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A Passage to America (standard:travel stories, 3569 words)
Author: JuggernautAdded: Nov 21 2010Views/Reads: 1679/1181Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A travel story on people trying to reach America

A Passage to America 


Subba Rao 

“Dad, do you know how America got it's name?” My twelve years old
daughter asked. She caught me off guard, “was it Columbus who gave the 


I knew she was preparing for her social studies test. “Alright, you tell

“ Waldseemuller, a German mapmaker in 1507 gave the name America in
honor of Amerigo Vesapucci who first realized the land-mass Columbus 
discovered was not Asia.” 

If the question was put to Indians, no one among the billion people
could answer either. But surely, if they were allowed to enter the 
United States of America or America, or the States, the entire Indian 
sub-continent would be empty. 

In the sixties when Americans were feverishly working to land on the
moon, Indians were at work too, but to find a passage to America. In 
sixties and seventies, through Inter-governmental agreements, several 
Indian bureaucrats, scientists and doctors were allowed to visit 
America for short visits. The short stays were extended longer, and 
longer, and many Americans of Indian origin today are the descendents 
of those over-stayed Indians. 

Our family friends, a medical doctor with his wife visited Michigan in
the United States for a short stay in early sixties. On their return, 
the doctor's wife never completed a sentence without mentioning 
Michigan. As the time passed, we could not stand her repeated talk on 
Michigan. My brother and I competed against each other to count the 
number of times she mentioned the word Michigan during her visit to our 
house. Eventually, we named her “The Michigan Lady”. Whenever we saw 
her coming to our house, we hummed the following melody we made up: 

The Michigan lady coming down, coming down, coming down, 

The Boring lady coming down, coming down, coming down, 

The America lady coming down, coming down, coming down, 

We are all running out, running out, running out, running out, 

For Indians, going to America was like going to “The Swarga Lokha” 
(residence for most Hindu gods).  My own uncle visited New York in 
early sixties for an advanced medical training at a large New York City 
Hospital. He could not bear the separation from his wife who stayed 
back in India to look after their five young children, all girls, so he 
hurried back in less than three months. Every time he was offered a 
fruit like mango, orange or banana, he compared it to the Big Apple, 
and then explained how the City of New York was named Big Apple for the 
size of apples sold on the streets of New York. Only after I lived in 
the United States for several years, I read somewhere that New York 
City was named after a popular show named Big Apple and not for the 
size of apples sold in New York. My uncle was a genius and recipient of 
several gold medals, so I never argued with him on the trivial matter 
of Big Apple. 

My mothers cousin, a bright man from a well know university in South
India spent a few years in the early sixties at a prestigious Ivy 
League University in the United States.  He returned to India 
unwillingly to join his family back home. He brought several fancy 
things such as camera, tape recorder, transistor radio, modern kitchen 
appliances, electric shaver and ballpoint pens all in their original 
styrofoam packages. I was young and particularly curious towards the 
white fluffy Styrofoam packing material. When I tried to touch the 
stryofoam to get the feel of it, he gently pushed my hands away and 
kept me away from touching his other treasures.  His “Samsonite” 
suitcase and the briefcase became the status symbol. After all, 

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