The Cities of Destiny Oral History Project conducted interviews of immigrants and indigenous peoples living in Los Angeles. Students taking Liberal Arts 196 at CSUN during the Spring semester of 1982 conducted these interviews. These histories document lives and childhoods of the interviewees' in their native countries, how they came to the United States, and their impressions of America during their initial days and moving forward. The entire collection is available online as a part of CSUN’s Digital Collections which includes both the audio recordings and the transcripts. One of the interviewees is from India. His name is Vinod Sodhi. Sodhi migrated from India to Michigan in 1965 at the age of 21 to peruse an education at the University of Michigan. He then moved to Los Angeles, California in the late 1960s. This interview was conducted by two students: Rainu Singh and Sohila Parsanayam.
Sodhi begins the interview by explaining his emotional connection with India where most of his family still resides. Sodhi was born in Lahore, India (in present day Pakistan). He attended public school and college in India. These experiences had a big impact on his initial days in the United States. Sodhi discusses his extended family back home including all of his siblings and cousins. He mentions that there was a lot of comparison among the cousins. Sodhi discusses the difference between public school and private school in India, with his cousins attending private schools where they were mainly taught in English, while he attended public school up until 8th grade. Sodhi arrived to the United States with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and pursued multiple degrees after that.
Upon arriving in the United States Sodhi experienced prejudice and discrimination. He also faced culture shock in the beginning. While visiting India, he got married and returned to Los Angeles with his wife. He and his wife have one daughter together. Sodhi discusses getting married during the 1970s at a time when he observed people in the United States taking marriage lightly. He and his wife noticed many differences in parenting between India and the United States.
During Sodhi’s search for a job he experienced discrimination. He discusses the difficulty in finding an engineering job even though he was more qualified than many of his competitors in the job search. He also highlights an example at General Motors where there was unspoken policy of not hiring any non-white employees. His first job after graduating from the University of Michigan was in sales because he could not find an engineering job due to discrimination. He then worked for Xerox Corporation for ten and a half years, holding a position as director for four of them. He shares that even in the boardroom there was a social clique that discriminated against others. After leaving Xerox, he became vice president and co-founder of a start-up company. Sodhi also talks about the differences in politics and business economics between India and the United States. He discusses why he came to the United States for more support in starting his own business, but how he wants to continue to be a part of both communities.
In summary, Vinod Sodhi’s oral history gives the researcher a view into what it was like for an Indian immigrant to move to the United States during the 1960s. We gain insights into how the United States fostered Indian immigration for education and are able to compare this past experience to present day. The information in this collection might even be helpful for immigrants that have yet to move to the United States by giving a brief look into what it was like for past immigrants, the challenges they faced and how they tackled them.