Shoukatbanu Merchant

I came on Christmas Day in 1970. I was living in Bombay, and had gotten divorced. In Bombay, you had to buy a house or go through the black market. I left my children in a hostel, and the youngest with a brother.

Another brother sponsored me, and I studied at Foothill College. I already had a degree in Chemistry from India but I wanted an American degree to work.

I worked hard, saved every dollar, and brought all my 3 kids over here after I graduated in 1973. Even after my kids came, I usually worked two shifts, working 16 hours a day.

I came to have independence for myself and my children.

My brother was here, my sister’s family was here, so we had a family community here.

I was so busy working that I couldn’t take my kids to the park or to get ice cream, so another friend in the Muslim community, Waheed Siddique (and his family) would take my children on weekends to the Islamic Sunday school and brought them home. He did that for years. There are very few people like him.

I have twins, a boy and a girl. My boy went into the Air Force at the age of 17. The Armed Services gave him a lot of training. He went to Air Traffic school and became a supervising Air Traffic controller by the time he was 25. He was in Turkey during the Gulf War. After the war, he came back to the States. After a while, he was sent to be trained for the diplomatic service. He ran the embassy in Oman for 12 years.

He and his children have shaken hands with Presidents Bush & Obama. His son became junior California governor in 1963. Unfortunately, he died very young in a car accident. He had wanted a national diplomatic career.

My youngest daughter, Nilofer, is a TED talker. She just got an award as a “future thinker.”

I’m glad I came to this country. I’m so proud of everything my kids have accomplished.

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