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Bella Bose Oral History Interview, September 12, 2016

Oregon State University
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´╗┐ST: OK. My name is Sravya Tadepalli and I'm here with Bella Bose. And today is September 12th, 2016, and we are in his office at Kelley Engineering at OSU. So to start with, can you say your name and when and where you were born? You can just say the year.

BB: OK. My name is Bella Bose. I was born in India, 1950, December 13th.

ST: OK. And can you tell me what your parents' names are and when and where were your parents born?

BB: My dad--dad's name is--Bella Gauder. J. Bella Gauder. And mom--my mom's name is Keppiammal. And they both were born in India, in a small place called...in a district. Nilgiri districts and small village. My dad was born in Yedekadu, a 00:01:00small village, and my mom was born in another village. It's called Ornaldi.

ST: OK. And do you know when they were born?

BB: I think my dad was born in 1920. My mom might have born in 1925. They don't have...any...any...they don't have the...history, there. They don't keep track of birth certificates.

ST: OK. So can you tell me a little bit about your family, growing up in India?

BB: OK. We have...my dad and mom and my mom had four children, myself and three other sisters. I'm second in the...second kid. And my mom died when she was...when I was...five years old. And then my dad married my mom's cousin. And 00:02:00now we have twelve children. Six boys and six girls. And...what else you want?

ST: Anything you want to tell about? Stories about your family or anything?

BB: They're a very close-knit family. And it was...this is after independence and we...my dad and mom never went to school. My dad went to school up to eighth grade. And my mom...I don't think she went to school at all. Whereas all my siblings...they had college degrees.

ST: Oh, OK.

BB: So education is very important in our life. And I think after inde--1950s...OK, before...during the...British rule, we didn't have school in my village. We have school only up to fifth grade. My dad had to walk almost ten miles...five miles each way to go from sixth grade to eighth grade. The school 00:03:00is about five miles far away. I think after independence each and every village had some schools, so that's why we all could go to high school, graduate from high school in my village, and then we went to college, different cities. So education was very important for my parents. So they wanted to make sure all of their children got good education. Then that's how I got my degree. I think all my sisters...at least some college degree. Many have post-graduate degree also. Three of my sisters are teachers, and three of them got degree and then they didn't do any job, they are housewives. My brothers...two of my brothers have Master's degree. They are in the United States. And my other brother is a lawyer 00:04:00in India. Other two are taking care of the family business. We have a--growing tea, and they are taking the...taking care of the tea business.

ST: OK. So do you want to tell me a little bit about the family that you made here in Oregon that you have?

BB: Before that, can I tell you about my growing up in India?

ST: Oh, yeah. We can do that first.

BB: Because...so my school, has about two hundred students, the whole...from first grade to...12th grade, or 11th grade--and in a high school graduate class, I have thirteen students, three girls and ten boys. It's a very small...small school and I think most of them did very well.

ST: Do you want to finish talking about India then, and then we can maybe transition? Do you want to talk a little bit more about what your life in India was like or any memories you want to share?

BB: Yeah, it was very....my village is about three hundred houses and I think...two brothers, they were settled down about four hundred years ago, so we 00:05:00are all cousins. So they are all...the cousins. Anything happens, the whole village does it. Marriage, wedding, and everything, they do it. Especially, it is...some death ceremony, the whole village supports, you know. People coming here, there, they provide food for all the people. And so...wedding they do on their own, you know, so they invite all the village people and they...they provide food and other things. And any festival and function, the whole village...and we have a temple there near...one or two temples, they do the puja there. The whole village does the puja. Diwali and other functions, you know, they do it. So it's kind of close-knit family, everybody knows everybody else. 00:06:00And...something like that, you know, four-hundred villagers in that area. Three-hundred...I think three-hundred fifty...each village is about a hundred people or something. You cannot marry within the same village. So they divide it into four groups, a different four groups, so you can marry from one group of villagers to the other group of villagers. That's how it happens. And now the girls, when they get married too, they go to the other village and then they live with their husbands and the boys stay in the same village.

ST: OK. So do you want to talk a little bit about your education--you talked a little bit about your education in India--but do you want to talk about for example, high school or after?

BB: So as I said, high school I have thirteen students in my class, ten boys and three girls. Then afterwards, I went to pre-university, a one-year program, 00:07:00before going to college. That's about...oh, from my village...about seventy miles. I went there, studied one year. And then I didn't know what to do, whether to go for physics major or go to engineering. I didn't have any clue, no...no way to help me, so one of my friends said "oh, go to engineering, you can see--" during that time...there's a dam coming up near my village that a lot of--quite a few engineers there--and he said he will look at the engineers, they are all doing good jobs, you know. He said it's nice to go for an engineer. So that's how I decided to go to engineering college. So I went to five years of program there. I didn't know which major to take. First two years were common, then I liked electrical engineering, and that's why I decided to go to electrical engineering. Then I changed to electronics and computer--and computer 00:08:00was new at that time. Mostly computer engineering, that's what I did. And then during the final year, my friend said, "oh, there's a good institute in India called Institute of Science that's very prestigious. Why don't you apply?" So then I decided to go do my Master's Degree. So I did two years of Master's in Institute of Science, that's one of the top schools in India. Then during the second year, OK, I was just studying...then one of my friends said, "oh, you can apply to U.S.A. You can do PhD in the U.S.A." So I thought it was very nice to know you can go to U.S.A. So then I applied. I applied to--a little bit late, so I got admission but I didn't get any financial support. That's why I decided to teach one year, one-and-a-half years at BITS Pilani...technology...I taught 00:09:00there one-and-a-half years. Then I came to this country in 1977 to do PhD.

ST: OK. So, that's I guess, why did you move to the United States--

BB: Yeah, that's why. Yeah, I thought...you know...oh, traveling is nice, to go and live in a different country. And U.S.A. was one of the top...you know, education-wise and economy-wise is one of the top countries. So I thought it was nice to come here. And moved here. ST: And where did you come to the United States when you moved here?

BB: First I went to Dallas, Texas. I did my PhD there at Southern Methodist University. So on the way I got my Master's also. I changed to computer science, then I did my Master's and PhD in computer science.

ST: OK. So, what was it like to move to the United States for you? What were some of the either cultural differences you had to get used to or differences in 00:10:00maybe school or anything like that?

BB: Yeah. Here...one thing I noticed, as soon as I came here, people are very nice to me. And anything, if you go to any office, immediately they do it. Everything's punctual...on time, everything. It was not there in India. Even when I tried to get my passport, it took me lot of time. And here when I come to college, you know, so once you go to SMU, people there from secretary to professor to everyone, they were extremely nice. But it is little hard in the beginning, struggling here, food and other things, you know, so I have to manage myself. I didn't know how to cook, but somehow...you know, getting Indian food and eating outside is very expensive at that time. I was getting only three hundred dollars. So I have to start cooking myself. Luckily, those days, there are one or two Indian grocery stores in Dallas. So I tried to learn.I cooked and 00:11:00learned from my friends how to cook and other things. So it was nice. The challenges are mainly my challenges doing PhD. It was not easy when I came in. Up to Master's, you can just...you take courses and get a degree and move on. But PhD was very hard for me I thought in the beginning. I had to find a new research result. It was very stressful period. Luckily, I survived. I think that was the most difficult. When I came here, very stressful doing research, getting publications, other things. And finding a new topic...research topics. My professor was there, a little bit helping, but still I have to do all by myself. And that was very stressful.

00:12:00

ST: OK.

BB: And not being with your family. I know...those days I'm not able to call India. Also it is very expensive. Not able to talk to them, only...we have to write letters. Things are different now, you know, after thirty, thirty-five years, now we can just call and talk to people in India. Every day we can talk. It was not like that before, so even if you want to make a call, it cost five dollars. One per minute. Five dollars per minute...then you make three hundred dollars, you know, total income...it was very difficult. So normally I write letters, it takes fifteen days to go there, fifteen days to come here. I don't think I never talked....only once I talked to my parents first three years. Yeah, mainly by...there's no email or nothing at that time. That was the most 00:13:00difficult part. Living by yourself.

ST: So what sort of things were going on in the U.S. either politically or culturally when you moved here?

BB: When I came in--seventy--.so I was so busy with my work. I was not following all the political things. I think that was the Jimmy Carter period. He was the president. Now I can see...you know...there were lot of problems. Iranian Revolution took place during that time. So some of my friends were Iranians. They went back immediately during the revolution time. And I think interest rate was very high, economy was not doing well at that time. So that's the time I still remember. More than that one, I was not involved in all these things, but 00:14:00I was busy with my own studies. I was concentrating on these things.

ST: So what were some of the things you liked about the United States when you moved here and what were some of the things you didn't like?

BB: The best thing I liked is people are very honest people. They treat people very well. And if you do well, you are recognized very well...extremely well. People are extremely nice. You do your work and you're treated very well. And most of the people here--you know, people are very honest and very nice too. That part is the very nice part. Not liking U.S.A. is only thing I miss...not able to visit India quite often. I think that part is the...little difficult part, yes.

00:15:00

ST: So when you came here, you talked a little about those challenges, did you ever face any prejudice from Americans based on the fact that you were Indian or that you were an immigrant?

BB: I don't think so. No. I never felt any discrimination at all. I mean, luckily. Maybe...I never felt any discrimination at all.

ST: Is there anything you want to talk about regarding the transition?

BB: You know, then slowly I noticed that people were nice and I worked...you know, the three years was very challenging but I somehow survived and I studied well and got my degree. And then...I mean three years, I could finish. I wish I 00:16:00could have stayed in the school. Now when I think back, I could have stayed one more year, taken some more classes and other things. I mean anyway, I graduated and I got...OSU is the first job I got and then I entered to three other places and OSU gave me job and I think...in hindsight, I think that was the best thing I did. I took the job here. Corvallis...when I first came here, I thought, you know, living in Dallas, I thought, it very small place. I thought, "oh, maybe I'll work for one or two years and move to a bigger city. But afterwards I felt like...you know, this is a very nice city. And also, the place where I come from also, I get lot of rain. Green, and it is 6,000 feet--7,000 feet above sea level. And very nice climate. Climate-wise, it is similar to where I came from. So I liked the place.

ST: OK. So what was Corvallis like when you first moved here?

00:17:00

BB: You know, to be honest...the...HP was there when I came here. And...population was 42,000. And Winco, and all those were not there. Mainly Fred Meyer was there. It has changed quite a bit. I don't know...I don't think it has changed so much drastically compared to when I first came here. There was few more houses, some development and other things. Other than that one, I don't...HP was there, and it has expanded, and it has...now it has came down, shrunk...the number of employees has gone down. I think other than that one...yeah, new houses, new development came, some new industries came here. Other than that, not much changed I think.

00:18:00

ST: OK. What was the Indian community like at the time you moved here and how has that changed?

BB: Indian community also, at that time also, we had about...when I first came here, about fifty family members or...fifty fac--family members per year. Maybe now it has gone up to two hundred I guess. Hundred to two hundred. It was a nice community. It was...I mean, they support each other very well during that time. When I first came here, people...they were very nice to me, finding an apartment and some invite me to have dinner to their place. ST: And how was maybe...OSU or the computer science department or either of those changed?

BB: Oh, computer science changed quite a lot. So much in the last thirty-five 00:19:00years. Whatever I studied, everything is...every year it changes quite drastically. So when I first came here, I was assigned to give computer account to students. I was in charge of giving twenty-five dollars account to each and every student. They can use computer for half an hour, forty-five minute, or one hour, and then they have to give to somebody else, next in the queue. People there standing for computer, they need to do programming, means one hour, afterwards, they have to come and wait in the queue. So it has changed. There's no PC, nothing...personal computer was not there, no cell phone, nothing. And there's a big computer. Milne Center there's a computer. Everybody has to use that one. I think things have changed so much. There's no email, no internet, nothing. All these happened in the last twenty, twenty-five years. That way, it is...so much drastic changes took place in terms of computer science. So when I 00:20:00first came here, computer science was in the College of Science. Then it moved to College of Engineering-- I came here in 1980. Then 1992, it moved to College of Engineering. Then 1992, we are separate--so we are computer science in the College of Engineering. And 2003, computer science and electrical engineering, and then become the School of EECS.

ST: Can you tell me a little bit about what you maybe liked about Corvallis or what were the challenges of living in Corvallis?

BB: Corvallis is a very nice place, you know, very simple place. Very nice one. You know, small community, university town. You get almost everything here. Only 00:21:00thing is travelling. You know, if you want to go, you have to go to Portland and fly from Portland or from Eugene. Not many flights are available from Eugene. So only thing is driving all the way to Portland, flying there, outside. The last five, ten years, it becomes very...you know, even if you want to go to Portland, it takes almost three, four hours. So much traffic congestion in Portland area. So that's the only inconvenient here, living in Corvallis. Other than that, it's a small community, nice place to live here, bring up children, very nice community here.

ST: So with that, can you tell me a little bit about the family that you made here in Oregon that you have?

BB: Yeah. I got married in 1981 and we have two children, Sonia and Varun. And 00:22:00Sonia and Varun, they moved to...and Rashada also....they moved to Bay Area in 1985. You know, since then I have been commuting there. You know, so...now they are grown, they are doing well and it's...you know...nice in a sense...you know, Bay Area, lot of Indian community there, they...Sonia loves to dance and so she has lot of opportunity there. So that's one good...about living there. But I miss them. I have to travel there quite often. Almost every week I was travelling.

ST: And what do they do now?

BB: Well, my daughter got a degree in business and she was working for a bank. And recently she has...she got married last year and...you came to the 00:23:00reception. And she has a baby, a four-months old baby. And she's taking time off. Varun is working...he wanted to become a schoolteacher. He got his B.S. in psychology and Spanish, and then he wanted to become a teacher. He did his education...Master's in Education. He taught for one year and decided not to teach. Now he works for Bleacher Report. He likes sports and other things, so he works for Bleacher Report. He's a content programmer. He's in San Francisco and Sonia is in the Bay Area, in the San Jose area. Now I visit them quite often. Because now I have grandson, I visit them quite often, more than before.

00:24:00

ST: So how do you think it was for your kids, growing up in the U.S.--because they were Indian-American? So how do you think it was like for them growing up?

BB: I think they got both culture, you know. So they were visiting India also quite often. Still, they have good connections with their...all their relatives, and they know everybody there, you know. We make sure they visit there quite--at least once a year. And...I think...here growing up is...they become independent. Thinking is like any American here. Even though they look...Indians, just like you, they are independent thinkers and they decide...most of the decisions they make their own. They ask our advice, but you know, finding a partner especially, they do their own. In India we all got married through...my parents arranged the 00:25:00wedding and other things. I don't think they will do that one. Sonia found her own partner. They were together...they know each other almost six years, they got married. And Varun has...I think he will also do the same thing. So that is the big change I could see.

ST: So what major change or impacts do you think you've had in terms of either your work or on the community? Or something you would like to talk about, things that you're proud of?

BB: So the main thing is the...proud of...this one is...we become...OK, I have been here for thirty-six years...you know, I have been here thirty-six years and I, you know...teaching so many students, especially Master's student and PH student. I am very proud of guiding about twenty-eight PHD student. They are all 00:26:00doing very well. And that's one nice thing about them. And I still keep many of my former...formers keep in touch with me. They're very thankful I helped them to, you know...their career. When they first came here, they don't know...want to do research, and most of the students have problem finding the...what type of research they need to do In the beginning, one or two years, I help them, and then they become independent, they do their research. So that's why I'm very proud of it. And then I have been associate director for the last twelve years. So we have tremendously improved our school, School of EECS. Right now--when we looked at top twenty-five--when Dean Ron Adams was there, he wanted to become top twenty-five--I think Terri and I looked at all the things. We improved the number of PHD student. And right now, the school has close to 225 phD student. 00:27:00The whole university has only 800 PHD students and more than twenty, twenty-five percent of the students are in our program. So I think that we hired very good faculty members and we did very well. I am so very proud of that one. And helped all the junior people...when they are...we have good people and helped the junior people to improve their career. I think...I'm very thankful...you know, I'm very...I mean, very humble and I'm very happy about it.

ST: OK. So how do you think that you were changed by living in Corvallis or the United States?

BB: You know, OK, more than that one, I will tell you. This faculty position helped me quite a bit. When I was in India, I don't think...even till twenty, 00:28:00twenty-two years, I never travelled more than fifty miles away from my hometown or my village. So coming to U.S.A. opened up my mind so I could see so many new people in the last...you know, I mean, faculty members, I travelled...almost fifty, fifty-five countries. Each and every place, when I go there, I try to meet the local people. What I found was, what I found is, almost everybody is same. This is what I tell everybody. Almost all human beings are same, and everybody wants to have a peaceful, conflict-free life. So...and also...they want...each, now, when I look at it here, everybody wants to have a good education for their children. Whether you are in Asia, Africa, or Europe, or you know, Africa, and South, North America, Australia. I had a chance to visit those--so many countries. Everybody is same. They want to have good education 00:29:00for their children. Good life for their...themselves and their children. That's what they're looking. I think that opened up my mind. I think I'm very thankful for that one. This...this job has given me the opportunity.

ST: OK. And what are some of the best memories that you've had in Corvallis, living in Corvallis that you want to share?

BB: The best memories? Oh, my children. I had two children born here and that was most amazing thing happen to me. And...I think that's...I should say, they gave me so much happiness in my life.

ST: Anything that you want to talk about at OSU also, any special memories at OSU?

BB: OSU, yeah, I mean, last twelve, thirteen years, you know, we have done 00:30:00extremely well. I mean we've improved our school image. Anybody who comes here, look at our school, they all said, "oh, it's one of the best schools in the nation". We have a very good, strong program. Your dad is the program machine learning. That's one of the top five programs in the nation, top 5 to 6. And similarly, EC, we have a strong program in many areas...circuit design. I mean we have extremely, very talented faculty members. Yeah, I'm proud of that one too. Yes.

ST: And is there anything else you want to share for the historical archives? Anything at all, any memories, anything you just want to talk about?

BB: I think I had a wonderful time here in Corvallis. People are extremely nice. 00:31:00I never imagined I will be staying here for such a long time. I still enjoy my work. I still try to help the student faculty and everybody so OSU can improve their image. So OSU is the top 10 land-grant university goal. And also it's a nice pleasure to talk to you.

ST: Thank you. OK, anything else you would like to say?

BB: Thank you.