Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Kanwal Rahman, July 15, 1999. Interview K-0817. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Immigrants' connections to their home countries endures

Rahman describes the sense of connection she feels with other South Asians. As Americanized as she becomes, she has maintained her strong connection to South Asian culture, and has found a similar quality in her peers, many of whom would return to their home countries if they offered safe political climates and better economic opportunities.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Kanwal Rahman, July 15, 1999. Interview K-0817. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Another question just occurred to me, and this is, sort of, like a concluding question and I don't really have this on a list or anything, but hearing you talk just occurs to me that, do you feel that the American experience has made a difference to how South-Asians from each of the different South-Asian countries, and then different communities within those countries, how they respond and react to each other. Do you think that's, that has changed? That being in America, and being through the American experience has changed that?
KANWAL RAHMAN:
I do believe that whatever differences in their countries—and you have communal differences everywhere—and you see it and read it in the papers all the time, but I have a feeling, and just observing and just by being with people, or just the way I feel every time I see a South-Asian, ahm.. doesn't matter if he's from Burma or Sri Lanka and, you know, and I can just tell that he's from South-Asia, I feel immediately bonded and I also feel that the other person bonds because they have a common basis of, if not language, a common cultural basis, common, food habit basis, you know, and that, that sort of—those are very strong aspects of a culture, food and other cultural aspects of, living and family life—that I think makes us feel more unified together, and the American aspect is that being in America—I mean, I may be here, I may— a lot of friends say you're very Americanized—but I don't perceive how Americanized am, because, I don't feel as American as them. I'm not as American as apple pie, because I wasn't born or raised here, but I feel the bonding immediately with any South-Asian person I see, regardless of the background.
RAJIKA BHANDARI:
Yeah.
KANWAL RAHMAN:
So I think that makes it a stronger, homogenousness over there as a whole, instead of, er. . . separate pieces of a pie. You know.
RAJIKA BHANDARI:
Yeah. That's good to know. Is there anything else you want to talk about, I mean, in general, relating to this—. Ahm. . .. You know, what we've been talking about. This project, or questions, or anything else that strikes you that I haven't covered that you think would be important to, to this interview?
KANWAL RAHMAN:
I guess you never you never asked how happy I was here. I guess you'd also ask every Asian, however successful, how deeply satisfied, or completely satisfied, and that peace in, with this inner self and the outside that one is.
RAJIKA BHANDARI:
Right. Right. Yeah! Didn't ask you that!
KANWAL RAHMAN:
Ahm. . . And I've, I've had the same question. I mean, it's not a study, it's just that I like to see how different are people's responses from my inner feelings and I've asked everyone from someone who owns a grocery store, to some of the professors of, er. . .. Duke University, or from Bangladesh, and—. Every one of them seems to have some kind of a feeling that if things were different at home, and if things were, if the social conditions and the, er. . . situations were different, if there were not so much corruption on grassroots level, in places like Bangladesh and India—and there are a lot of corruption, to be very honest—.
RAJIKA BHANDARI:
Oh, absolutely!
KANWAL RAHMAN:
Here, it is there, but it's so much in a higher circle that you don't see it because America is a huge country. It's almost like a continent. You don't see it, but it's there. But as long as we don't see it, se see that it's not there—.
RAJIKA BHANDARI:
Right.
KANWAL RAHMAN:
So, ahm. . . I believe most of them would want to be home, if just situation was reversed. The same conditions existing there, job-wise, constitution-wise, political stability-wise, they'd rather be there.
RAJIKA BHANDARI:
Yeah, and I guess that's true for almost any immigrant, because—.
KANWAL RAHMAN:
That's true.
RAJIKA BHANDARI:
Yeah.
KANWAL RAHMAN:
That's —. Unless you're born and raised here—and I have met those, too—and, you know, they wouldn't, because you relate to your childhood experiences, till the age of sixteen or eighteen, the most in your life, and you keep on relating to them. Because even if when you say, hear an old song, I mean, sometimes I watch—it's funny, but it's twenty five years old, but I used to watch M*A*S*H when I was thirteen—er. . . it's an all-American thing. It's an all-American medical team going Korea, but each time I watch M*A*S*H, every time my heart gives a twist, because it reminds me poignantly of memories of sitting together of ideals shared with class-mates. All those things come back. So M*A*S*H, and a lot of stuff reminds you of that period.