very small. The Fred Meyer had opened...what is that? Was the latest store I think at that time. I had pictures of the...what is that? All the vegetables and all that. I took pictures of that. We used to...yeah. It is an extremely small town at that time. But very nice and very quiet.


ST: OK. So this was a question I was going to ask a little bit earlier. You talked a little bit about prejudice. Because some people were saying that after 9/11 there was kind of...more prejudice against people in the South Asian community. Was there, in Corvallis?

EB: Not necessarily after 9/11. I mean...some indirect comment or the other sometimes you could hear. So like I mentioned, this guy asking me, "Are you saying you're hungry?" I mean I have to do lot of circular thinking before I come back and say, "oh, maybe he thought I was begging," right?. And why did he think I was begging? Because of my color. Oh...once, I know, there was...not exactly an incident.


SB: When you were to give the money at that soup kitchen or something--

EB: Yeah, that is also interesting. No, once what happened...long back. My mom and a very good friend of ours who used to live here, they...we all had gone to the Fred Meyer. As we were entering, our good friend was talking to my mom in Marathi, our language. So as she was talking, somebody passed by and said, kind of...somewhat nastily, said, "English, talk in English." So why does he bother? If we are talking to each other in our language, why does he bother about why should I talk in English? Some crazy people, I think, OK. And oh, yeah, other 00:57:00incidents Sucheta was mentioning was--I...oh, this happened even in the senior center too, once. I went to give money...I went to this...

SB: You wanted to donate some money--

EB: I wanted to donate some money to the soup kitchen? Or the Catholic center--

SB: Saint Mary's--

EB: Saint Mary's place I wanted to give money. So this person told me...so the person thought I had come for soup. But anyways, I said "no, I want to give you 00:58:00some--" Again, so it is obvious misunderstanding on their part, to think just because they saw a colored person, to think that they are in need of something. So once in senior center when my mom was there, I was looking at their notice board. There are lots of notices, so I was just looking at the notice board. This person said...whatever, the person near there thought I was looking for a job. So usually they have little notices about some job or other. So I was 00:59:00looking for a...again, a brown person is looking for a job. So very indirect kind of comments, which would be...I bet you, if a white person was looking at that, he wouldn't have said...the person would not have told him or her, "Are you looking for a job?" So this happened to another friend of ours, too. Young fellow, obviously brown like me, in fact Chona's son. He was working in his yard in his...he was mowing his lawn. They have a beautiful home, or they had a 01:00:00beautiful home on...Timberhill area, high up on the hill. So he was working there and then this guy, white guy, drives in a car, he stops and says, "How much do you charge for doing this lawn mowing?"


EB: He was--

ST: He was mowing his own lawn.

EB: He was mowing his own lawn. So these are the kinds of unfortunate incidences or comments. Again, not overt prejudice, but nonetheless, prejudice.

ST: Do you have anything you wanted to say, or tell?

SB: No.

ST: OK. If you have anything to add, just talk.

EB: I talk too much.

ST: It's OK. There's a couple of things. I thought Asha's arangetram was the 01:01:00first arangetram in Corvallis. But then, no, your daughter apparently had arangetram in Corvallis.

SB: No, no, no, not in Corvallis. She did it in India.

EB: Not in Corvallis.

SB: Not in Corvallis. She also did some fundraising here. So she gave some performance.

EB: She did perform dance in the Majestic Theater for...for her school. For her Baker Center. Twice.

SB: Twice, she did.

EB: And there have been other bharatanatyam dances in school, in OSU. Number of them...and Jyoti has participated earlier too.

ST: Where did she learn Bharatanatyam?


SB: Actually in India. She started and we used to take her to Portland once in two weeks, for her dance lessons. And then she got interested and after high school, she took a year off and she went to India to learn. She learned from one year, very intense. And there, the teacher said, why don't you do your arangetram here. And she did.

ST: And the other thing I was talking to my mom about what should I ask specifically, and the Thyagaraja Festival came up. Do you have any insights into how that started, what that kind of was like?


SB: Yeah, actually we started it. In '91, a few of our friends...I don't know if you remember Janani, Viji Auntie? So she and then we did, and then Sharada, Bose's wife. You know Bose Uncle, right? And three or four of them started this Thyagaraja Aradhana in '91. So it goes around the Northwest. '91 we started and '92 it was done in Portland. In '93 it was done in Seattle. And that's how it''s still going.


SB: That was a very good thing that we started which was...very nice. It gave all the kids, all those small kids that are learning music...they are able to go 01:04:00up on the stage and sing. And even now, some of our friends from Portland, they say that you guys did such a good job of doing this. And also the kids will not have this stage fear and things like that.

ST: Where was the first one held, in Corvallis?

SB: At First United Methodist Church, which is where I used to work, in the day care. You know, that's how it started. I went and spoke to the church, and they gave that hall. We rented that hall for the day and we did that. At that time, we had...the first time we had probably total of maybe 60, 70 people. Thygaraja 01:05:00Aradhana. And then slowly, it became...lot of...lot more people.

ST: OK. So my next question is, how has the country as a whole changed from how it was then to how it is now?

EB: So lot of things which we found unsavory when we were here first has become very commonplace now. The language used, the abusive terms. They are all becoming so common, even small children use that. That's probably one of the 01:06:00biggest changes, I think. And...in general, what I find kind of really disturbing is...the use of F-word is...taken as a joke, rather than as an abusive term. If you see some comedy shows, people laugh only when the F-word is 01:07:00used. And that is I think a deterioration in the moral structure of the society. And so...you know, obviously...people's nature is same everywhere around the world. It's a matter of degrees. I mean here, also people cheat. India also people cheat. Every country, people cheat, OK. But it was always a kind of degree. And I thought that degree has...slowly going up here. It was not this 01:08:00bad. There was some amount of...people were...work ethic was there. Really, if somebody...if they went to work at eight o'clock in the morning, they would really get into their work. But now it's not anymore like that. So some of these things...I think it's slow decay. So that...I don't know who is contributing to that. I think all of us are in some way contributing to it. Unfortunately, the divisiveness also has increased quite a bit...all those things...getting worse.



EB: I mean, that's what I feel. I mean, this is still a fantastic place to live and there's no doubt about it. This is definitely...I mean especially Corvallis. Really amazing. The quality of life is...there is no comparison to any other part of the world, I think.


EB: I mean, we were recently in Europe. One of the...in Europe we went on this river cruise, and then we went through a lot of beautiful towns, and beautiful countryside in Germany and Austria and all that. Absolutely beautiful. So you would think, why would anyone want to leave that place and come here? And 01:10:00really, the way they keep their homes, their roads, their townships. So clean, so nice. All that is amazing. So why would anyone want to leave that and come here? And also, they may not have high-paying jobs, but they have all the things taken care of. Their health care is taken care of, they seem to have decent places, they have good stuff, good food. Everything is there, you know. Still, you see people leaving those countries to come to U.S. So really, we have to think about why they would want to do that. At least one thought that occurred to me...was again it is...and if you listen to all their history, their culture 01:11:00and all that, it is...I think they're trying to escape there, again, the feudal system. You know, at one time, the people higher above were oppressor. It may not be so now, still, they've got...maybe.

ST: The next question is what change or impact do you think you've had in terms of work or Corvallis? Did you do anything that you are particularly proud of?

EB: You (Sucheta) have brought up good children. Not only our children, but children in school.


SB: All you kids.

EB: And the thing is, some of the parents remember you still and come and thank you. That's...I think a great thing. And for me, being part of the community, the Indian community, has been very good. Wherever we could provide some support, some help, it has been good. And workwise, it's amazing, you know...this inkjet printer business that I joined, the inkjet business that I joined...really, it was nothing. There was no...but today, it is multibillion dollar industry. Multi-multi billion dollar industry. So I played some part in 01:13:00that, in the initial part. So that's what I feel good about. It has employed so many people, it has made money for so many people. Of course, I have to be careful--it probably is also environmentally--hurt a lot of environment!

ST: Yeah, my mom told me about the inkjet printers, so I was going to ask about that. How do you think that you were changed by Corvallis or the United States? How did it change you? What would your life have been like if you hadn't come to the U.S.?

EB: Oh, this is a very interesting question because one of the things...really, I know more about my culture and more about my religion after coming here than 01:14:00if I were in India. I would be...so we almost take it for granted, when we are in India. We do a lot of things as a matter of custom, as a matter of tradition, we do.

SB: Just follow blindly.

EB: Lot of it is kind of blindly too. But here, we have really learnt to ask questions. To...to...understand. Not that we understand completely, but at least try to understand, about our own culture and about our own religion. Especially our religion. It so happens that we have a very good guru in Eugene, who has 01:15:00really helped us a lot. And also we try to read and learn about...again, there's a lot more to be done. So that is...for being in United States...probably Corvallis has made us more environmentally aware, I think.

ST: OK. So...in connection to that, so I think there's a shrine in Eugene. Is it there already in Eugene?

EB: It is there.

ST: I might be wrong about this, but did that start by people in Eugene or people in Corvallis?

EB: Both.

ST: I heard...did you fundraise for it or something?

EB: Yeah, we're going to have a dance on the 10th of September, in Linus Pauling 01:16:00Middle School, 4-6. Please come!

SB: It's free.

EB: It's free. So it's a bharathanatyam dance, by a girl by the name Aishwarya. She lives in Vancouver and she has learned to dance for quite some time now. And she is also a...

SB: She is a disciple of--

EB: She is a disciple of...our guru's guru. Young girl, maybe mid-twenties? She's performing as a gift for us and hopefully we will raise some more money 01:17:00from that. So two years back, we had a dance, odissi dance by a young lady...she is a white American. She learned odissi dance going to India from famous gurus, and she performed same place. Beautiful, beautiful odissi dance. And we raised almost $10,000 there. So this shrine, this shrine in Eugene, is Mukambika Devi. Mukambika...the original Mukambika Devi temple is in Karnatakam. Near Sringari. 01:18:00That is where...Sringari is where...Shankaracharya. He was...he's the guru who was alive in 500 or 600 A.D., I think about that time. And he's the guru who...at a very young age, something like eight or ten years old, he left his home to pursue knowledge, and he's the one who...he's the one who...read all the 01:19:00scriptures and understood the scriptures. And made it available to common people by way of describing what we call adhwaita philosophy. Adhwaitha philosophy means God is you. You are God. There is no one separate. God is same as you. I'm pretty sure your mom and dad follow that. So that philosophy...he's the one who made it more available. This has been there for millennia. But...he made it easy 01:20:00for people to understand. Still difficult to understand.

Anyway, he installed this Mukambika Devi. Mukambika Devi is supposed to be a combination of all the three goddesses, Parvati, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. Near Sringari in a place called Kollur. So that devi is a very well-known devi, where lot of people from Kerala and Karnataka and other parts of the country also go. Anyway, so that's the preamble. Our swamaniji, who is in Eugene, she got hold of 01:21:00this...somebody gave this idol to her and they had it installed in their ashram for some time. And this ashram was owned by a white English lady, young person, and it was in her house. But she had to...she was going to go to Coimbatore, India, for a three-year...three-years schooling under Saraswati. When she was...there was not going to be anyone there to take care of the Devi. So we all 01:22:00kind of got together and moved her to a yurt, behind...one of...somebody's house. So currently, she's...Mukambika Devi is in a yurt, in the backyard of another American white couple. And that's why we go there every day...not we, from the community to perform puja and all that. And that yurt, I mean, that devi, she has to find a more permanent place. So that is the shrine that we are planning to build or buy, or whatever. The fundraiser is for that.


ST: OK. So...two more questions. So this question, what kind of traditions from India, well you talked about that, but other traditions, do you want to talk about, that you keep in the United States?

SB: Like doing Navaratri. And also most of the festivals, most of what's there, we do it, we do the--

EB: So the important ones. We do the Ugadi.

SB: Ugadi, which is our New Year, which comes in March, end of April, some time. And also, Ganesh Chathurdhi, the Ganesh festival. And Navaratri, and Diwali. All 01:24:00these things, so that our kids also learn that way.

EB: At least these four, we try to do every year. Not try to, we do every year, in whatever fashion we can do. And then we also try to remember our parents, my parents, both of whom are not there anymore, on their death anniversary, by doing something or the other. For example, I told...we went to give money to the Soup Kitchen, and that was for that, so we tried to give some money there, for feeding people. So some sort of tradition we try to keep, some of those things. 01:25:00Yeah, the other thing is we don't eat meat, we don't cook or eat...or...you know, non-vegetarian.

ST: So the last question is, what are some of the best memories you've had in Corvallis? Anything you want to share that is particularly memorable?

SB: Our kids were brought up here. And well, they went to a good school and college, and they are doing very well.

EB: In Corvallis?

SB: Corvallis.

EB: Grandchildren, you know. Our last grandchild was born here. Wonderful day. 01:26:00Weddings, the marriages of our kids. You know...professionally, some things like...some achievements at work. Those are fond memories. And all of a sudden twenty-five years, thirty-five years, thirty-six years, we're living here. And...and we bought--we built this house. When we moved into this house, it was 01:27:00a great...great...I don't know, I wouldn't call it an achievement, but it was a great feeling. And the day my mother died, hard one to take, but I remember that. Yeah, lot of good things. Some sad.

SB: Always good things you should remember.

ST: And is there anything else that you want to share, anything that you want to talk about it so you can have it in the oral history that you want the future to know about?

EB: Just being here has been fantastic. Being in Corvallis. The family and the 01:28:00friends...all the friends, you know. Many of the friends, Indian friends, they are our family here. They come to our support and we try to be of support to them. Those are the big things. And the neighborhoods that you live in. Nice, quiet, good neighborhoods. And...when we are not here, people look after our home. Whether we tell them or not, they look after our home, very nice. And as Sucheta mentioned, schools were very good system we had here. The school system, 01:29:00you know. I think our children got good education. Very good education. They are built on a very good foundation. So I can't be more...you know, effusive about that. It's fantastic.