Born: Punjab State, India
Primary language: Punjabi, also English, Hindi
Work: Technical adviser for fuel systems at Cummins Inc.
Education: Purdue University, Ph.D. in mechanical engineering.
Family: Wife, Priyanka; two children, Riddhi, 11 and Nitya, 5.
Hobbies: I love to be outdoors. I play tennis and I run as well. I’ve done five half-marathons so far. I like to read newspapers to keep up on current events throughout the world.
Why did you come to the United States?
I came here 13 years ago to go to school at Purdue.
How and when did you come to live in Columbus?
I came to Columbus eight years ago to work for Cummins.
Tell me about your work.
We develop new products for future engines to meet emissions standards and improve the fuel economy. We also support current products. For five years I worked on the engine side, but now I focus on fuel systems.
What do you like best about your job?
The best part is finding solutions for problems and working in areas where no one has worked before. We don’t know the solution to start with, but being able to find it, the innovation is very exciting. We also have great teams at Cummins, which makes it a very pleasant environment.
What were some of your first impressions of the U.S.?
I had been to Germany, but it is very different than the United States. The first thing I found is that you need a car for everything and that was kind of a surprise. Everything seemed very big, but once I settled down, it is pretty convenient. When I came here, I was 24 and did not have a driver’s license, so I had to learn to drive and that was hard, but now I wonder what I would do without a car.
What were some of the most difficult things to adjust to?
The lack of public transport and that everything is so far away. You can’t really walk and do daily jobs like going to the post office or for groceries. Nothing is nearby.
How have people reacted to you in Columbus?
Since I had already been in Indiana for five years, I already knew some people at Cummins from my time at Purdue, so it was very easy for me. I knew who to talk to and how to find things here, so my time at Purdue helped me with the transition. Cummins is very diverse and I have never had an issue with anybody. It is very welcoming and I feel proud to be in Indiana. This is a very vibrant town and there are so many activities going on all of the time. It’s difficult to find the time to do all of the activities.
What do you miss most about your home country?
The main thing we miss is the family because most of them are still in India. We have a lot of Indians in Columbus and do a lot of activities here, still the local way of doing things in the Indian setting is always different. I have one brother and one sister and an extended family with a lot of uncles and cousins. We miss mainly the Indian weddings, because we can’t just pick up and go to them. In my country you remain close to your extended family, so when you hear about a wedding you want to go, but the geographical distance is too far.
You have been in this country for a long time. How do you stay connected to your home culture friends/family?
We do a lot of cultural activities in Columbus through the Indian Association and a lot of sports events, as many as 15 to 20 a year. That really helps keep us connected with our culture. We have a group of seven or eight families that meet at least once or twice a month, so we stay busy with that socialization. We go back to India once every two years.
What advice do you have for people coming to Columbus?
I would suggest for them to talk to co-workers or neighbors and learn about the local customs. Since Columbus is very diverse, you can always find somebody from your country or a neighboring country that is close to your culture. There are a lot of ethnic organizations that can help increase your exposure to a lot of people. There are a lot of places in the local community that can be a starting point, such as the Visitors Center or CAMEO (the Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization). CAMEO is having their annual meeting this month and there will be a lot of people from different cultures there. The main thing is to ask for help if you need it here and I’m sure you will get it.
What is your favorite place to visit and why?
We like to go back to India. We like to stay close to family, but we try to visit other places, also. The kids love to go and we love to go back and see family and friends … and the food. Although we have a lot of Indian food here, but the spices are different. It’s tailored to the local tastes. The social setting in India is very different, so whenever we go there we try to visit different places so they can see more. The last time we went to the Taj Mahal, but it’s very challenging in two or three weeks of vacation.