Parviz Giga

Interviewee: Parviz Giga
Transcription of Parviz Giga
Interviewer: Sarah Altinbasak
Date: February 6, 2014
Place: Chicago, IL
Transcriber: Sarah Altinbasak
Total Time: 17:38

Copyright © 2014 Edgewater Historical Society

SA: Can you tell us a little bit about your early years?

PG: Yes I moved here in 1981…basically on a job transfer. I used to work for, what used to be the First National Bank of Chicago which doesn’t exist anymore. It had been bought out by certain people. So I worked in the bank until 19…90…2, 92. Basically, it was one of the ones that was affected by the economy then and then I went into real estate. So I’ve been working here since 1992.

SA: Ok. And that was here?

PG: In Chicago, yes. And I’ve lived in this building for thirty two years.

SA: Thirty two years.

PG: Same apartment, same place.

SA: And when did you come here?

PG: 1981.

SA: 1981. Wow. Can you tell me a little bit about back home?

PG: Yes In terms of Africa, it is more dynamic country. We’ve always, because of its strategic location… it’s had close ties with Europe because we are on the coast of where they come. During the American presence there before, during the cold war…It’s a small country, but it’s strategic and basically our economy is tourism. I mean money, and we export coffee, tea, and agriculture products. So that’s basically the economy of Kenya. The majority of Kenyans are indigenous Kenyans who are Africans, but a very small minority, not even one percent are of Indian or Pakistani origin. Families moved, my family moved to Kenya over a hundred years ago. My parents were born there. And my father is ninety years old.

SA: Ok.

PG: So my family… most of the families that are there have been there for generations. And we have …. You know we are famous for our safaris. We have really nice wild life lodges, which is the main attraction there for the tourists. And we have wonderful beaches….so.

SA: What was it like growing up there?

PG: it was, when I was young, it was like South Africa. Everybody was divided…separated, not divided, separated, so the school’s I went to were, you know, for people of Asian descent. The certification I got was Kenya Asian preliminary. Everything was kind of separated. But in 1963 when Kenya became independent, then everything was free and everybody could go. So, in the first years of my life it was… when you’re born into that system you really do not ….

SA: Question it?

PG: Question it. But as you grow older you wonder. But now Kenya’s a cosmopolitan, and we don’t have any restrictions. We could only live in certain areas. We could only go to certain hospitals, you know. Even if there was an accident near a white hospital, a person of color couldn’t get there, even in a life and death situation. They would have to… the Asians would have to go to the Asian hospital. The Blacks would have to go to the African hospital.

SA: Wow.

PG: So it was that restricted. So it was nice when everything opened up.

SA: I can imagine. So what brought you here?

PG: Job transfer.

SA: Job transfer.

PG: And the reason why I accepted it was I wanted to go to school, I wanted to do a business degree and that’s why I came. The attraction was schooling.

SA: Did you come here alone or did you come here with family?

PG: Yes. I came all alone.

SA: What was that like?

PG: Chicago is an incredibly friendly city. And I met some very nice people at work. And I felt at home within a week.

SA: Really?

PG: Yes. Because everybody was so helpful. And everybody was so cooperative. It was just a very nice experience and then in Kenya growing up I met….You know it was a British colony so we had British, people of British descent, and very few other Europeans. Then we had the Asians. We didn’t have the Indians, but we didn’t have other races here, from other Asian countries. Then we had the indigenous Kenyans who were from there. When I came from Kenya to Chicago, I was fascinated. I met people from all different countries. It was…that was the most, interesting and you know fun experience I had. I had friends from Belize, I had friends from Guatemala. There was a very nice lady here who used to live here in this building, and she was from Guatemala. I met from Dominican Republic. I met people from Philippines, from Korea, and I didn’t have that experience growing up so it was…

SA: A lot more diverse.

PG: Yes, it was really nice. You know Chicago’s diversity was really something that I have enjoyed.

SA: So you came straight to Chicago, straight to Edgewater?

PG: Yes.

SA: And stayed here since.

PG: Since…yes. I used to work downtown. So you know, when you are new to a city you are a little unsure of yourself and really concerned about the security, and Edgewater is a short distance on #147 from the loop. So there was the reason. I could hop onto #147 and be at work. So it was the transportation and the closeness that was the reason for the choice plus it was a safer neighborhood. So I lived down the block, rented for six months and then I bought a condominium here.

SA: So what would you consider your culture to be? Your own identity of culture? Would you consider yourself?

PG: It’s a hard one, because I feel at home wherever I am. So even though I am Kenyan at heart, a proud Kenyan, I am also proud of my Indian heritage. I’m also proud to be an American. I do think this country is a wonderful country. And I think the people here are very compassionate, very friendly. I realize that even more since I’ve had health issues. You don’t see that kind of compassion anywhere else. So I’m very happy that I am in this country, and I guess ultimately you just feel home and that really is part of your culture right?

SA: Sure. So you said that within the very first week you felt at home.

PG: Yes. Yes, the people at work were so helpful. They were the ones that kind of guided me where to look for a place to stay and where to go and where not to go and how to get around the city. People invited me into their homes even though they didn’t really know me for that long. So I really… I never really felt isolated or unwanted or…. You know, I just felt, people were very, very helpful. Both at work and people I met. You know, the place where I rented, the first place where I rented for six months, my neighbors were so nice. They would bring me ice cream. They brang me brownies when they would come knock on my door, or cookies, you know a plate of cookies. These are people that I just met that were helping. You know it’s a very nice experience for me so I felt at home, and I felt that people were very welcoming.

SA: Do you ever visit Kenya?

PG: Yes.

SA: Do you still have family there?

PG: I have a sister there. My mother has passed away and my father lives with me.

SA: Here?

PG: Here.

SA: Well….actually that was all of the questions that I have on paper.

PG: Ok.

SA: Is there anything else that you think would be worth learning about? About you? About your whole experience?

PG: My experience has been very positive.

SA: It sounds like it.

PG: I couldn’t have chosen a better place away from home to be. You know this is now, you know…. I have spent more years here now, than I have in Kenya. So, this is really more home than anyplace else. And I am very happy that my destiny brought me here.

SA: Was the actual process hard? The actual immigration process?

PG: No because the… I used to work for the bank and they….

SA: They took care of everything.

PG: They took care of everything for me.

SA: It’s a wonderful experience it sounds like.

PG: It is. The nice thing was when you’re an immigrant, you have to go look for a job, and it’s hard in a new country. I came here and within a day, the following day I went to work. So I didn’t have that hardship of trying to find a job, trying to…I’ve been very fortunate, very blessed. And so, I had a job, went there, and I worked with wonderful people, who’ve so… I really would wish every immigrant had it as easy as I did. I’m sure other people have different experiences but I was truly blessed.

SA: Sounds like it. I’m glad.

PG: Thank you. Thank you.

SA: That sounds pretty amazing. I’m glad that you’ve shared that. Is there anything else that you wanted to mention? About anything?

PG: No. I just wish that Americans would appreciate more of what we have.

SA: Of what kind of, what is….

PG: Everything. I think the life here…we’re so blessed. We’re so blessed we live in this country.

SA: Do you feel that other Americans don’t feel that way or should feel that way?

PG: No I think people. I think people, I think we all who live in this country take it for granted.

SA: That’s for sure.

PG: People never think, but having lived in a third world country, having come here, and I’ve traveled to other countries, and it’s always nice to come back home. I went to Europe a couple of years ago and you know, the experience was nice but I appreciate my place much more. You know, it helps you put in perspective, on how much more, how much luckier we are.

SA: So you said that you have roots - years back - from Pakistan?

PG: India.

SA: India.

PG: Well in those days it was … the whole thing was India, and then they separated. It was before I was born, so everybody in Kenya came from India you know, because it was one country. Also I am a Muslim.

SA: I was actually going to ask what religion you identify most with.

PG: I am a Muslim. But I’ve never really identified with India. I’ve always felt I am Kenyan. And you know, I am an American; A Kenyan-American. I don’t feel I’m an Indian-American. Although because of the way Kenya was and because of the separation, the Kenyans and Indians retained you know, culture, the food, the clothes. But that was something I grew up with. We speak… I speak Indian languages.

SA: What languages?

PG: I speak um, my family speaks uh a dialect of ****?, and then I can speak ****?, and Hindi, so even though I can do that, I’ve never really identified with India. I’ve never really…. Yes that’s where my family is from, that’s my heritage. But I don’t have that; I don’t feel that connection……. I guess it was too long ago.

SA: Sure. If there was nothing else then….

PG: Thank you. It was nice meeting you.

SA: Thank you for sharing your story.