Radha Jalan

Interviewer: Carrie N. Kline
Date: April 19, 2011
Place: Concord Free Public Library Trustees' room
Transcriptionist: Carrie N. Kline

Click Part 1Part 2 for audio. Audio file is in .mp3 format.

Radha JalanMichael N. Kline: Okay. Today is April 19th. And we're in Concord, Massachusetts at the Concord Free Public Library. It's a very cloudy, not very springy day out, is it? A little bit chilly. And Carrie Kline is here with me. And would you please introduce yourself? "My name is"?

Radha Jalan: My name is Radha Jalan.

MK: Okay. And your date of birth?

RJ: October 25, '46.

MK: Would you mind, to start off, tell us a little bit about your people and where you were raised.

RJ: Well, I'm originally from India. I was born in Calcutta, India. And I come from an ethnic community known as Marwaries, which means that we are from the State of Rajasthan.

MK: Spelled?

RJ: Rajasthan is R-A-J-A-S-T-H-A-N. Rajasthan.

MK: And the--?

RJ: And the community is Marwari, M-A-R-W-A-R-I. So Marwari community in India is known as a community of entrepreneurs. So, yes, so my family had been in business. My grandfather, he migrated from Rajasthan when he was nine year old, and came to Calcutta, which is now known as Kolkatta.

MK: Spelled?

RJ: I think it is K-O-L-K-A-T-T-A. Kolkatta. Actually he came at the age of nine. He knew nobody in the big city, except some people from the village that my family came from. So he came there, and he was the only child and only supporter, you can say. So he came and started working at this village person's shop. So it was during the World War One. And Calcutta was raided by the Japanese, I think, during--. So, because of the bomb scare and all those things, the owners were going to flee the city and go back to the village. So my grandfather asked them, that, "Since you are leaving, can I own the shop?" And they said, "Fine." And so it wasn't anything like they wanted to get the money or anything. They said, "Well we are going to flee anyhow. So somebody else will take over. And this young man wants to have it. So let's give it to him." And the interesting part is right now my nephew is working from the same shop. So it's almost like a four generation! So entrepreneurship are the business community. Actually I would--. You know, in India we call it businesspeople, so I come from the business community. And there are certain values which are very strong in our community. Very much like the word is an important part. If I told you something, the business deal-wise, that has the value, rather than anything written by fancy people. So the integrity, ethics, in the business, was very, very important. People will loan you money without any paper documents, anything. So those are the kinds of values, I would say, that I grew up with.

And I came in this country way back, in 1968. And I came here to be with my husband. I got married in 1966. And he was doing his--. He graduated from the Engineering School there, and came to this country.

MK: Which school?

RJ: In India he graduated from one of the technical colleges—

MK: Technical—

RJ: --that is known as Technical Institute. But he came here to do his graduate work, Masters in Chemical Engineering—

MK: At--?

RJ: --at University of Florida in Gainesville. And I came here to be his wife!

MK: And his name?

RJ: His name, eh, is Vinod, V-I-N-O-D. Vinod Jalan. So I came here to be just his wife. Before I came here, in India I was basically a student. I have finished my Master's from Calcutta University in India in Hindi Language and Literature. So when I came here, because of the Visa regulations, I came as a student wife Visa. That means legally I could not work. So he had done some exploration, and basically within three months I joined the University of Florida as a student. And slowly and slowly I did my second Master's and then a Ph.D.

MK: In?

RJ: In Education, which had nothing to do with what I was doing back in India! So it has been a just, you know, learning. Learning this country's culture, learning new things. So that's the way I, you know, my life started in this country, as a student, as a wife. And then I became a mother. So. And then we moved from Florida. We moved to Connecticut, because my husband he got a job offer from United, now United Technologies Company. So we moved to Connecticut in '73. And after several years of working in a big company he wanted to go to a small company, because the corporate culture didn't suit him. He was a very individual entrepreneur. He didn't like the idea of being a number or a badge or something like that.

So we moved to Concord in 1979. He was working in Waltham, and we were looking for homes to buy. And Concord has a good reputation about the schools. That's why we bought it. And it is a very interesting that when we moved here, our children were still young. I wasn't that familiar about the historical importance of Concord. So we just bought it because of the schools. And then when I told some of my friends in Connecticut that we are moving to Concord, "Oh! You are moving right in the center of the history!" So it was interesting to come to that perspective from other people. So that's where and so my background has been.

MK: How did you go about acquiring that sense of history here?

RJ: Sense of history. I think one of the--. I feel Concord permeates with the history. And our children went to the school system here. So my elder daughter, when we moved in here, she came to the Second Grade in the public school. So always there are school trips and the projects and all those things. So then you start learning about those things. And then you visit places. And I have another friend and we talk, and some of these places, it's not just a history. It has like a spiritual quality that you walk into. Like North Bridge. There is a lot of history, but when I go there, I find a lot of peace there. It is just such a nice place. So then you kind of--. I think that environment around, it envelopes you in a way that it energizes you. And so that has been a wonderful experience to be living in a town where people are very fond of history, but also very interested in learning new things. And for me always it has been that coming from India and being a part of another community I always felt that if I don't get involved into the community, I would not know it right. So I did get involved with the schools and then many different community organizations in the town, to meet with the people. Like we do have in Concord Concord/Carlisle Human Rights Council. So for example, since I did my Ph.D in Education, and in that I specialized into what we call it Foundations of Education and having cultural anthropology in my background and everything. And actually my professor, he was a very progressive person in the Civil Rights Movement in this country, in '60s and all those things. So I was very empowered by his passion.

MK: Who was that?

RJ: That was Professor Hal Lewis at University of Florida. And actually, it was a wonderful experience. He was just phenomenal, phenomenal person. I give him a lot of credit for who I am right now, because when I went to the college, I did not have any idea of having a career, of having a Ph.D. I was just going there for the sake of learning. And Education figured nicely with my background in Philosophies and all those things. And he was the one who guided me towards the Education. And then I remember one day he said, "I think you have got enough credits. You might be ready to get a Master's Degree." And it was. I had more than a Master's Degree credits! Similarly, after my Master's I had no plan to go for the Ph.D, and I was expecting my baby. So as far as I was concerned, that's the end of my student life now. It is a life of a mother. And I still remember, it was--.The baby, my daughter was only about two, three weeks old, and both he and his wife, they came to our home. We were living in student housing. And they visited us to see the baby. And so we were just talking, and he is asking me, "So when are you coming back to the Department?" And his wife looks at him very sternly. "You want this young, new mother to come and work for you?" He said, "Oh no. I have plenty of grant money. And she can just take the research credits, and she can bring the work home and work from home." But so, you know, he's giving, making it available for me, that I can go for further education. I can go for whatever I wanted. And I think that is a very, very--. You know, to me that is one of the fondest memory. I would not have been here if he didn't guide me in that way. So I started to go back to the school. And of course, it's never that you can just come home and work. You have to take some courses and all those things. And he knew that my career plan or my education plan depended on my husband. If he got job, that means I will leave the College. So we were working on taking courses and then once it seemed like that my husband will have a job, so he said, "Well, we do have a special program at the College of Education. You can apply for the specialist in education, which is known is EDS. And you can get that degree. So what EDS does is, it basically is recognized by all the universities, that you have finished the coursework. And you have to just write the thesis. So even if I move away from there, in the future I want to, anybody will recognize that I have done that. And so that's what we did. I got the EDS, and I gave my oral exam for a selection of the subject material thesis-wise, Ph.D. work. So that was all approved.

MK: Which was?

RJ: Which was on Tagore. Tagore was—Rabindranath Tagore. He is generally known as a Nobel Laureate. But he also started a school in India.

MK: MK: Who is this?

RJ: Rabindranath Tagore.

MK: First name?

RJ: Rabindranath. R-A-B-I-N-D-R-A-N-A-T-H. Rabindranath Tagore. T-A-G-O-R-E.

MK: So he an educator.

RJ: Well he was multiple person. He's well-known in the most of the world as a Nobel Laureate. He got the Nobel Prize in the Literature. 19th Century, 20th Century. Early 20th Century. I don't remember the dates. But he also had started a school in India. It was an experimental school where his philosophy was learning by doing. The classrooms will take place outside in the garden, underneath the tree. So his thing was, it is okay if children don't sit and listen to the lessons. But if they are watching a squirrel going up and down, that will be a learning too. So, he really believed that learning is not limited. And you know, as an educator, you need to provide the opportunity for children to find what interests them and how do they learn. So that was his philosophy. And his school, when he started the school, India was still under the British rule. And the Britishers had sent a notice that none of their employees children can go to that school, because it was a revolutionary concept, and they didn't want the children to go there. So, I did my research on him, because his philosophy, to some extent, matches with John Dewey's philosophy in this country. Actually, I think John Dewey was influenced by Rabindranath. So, my professor, he was a very big fan of John Dewey. So when he came to know about Rabindranath Tagore, when I introduced him, he loved the idea that it'll be fantastic. Another part is many of Tagore's original education writings, they are only in Bengali, which is the language of that particular state. They haven't been translated in English. And I knew Bengali very well. So I could translate it. So, it was more beneficial to the Department to think that, "Okay, we will be doing something which nobody else has done."

MK: So this is Southeastern India we're talking about, near the border of Bangladesh?

RJ: Eastern. Yeah.

MK: Yeah.

RJ: Calcutta is right at the border. Yeah. It's in eastern. And this is--.

MK: But this is a language that you shared with people in Bangladesh.

RJ: Right. In Bangladesh and in West Bengal, the State of West Bengal in India.

Carrie N. Kline: So you did this translation that no one in the world had yet done.

RJ: That's right. I used his writing. I did not do the translation of his books. But for my research purposes, I could read and translate it, that what he was doing. So yes, that was an advantage. And during the process I did visit his school again and talked with the educators there. So it was kind of a very interesting--. So, I have to give all my credit, of whatever I have accomplished, in some ways, to my professor, to take me step by step. "Okay. You can do this much." Never pushing too hard. But always giving the ideas that how you can move forward. So that was exciting. So we left Florida actually after my thesis was approved. And then I was in Connecticut, and with the baby and all those things. And also, I had seen some of my friends that--. You know, you move out from the College, and then you start working. And then their research work never got finished. So you can say that I was kind of an adamant that I don't want to get a job until I finish my Ph.D. So I was raising the daughter. And then I became pregnant with my second child. So for me it was now or never, because once you have the two children, then it will be even harder. And again, so I--. And during this time I was writing some research work and sending him the papers. And we were going back and forth, but it was not concentrated. So, I contacted my adviser, and I told him that I would like to come to Florida and finish the work, because if I am there, I thought, "You know, the give and take could be, rather than weeks, it could be in a day or two kind of a thing." So I went there. And I told him that I wanted to finish. And he said, "Okay." I don't think he really believed that I'd be able to do it! But he did change his vacation plan so that he can spend time with me as much time as I need. And I did finish. And again--. This is the part I admire. So, after--. So I was there with my daughter. And my husband was here working. And the plan was that once I finished my thesis and I have defended it, then he will come to Florida, and we can go for some vacation. And then come back to Connecticut. So, when my husband came--. And this is the day before the computers, so everything was the typewritten. So all the typos and all the colons, and punctuations had to be taken care, complete. And he was again, so nice. I did my defense of the thesis on not totally final, final draft. But he knew my schedule. So the content was there, but you know, those polishing things weren't done. He took--. And so I delivered the thesis to the typist for the final proofreading and final corrections and everything. He picked it up from the typist and submitted it to the graduate school, for the final clearance from them. It's very hard to find these kind of people who can guide you and who can, who makes it easy for you to grow! Without putting pressure on you. So it's a really special and it was fun. It was fun to be working with him. They were just wonderful people. I remember my--. After my daughter was born we moved into an apartment with two bedrooms. So his wife came to see me again, to see the apartment. And, "Where is the rocking chair?" I said, "There is not rocking chair." Because it is not that common in Indian culture to have a rocking chair, as much as it's part of the American culture. She said, "How can you be a mother without a rocking chair?" You see. "Well, I do have a rocking chair. I want you to come to my house, sit in that, to see if it's comfortable to you." And so I did go there. And it was her grandmother's rocking chair. And she gave it to us. And saying that. "I just want you to keep it with you. It's just a gift." And this is one of the old, like Kennedy rocker. It has nice back support and all those things. So it's that kind of a generosity. And it is just wonderful. You feel good, that how blessed we have been to get that kind of an affection. So, anyhow. So that's a lot more about my background!

CK: But it fits so well with Concord—

RJ: Yeah.

CK: --because you think about Tagore's school and the emphasis on nature.

RJ: Yeah. Exactly. No, that is true. In coming here actually, again--. Yeah, so career was never in my goal, to be making money. I was satisfied to be a mother and just do the community work. And if I can do some earning, because I had a Ph.D, and with the Ph.D, if you don't work, then also people start to doubt: there is something wrong with you! And this I am talking about--. We moved in Concord in '79, so it was just those tradition time that women were starting to go to work full-time. So in those days, if you stayed home, that was not the good thing, especially with all this degree and all those things. And my thing was, my husband was working for a small company and he was very busy. And if I also took the same kind of job, it would've been very difficult. So I tried to work as a consultant in the field of education, doing multi-cultural consulting, helping teachers develop curriculum in that area.

MK: Here?

RJ: Yeah. In Massachusetts. Not in Concord, in Massachusetts. So I worked with the colleges, all the different colleges, including Harvard, and Simmons, and Lesley, and Brandeis. Many different colleges. Also I did training for like a digital--. So the companies, colleges, museums. I had been an advisor to both the Museum of Fine Arts and the Science Museum. So. So basically, what I was trying to do was keep myself professionally alive, doing this work, so that you are connected. The network is there. And my idea was that when my daughters will graduate from the high school or so, then I will like to go back to work on a regular basis. So that's what I was doing. And it was wonderful, because I had, again, in that way, what happens is you meet with many different people. Your circle is wide. I got involved in Concord also in Concord/Carlisle Human Rights Council. We used to have something known as a traveling road show on prejudice. So I'll talk about the prejudices, how it impacts and what can be done, and whatnot.

MK: What was your view, by this time? You had had a lot of experience in the United States. And what was your overall view of the state of human rights in the United States in the 1970s and '80s?

RJ: Um. State of human rights, I think basically, the way I feel, people are aware of the human rights issues in U.S.A. But many times, because the way our residential boundaries are, you don't see the poverty or the abuses in general. Many people can be totally unaware of the other side of the living conditions. And I do think that--. So it is very easy to be totally protected from what is happening. And I felt that many more people were not aware. For example, growing up in India, you see the poverty. It's hit you right in the face. You cannot avoid it. Here we can avoid it, depending on where we live. And if we can avoid it, that means it may not exist. So that was the part--. So I felt that it is not that people didn't want to do anything, but just because you don't see it. Yeah, it happens, but you don't know enough about it. But there are many of, many people who have been very actively involved into working on these things. And I think--. And raising awareness that these are the issues that we need to be aware, because once if you are aware, then you will get interested in doing something about it. It's kind of--. It's not like in India, where it is so much that you feel helpless. Here it is not that extensive. So with some effort we can help. So that's the way I feel.

MK: So it sounds like you approached this with a fair amount of optimism—

RJ: Absolutely.

MK: --that if people, of their eyes were open they would change their ideas.

RJ: I do feel so. I think--. Another part is, I am a pretty practical person in that way. It is not easy to change the behavior completely. But if we can bring people from negative to the neutral, I think that's a progress. So to me that's an important part.

MK: So you found yourself then on this Human Rights Commission for Concord and--.

RJ: Um hmm.

MK: --and Concord and--.

RJ: Yeah, it's a Concord/Carlisle Human Rights Council.

MK: Carlisle.

RJ: Yup.

MK: And what were the kinds of specific issues that you were facing then?

RJ: Well, it has been generally, like for example, discrimination of not showing the house to the minority or the black people, or the, you know, prices going up. All those kinds of things that used to happen. So what Human Rights Council, what we always felt is that it is important to make people understand that how it is wrong. If you make it just punishment, then behaviors don't change. You need to create the communication. You need to learn to speak up if you see injustice. So that was the idea. So the Council in those days was that people can contact Council, that, You know, I feel that I was treated unfairly. Then the Council member would try to go and talk with the person that, you know, that this has come to our attention what happened. So rather than saying, "You are a bad person," or, "You are a bad business," trying to understand, and make them understand that how they can improve the behavior. So that's what we used to do. And I think it was good. There were not major issues. But it sometimes small, small things that you change the behavior, not in a major way.

CK: And you mentioned a road show?

RJ: Yes. We used to do a traveling road show on prejudice. So were about four people on the panel. And it was a very interesting panel. When I was a part of it, there was one person who was a black American, and one was a Jewish woman, one was an all-white woman, and one was me. So it was a pretty diverse group, and talking about our experiences in a way. That what we have experienced, so that telling your own story, it is giving people an idea that everyday person, seemingly normal person, that can be experiencing things. So basically again, opening their ideas, thinking-wise, that injustice doesn't happen in a very obvious way, and not necessarily that people really know that they are doing something wrong. But if we see something which doesn't feel right, then we need to question it. So that was the idea.

MK: So how was the road show organized? And who would bother to come to a thing like that?

RJ: It was--. We used to do in those days all over the places. The--. Like Chamber of Commerce, the Rotaries, the schools, community groups. Anybody could ask. It was free, just based on our schedules and all those things. So it was just like a community service that we will go in different places who . . . invited. So it was a very ad hoc, but it was good.

MK: I'm sure it was.

RJ: it was good to be out there and talking with the people. And you know, I used to be a multi-cultural consultant during that time. Way back--. We moved here in '79, so even before that in '77, '76, '77, in that timeframe I just to do the multi-cultural consulting, training and all those things. And now it seems like that has become the norm! So it was nice. Those times were good, trying to--. And this is a part. You slowly raise the awareness that it becomes a norm, rather than unusual.

CK: Did you have stories of your own to share from your experiences in Massachusetts?

RJ: Not really. Not really. But I was new to Massachusetts in some ways. I had just moved, and I got involved into this. So I did not have my own story. Actually my o--.



MK: All right. Test. One. Two. Okay. Now we're moving. Okay, so the human rights issues that you were dealing with as a member of this Human Rights Commission, or Council, had those, were those issues also present in the schools? Did you? Were you running into--?

RJ: The part was--. Actually the group started from the school incident. Human Rights Council started as a school incident.

MK: There was an incident?

RJ: yeah. Many, many years ago, means, in Concord public schools, we do have city kids coming, under the program known as METCO. So these kids are coming from Boston area to attend the school system in Concord. And this has been going on. And apparently there was a one-punch fight, in the high school, in the last day of the school closing, between a white child and a black child. And so of course the white child from Concord and the black child from Boston. And, you know, the, basically, the school's response was, "Well, it's a kid's fight." But the METCO program officials, they said, "No. We are not going to send our children to Concord anymore, because Concord's environment is not conducive."

MK: [whispering about audible fidgeting.] I have to take this away from you.

RJ: Sorry. So they put Concord on probation. They felt that Concord was not keeping up to what they thought they would be. And I think that is where some people from the School Committee, they took it upon themselves to improve the climate. So actually Human Rights Council started from the school situation. And so the Council was formed. The woman who took the lead, her house was--. You know, people will throw trash or something on her lawn and everything.

MK: Who was that woman?

RJ: Ruth Salinger.

MK: Ruth?

RJ: Salinger. And so Human Right's Council's motto is pretty much is "climate for freedom." The climate of the community is the responsibility of the citizens. So even if it was a one-punch fight, it's not just because it is, it's just the boys fighting. If it is a black and white issue, it is racism. And we need to tackle with it. So yes, it did start from the school system. And then it moved. And then actually over the years, Concord took respect for differences as a goal for the school system. So all the teachers would be evaluated on what were they doing to improve the climate in their classrooms. How do they promote the respect for differences? So we have come a long, long way. And it was an interesting time. And the Town is definitely, I think a much better town, because of that leadership and the Hunan Rights Council.

CK: Why was it Concord/Carlisle, of all the communities around here?

RJ: Concord Public School, or high school is a regional high school. So Carlisle has its own public school up to Eighth Grade. But then Ninth Grade children come to the Concord-Carlisle High School. So high school is a regional high school.

CK: Okay.

RJ: So that's why.

CK: But did your groups go, the road show go to other communities?

RJ: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. We went anywhere where people will ask, to the colleges. So yeah, we were not limited to Concord.

CK: And you'd think this one-punch kind of experience would not be just a Concord thing, would it?

RJ: That's right. And this is what I think is the specialty of this town is, that citizens here took notice of that, and say, "We need to do something about it." That's the part is I think so special about Concord, because of, maybe because of the history or whatnot, people understand the oppression, what it is like, and how do you take care of it, how do you stand up for it. So that's the way I look at it. Because after all, when the Minutemen took the fight, it was they felt they were oppressed. Right? So it was the same thing, in a way. If in our school, if there is one child who feels oppressed over whatever, we need to take a stand on it. And so I thought that was really remarkable that the community took that leadership.

CK: And that was what year?

RJ: I think it happened in '79, '78, '79.

MK: So we're talking 30, over 30 years ago.

RJ: Right.

CK: And you were brand new in Concord.

RJ: Right. But I came to know about Concord/Carlisle Human Rights Council, or maybe I saw the, I don't even remember, the show for the traveling road show on prejudice. And I said, "Oh. This is the group I need to belong. I need to find out what do they do." So that's how I got involved in it. And it has been wonderful. And right--. The Council still exists. And every other year they, it, they give an award to a community group which has shown the leadership in taking care of the needs of people who are, you can say less fortunate. So the group has evolved into recognize the groups who are helping less fortunate people. So that is good. It is a good group of people.

CK: So not necessarily human rights, but anti-poverty, or--?

RJ: Yeah. Basically, the definition of human rights can be very broad. Poverty is not necessarily part of this thing. But say, for example, domestic violence, that is also a human rights issue in a way. Disability.

MK: It certainly is a spin-off of poverty.

RJ: Yeah. Exactly. Sometimes it is a spin-off of poverty. Sometimes it could be the culture differences. So in a way it is a very broad definition.

CK: And so you've also worked with the accessibility issues, were you starting to say, or groups that work on that?

RJ: I am not that involved right now in the organization. They do have, they do work with many different groups. Trying to create an environment where everybody can feel equal, feel good about belonging. I think that should be, that could be the simple explanation.

MK: Were there gender issues at that time that were emerging?

RJ: In those days we did not deal with the gender issues I think as much. No.

MK: You didn't deal with them.

RJ: No. It was more these discrimination issues. Racism.

MK: What about discriminating against gay kids, or--?

RJ: Gay kids--. That was not--. At that time it was not the issue. But again, Concord was one of the . . . school, which started, Concord-Carlisle High School, which started a group to support the gays, the sexual orientation of the children. And that started--. Gee, when was it? Way back in 1990s. So even that is over 20 years old in Concord. And that was, again, a part of the respect for differences, part of the school policy, that just because a child is different in the sexual orientation or anything, that does not mean that that child should be punished or looked differently. So I think Concord was one of the first school system to start that kind of organization in the high school.

MK: So that was a whole different level of awareness.

RJ: Absolutely. Absolutely.

CK: And they address that how, were you saying?

RJ: Well, Concord-Carlisle High School started a group of the students. And I don't remember exactly what the group was known as. And anybody could be a member of that group. It didn't say that you have to be gay or bisexual, or--. Anybody could be a member. Anybody who wanted to help! And be part of it. So yeah. So they started that group long time ago, in 1990s.

CK: And where did your own work take you then--

RJ: That's another—

CK: --from the early '70s?

RJ: That's another story.

CK: Work and life.

RJ: Well what happened was, in my case, I was doing all these consulting and community work and all those things. In 1992, my husband passed away. And he--. In 1986 he had started an engineering company. He--. We come from an entrepreneurial family, right? So he got tired of working for somebody else. So he started the company. And so in 1992 he passed away of a heart attack all of a sudden. In that time my daughters were 19 and 15 years old. One was in the high school, and one was in college. I was a stay home mom. And because it was a new business, only six years, not even six years old company, we had put everything into the company. So there was no savings, no college funds, nothing. So, I had to do something now, to take care of my children, their emotional well-being, as well educational and everything. So, I took over the company! To run the company. And that was a challenge. Because it is an engineering company, and I don't have any background in engineering. But since my daughter was fifteen year old, so for me, she was the priority. And she had two more years of the high school. And if I go to work, which I needed to work. I needed to get a salary to support my family. If I went anywhere else, I will not have any freedom to come home in case if she needed me, and, you know. But if it is my own company, I can do whatever I need to do. So keeping that in mind, I took over the company. And I said I will give myself two years, until she can graduate from the high school. I didn't want to change the house, move into a smaller place, and conserve some money and all those things, because I just didn't want to make any other changes in her life than what she was going through already.

So I took over the company, and I started to run, not knowing anything about engineering, not knowing anything about how to run a business. But I did. And so I'm still running that company! It is a hydrogen energy company. So we are working in the clean energy area. And we are getting some funding from NASA. Actually we have about four different contracts working with NASA right now. And we also have a product line that we developed, which we are selling all over the world. And this is to set up the labs for the researchers in this area. So yes, so I have evolved in a different way, learning the engineering, learning the business, building a business. And the company finished 25 years. And I have been running for last almost 20 years. So yes!

MK: Umm.

CK: And have you been able to keep up in your original field at all?

RJ: And this--. So this is the part I feel. We are working in the hydrogen energy. And you guys might be aware, now it is so much talked about, clean energy and lower carbon emission and all those things. Hydrogen energy has no emission. And the byproduct is drinking water. This has been used in the space flights, mostly. All the space flights had a fuel cell. And that's what we are doing, fuel cells. So, the altruistic part of me feels, if we can provide this kind of an energy all over the world, then we are, not only we are cleaning the environment, because still there are several billion people in the world who don't have access to electricity. So if I can provide electricity to all these people, which does not pollute the environment, it will provide economic and educational opportunities. So I think that passion is what keeps me going into this technology, that if I can do it, that will feel good, that yes, I have been able to make a difference. But always any of these things they need a lot of money. And raising money has been a challenge for me. So right now I have taken the approach that even if I can advance the technology, and if somebody else can take it to the next step, that will be okay. So that's what I am doing. So it is altruism of a different kind. And along with this I have been still very involved with women's issues, women's empowerment, domestic violence.

CK: Here.

RJ: Yeah.

CK: Talk about that.

RJ: Hmm?

CK: Talk about that.

RJ: Well, I wouldn't say that I know much about the Town of Concord in that area. But being an immigrant woman, I know how it impacts the immigrant woman's life, the domestic violence. And so that part I do feel that I can help the women, because there are cultural issues in domestic violence also. And what happens especially for an immigrant, like when I came, I had no family here, not a single person from my family. So most of the immigrant women who have come here, they are alone. There is no network to nurture them, forget about providing support. And in many cultures, especially in Indian culture, it is also considered a taboo that you don't talk about it, because you are bringing shame to the family. So, it--. You don't know the rules and regulations of the laws of the land, because you don't get involved into the society. See one of the part I feel, I had been involved into the community, not only in Concord, like I had also been part of the American Association of University Women, which is an organization for graduate women. And it is a national organization. So, being involved into the community, I at least know where can women go for health, what can be done, what are the resources available. So I have been--. And then, what we found out, myself, that it is not just enough for these women to say get out of the abusive relationships, because you can get out of the abusive relationship, but still you are even more isolated now, because when you are married, at least you had the social network, getting together with other couples or other families. But when you get a divorce, mostly it is the women who are the outcasts, not the guys.

So we have, so I have been involved into providing that environment for the women, so that they can enjoy going out to the events together, get together, have an evening out. So, I'm pretty passionate about that part, to help women. So that they can feel complete, and they can feel that they can enjoy the life. They are working hard. They do need this nurturing. So I'm hoping that I am providing some nurturing to them, so they can feel good about it. So.

MK: And are immigrant women able to relate across lines of culture with other immigrant women? Do they? Is there that--?

RJ: No. Not really.

MK: --identity at all?

RJ: No. Not really.

MK: No.

RJ: And this is the part--. This is where the isolation becomes very diffi—very hard. Because every ethnic group, they have their own safety network. And many of the immigrant women--. It is not just the Indian, like Chinese and all those things, they are part of that network only. Many of them they haven't even got out of that network and get connected to the American network. I feel I have been fortunate in that way, that I have plenty of wonderful, wonderful American friends who I consider extension of my family. My kids feel good with them. They consider them as a family. So that has--. And being also the cultural consultant, or my educational background, I can put myself in the different perspectives of looking at the things, because of the Anthropology background. So I am, you can say, trying to be a bridge between these women and the American culture on a personal level. But trying to go to other cultures, it's very hard. I have been part of many different groups, like the general Asian groups, which is Chinese and Japanese, Vietnamese. And I have been part of that, but not many people have been able to go and make connections in that way.

MK: Well you have been driven by a, first and foremost, a curiosity, it seems to me. I mean you, when you came to Concord you said, "How am I going to learn about this place if I don't start getting involved in civic—

RJ: Yeah.

MK: --activities.

RJ: Well this is a part. Curiosity. Also, I also want to belong to a place. And you cannot belong just by living in a town, or living somewhere. You're--. In order to belong you have to really learn. You have to get involved. But getting involved only you belong. That's the way I feel. So I always, yeah, I had been a little bit more in that way right from the beginning. And I think I have to give that credit to some extent to my father. My father was a community person. He really got involved into the community. Means the community that I come from, as I mentioned the business community, business people did not want to get involved into the social causes. They were just more focused on the business and making money. So social causes they didn't pay much attention to it. Okay, give them the money and that's it. But my father got involved into the social causes. He was always for the poor people, or for the laborers and all those things. And everybody used to kind of joke about it, that he doesn't care about his business. If a worker is having a hard time he will leave his shop and go and help the worker and solve the problem! So I think I got that from my father, to get involved into the community. And I remember when my father passed away, I did go from here for the services and all those things. And there was a memorial service that I attended. And it touched my heart. We had never known. There were all these laborers who were not even making a dollar a day. They all came to pay a tribute to my dad. They were not wearing--. You know, their clothes were ripped and all those things. But he made an impact in their life. I was totally, totally touched.

MK: And reinforced--

RJ: It reinforced. Yes.

MK: In your own approach.

RJ: Absolutely. Absolutely. Because what he was doing was never appreciated by the family members, because of course the family members and the relatives, they always say, "He's distracted. He's not making money!" But, I think this is the part I feel, that I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family where making a living, or making a good money living was not the highest dream. People were interested in doing other things. Even my grandmother was like that. She was also trend setter into defying some of the norms of the society. If it didn't make sense to her, she said, "No. It hurts the animal. I'm not going to do this." So I think, yeah, I got those from my parents and the grandmother, to be a little bit aware of things around you, rather than being just totally in yourself. And that has helped. This town has become my extended family, kind of. I know that I can contact people. I can talk with them. And I know that they will help me, if I need any help. So it feels good.

MK: Now you-re--. But you're still actively involved in nurturing and working with in some capacity, immigrant women.

RJ: Oh, yeah. Oh yeah.

MK: How do you identify these women as being in need of that kind of help?

RJ: Actually, we get mostly these women through the word of mouth.

CK: We?

RJ: We means--. I had started, but now we have several people involved into the group.

CK: The group?

MK: A nameless group. I love it.

RJ: [laughs]

CK: Yeah. [laughs]

RJ: [laughs]

MK: Totally below the radar.

RJ: That's right. We did--. I did start couple of other groups. But when you have the groups, then always, there are issues of hierarchies and the power plays and all those things. So I just decided I don't want any names or anything. We just need to do the work that we want to do. So who cares whether there is a name or not. So we, really we don't have any name. We don't have any structure. And we keep on thinking that we should give a name.

CK: How about a shelter? Do you have a facility?

RJ: No. No. What we--. This is really an informal kind of a thing. We get together in each and everybody's houses time to time. Or we will go to see the movie or something. And anybody can send an email. So we have an email list. We're still small. About 20 people. So depending on whoever wants to invite, and we've kept it very, very flexible. There is nothing binding. So if I want to have an event, that doesn't mean that I have to invite all 20. I can invite only 10 people. And this is the whole idea, that we have to learn to respect peoples' choices, rather than making any judgments. So if somebody doesn't want to have everyone, let's not feel bad about it. Let's not put the guilt trip on the other person. . . . That's it. So it's very loose. But it is trying to develop that understanding, that just because somebody did invite me, or did not invite me, that doesn't mean that I am less important or more important. It is that person's decision. That shouldn't make a reflection on who we are. So that's very, very basic, about feeling good about yourself, not to make the judgments on the others, and provide the environment where you do feel, whenever you are together you feel that you are nurtured.

CK: But its primary focus is addressing the needs of women who are experiencing domestic violence?

RJ: No. Not the domestic violence. It is a primary focus is empowerment. Because the different situation, life situations--. Like for example, if a woman is going through the divorce, or the woman became a widow, these are major things. And it makes a woman feel helpless. So it, just to empower them women, and to provide nurturing. Because those are the times when sometimes even your family is not part of your nurturing anymore. I went through that myself. And I know that--. And your friends, who were your friends as a couple friends, they all fall on the sideline when the couple is not a couple anymore, for whatever reasons.

MK: For whatever reason.

RJ: Yup. So then you feel very painful. What did I do wrong?

MK: Where is everybody?

RJ: Yeah. So we are--. I'm trying to just fill up that gap. And it has been good for me also. It is not just for them. It's good for me. Also it nurtures me. Because these people are so affectionate, so nice, so--. So it's not that--.So you could say I'm selfish. I'm getting nurtured from them. . . . fantastic.

MK: Umm hmm.

CK: So there are other groups that might work solely with abused women.

RJ: Right. There are.

CK: Shelters and so are.

RJ: There are. And I had been part of all of them. But I do feel after being, doing all those things, that that is only one part.

CK: What is?

RJ: These other women's group, which has the domestic violence issues and all that, that is—

MK: Shelters and so on?

RJ: Yup.

MK: Take care of one part of—

RJ: That is take care of only one part.

MK: --the problem.

RJ: Just the immediate need. And there is a continuous need. And what I am doing right now is providing that continual need. And whenever a woman feels she graduates--. And we do have women who are married also. So it not just single women, but there are many more single women than the married in our group. But it is just, call it a sisterhood kind of a thing.

CK: What was the process of developing a sisterhood for yourself upon arrival in Concord?

RJ: For me it was not a sisterhood at that time. But yes, I did join--. Like for example, I did join AAUW, American Association of University Women. And I did meet some wonderful women in that group, who are still my friends. So it was not consciously to develop the sisterhood. It was more, I went there for the professional networking, and meeting people, meeting other women. So indirectly, yeah.

CK: How was that for you, as an Asian woman, as an Indian woman arriving in Concord in the late '70s?

RJ: It was fine. The parties, again, as an immigrant, if I want to stay indoors, nobody needs to know about me. There is no need for other people to know about me. So I had to make an effort. And I feel it is an important thing, that an immigrant has to make an effort to be part of the bigger community. So I was interested in meeting with more people. And so I joined the groups, where I could meet. And it was actually, for me, when I joined the AAUW, it was great. I met other women because one of the motto of AAUW, it is only the college graduate women who could be member. So you are meeting with the professional women, who are in the different stages of their lives, either working, or raising children. But they're all college graduates. So, it was good that the programs were of the level that you can enjoy. And I met some women who were really very activist and very strong, and so it was good to meet with them. And I actually became the president of that organization after several years. So they accepted me. You know it wasn't that, "Okay, who is she?" You have to just--. And this is where I do feel, if one doesn't get involved, then you are on the fringes. But if you get involved, then you are making people know you. Because now you have to take some action. And you have to listen.

. . . a member I was also a Trustee for one of the local private school here in Concord, Nashoba Brooks School. And the first time when I was nominated, or appointed a Trustee--. And that time I was also the president of Concord Middle School PTG, Parents Teachers Group. So it was a very interesting. And my kids never went to the private school. So they were all public school children. And here I am being appointed Trustee for a private school. And so when I told to the PTG group that I have been appointed to Trustee, and I still remember, one of the person made a comment. And they first asked, "Gee, did your kids go there?" And I said, "No." "Then how did you get appointed?" And I said, "Well, I don't know. I do know that the school is very sincere about the diversity. So they want somebody to come and help, to create that kind of a diverse climate in the school and all." And so this person said, "Well, but you know that you will be a token there." Because I, if I'm the only minority, I will be a token. Right? And I said, "Yeah. I do know that. But if I am there, they have to listen to me. And if I'm not--." And this is the part. If the immigrant or the minority, they don't get involved, then people are never going to know about them. And we did make a lot of changes in the school. And we hired a new head of the school. And diversity became a major mission of the school, how to increase not only the student population, how the curriculum reflects the whole thing, how the school policy reflects the whole thing. And it was a wonderful--. It was a very, very good feeling, because you are opening the horizons of the people. So. Yeah, so I do get involved in things! You're right!

MK: A missionary for changing missions.

RJ: I don't know about that part, but. Yes, I do like to. And I do feel that when people--. Many times they do comment about how immigrants are isolated and all those things. And I don't think it is a one-sided blame. If people are inside their homes, and to put the blame on a main community, that's not right. Those people also--. You know, you have to stretch your hand a little bit, so there's somebody can touch and hold it. But if you don't, it doesn't work.

CK: Is it as easy if you're not a university woman to join these different groups?

RJ: Oh sure. Sure. Community organizations, you can. And I keep on telling many of my Indian friends who are in the town, I keep on telling them they should get involved. They should get into the Town Committees or this or that. But not everybody does. People don't want to leave their comfort level. You want everything! And I think that's the part. Many of these communities, many of the places it's very easy. And people really like if you participate. One of the things that I have found, which is fantastic, in most of the organizations or the communities that I have worked, people really do appreciate whatever little you do. There are just fabulous people around. So, for me, all these have been nurturing. It is work, but I know that if I'm not involved, I will not survive. So!

CK: Well you sound like a highly spiritual person. I wonder--. Can you talk about, a little bit about your spiritual life—

RJ: Sure.

CK: --and religious affiliations in this little community?

RJ: Sure. I can tell you. Well. By birth I am a Hindu. And Hinduism is a very open-ended religion. We don't have any "dos and don'ts. Actually generally Hinduism is more of a way of life, rather than any practicing dogmas or something. So, I grew up in a family that, again, nothing was imposed on me. Like many of the families here, you have to go to the church, or go to religious schools and all those things. There was nothing imposed on me. My mother, grandmother, they will always have, you can call it morning ritual, of doing worshipping and reading books and all those things, almost like an hour, hour and a half of their private time.

CK: Daily?

RJ: Daily. But they never imposed anything on me. So I grew up in that kind of an environment, so it was more like your own beliefs, what it is. But one of the things I remember when I went to the high school, and this was a all-girls' school. And it was part of a school building which also had the Temple on the ground floor. And the building was on the top. And it was not a religious school. It was a secular school, but there was, happened to be a Temple on the ground floor. So, for the morning assemblies, we will all get together in the Temple. And on the wall there was something written. And it was very interesting, and that's where I think that sometimes these indirect messaging, how it impacts. So, in Hinduism we have many, many religious books. There is not one book that has all the things that you should be doing and not doing, and this is why this religion is very flexible. So on one of the wall it says that out of 18 different books, which is known as puranas, and the writer—

MK: Spelled?

RJ: Puran—P-U-R-A-N-A-S. Puranas. So--.

MK: Puranas.

RJ: Yeah. So in these 18 puranas, the writer Vyas, he says--

MK: Spelled?

RJ: Vyas. V-Y-A-S. So Vyas says that there is nothing more virtuous than doing good to others. And there is nothing more—

MK: [coughs] Excuse me.

RJ: There is nothing more than to hurt others. So doesn't matter whether you do anything else, religious activities-wise, or pilgrimages, or anything. It's all irrelevant. Only thing you need to do it help others and not to hurt others. And I think that just kind of stayed with me, that I never really bothered to do any religious activity directly. But I have to tell: When my husband passed away in '92, that was very, very hard time. Financially we were having a hard time before he passed away, because of the business situations and everything. So there were many negative things in my life. And none of my family could come here. So here I was, going to the memorial, funeral services, just myself and my two daughters, not a single other soul, and taking care of the responsibil--. So it was kind of feeling very, very lonesome. And I felt my home environment was also very negative, because of the stresses in the family. So, again it was one of those things. I remembered listening in the childhood that having the spiritual, the religious songs and everything, it can clean the environment, cleansing of the environment, you know? You light the incense, and that can clean the environment. So I started to do that, started in the beginning with lighting the incense the first couple of days. And I still remember that when I did that the very first time, second time, and I came home from the work in the evening, the fragrance of the incense was lingering in the house. And it almost felt like welcoming smell. I still cannot believe it. It was . . . . And so I started to do that, that I will light the incense in the morning. And I will have some music. And mostly it is a devotional music. I don't do active meditation and all those things. But that morning period, while I'm having my breakfast, or whatever, it became my meditative stage. I'm working, but the music is in the background, and the incense fragrance is there. That's what my spiritual work is actually. And it has been very, very peaceful. And now anybody who comes in my home, they always say, "Your home is such a peaceful environment." And it is just--. So really speaking I do think I cleaned out the environment! The toxicity that was there in the home. It has taken care of. So my spiritual life here in the Town, I do go to the First Parish Church time to time, which is a Unitarian Church. They do celebrate Diwali, which is a Hindu festival.

MK: Spelled?

RJ: Diwali. D-I-W-A-L-I. Diwali. Which is a Hindu festival

MK; Celebrating?

RJ: It is actually celebrating many different things. In my community we worship the goddess of wealth on that night. It is also the celebration of the houses. The places are decorated with lights, lamps. So it is also considered a celebration on light over the darkness. So there are many different stories. But it is one of the biggest festival in India, almost like Christmas here, of that extent. And even if you are not a Hindu everybody celebrates it. So, so First Parish has been celebrating Diwali. And the first year they did it was in '93. And that is the year my mother passed away in India. And I remember I had--. So I lost my husband in '92 and my mother in '93. And my father was already gone. So I had many deaths during that period. So I remember I was in India for my mother's services. And my daughter was here. And she called me that. "Mom." The minister from the First Parish had called. "And he would like me to dance for the Diwali. What do you say?" And I said, "Well this is up to you. If you want to, sure." So that was the first year that the Church celebrated Diwali. And it really felt so good, because for the festival generally we dress up. It's like Christmas, dress up in nice clothes, fancy clothes, sometimes maybe new. And we had been doing that inside the home or in the Indian community.
Because I remember in the morning when we were going to the Church, and my daughter asked me--. My elder daughter was there too. And she said, "So Mom, what shall we wear?" And I just said, "Well wear what you do, wear for Diwali." So it was kind of--. It is a festival that we are taking it to the mainstream community. You're dressing up like that. So it was almost like homecoming, like you feel like that you are part of the big community. You are doing the celebration with them. So yeah, so I do go--. And First Parish has been celebrating it ever since. They haven't stopped.

I also started another tradition at that time. So when First Parish did Diwali in '93, in '94--. Yeah, I think not in '93, but following year, I invited them, some of the members from the First Parish at my home for a lunch, a Diwali lunch. And again my rational--. I think a little too much. And I said, "Well my kids are in the college, and my other, elder daughter was graduating. And I said, "Who knows whether they will be able to come back home or not." So if I start this tradition, then I will not feel alone. I can invite the friends and the First Parish. And I said, "They are taking, they are celebrating. I need to reciprocate, invite them, so that they can see what the Indian families do." So I started that as a tradition, starting with the First Parish members and the friends. And it has been wonderful. My kids have been coming to Diwali every year. Now they are married and they have their own children, but they will come. And it has become a big tradition. So I will have the Diwali brunch, and the Indian friends, and American friends, and the Chinese, and whoever--. Everybody comes!

So. So spiritual life-wise. I am still very much, religion is my private part of the life. That morning ritual is, I don't necessarily go to the Indian—Hindu temples. It's not that I am against it. But for me it is something very private.

CK: Do they exist?

RJ: Oh yeah. There are plenty--.

CK: . . .

RJ: There are plenty of Indian Temples. And for some people they need to go to the Temple. For me, I don't. I am peaceful at home. I will go to the Temple if there is company and go. And I go there, it is fine. But I don't have that desire to make long trip to go there. I don't need to—I don't feel that I need to go anywhere. My spiritual life is in my home! That's it!

MK: Does First Parish have a woman minister?

RJ: No.

MK: No. Okay, I'm thinking of something else.

CK: Assistant.

RJ: Assistant minister is. Yeah. Jenny Rankin, yeah. She is an assistant minister right now.

MK: Jenny Rankin.

RJ: Yeah.

MK: We interviewed her.

RJ: Right. I think, if I remember now, I think she's the one who gave my name to you guys!

CK: She caused all this trouble for you!

RJ: It's okay. It's okay. No, actually it was very flattering. Last year Concord celebrated its 375th anniversary. So one group of citizens, they organized this program, which was fantastic. They called it Vox Populi. And they invited some of the Concord people to tell their stories. And so they invited me. And they said, "You know, Concord has a history of the old times. We now want to collect the stories of the people who are living in the Town to see what do they think." It was a wonderful program. So yeah. So my name goes around, one way or another!

CK: So, talk about that. That's fascinating. Vox Populi?

RJ: Yeah. It was fantastic. They had invited about ten people. You can get I think the tape must be available through the CC-TV. And all of us were coming from many different backgrounds kind of and things, which was an interesting--. So, I think the organizers' idea was to show the diversity of the Town, the people who live here. And where do they come from, and what excites them, and what is it? So there was one guy was a writer. And another person was an entrepreneur. This Nantucket Nectar, juice company people, the founder is a Concord resident.

MK: Hmm.

RJ: And then there is a farmer who was here, the storm chaser, and the bookstore person. So it was--.

MK: Storm chaser?

RJ: Yeah.

MK: What's a storm chaser?

RJ: This guy, he chases the tornado storms.

MK: Oh. Oh, I bet I've seen it, maybe on TV or something.

RJ: Yeah, it was--. So it was kind of an interesting group of people to talk about their experiences. It's fantastic.

CK: And a soulful person like you was on that. That's wonderful.

RJ: Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, so my name keeps on going around! Since I'm out there all the time I guess.

CK: I'm sure glad it came to us.

MK: yeah.

CK: You came to us.

MK: Yeah this has been fantastic. Is there anything else that we haven't asked you that if we knew you better we would've asked you?

RJ: Umm.

MK: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't covered?

RJ: I don't know. I don't . . . . I think only other part could be, how do you raise your children, living in a community and also trying to establish your own traditions? So the children are really bi-cultural, that they have a very strong identity about themselves, being part of both culture, and not to have any confusion. And I think that part is an important part, because this is what the immigrants will be facing. Means, when I came here, I had a very strong identity about myself. It was Indian. I knew what it meant. But for my girls, it's a different, because they are part of this culture. They are born here. But they also have a very strong feeling about being an Indian. So I think that part is another part, which Town like Concord does help promote that identity. Because as I mention earlier, respect for differences. So if you go in a school, and you are respected, then you don't have to be shy about it. So I remember when my kids were in the elementary school, for this festival, Diwali, I will take some snacks for my daughter's class and share it, tell the story, so that--. My . . . was, so my children's friends will know, where is she coming from, rather than not knowing who she is.

One year actually, it was so funny. My daughter was in the middle school, and they had the Iinternational Club. And so the teachers, they decided that they will learn about the Diwali festival. So they brought the whole group at my home. And kids came in the bus, school bus. It was like a field trip, to learn about Indian culture and the holidays. And so it was a field trip at my home. And my daughter is saying, "I am so embarrassed. The school buses are standing right in front our home!" But at the same time, for many of those children who came, it was just a wonderful treat. When--. Sometime I will meet someone. "Oh, Mrs. Jalan, how are you? Oh, you don't know me, but I came to your home for the Diwali festival." And I'm saying, "Oh my God!" So I think that part becomes an important part also. And that a town like this helps the children to develop that positive self about themselves. So my girls--. Means, they are both grownup and all. And I feel good about them. They have no ifs and buts who they are.

They are very—very comfortable being part of both cultures, very comfortable in conveying that message, if they needed to convey it, when they got married, for example. So it was interesting, when my elder daughter got married. So originally I come from a vegetarian family. So we did not eat meat, fish, eggs, nothing. And a wedding in our community is a religious tradition. And my husband's elder sister was going to come. And I was nervous, because it was a wedding after his death, and his sister, and whether she will be happy, unhappy, and all those things. So I was very nervous. And I said, "Well, I don't think we can provide any meat for the wedding meal, because that's not common in my family back there." And my daughter was able to convey that to her future husband, and to his family.

CK: Who are not Indian?

RJ: They are not Indian. Both of the in-laws are American. And she was able to convey that there will be no meat in the wedding, in the reception dinner. And it was fine with them. They were wonderful to accept it. And they said, "Okay."

MK: In both cases?

RJ: Well my younger daughter--. By that time I was a little bit more bored, so I didn't care about it anymore! I said, "No beef. But other than that it will be okay." But, so it was very nice to be able to have the children who could convey that part of their identity very clearly to their partners and to their in-laws. So, my elder daughter's in-laws, they were just fantastic. They said, "Well, if that is the tradition, that is fine." I asked both of those relatives that--.The girls wanted a Hindu wedding. So I said, "Well, we will have the Hindu wedding. But if you want a church wedding, or anything else, we, I will be glad to accommodate that," because after all, I have to respect their tradition. And they said, "No. A wedding is wedding. Doesn't matter what--." But it was interesting. Like my--. And this is where I think I am a little bit different. Many Indian parents, when their children are getting married, they will try to see that the other party, if it is an American, they wear American—Indian clothing and all those things. And my daughter's mother-in-law, she asked me, "So what do you want me to wear for the wedding," because it was going to be a Hindu wedding. And I told her, I said, "Linda, it's your son who is getting married. You should wear what you want to wear. If you want to wear an Indian outfit, then let me know. But otherwise you should wear what you want." And I think that kind of an understanding helps. Developing the relationship. So they said, "No, then we will just wear--." And she just decided to wear a skirt, and--.

And my younger daughter's mother in-law, she was Irish. She's from South Boston, so she's real Boston person. And so we talked about it. And I had given her a silk shawl as a gift. And so that's what she did. She had her regular dress, but she wanted to wear the shawl, to show her connection into the Indian. They just kind of figured out--. So I think that part is also--. A town like this can help tremendously for children to develop that positive self-concept about themselves.

MK: "Dancers join hands in the two-way waltz." [Quoting the Kate Wolf country song, "The Two Way Waltz]

RJ: Pardon? Yes. Abso—

MK: "Dancers join hands in the two-way waltz."

RJ: Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. And that's where I do feel wonderful about being a part of the community. Yes, I had to make an effort. But also, the community had, embraced me too. And that has been a wonderful feeling.

MK: Umm.

RJ: And this is really, it has become my home now. You know, yes, when I go to India, it is still a hometown in a way, in a way. Not hometown. Actually now it is more like a family, members. But hometown-wise, this town is what I know more about than where I was born, so be honest with you! So yeah, I think that's probably it. I don't have any other ideas.

MK: Thank you. This has been a real treat for us.

RJ: Thank you.

MK: Because we study many cultures, and we love stories about what happens when it all works out—

RJ: Uh huh.

MK: And everybody can embrace everybody else.

RJ: Yeah.

MK: It goes way beyond tolerance.

RJ: Yes. It does. Tolerance is only one level.

MK: The ground floor.

RJ: It is a ground floor. Yes. I agree with you.

MK: And I don't have much patience if that's all there is.

RJ: Yeah.

MK: It's a good—

RJ: It's a good starting point.

MK: --starting point.

RJ: It is a good starting point. But it's not enough.

MK: But it's not the end.

RJ: No.

MK: Not enough.

RJ: And very soon you can see that, that yes, people tolerate you. But you are not part of that community. That's not good enough. That--. I some ways I would feel, it would be either better if they're hostile, because when they tolerate, you don't know where you are!

MK: Thank you.

RJ: Thank you very much.

CK: [Joins in the laughter]


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Text, image and audio mounted 20 December 2014.-- rcwh.