Archa Bhondwe

Transcript of Archa Bhondwe
Interviewee: Archa Bhondwe
Interviewer: Christina Xiques
Date: February 4, 2014
Place: Chicago, IL
Transcriber: Christina Xiques
Total Time: 14:56

Copyright © 2014 Edgewater Historical Society

CX: This is Christina Xiques, interviewing February the fourth with Archa Bhondwe, She comes from India. Okay. So you say you’re from India right Archa?

AB: Right.

CX: Okay. Did you live in a city or a village in India?

AB: Ah in a city.

CX: In a city, okay. Where you born in the city?

AB: Yes.

CX: In that city you lived in?

AB: Actually we lived in a city called “Faridabad.” It’s south of Delhi, and my mother was from Delhi. So I was born in Delhi but very close to where I lived.

CX: Okay I see, okay. So can you tell me anything about your childhood or your family?

AB: Ah.

CX: Any like early memories?

AB: Oh yes, I still remember I lived with my parents. I have two brothers one is older than me, one is younger than me. My grandma lived in Delhi, I had three uncles there. So most of my childhood, I stayed with my grandma till I started school in kindergarten. My mother taught in Delhi so she would visit me every day, and take me home for the weekends. But most of my childhood was with my grandma at her place.

CX: Okay, so you’re very close with your grandmother?

AB: Yes, she passed away a few years ago, but I still do miss her and she had a big influence in me.


CX: Yeah, I was very close with my grandmother too.

AB: Oh yes grandmothers are special.

CX: Then she passed away last year so yeah….

AB: Oh I’m sorry.

CX: But at least we had that experience, that’s good. Could you tell me how it was like in your country in India? How was it like there?

AB: Ah, How?

CX: Like, how was it like living there, or maybe the difference between there and here?


AB: I lived in a metropolitan city there, so when I came over here it was…it wasn’t that hard for me. I lived in Faridabad till I did my high school. But after that I moved to a city called Kota for my undergrad. And then I did post graduate diploma in a city called Bombay and they are like big cities. So when I came over here, it wasn’t that hard, like different from where I have lived before.

CX: Okay. And so what made you decide to leave your homeland and come to the United States?

AB: When I was doing my postgraduate diploma in Bombay…. I’m an occupational therapist and one of my teachers have moved here and that time there was a shortage of therapist here. They were recruiting agencies that would go from here, stay in a hotel, interview all your…you know, the whole class and have them come over here to fill up the positions. So, when I went to school in India….But when you think about occupational therapy, you think about helping people being independent. But our social structure in India is very different. It’s like you know extended family is always there to help you. So when I came across this opportunity to come over here and work here, I was so excited that I would get to do everything that I read in my book. So it was very exciting for me when I found that opportunity to come here, yes.


CX: Okay, Okay. Was it difficult getting here?

AB: No. My teacher was here. She was my teacher in undergrad and my….Our families were very close so when I came for first almost in year I stayed with her. So, in college also I used to spend half my month like at her place. So it wasn’t that different. She was there and then she moved and I came over to stay with her.

CX: Okay, okay. Did you enjoy it here in America?

AB: Oh yes, I, I started after four months or so. And when I started working, I took up a job as a contract therapist because I wanted to have more experience and you…. I got to go to all different hospitals, nursing homes, different settings, and whatever I had read you know. During my course over there I got to try out and practice all those skills. So, I was very happy.


CX: Okay. That’s good. What was the biggest change for you since you moved to America?

AB: Ah, biggest change so far I’ve lived away from home in the past like since my high school. I was never home. I was in dormitories and the extended family …. When I came over here that way, it didn’t feel different because there were still people and all, I knew. I was close to most of my class was here like around fifty people I knew from the very beginning who were in the United States, within few hours drive from Chicago, people I had stayed for five years in the hostel. Ah, what was the biggest change for me? I think learning to drive. I learned driving after coming here. (Laughing)

CX: Ah, okay.


AB: I became more independent getting around, yeah.

CX: Okay. All right. So when did you move to Edgewater?

AB: Ah, We had spent a year here in 1996 to 1997. From ‘96 November to September of ‘97 and then we have moved to, towards O’Hare where my husband had joined us…joined me. Ah when we were looking for a house in 2001 this was one of the buildings that allowed dogs. And we wanted to live closer to the lake. And we just looked at two places and in this building. And then we said this is it, and we moved here.

CX: Ah, okay. So you had a dog at that time?

AB: Right.

CX: Yeah, okay. And, so where were you before that? Before you were in Edgewater?

AB: Ah. When I came from India in 1996 I lived downtown with my teacher. Then she.…

CX: Downtown Chicago?

AB: Yes, then she had bought a condo in this building. So I lived here, the same building for a year. She passed away in ‘97, so we had to move away. But in 2001 when we decided to buy our place we knew we were familiar with the building in…. Ah, so we just moved back here and we wanted to be closer to the lake.

CX: I see. Okay. And do you feel like home here?


AB: In Chicago or…?

CX: In Edgewater.

AB: Yes. When my teacher had passed away we had thought about moving to Michigan because most of our friends were there. 90 percent of our friends were there, but something about Chicago about this community just…. We felt so how should I put it? People from different ethnicities are here and within our own building. There are so many Indians so you just feel connected. Another thing was Devon Indian Market, big huge Indian market. When you walk there you feel like you know you are one of the markets in India. That was one big deciding factor: that community support and diversity here. I, we just feel at home in Chicago and over here [Edgewater] because there are so many immigrants.

CX: Right, right. Yeah, and Edgewater is one of the biggest, the biggest like suburbs that have, such a diverse community here, so. Okay, what is one of your favorite experiences here in Edgewater?

AB: In Edgewater… I haven’t lived anywhere else to compare telling you honestly. We have just love being here and you can walk to the beach here. You’re connected to downtown, your part of the city but you still have you know that suburb feeling because you’re closer to the suburb. It’s very family oriented, this part. We have made a lot of friends just in our building itself from different ethnicities and we celebrate different holidays together, Christmas. Our other neighbor is Jews so we spend, we had Hanukah. That was on Thanksgiving Day this year. Our other friends are from Taiwan so we got to celebrate Chinese New Year’s last Saturday. It’s just; it’s good being here with different group of people and feel at home. You don’t feel that you’re disconnected, you know.

CX: Okay. Did you face any problems here in Edgewater?


AB: No.

CX: No?

AB: No.

CX: Okay. That’s good! And are you involved in any organizations here in Edgewater?

AB: No.

CX: Any neighborhood organizations?

AB: No, I have two small kids, twelve and seventeen and most of the time after school, after homework is there classes or doing this or that or laundry or just taking care of the house.

CX: So busy with the kids?

AB: Busy with the kids so far (laughing).

CX: It’s a job in itself. So how, how well do you get along with like other people at your work place, are you working now?

AB: Yes. I work for Chicago public schools, and I was placed through contract company in ‘97. So it has been lot of years with Chicago Public Schools. I have friends and I do get along well with most people, yeah.

CX: Okay that’s good. Do you have any family back in your home country?

AB: Oh, everyone is back home.

CX: Everyone is back home?

AB: Yes everyone, only my husband and I are here.

CX: Aha!

AB: I do have a cousin who just moved to Denver, Colorado last year.

CX: Okay.

AB: My husband has a cousin in Ohio but apart from that everyone is back home.


CX: Okay. Do they plan on coming here? Moving here maybe?

AB: No, nobody wants to move here. My brother in law is a computer engineer and he has come here quite a few times on business but he never wanted to move here. And my husband’s parents have visited us. And he has visited us but nobody plans to move.

CX: Okay. So what culture do you identify with?

AB: Indian.

CX: Indian? So you don’t feel you’re American now?

AB: Ah, I feel American is kind of, you know, mix of all different ethnicities. And because if you look, even when they say America sometimes, they extended that their ancestors moved from somewhere from Europe. And also there is always the heritage part attached to it. So, but most of the customs we follow are…. We try to follow Indian customs in our house, so that kids are familiar with it.


CX: Okay, yeah I agree with you, we all come from different backgrounds basically. So knowing what you know now about America, would you still have moved here?

AB: Ah, yes. I moved for the personal reasons - for my profession life, like my professional opportunities here as well as my teacher. I was very close to her. My husband came within after six months where after I moved here. People are important in our family and so people are important to me. And those people were still here and I… we visited India every year. For the whole summer for two months we are there with our extended family. So, my mother believed in destiny. I guess I would just suppose to come here so I came. As a child I had never thought that I would go to America. I came and now I am here.

CX: Okay. So, let’s say one of the last questions. If you had the choice to live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

AB: Anywhere in the world…Home is where the heart is I guess. Wherever my family is I would be happy there. Sometimes I have thought about it what life would have been like if I stayed back in India, uh but you know what I would be happy wherever my family is. So my husband, my kids, connection with my family, I call my brother, my sister in law every day. We Skype every weekend and we are included in most of the family birthdays and all through Skype. So Sunday was my dad’s birthday, I got to be there, cut the cake and you know eat it on iPad. (Laughing) So, although I’m far away, I don’t feel that you know I’m that far away. So wherever you know my family is I would be happy. Anywhere in the world.

CX: Okay, that’s nice. Okay. So, I enjoyed hearing your story, thank you so much for sharing with us and we are done.

AB: You’re welcome.