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Transcript - Amna Khan

(Compiled March 25-26, 2006)

Interviewee: Amna Khan
Interviewer: Mark Roberts
Interview Date: March 25, 2006
Location: Chicago, IL
Length: 5/12 cassette; approximately 30 minutes

MR: This is the first interview; I will be talking about your life in your former
country before you came to the Unites States. The questions that I am going to ask are
about you and your country of origin and also your opinions of your country of origin.
The types of questions that I am going to ask are going to be open ended, experience
questions, opinion question and also some opinion questions. I hope that this interview is
going to be successful. This is the first question, how was life in your former country like
schooling, standard of living, housing, et cetera different from here in the United States?
AK: Well, okay, the life over there was much peaceful, you know and the was a
very good school. When I went there you know it was the best school in India, and then it
was hard, we used to get only one day off Sunday.
MR: Thats it?
AK: Thats it, because Saturday, we used to get half day off, and five days a week
was full time school. It was very competitive, very hard working, the teachers were very
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 2
good, and we had to study a lot, you know it was the best school. I really liked it over
there. And the life was very peaceful, we had our own house over there, there were seven
in our family; four brothers and three sisters; but it was much peaceful, we used to go to
school and back home, eat and relax then go back to studies, we had very little time. It
was very nice, very peaceful.
MR: Not as fast?
AK: Not as fast like here, not ( ) it was much peaceful than here.
MR: So what are your most vivid memories?
AK: Favorite memories, I used to like the good members of the family and the
teachers were like respectful, you know, like our parents. We used to respect our teachers
and obey them, like our elders, we they used to love us a lot, always teach us good
lessons, besides teaching us. You know practical life; they used to give us lot of
examples. The teachers were very good, and I learned a lot from them.
MR: They were very good?
AK: They were very good teachers and I really liked my school. I was there from
kindergarten to twelfth grade. Things were very peaceful and I really loved my school.
MR: How long was it like when did it start?
AK: Um, you mean in the morning?
MR: Yeah.
AK: It like started in ( ) nine thirty in the morning.
MR: And, when did it end?
AK: three forty-five.
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 3
MR: So, how was like the general environment, like pollution, views, like
different from here in the United States? [Interruption]
AK: Yeah, it was different, much much different. In your school we had five
thousand kids
MR: No I mean the environment
AK: Like the pollution you mean?
MR: Yeah.
AK: Well, when I was there, there was not much pollution. It was very peaceful,
very quite; it was like thirty-four years ago -- [interruption]. The air pollution?
MR: Oh yeah, the air pollution. Like factories, the United States really isnt clean,
with --
AK: Yeah.
MR: With all those nuclear reactors that generate energy.
AK: ( )
MR: A bit louder
AK: Okay, when I was there, like thirty-four years ago in Hyderabad in India, it
was not polluted at all. It was very nice, and you know, not too much people and not too
many cars.
MR: Oh.
AK: It was clean and very good.
MR: Like, were there a lot of trees?
AK: Yeah. Lots of greenery. In our house, we had two big mango trees, and ( )
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 4
MR: So basically you were self sufficient.
AK: Oh yeah.
MR: Like, ( ).
AK: Life was peaceful because we had our own house, and my father was the
only working member. We were again seven brothers and sisters, my mom and my
grandma. You know, that money was enough for us.
MR: Self sufficient?
AK: It was self sufficient. It was not like luxury living, [interruption].
MR: No, but it was good enough.
AK: Very good, we were happy and much peaceful and very well ( ).
MR: So what did your parents do for a living, and the other people around you?
AK: My mom was a housewife and my father was a accountant. He used to work
in the Public Work Department.
MR: Government?
AK: Government. Government job and he was an accountant and he retired as an
MR: And what did the other people do, like your neighbors.
AK: Other people? Like I was the oldest in the family, and we all are studying
going to school. And over there children, until they graduate, they dont work. The only
thing is that they have to go the school, and basically do their best. Like over here, after
you are sixteen and you go for part-time job
MR: Yeah.
AK: Over there, it is not like that. We had to give full time on study.
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 5
MR: And the people around you, like your neighbors?
AK: Yeah, they were all the same.
MR: What did they do for a living?
AK: Uh, everyone has different kinds of jobs. Some people have businesses, some
people have stores and government jobs. Like that, you know.
MR: Okay.
AK: ( ).
MR: So, when was the last time you visited your country?
AK: I [interruption].
MR: Since you left in the seventies.
AK: I was here in the United States in nineteen seventy-two. And after that I went
four or five times. Yeah, like the last time was in like ninety-seven.
MR: Nineteen ninety-seven?
AK: Yeah, like it is nine years ago.
MR: Hugh, yeah it is nine years ago.
AK: Yeah, it is nine years ago.
MR: So what were the people like, very welcoming?
AK: Yeah, very welcoming. My father was there, my mom was there
MR: Still alive?
AK: Not now.
MR: Oh.
AK: They died like five years ago.
MR: Oh ( ).
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 6
AK: We had our own house and everything -- you know, very good over there--,
my ten people in my family, my aunts and my uncles and everyone else.
MR: Was it a joint family?
AK: No. They have their own houses and farms.
MR: They live around?
AK: Yeah they live the same city. I used to visit them -- it was very nice very
MR: How far did they live?
AK: It was like half an hour drive.
MR: Very close knit?
AK: Very close to us was an uncle.
MR: No, I mean in terms of like relationships -- very close knit?
AK: Very close. People over there are very loving, you know very loving, and
they do not expect anything from you. Just love.
MR: Thats all it matters.
AK: We respect our elders. When we go over there, we meet them and respect
them and love them a lot. They give a lot of love too you know.
MR: So what is your opinion of the government?
AK: The government? I dont know. What about it because [laughter]
MR: No, what was your opinion about it. Were you happy about it?
AK: ( ) I think India is doing very good.
MR: Back in the seventies.
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 7
AK: Uh, when I was there, it was doing good, but, not that much, but, now I heard
it changed a lot.
MR: More like urban, not like rural?
AK: Yeah, like lot of improvements. You know, lot of jobs over there
MR: How was it like back then?
AK: Back then it was?
MR: Government as in tyranny, anarchy, you know? Peaceful?
AK: It was ( ) peaceful, it was peaceful, good.
MR: Income levels are like ten times smaller than the United States. How did it
affect you? Did you sense it that it was like that ( ).
AK: Yeah, but you know what, the standard of living is like much cheaper than
MR: So it pays off?
AK: Yeah. When we go over there the things when you convert it in dollars are
much cheaper than here.
MR: How many times cheaper?
AK: Like maybe, fifty times cheaper.
MR: Fifty!
AK: Yeah.
MR: Fifty! Like in what kinds of things?
AK: In you know, when we used to go to the movies and get out in the
restaurants, I used to spend like two hundred rupees for the whole day and my three
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 8
MK: Thats like three dollars?
AK: Yeah, you know, its like four dollars, and here if you go to the movies it is
ten dollars.
MK: So it kind of balances off.
AK: Yeah.
MK: In the sense, were there any televisions, radios -- well radios are really not a
big of a deal. United States was the same today as it was in the seventies.
AK: Yeah, it is rapidly changing. Every day is counting over there. What you did
not have back then, they have them now.
MR: So what was your life like in the nineteen seventies?
AK: In the nineteen seventies, we did not even have televisions over there.
MR: But you did have a radio?
AK: We had only a radio.
MR: But, you did not have the microwave as I see, nor did you have a
AK: No, no, no. Back then we did not have it.
MR: So basically it was like --.
AK: Like in our house, we had to buy fresh meat and vegetables everyday.
MR: I like it.
AK: Not like here, only a radio, and not a television, no computers, no nothing.
And you know, life was not that fast. We were used to this kind of living, we were happy.
MR: But how would you feel now if you go there? I dont think that you have air
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 9
AK: Yeah, like no. It was very hot over there.
MR: Was it humid?
AK: Its not humid. In Hyderabad, it is not humid, but it is very hot -- dry.
Especially in summers the summer time.
MR: So does the temperature fluctuate a lot?
AK: We have four seasons over there.
MR: Oh.
AK: But usually summers are hot, like hundred ten and hundred fifteen degrees.
Not more than that.
MR: Its not that bad.
AK: Yeah, its not that hot. But out of going from Chicago, it is a little hot, and
you know there is no AC there, and so it makes it more hot.
MR: But it is not humid through?
AK: No it is not humid. It was nice, and we have fans that doesnt work, so we
avoid going in summer time.
MR: So what time would you go there?
AK: December, January, February.
MR: ( )
AK: Yeah. Over there the winter is very cold. The temperatures are in seventies.
MR: Thats nice!
AK: Very nice. Not like in April, March and it is very rainy.
MK: What were the living in your home and neighborhood? Was it excellent, fair
or very bad?
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 10
AK: It was satisfactory.
MR: Satisfactory?
AK: Satisfactory.
MR: How were the houses like? Were they concrete, tin? You know tin, the wavy
AK: It was a big house, big house, like concrete and brick houses. It was okay.
Very good air circulation and everything. Big trees, grass, back yard, front yards big
gates you know.
MR: So, how did you spend most of your time? Other than study.
AK: Usually students over there, study a lot. To tell you the truth, they study a lot,
all the time, study, study, study.
MR: You know like sports, and things of that nature.
AK: They have sports.
MR: But not like organized like here?
AK: Yeah, the schools, have sports.
MR: Not like two hour two hour practices a day though?
AK: No, two times a week. And we had annual sports day in our school and in
this day we invited the minister of Hyderabad. The competition goes down and there are
MR: So what kinds of things?
AK: For sports, we had basketball, netball and all those throw kinds. There were
different types of sports over there and we played against each other and the winner gets
the prize. You know it was a lot of fun. It was a big celebration.
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 11
MR: So, it was a day off and your family members come in?
AK: Yeah, everybody watches and we invite important people too. They had the
band and everything. We also had some cultural programs too. Talent shows and singing
shows and stuff like that. So we used to have music class and art class.
MR: So what did you learn in music class?
AK: We used to play the sitar.
MR: Okay.
AK: It was like twice a week. We used to learn music and sing songs. We also
had to have cooking classes too.
MR: Cooking?
AK: Yeah. We used to have cooking classes.
MR: Even the men?
AK: No, it was a girls school.
MR: All girls school.
AK: All girls school. Over there, there are a lot of girls school. Sometimes it is
mixed, but most of the time, it is all single sex schools.
MR: Oh, they are all separate?
AK: Yeah, separate.
MR: So how did the caste system affect you, I mean it is very prominent.
AK: Yeah, it is there, but it really never affected us.
MR: Did it like affect other people around you?
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 12
AK: No, no. Usually the people who are not well educated, they dont know
nothing, they usually do this kind of stuff. The good, educated people, they know the
difference, they dont care. Its not that bad.
MR: So it is more like the more like the uneducated people
AK: Yes, yes, yes. You know, like here -- ignorant people.
MR: Like racism is prominent in the rural places in this country.
AK: It is still there, but starts in those areas only.
MR: Like very rural places.
AK: Yeah, yeah. The educated people do not do this kind of stuff. They
understand, they are broad minded.
MR: So, were you like secure?
AK: In India? Yeah.
MR: Like all the securities there can be. Income, insurance, heath care et cetera.
AK: Yeah, affordable, especially the health care; over there it is very affordable.
MR: Government subsidized?
AK: Over there, we have some government hospitals and they are free and you
could go there.
MR: Free?
AK: Entirely free, anyone can go there and receive medical treatment. If you want
private doctors, you can get them cheap too.
MR: Not like here?
AK: Here, if you have no insurance, it means that you are dead. Even for a minor
surgery, you cannot afford to pay -- but over there you could. If you cannot afford the
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 13
private doctors, you can always go to the government hospitals and they do it free for
MR: Are they very crowded?
AK: Oh yes, they are like Cook County Hospital here.
MR: Oh. How far was the hospital from your house.
AK: Oh my house, it was very close.
MR: Oh huh.
AK: They were big big hospitals. You know Nizam, the King of Hyderabad, he
built a big hospital there.
MR: Were they well equipped?
AK: They are very big and well equipped. But most of the people try to go to the
private doctors. They are not bad, they are lot like very expensive like here. The main
thing is that you can afford it.
MR: Right. So what were your childhood travels?
AK: Traveling? No. We did not travel that much because we had to miss our
schools and stuff like that.
MR: Didnt you get the summer off?
AK: Summer off? We used to get the summer off.
MR: Like was traveling like traveling mostly to your relatives houses?
AK: Yeah.
MR: Thirty minutes away.
AK: Yeah. And sometimes we used to go to our lands, and this was like six hour
drive from our house.
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 14
MR: Yeah?
AK: Yes, six hours drive.
MR: The land? Whats that?
AK: The farm over there.
MR: Oh, did you like live there?
AK: No we did not live there. We lived in the city, the farm was in the
MR: Oh.
AK: So we used to go there during the vacation times.
MR: So someone else took care of it?
AK: Yeah. We used to have people who used to take care of them. Rice and
MR : Sugarcane.
AK: Yeah.
MR: So how much did you make my selling them. Is that like what everyone else
does too?
AK: The people used to work over there and when the time to reap it, my father
used to take care of it and we used to get a lot of money.
MR: So did you attend an institution for higher studies?
AK: Yeah, I went to the --
MR: So what did you study?
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 15
AK: In Hyderabad ( ) Womens College, and I wanted to study medicine after I
graduated my twelfth grade, since I was the oldest in the family, and it cost a lot of
MR: Oh, so thats when it gets expensive?
AK: Yeah.
MR: So was schooling also expensive?
AK: School was expensive already. The private school that I went to -- it was
very expensive and after that the medicine was very expensive.
MR: So what did you study?
AK: I wanted to study medicine, but my father couldnt afford it. We were seven
in the family.
MR: So there were so many other people?
AK: Yeah, there were other people and my father said that I cant afford it. At that
time it was a little bit sad because he had heart problems and stuff like that. I didnt like
medicine it --
MR: Lots of study?
AK: No. I went for graduation and I did my bachelors in science.
MR: Okay.
AK: So I didnt go for medicine. But I feel bad about it; you know if I was here in
America, I could have gone to medical school by taking loans and by taking financial
MR: So it is not like --
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 16
AK: There is nothing over there. Theres no loans and no financial aid at that
MR: So you had to pay to the money.
AK: Yeah, and the people who couldnt afford it -- you cannot do it. But United
States there is a great thing that over here, even if you cannot afford it, the government
will help you out.
MR: Yeah.
AK: And when you get a job you could pay. Thats the great thing about America.
MR: So where did you go?
AK: I went to the womens college. It was named Wonitama Mahatma Alley.
MR: Okay.
AK: It is a Hindi name. [Laughter]. I went there and did my graduation over there
in biology.
MR: In biology?
AK: Biology, botany, ( ) and also chemistry.
MR: Pardon.
AK: Anatomy and chemistry.
MR: Okay, so thats what you majored in?
AK: Yeah.
MR: Okay.
AK: Yeah, thats it!
MR: So was there in childhood who touched your heart?
AK: My grandmother.
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 17
MR: Pardon.
AK: My grandma, my fathers mom was a very good lady.
MR: And then there were all these other grand kid too?
AK: Yeah -- (interruption)
MR: Especially, she especially like you more?
AK: Yeah, she used to like me more and then since my childhood she used to take
good care of me and used to love me and when I grow older, she was sick -- she had
paralysis. They couldnt walk, eat with her hand -- and I used to help her out.
MR: But she could still talk, right?
AK: She could talk, but she couldnt some things like talking a bath or changing
her clothes, you know stuff like that because her hands and feet were not working.
MR: How did she get disabled?
AK: She had paralysis.
MR: Oh.
AK: Stroke.
MR: Stroke?
AK: Yeah, two times she had stroke. She couldnt do anything and I used to help
her out a lot and she used to love me and give me blessings. She trusted me a lot, she was
a very great lady -- very very great lady you know, she worked very hard and took care of
my father and my aunt -- became a widow after two years after marriage and she was
very young.
MR: Was her husband very old?
AK: No. He died, I dont know what happened. He died suddenly.
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 18
MR: Oh, lot of old age?
AK: No, no not of old age. After two years of marriage he died. Suddenly he got
sick and he passed away. Then my grandma - she didnt get married again and stayed a
widow and she went to school because she was young. Anyway she went to school and
became a teacher, and then she earned money and took good care of her kids and she later
became the principal of that school,
MR: So you sort of follow her?
AK: Yeah.
MR: As a role model?
AK: I yeah, always follow her like my role model because at that time hundred
years ago a women in India could do it, so why shouldnt I do it? In the United States, it
is a great country I could do a lot, right? So I always keep her as my role model.
MR: So, do you think that as of now that I left something out, now that we have
been talking for a long time now.
AK: No.
MR: No, I mean, did I leave anything out that you want to say/ talk about?
AK: No, you [coughs].
MR: No, like do you have anything else to say?
AK: Ah, no because you know in India life in peaceful.
MR: Uh, huh.
AK: You know, it is not that bad as people think over here. I dont what they
show at the TV, the poor people, and stuff like that, it is not like that.
MR: You think that people are ignorant?
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 19
AK: Yeah, I dont know from where they get these pictures, maybe back in the
country sides, some where [interruption by MR]
MR: Some very rural place.
AK: Yeah, rural area they get it, its really not like that.
MR: But you didnt have TVs and things of that nature.
AK: Yeah, but we were happy. No car, phone.
MR: Then how did you travel?
AK: Because we had buses.
MR: Uh huh.
AK: You know the bus system, the transportation, the autos and you know auto
MR: Yes.
AK: They have them very cheap. Its very cheap you know. You could afford it.
Like over here the cabs are so expensive.
MR: You just get in and they charge you twenty thirty dollars.
AK: Yeah, not even a dollar.
MR: Thats very good.
AK: Yeah, its very cheap over there, so you could afford so many things over
MR: So overall, you liked it.
AK: I liked it a lot! Life over there is peaceful. Life over here, you have to run,
run, run, run, run, run, run.
MR: Over here, you have to wake up [interruption].
Amna Khan transcript, March 25, 2006 20
AK: And work, you cannot even sit and relax. You have to do so many things; we
have so many things to do.
MR: So, the pitch of life was much slower?
AK: Much slower. Much slower over there and much more peaceful people
enjoyed their lives over there.
MR: So they were happy where you lived?
AK: Yeah.
MR: Not unhappy?
AK: No, no. Theyre not -- they are happy.
MR: So thank you!
AK: Youre welcome. Anytime.