Interview with Dr. Sundershan Garg

Transcript of an Interview with Dr. Sudershan Garg on His Upbringing in Northern India, His Immigration to the United States, andThe Continuing Importance of His Indian Heritage

Interviewer: Dr. Thomas G. Welsh, Jr., February 15, 2011

What follows is the transcript of an interview with local oncologist Dr. Sudershan Garg, a member of the Board of Trustees at Youngstown State University and a partner in the Blood and Cancer Center, located in Canfield, Ohio.  The interview took place in the early afternoon of Sunday, August 29, 2010, at the Blood and Cancer Center’s conference room.  During the interview, Dr. Garg discussed topics such as his upbringing in the Punjab region of northern India, his education, his reasons for choosing to emigrate to the United States, and his experiences as a physician in metropolitan areas including Cincinnati, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Youngstown.   He went on to discuss his marriage, his reasons for settling in the Youngstown metropolitan area, and the influential role Indian culture and Hinduism continue to play in his own life and those of his family members.  He talked at length about his personal commitment to the promotion of educational values, which he termed as essential to the development of the local community and the nation at large.  The interview was arranged with the assistance of local radiologist Dr. Bhoopalam Krishnasetty, a member of my extended family through marriage. –T.G.W.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Hello, this is Tom Welsh.  I’m interviewing Dr. Sudershan Garg about his formative experiences [in India], his immigration to the United States, and about his…ethnic identity—his Indian American identity.  And I wanted to…start, Dr. Garg, by asking you a little bit about the town, or the city, where you grew up.

Dr. Sudershan Garg: …Tom, I grew up in a very large and bustling city in northwest India, Punjab….  And the name of the town is Ludhiana….  And even when I was born, the town had a population of approximately 70,000, and it was a manufacturing hub even in those days.  And I have not visited this town now for almost 20 years or so.  Now, I learn that the population of this city is close to three million, and probably they manufacture a lot of industrial products; and it’s a really bustling city with two medical colleges, and there’s an agricultural university for the state.  There’s an engineering college, and there are a large number of private and public schools and colleges.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Now, when you were growing up there, what were some of the landmarks that…you recalled?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: The landmarks used to be….  Basically, there was a bridge which would go from downtown to the outside area, and we used to visit that bridge very often, because the train would be going underneath the bridge.  And then, there was a real tall building with a large clock—we used to call it the Ghanta Ghar—and…which used to…tell every hour about the time; and that was a real landmark.  And the rest of the time…we used to be living in [the] downtown area, and most of the landmarks in downtown were basically shops.  You could buy a lot of milk products, a lot of sweets, and there were lots of temples and ghoda varas.  Ghoda varas are the…temples for the Sikhs, and temples are for the Hindus….

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Now…what kinds of people lived in this community…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Before Partition [of the Indian Subcontinent], about 20 percent of the population were Muslims, and 80 percent of the population were Hindus and Sikhs.  In 1947, the town where I was born and lived was transferred to the Indian side, and most of the Muslims—I would say all of the Muslims—left my town.  There were two Muslim neighbors who lived on our street; and as you know, there were a lot of riots in 1947, and estimates go that…anywhere between five and 10 million were killed.  And we did offer protection to those two Muslim neighbors, but they left in the middle of the night, and we never heard from them after.  Whether they reached Pakistan safely or they were murdered on the way, God only knows….  At this time, the town is mostly Hindus and Sikhs….   And now, this is probably the third or the fourth largest city in the state of Punjab.  You know, here, people are very, very hard-working—a lot of agriculture in the whole state.  And probably the most productive [residents] of the country are Punjabis, which….  I call myself as a Punjabi.  Punjabi means I’m from the State of Punjab.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: It’s still a contested area?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Contested?  Not contested, no.  Punjab is not contested.  Punjab is a part of…India.  The only contested [issue] is that the Sikhs want a separate homeland; and because they are in the majority in Punjab, they want Punjab to be independent.

Dr.  Thomas Welsh: I see.  And you’ve kind of touched on this, but what were the relationships…?  How would you describe the relationships, that is, among the…residents of your hometown?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: I think, before 1975, the relationships between Hindus and Sikhs have been ideal.  I think…my best friends were Sikhs, and Sikhs were my….  We used to treat them like brothers and sisters.  And even now, the relationship between individuals is great, and it’s only the politicians who…create the problem which makes things difficult between the two communities.  And in many places where there’s a conflict between one ethnic group and the other…people are in separate neighborhoods—like I live in this part of the street; you live on another part of the street.  But there, in Punjab, the next-door neighbor is a Sikh, and then the following one is a Hindu, and so on and so forth.  Ultimately, the Sikh religion is an offshoot of Hinduism; and it came into existence in the 15th century, when India was ruled by the Mogul emperors, and they were converting Hindus into Muslims.   And Sikhs are the ones that everybody said [were] to protect the families from being converted into Muslims.  They made the first son born in the family as the protector of the family, and they became the fighters.  And the reason they don’t shave [and] they don’t cut their hair is, because when you’d fight—in those days—you’d have no time to shave; you’d have no time…to cut your hair.  So, that’s how the Sikhism came [about].   So, similarly, you might say, the majority of the Muslims in Pakistan and Bangladesh, they were converted…by those [Mogul] emperors; but they were all Hindus.  And it’s a sad story to see that…Hindus and Muslims, they want to kill each other these days—and so many were killed in 1947, when the Partition happened.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: And you said you didn’t experience much of this in your hometown, because most of the Muslims had left?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Most of the Muslims, they left.  So, we don’t have much of a problem.  There are always some ethnic problems here and there; but on the whole, my hometown is fairly peaceful.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Now, describe your family.  What did your parents do…your father?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: My father, in [his] family, was the only one who went to college.  My grandfather was a businessman.  He used to travel to Burma—now called as Myanmar—for export and import business.  He used to spend almost six to seven months in Burma every year; and even as a child, I have gone to Burma myself, but I was probably…two or three years old at that time.  And my grandfather wanted my father to become a doctor; and he went to pre-medical [school], and while dissecting a frog, he cut his thumb, and he quit the college.  And so, my father had four sons and a daughter.  And he found that business is good if you are successful, and business is not good if you fail; and if you fail, then you’re on the street.  And he always felt that…education is knowledge, and knowledge is power.  So, he wanted all his children to go to school and professional colleges.  My great-grandparents were very, very rich, but by the time we were born, probably we were mostly middle-class at that time.  And because our business, in 1955-56, failed—the import and export business…we had basically…small shops here and there, which wasn’t to make enough money to send the children to colleges, because at one time, my father had to send five of us to college.  All the brothers were in professional college; my sister was in college.  And fortunately, education in India was fairly cheap, and he could do it.  And all my brothers, they are professionals….  My older brother, he was….  When he retired, he was a sub-divisional magistrate.  Number two is me, which…became a physician.  Number three: my brother [who] is younger [than] me was an engineer.  He was principal of an engineering college in India—a big engineering college.  And my youngest brother is a physician, and he’s in this country.  And he was adopted by my uncle, who had no child.  “Uncle” means [the husband of] my father’s sister had no child, so they adopted…him.  And then, my sister, she did a master’s in arts, and she’s married to an engineer who is probably one of the most successful engineers you could find in the country.  He was director of Fertilizer Corporation of India, and he’s very, very widely traveled all over the world, and still does [travel].  And we have been lucky….  My parents have been very lucky that all the five children did very well.  But I had two sisters who died at a very young age due to cerebral malaria.  You know, malaria used to be so common in the Forties and Fifties, and it’s still so.  But…they died when they were two years old or one-and-a-half years old, and that was a tragic….  So…my parents had a total of seven children, five living.  And my younger brother, he died three years ago due to a brain tumor, and my older brother’s living and doing fairly well, health-wise and everything else.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: And so, you talked about education being something that was strongly emphasized in the family.  What role did religion play in the…household?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: …Our family was very open.  There were so many religions in India…but all are offshoots of Hinduism.  So, basically, we are Hindus.  My great-grandmother and my mother, they used to [subscribe] to a religion; [they] call it Jainism…which…believes in ahimsa, [which] means non-violence, complete non-violence.  They don’t kill.  They don’t eat meat.  And my grandfather totally went to the temple, went to all these religious marches.   And he…had religious values but did not believe in going to the temple every day.  Same with my father, but he never prevented children to go to…the temple or anyplace.  And we believed as strongly in what our great-grandmother and our mother used to do.  So, we used to go to the Jain sathanak—they used to call it…where there are priests…who will give sermons, lectures and other stuff.  And before going to school, we had to go to the sathanak to get the blessing from the priests….  And during the summertime, we used to go…like two to three times a day—morning, afternoon, and evening—and participate in all the religious functions during…the summer break, for two to three months’ time.  So, religion played a great role, and I was very much affected by the religion.  At one time, in fact, I got so much attached to those swamis or gurus that my mother got very fearful that I might leave this world and become a swami myself.  So, then, she started distracting me from going there so often, because…there, those people are very, very religious.  They don’t shave.  Say…in one year’s time, they will pull the hair by hand, and pull even the beard by hand.  You know, somebody will do it for them, so that…otherwise, for six months, the beard will grow, the hair will grow.  And that’s a painful….  But they believe what they believe….

Dr. Thomas Welsh: These are the swamis?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: The swamis…but not the…public at large.  No…not the believers.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Sure, and this…is the Jain religion?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Jain religion….  And these guys, they will never travel by bus—no public transportation.  When they travel from one city to the other, they will walk.  They will walk.  And, you know…they keep on changing the position from one place to the other.  During the summertime, when there are a lot of monsoons, you see them.  They don’t travel, because you…cannot….  And they carry all the bags on their back when they travel.   And…it used to be a lot of fun.  We used to go and walk with them till four or five miles and then come back home.  You will follow, [and] they will travel like 15 to 20 miles a day; and if the weather is bad, they’ll stay in a place, and if the weather is good, they….  In summertime, they might go in the morning and evening, when the sun is not too hot.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: And what I’m getting…from what you told me, is that religion was more encouraged by the women in the family than by the men.

Dr. Sudershan Garg: That’s right.  That’s right.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Okay, and you talked about how many children were in your immediate family….  Was there an extended family…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: I think…  Extended family, in a sense….  My great-grandma, she was the nucleus of the family….  She was my grandfather’s stepmother, because…his mother had died at a young age…and her husband died at a very young age….  But she was the nucleus of the family.  Then, my grandfather, my father, and my father’s brother…we were all in one household.  And till 1955 or ’56…the food would be cooked in the same house, and everybody would share; and either my mother or my aunt used to cook…but as the family grows, and…the conflicts between the ladies start….  And then, we stayed in the same house but split, [so] that my mother would cook for us, and my aunt would cook for her family members.  And she had, like, three living children.  And so, that’s the way [it was], but in the same household….  Now, afterwards, when we left town, my father and mother were getting old, so they sold their portion of the house to my younger cousin.  He bought it because…his children were still living there, and none of my brothers or sisters lived in the same hometown.  So, I have not visited my hometown for maybe 25 or 30 years now.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Now, you spoke earlier about your great-grandfather and about the fact that he was a businessman, but do you remember any other scraps of family lore that…were related to you by…relatives?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Yes….  My great-grandfather….  In those days, the Indian currency was very, very strong, because…you did not have those notes.  In those days, they used to have coins, and my grandfather always used to tell us that…to count the coins will take a lot of time.  So, what he used to do….  He used to weigh the coins and [say], “This is what I have….”   And…that is what they used to exchange.  So…my great-grandfather was a very, very rich guy, and he made a lot of money in business; but…he died at a relatively young age.  Then, most of the money…my grandfather’s uncle took, because my grandfather was young; and so he took most of the money.  So, my grandfather had to build everything from scratch.  So, that’s the way it goes.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: So, that was one of the stories?  Do you recall any other stories about where the family originated…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: You know, we have been residents of my hometown for probably close to two- to 300 years; and originally…our great-great-great-[grand]fathers might have come from a town which was, like, 40 or 50 miles from our hometown.  But then…all these families, they expanded, so the majority of these relatives….  We call it “relatives”; you know, they normally called it “brother.”  They used to call it, like, “brothers” and “sisters,” although they were very, very distant; and they usually would get together in happy times and sad times….  But still [at] the wedding, all the relatives are invited.  When somebody dies, all the relatives will come and…express their sorrow and sympathy with you….

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Sure.  Now, how did you socialize when you were growing up?  Do you remember…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: I think…socialization was, number one, with your cousins and brothers and sisters—and then…a lot of friends from school.  And, you know, our house was considered to be…a scholarly house, you might call it.  Since my father was the only one [in his family] who had gone to college…he used to teach us every day—all of us, including my uncle’s children.  [He would] spend every time, even if he may give 10 minutes to me, 10 minutes to my brother, 10 minutes to my cousin.  And during the summertime, many of my classmates would come to our home to finish our homework, and we used to do it together.  And since I used to be on the top of the class, my brother used to be on the top of the class…we were able to participate and impart some of our knowledge to the kids who were in the neighborhood or in the same class.  And we used to, during the daytime….  We used to get a lot of homework, even if it was summer vacation—lot of homework, lot of homework.   And the teacher used to give us a lot of homework.  And that we used to finish; and then, we used to have a lot of games, which we used to play as children with our neighbors.  And the majority of the games we used to play during the summertime would be like….  There, they called it guli-danda…where there’s a small piece of wood converted into an oval- shaped structure, and you hit [it] with a stick.  You lift it up by hitting one end, and then you hit it with…a stick which is in your hand.  And, then, there are people to catch it, or if it reaches a certain distance, you call it….  You got it.  You might call it, like, “baseball,” or something similar.  So, those are…games….  Then, we used to have a lot of games with glass beads.   There used to be a hole in the center [of a container].  You’d throw like five or six glass beads, and if you put it in that hole, then you’d have to hit it with a glass bead with your hand; and if you’re able to put it in the hole again, then you win.  It used to be, like, two or three kids used to play together.  And cricket was very popular in India, and in the school, we used to play a little bit of cricket.  And then, we also….  You might call it a game like racquetball, here….  We used to have those rubber balls [which we] used to throw against a wall, and the opponent was supposed to catch it…just, like, catch it by hand, not by…anything….  We’d throw it by hand on the top [of the wall].  The ball will come back.  The other guy will catch it, and he will throw it, and you’re supposed to catch it.  That’s just to pass time.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Now…the first game you mentioned….  I didn’t get the spelling.

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Its spelling?  Guli-danda….  G-U-L-I….  Guli, that’s the small piece of wood.  Danda is a stick.  They used to be…made special to play the game.  And that used to be very popular in our hometown—everyplace—in the…summertime.  And during the summertime, we used…to visit our relatives which lived in the north, not too far away; but the majority of the relatives lived in the same state.  And, like, our aunts…my father’s sisters, and my grandfather’s sisters….  [We would] maybe spend four or five days in one place.  Then, our maternal grandfather we used to visit during the summertime; and sometimes the maternal grandfather, when he invites you, he wants you to spend at least four to five weeks with him, because that’s the only time they see the grandchildren from their daughter’s side….  And hitchhiking….  During the summertime, it was a routine that we’d go for a walk in the morning and go for a walk in the evening—two to three miles.  And close to the exam…since summertime was very hot, and there was no air conditioning, we used to have fans, either ceiling fans or the fans on the floor.  But for some reason, we used to go to a park, sit underneath the shade of a tree; we’d get a cool breeze and study for three to four hours.  Some of our friends, we’d go together.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Now, did you actually have classes during the summer, or was…homework assigned?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Assigned….  Assignments….  No classes during the summertime—like, two-and-a-half to three months….  They used to close in the end of April…and they opened sometime in July.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: That’s good….  And you talked a little bit about your school years.  Is there any memory…related to your early school years that you’d like to share?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: You know, the school years….  [There are] a couple of things which would be important.  My teacher would always appoint me as monitor of the class.  Monitor of the class means you’re supposed to maintain discipline [while] the teacher has gone out for a few minutes—or if the teacher is off ill or took a time-off and he cannot give a class.  Then, the monitor is supposed to give the instructions to the students.  So, that’s what my job used to be.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: So, your teacher thought that you were particularly…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: …particularly…good, that I should be able to do it.  So, that was one assignment.  And one memory which I still remember is that there was a bad teacher in high school [who] we wanted to get rid of.  And for some reason, many of these students—my classmates—they met at my home [to discuss] how to get rid of him, and the teacher found that out.  And I got such a big beating by him, actually—the following day—that my father had to go and apologize to him, you know…that I should not have done it, and so on and so forth.  But still, we never came to good terms afterwards….  But I decided, instead, to change the school, because one of my uncles—I should call [him] great-uncle—he had become a teacher in the other school, and I changed the school….  All my brothers and sisters, we switched the school.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: What were the problems with this particular teacher?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: He was….  We were in what they called….  In India, they used to be called the “best class,” you know…which means the top students are in that class; but the teacher was not the best teacher.  The teacher for the other classes was better than him.  So, we wanted the other teacher to teach us, but it didn’t work….  Not that he was bad-hearted, but he could have done a better job in teaching.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: He wasn’t as competent?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Yes.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Right.  Now, you mentioned…that you received a beating.  What was discipline like in the schools?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: …If you had not finished your homework, the teacher would tell you, “Stand on the bench for the whole class.”  So, you’d stand.  And then, they used to…[carry out] literally, physical beating.  They can slap you on the face, and sometimes even….  They used to catch you from the nose on one side and give you a beating on the face, and your face has to be red.  There used to be physical beating….  And other times, he used to have a stick, and he would give a stick on the butt….  But I think the beating has stopped everyplace now, even in India, probably.  The beating the parents don’t tolerate anymore….

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Describe your initial impressions of your college or university.

Dr. Sudershan Garg: You know…in India, when we are in high school, there’s a national exam.  National exam means….  There’s this university.  You could call it Punjab University.  From high school….  Now, I’m talking of the tenth grade…and, probably, when I took the tenth-grade exam, there must be close to 100,000 kids which took the exam…because that is what is called automatic.  What do you score in that national exam?  It’s not a school passing you; it’s the university passing you.  If you don’t pass the university score, we have to take the exam next year.  It used to be only once a year, and I was probably number two in the whole school in that exam.  There was another kid…who did better than me.  And then, I went to pre-medical school…back home in a college…the government college of Ludhiana.  And there, I did pre-medical before going to medical [school], because my father couldn’t become a doctor, but he wanted somebody in the family to become a doctor.  My older brother didn’t want to become a doctor, so he asked me to do it.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Was this something you were naturally draw to, or is this something…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: I think he pushed it, and I accepted the challenge….  And…he felt….  My father felt, maybe, I was the brightest in the family.  I would be able to do it.  And then, from pre-medical [school], I took the exam, again—this is the national exam.  And I was probably number three in the university.  There were probably, like, close to 30- or 40,000 kids [who] might have taken [the exam].  So…when you go to a medical college, there is no personal interview.  You go there for an interview, but you’re selected according to merit.  So…at that time, there were only two medical schools in the whole state.  One was in my hometown, and that was the Christian Medical College….  And the second one, the Government Medical College, is [in] Amritsar.  And in the Christian Medical College, they had an exam of their own, which, when you apply, you take that exam; and then, if you pass that exam, then they call you for the interview.  So, when that exam was taken, I was number one—in their exam list.  And then, they interviewed me and asked me questions and other stuff, and I was selected there.  But everybody thought that the government medical college is much better…as a college, because [there was] a lot of funding from the state….  Amritsar was run by the government.  So, everybody told me that I should go to Amritsar, where I have been selected also, rather than stay back home…where I would be basically commuting from home to that school.  So, I decided to go.  My parents decided to send me….

Dr. Thomas Welsh: And how long did your program take, altogether?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: The total….  At the medical school, [it] was five-and-a-half years, after…pre-medical.  Pre-medical would be up to 12 years….  Then, we have five-and-a-half years.  And I did fairly well, passed all the exams in the first attempt.  And then, in that college, again, I think I was number one in pathology, number three in surgery, number three in medicine.  So…those are exams, like grades and other stuff.  So, they used to award some medals at the end of the exam, and usually some minister—either central or state minister—would come and award those awards to the people who did very, very well….  There used to be a big ceremony….

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Do you remember when you first considered the prospect of studying or working outside of India…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: After I graduated from medical school, I went to Chandigarh [site of Punjab University] to do my post-graduate [work] in medicine; and there, I finished the post-graduation in two-and-a-half years, which normally….  Many people take anywhere from four to five years.  And only after I did my M.D. from there….  I decided to consider studying abroad, although the parents are very, very unhappy, because my father wanted…me to…come back home and open a practice or something.   And I was not too keen to practice….  I thought, in India, there…was room for improvement.  I tried to go abroad.  The majority of the people in the Fifties and at least [into the] Sixties…used to go to England for higher studies, but I think England was a little bit on the decline at that time; and there was a lot of demand for residency programs in this country in the Sixties because of the Vietnam War.  And to come here to do the residency, you had to take an exam called an ECFMG…Educational Council for Foreign Medical Graduates.  And that exam used to be given even in India.  You know…you’d go to like New Delhi and appear; and I was surprised when I took the exam, there must be close to a thousand people who took the exam in a big hall.  And this is a whole-day exam, basically multiple-choice questions and other stuff….  And, then…just to make sure that you understand English…there would be somebody who would speak and tell you…to translate what it means, or something….  And I did fairly well in that.  I got probably a 90th percentile in that one.   And then, I got residency in Cincinnati [Ohio].

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Can you describe some of your initial impressions of the U.S.?  This would’ve been in Cincinnati, right?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Yes.  Cincinnati was my first experience.  I arrived on 30th January 1967.  So, I have been in this country for 43-and-a-half years.  And obviously…in January, it was very, very cold, (laughs) and I had tried to bring as many [items of]…warm clothing as possible.  When I came, the government gave me only $8 as foreign exchange, because…India…did not give you too much foreign exchange when you were leaving.  And so, my father got me another 15 or 20 dollars from somebody by buying it in the black market or otherwise.  So, before I came to Cincinnati…the first landing was in New York.  I was really puzzled…didn’t know…just got lost….  But still, people were very helpful at the airport.  They would tell you that I had to take a flight for Cincinnati, although all the flights were connected.  I came by Air India.  Then, from New York, I came by American Airlines to Cincinnati.  And I had told the hospital that I don’t have any money.  So, the hospital sent the hospital driver to pick me up from the airport, which was nice.  Otherwise, all those $8 could have been gone in the….  (laughs)  And I stayed in the hospital.  They gave me a room to stay….  If I remember correctly, my salary, in those days, was $400 a month; and you had to pay for your health insurance, pay for your car.  Food used to be free, if you stayed in the dorm.  And…then, I thought to have the atmosphere of being in the hospital 24 hours…although I did not like the food there, to be very frank with you….  But the hospital had told….  Since I was a vegetarian, they had even told us to leave some bread, some tomatoes, and other stuff, so that in case we wanted to make anything ourselves, you know, we could make it….  But it was still not the same.  So, I rented…an apartment [owned] by an elderly couple across the street from the hospital.  And the couple was very nice to me; but one day (laughs), I invited…a resident from Nigeria to that place to have a cup of tea with me, and the couple got very offended.  They [asked] why I invited a black guy….  And so, for that reason, they got mad at me and wanted me to leave.  And then, I moved into a….  By that time, I had got a car…so that I could at least drive.  So, I got an apartment maybe…a mile-and-a-half away from the hospital, which was…..  But then, transportation was not a big problem…but no public transportation in Cincinnati….  No.  Only in the downtown area it was available, but our hospital was outside….

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Right.  Now, you mentioned the weather…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: The weather was very cold, and January was probably windy and snowy.  That January was bad.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: And you mentioned there were differences…in food, too, that were….

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Yes, food I did not like, initially—particularly the hospital [variety].

Dr. Thomas Welsh: And you mentioned a little brush with racism….

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Yes….  But they liked me, but they did not like the fact that I had invited …[someone] from Africa.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: And…what are some of the other things that surprised you…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: I think people…in the hospital used to be sympathetic, but at the same time, they thought that I’m from a very, very poor country; and that was the impression of Americans about India.  One of the reasons for that impression was, India was not self-sufficient in food; and every year, they had to import….  A lot of wheat used to go from America to India, and other stuff….  But at work, probably, people were very nice…all those nurses on the floor.  In fact, the university…had assigned an American family for all these foreign exchange….  We were on a foreign exchange visitors program.  They had assigned an American family, and that American family would invite you at least once a month to their home, and very nicely they would treat you—very, very nicely.  And then, the nurses in the hospital, they used to invite us to their homes (you know, because we were single and other stuff) and introduce us to their parents and other stuff—just a social get-together, for no other reason.  And then, the professors were….  They would not invite [us] to their own homes, but they would have at least a party in the hospital for the residents, like at Easter time and Christmas time and Thanksgiving time.  And I think, on the whole, I didn’t ever get lost there, in Cincinnati, because many of the residents who worked there were foreigners.  And maybe, like, three or four were Indians, one was from Nigeria, two were from Taiwan, and one was from [the] Philippines—and somebody was from Brazil, and so on and so forth.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Now…you were part of a group of people who were more or less in the same position….  And in talking to some of the other international….  These were residents, right?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: They were residents.  We were residents…training fellows.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Did you have a lot of the same challenges…in dealing with the cultural differences in the U.S.?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Yes, probably….  One advantage I had [was] that I could speak English, although with an accent.  And after a few months, people get to understand you fairly well.  And unfortunately, many Indians—when they speak English—they not only speak with an accent, they speak also very fast, like in England; if you [listen] to an English guy on the TV, they speak so fast.  Half the time, you don’t understand.  And so, you probably learned how to speak slow.  If I were to tell you the best pronunciation of English is by American reporters….  They speak slowly.  They speak very clearly, and you can understand.  They don’t eat half the words when they speak.  And I think that, on the whole…I was very happy in Cincinnati.  And after five months of my being there, [on] July 1, when the new residents [started], they made me chief resident…which means I was better than somebody else.  They said, “Now, you should be chief resident,” because the previous chief resident left, and I was five months’ senior to all the new residents who came.  And during the chief residency, you know, I had a good time, not a bad time.  So, my overall experience in Cincinnati, I think it’s positive.  And I thought, out of all the cities I’ve lived [in] before, I thought that Cincinnati was the cleanest city [in which] you could live, and very nice.  Even now, when I visit or pass through, I still have vivid memories of my…stay there.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: So, it’s kind of like your American hometown, in a way?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Yes, that’s right.  Yes, I like Cincinnati very much….

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Right, right.  Where are some of the other places you lived, and…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Well, after Cincinnati, I went to Boston to do my fellowship in hematology.  There, I worked in [the] V.A. Hospital in Boston; and I got a fellowship at N.Y.U.—in New York University Medical Center—in July…no…in January of 1969.  And so, I didn’t like Boston that much, although people were very nice.  Technically, I was not supposed to leave till the end of June, but they let me go because…I got a good opportunity to work at a major university, directly, where I worked for like two-and-a-half years.  I did my fellowship there.  And that, probably, I would say, was my best personal experience with colleagues and the senior staff, because people were so friendly there that all the professors, they would invite the residents to their homes on the weekend; and [there were] many parties at various physicians’ homes—you know, they would invite you with their families and other stuff.  And our chief of hematology, he used to have a research lab [at] Saranac Lake, which is in the northern part of New York State; and he would invite one resident at a time to stay for a week, and he would….  You would have a place to stay there, and he would take us out for dinner in the evening—and…very nice, best experience.  Then…one of the professors I did my research with, Dr. Kropotkin (???), he had a home in Long Island.  During the summertime, he would…..  On a weekend, [I would] go and stay with him, and he had a boat, and he would take you for a boat ride and on the beach and everything…and…very, very nice.  And I think I learned a lot….  In probably two-and-a-half years, I produced…seven or eight papers, which were published in leading journals in this country.  And probably…they liked me a lot, that whatever I did…they preferred me…although I was the only foreign fellow at N.Y.U. in hematology at that time.  But they liked me over the local residents, people born and raised here…for whatever reason, whether I was better than somebody, [or] I was more sincere in working, because…when you’re in a foreign land, you want to prove….  I did not want to take a back seat to anybody….  I had to work harder than somebody else to prove that I’m better than somebody else….

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Sure.  Now…where did you go next…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: …I did two years of appointment at Veteran’s Hospital in [the] Bronx…in hematology.  So, I was the assistant director of hematology, you might call it, because there was only one guy senior to me.  But I didn’t like V.A. Hospital….  I didn’t know how to spend my time….  You are there for eight hours, but you don’t have work for more than two hours.  Do you follow what I mean?  And I was thinking that I’m probably wasting my life here.  I could’ve stayed in a V.A. [hospital] forever and not worked and got lazy.  So, I thought, that lifestyle is not meant for me.  And from there, then, I went to Philadelphia Harriman Medical College.  I got a position as assistant professor of hematology there.  And there used to be, under Harriman Medical College….  There used be Philadelphia General Hospital, which used to be run by the city, and Harriman used to control it.  So, they made me…a director of hematology at that hospital…and…I used to have one fellow with me….  There, again, I was happy, but unhappy—unhappy in the sense that half my salary used to come from a grant by the National Cancer Institute, or N.I.H. [National Institute of Health], and anytime you find that the grant may or may not be funded, and then…you’re not certain whether your job will continue.  So, for that reason, I started looking for….  Then, it so happened that….  One day, there was a recruiting agency.  They came to Philadelphia General Hospital and said, “Doc, are you willing to relocate?”  I said, “I’m looking for it.”  And [they said], “Are you willing to go to Youngstown?”  Now, I had heard of Youngstown when I came to Cincinnati, because some of my colleagues at the hospital had started their residency.  They had come to work in Trumbull Memorial Hospital [in Warren, Ohio].  In those days, Trumbull Memorial Hospital had a residency program, and I had visited this place at that time to see them….  And…I had a good impression that Youngstown is a growing and industrial town, and I should be okay.  So, then, I told them, “Yes, I would be willing to consider [it].”  So, that’s all.  Then, I came here two or three times for an interview; and St. Elizabeth’s [Medical Center] wanted a hematologist very badly, because the previous hematologist had left, and they had no hematologist here.  And in those days, there was not much oncology, basically hematology.  And, you know, before I came for the interview, I had told Dr. Squicero, who was the medical director….  I said: “I don’t want to waste your money and my time.  I do want you to know that I’m a foreigner…and you can understand [this] from my accent.  And only if you are looking at a guy like me, I’ll be glad to interview.”  And he says: “We are non-denominational, and we have…a couple of Indian doctors here, and we are very happy.  And if there is an effect between you and us, there is no reason for you to worry…that you will be coming for an interview for no reason.”

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Now, this was in…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: …I started coming for an interview in 1974…but I started working here [on] 28th April 1975.  So, those dates are still clear to me….

Dr. Thomas Welsh: What were your initial impressions…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: I think I was very happy, to be very frank with you.  Sister Consolata [Kline, H.M.] was the chief executive officer, and I thought she was very, very nice to me.  She would go out of the way to help me if I needed anything.  My practice was based in the hospital at that time.  The hospital had given me…a salary as a director of hematology; and then they gave me some guarantee that I would be making a minimum of so much, and anything above that if I make, half the money goes to the hospital and half goes to me.  So, there was an incentive for me to work.  You follow what I mean?  And I still believe that incentive should be the name of the game.  If there’s no incentive, people become lazy, and they don’t want to work hard.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Sure.  Now, you talked about living in Cincinnati and Boston and Philadelphia and Youngstown.  Any general thoughts…on the kinds of cultural differences that you came across in different parts of the country…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: I think New York and Philadelphia were probably more liberal.  Cincinnati was very conservative, and Youngstown is, again, conservative; but I personally believe [in] conservative values.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: So, you weren’t uncomfortable…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: I’m not.  I’m very comfortable.  In fact, I don’t believe [in] some of the values which they tend to give to the children in New York and Philadelphia, particularly New York, or even in Boston.  And so, I’m probably more happy to have a home in Ohio.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Right….  Now, when did you decide that you were going to seek U.S. citizenship?  Is that something that…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: I think….  In fact, when I came as [part of] an exchange visitors program—in those days, in 1967—I was supposed to finish my residency and go back home, because you’re not allowed to apply for green cards.  In 1971, when I was at N.Y.U., [Richard Milhous] Nixon was the president.  And for the first time, he noticed there is so much demand for physicians because of the Vietnam War—and even I had to…register my name; if I applied for immigration, I had to register my name with…that recruiting agency which sends you…the draft card—that he opened [the policy] that all the exchange visitors who are here and want to apply for a green card, they can.  So, then, I thought…I should also apply.  My father was very unhappy when he heard that…  Then, he knew that I’m not going back.  And so, in 1971, I applied for a green card, and I got the green card in…I think, ’72 or ‘73.  It took additional time to process; and especially when you apply in New York City, the number of people applying for a green card is so large.  And by the time this process….  It takes maybe 12 to 18 months.  And you have to have a green card for five years before you can apply for citizenship.  So, I applied for citizenship in 1976 or ’77—I think ’76.  And then, by the time five years were done….  So, I got the citizenship in 1977, I think—could be ’78.  I may be mistaken….  So, I have been a citizen—a naturalized citizen—of this country since 1978, and I don’t regret it.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Now, talk about some of the things that went through your mind when making these decisions, because you described…growing up in a very close-knit extended family….  Were there any reservations, given that you were going to have a different relationship with your family as a result of living here permanently?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Of course…you lose some of the closeness when you are living that far away.  And I finally found….  The friends I made here, they were….  You know, like, when I came here, there were…like 10 or 15 Indian families, at the most; but they were so closely knit [that] they were like brothers and sisters to me.  And we grew together here, and we stayed together.  We created the India Association of Greater Youngstown in 1976.  I came here in ‘75.  And at this time, probably, there are close to 500 Indian families in [the] Greater Youngstown area.  So, we have a temple here; and when we did not have a temple here, we used to go to [the] Pittsburgh temple very often, like anytime a lot are free, we will go to the temple just for, you know, to take the children, so that the children also know about Hinduism.  And we have a temple at home….  One room is devoted so that you can say your prayers there.  The children go there, and [my] wife goes there.  I say my prayers twice a day—15 minutes in the morning before I…come to work and 15 minutes before I sleep….  And I find saying my prayers gives me peace and calm, that I don’t get stressed at work, and it gives me inner strength to take care of my patients.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: So, the Indian community was a big part of the adjustment process?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: I think….  I probably adjusted very well, and everybody liked me here.  Then, I got married in 1975.  So, my wife came, and she had a dream from childhood that she wants to go to America.  That’s what she used to pray for.  And that’s how it happened….

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Now…how did you meet your wife?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: …In India, most of the weddings, in my times, were arranged by the parents; but, of course, if you go to a medical college, or a professional college, many times—since it was a co-educational institution, like a medical school—if you meet somebody, you get married.  The parents are getting more liberal.  And my father probably didn’t want me to get married to an American girl, and because of….  He said, “You never know whether you’ll be happy or unhappy.”  So, my uncle….  And in India, they call it, “When you get married, you not only get married to a girl, but you get married to a family.”  Do you follow?  So, they had advertised in a newspaper which goes all over the state, and also over the country.  So, my uncle and father had looked at everybody…who was willing for their daughter to go to America.  They had selected…five or six girls who could fit me…but nobody was told…‘yes’ till I see the girl…  And I think…I had very limited time at that time, because I was working here.  I had taken only like three weeks’ time off.  So, I had to finish everything in three weeks, including the wedding.  So, when I went, they were like….  I saw maybe two girls one day….  One of the girls whom I really liked very much, her father said he cannot tell for another week or so, because he was traveling.  He was like head of the department.  I’m talking in order of preference, and I saw one; then I saw one more.  And then, the following day, I saw my current wife, and she was….  I liked her very much….  I told my uncle, “If I like the girl, I will pull my pen from my coat, and tell you that everything is okay.”  So, that’s what happened.  In probably half an hour, I said, you know, “The girl is suitable to me, and should be….”

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Do you remember what it was…that made you so certain, at that point?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: …She was very humble, very pretty, and slim; and I saw a lot of innocence in her face when I saw her—and…good family.  Her father was an excise and taxation officer, and again, all the children were educated….  Everybody was in a professional school or college.  And so, those are some of the things….  Otherwise, marriage is always….  They call it a series of adjustments; and you keep on making the adjustment, but as long as you are committed to the marriage…that’s the way it goes.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: And what is your wife’s name?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Saroj—S-A-R-O-J.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: And how did Saroj adapt to the U.S.?  Were there any challenges that…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: She…probably faced…less challenges than…I did, initially.  Firstly, the only challenge she faced was because, in those days, I used to live in an apartment on Hitchcock Road—Hitchcock Apartments.  And…she could speak English; but the problem is, when I go to work for eight or 10 hours….  You know, she didn’t drive.  What will she do with the whole day?  How will she pass time?  So, I used to tell her to maybe watch more TV; and fortunately, one of the neighbors who lived across—very nice lady—and she had told her that she could come and visit her, and she would even take her out for driving and other stuff [in the] daytime.  And then, the Indian family was growing.  When she came here, all the Indians, they…greeted her, invited her for dinner, like in the evening, on a weekend and other stuff.  And some people would pick her up so she could spend a few hours during the daytime so that she doesn’t get bored—those Indians…who did not work.  You know, ladies were not working; they were housewives. And then, I told her to attend the International Institute at YSU [Youngstown State University].  There used to be a place where they would orient all the newcomers to the American customs and so on and so forth.  Rather than hearing from me, I thought it better she learns from the local people; and I wanted her to be aware of the currency—what it is here—so that when she goes [shopping], you know, she knows this is five dollars, this is a quarter, this is….  And then, I got her the driving school to teach her how to drive.  So, she in fact…started driving….  In five to six months after she was here, she got the driver’s license; and then, she made her own friends.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: That’s great….   And you had children?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Yes, two daughters, and both of them are married.  My older one is a dentist.  She lives in Chicago.  She’s married to a gastroenterologist.  And my younger one, she graduated from the University of Michigan, and she did like information technology and business; and she’s married to a guy from London, England, and he did [an] M.B.A. from Wharton School of Economics in Philadelphia; and she met him there, because she was working in Delaware, so she met him there.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Right….  And when your children were growing up, how did you…encourage them to… appreciate, to value their Indian heritage?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: I think, firstly, my wife is more religious than me; and she would, of course, tell the kids to be nice to each other—everybody—[and] give the Indian values of not speaking a lie, and if you made a mistake admit it, rather than…try to hide it.  And they were also told to be open and discuss everything with us on the table.  And I never told them to marry only an Indian; and I had told them…as long as the kid is nice and educated, and I don’t mind a Christian boy…. And I told them I don’t want you to marry anybody who is very, very orthodox, like Orthodox Jewish guy….  And I told them I would not like them to marry a Muslim boy, because they are so orthodox even if they may be educated, and I don’t want them to have those values.      

Dr. Thomas Welsh: So maybe someone who…if they were from a different religious tradition, not very strict?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: …not very strict.  And so, these were the values which they had, and fortunately…they found good Indian kids, good families.  And…my son-in-law’s family in London is so loving, because we visit there….  They have…close to 200 of their family members there; and everybody treats us with so much respect when we go there, and my daughter’s really loved by everybody there.  And now…we got a grandson…just four-and-a-half months ago.  And she’s visiting.  She’s currently in Chicago but will be coming here next weekend.  My other daughter lives in Chicago, so she’s staying with her for a week.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: So, both of…your daughters ultimately married within the community?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Yes, Indians.  They married Indians—Hindus, let’s put it that way….  But I think the reason they probably found [Hindu husbands is]…because they knew…our Hindu values.  And, personally, when they would ask, I would tell them: “I don’t mind.  I don’t mind a Christian boy, and if you find a Hindu boy and…although they are not Punjabis….”  The boys which they found, they’re not Punjabis; they’re not from the same state; and in Punjab, people consider we are superior.  Punjabis consider themselves superior.  It’s a horrible thing, horrible thing….  But I’m very happy with the son-in-laws I got, both of them.  And they love me.  They respect me, and anything they want to discuss, you know, it’s…very much like talking to my own children.  That’s the kind of relationship I have with them.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: And I was going to ask you….  When you think about the regional differences in India—or even in the Indian subcontinent—do you find that a lot of those [barriers] break down when you become part of…a community here in the U.S.?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Yes, I think so.  I think so.  In fact, here, if the guy’s Indian…like, for instance, Dr. [Bhoopalam] Krishnasetty’s from the southern part of India.  And we’re all assimilated together, meet socially and everything else.  And so, we have people from the extreme southern part, northern part, western part, eastern part—probably here, we don’t care where [you are from].  But, in India…suppose you had to marry; you’d probably like to get married in your own state, the reason being that, when the wedding party goes, you don’t want to travel a thousand miles, because the transportation is by train or by…nowadays, of course, you know, the airplane….  I’m talking of my times.  It would’ve been tough.  Most of the time, like, all my brothers, they were also married [into]…families within 40 or 50 miles of [our] hometown.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: And what about the cultural differences, too, between…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Yes, sure, cultural differences, also….  Most of the time, like, if I’m [from] an Agrawal family…my parents would like me to marry within an Agrawal family.  You know, there’s like a class system there.  Brahmins don’t like to marry somebody with a non-Brahmin.  But nowadays, you know, everything is….  It doesn’t matter these days.  Things are getting very liberal there.  I have not gone to India since 1991, but India has probably changed a lot; and my wife goes there…at least once or twice a year, and she feels things are so different these days than they used to be when we got married.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: And how does that make her feel?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: You know, it makes me feel good, in one way—that at least India is [more] respected by the world today than it was when we came here.  And part of the reason Indians are held in much better esteem in this country today than they were in the Sixties or Seventies….  I think the single biggest reason [to which] I attribute the change in perception was that, when the computer revolution started…the Indian engineers and software developers had probably the best skills—I think the best brains—in computers.  At Microsoft, Intel, or HP [Hewlitt-Packard] or other companies like Motorola, are probably Indian kids that are developing the products.  And people…changed the perception even here, locally.  My patients respect me so much….  From day one, nobody felt that they don’t have to see me because I’m not white.  You follow?  In fact, these days, if I see a patient, and the patient has seen a competitor before me, they want to stay with me and not go to the competitor.  You follow what I mean?  Because I always tell my patients that I want you to understand what I’m trying to tell you.  If you don’t understand the first time, I will repeat it.  If you don’t understand the second time, I’ll repeat it a third time…which many of…the local physicians may not be doing….  And the reason being, these days, of course…a lot of local population is able to understand the Indian accent, because there are a lot of Indian physicians in this area.  So, they’re going to here, there.  They probably might not understand me better than somebody else, but they still understand English spoken by an Indian doctor….

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Right.  So, in part, the economic mobility of Indian Americans owes to….

Dr. Sudershan Garg: I think, probably, you might call it that the Indian community in this country may be the most successful and entrepreneurial….  Now, this town may be different, [in] that 50 percent of the Indians in this area are probably physicians, and others are in computers—and many of them, they own the motels and stuff, and they run the businesses.   But if you go to Silicon Valley, you will find the majority of these people, they’re in software, computers, Intel, Microsoft, Google….  They start by working at Google, often.  Follow what I mean…?

Dr. Thomas Welsh: So, you’ve seen a big difference in perceptions of the Indian community?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Big difference.  I agree.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Right.  Now, you’ve…described your current relationship with India a little bit.  You… don’t visit very often.

Dr. Sudershan Garg: The reason being…the last time I visited….  Firstly, I had to sit in the airplane for so long….  Although I’ve been here for 43 years, I’ve probably visited India…in 1971, first time, ’73, ’75, ’77, ’78, 1981, then, 1991.  So, I’ve probably gone only, maybe, seven or eight times.  And since my parents died, probably I don’t have much attachment.   And since I became a citizen here, I find that my loyalty is toward this country, and India is second.  Do you follow what I mean?  Although visiting is not a big deal, but suppose for some unfortunate reason….  If there’s a war between India and the U.S.A. tomorrow, I probably will feel America should win over India.  Follow what I mean?  So, my loyalty is here.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: …Do relatives visit you here?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Yes, sure.  My mother came.  My father came.  My mother came twice.  My father came once, and my wife’s parents came many times.  My brother is here, in Warren [Ohio].  He practices as an OB-GYN [Obstetrician-Gynecologist].  This was the adopted brother…who doesn’t have the same last name as me, but he’s my real brother….

Dr. Thomas Welsh: And by the way, is that a common tradition in India?  If someone doesn’t have children, they would adopt a nephew or….

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Yes, probably….  It used to be not uncommon….  And it has been an unhappy relationship, because my uncle and my brother were not able to get along too well when he grew up.  And so, he wanted to leave, but my uncle didn’t want him to leave.  In fact, I was the force behind bringing him here, so that maybe if he’s far away, there would be more affection created; but it didn’t work out that way….  But since I was the one who took him there…when he was one-and-a-half years old…my mother told me to, you know, stay there for a week or 10 days so that he gets used to them; and when I left…he cried so much, and I felt so bad.  But, you know, that’s part of life.  What can you do?

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Right….  Overall, in what ways does your Indian heritage remain important to you…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Yes, I think…Indian values probably are important as far as the family is concerned, but I’m not telling anybody to change their family values.  They’re probably important to me because they have been able to help me guide through difficult times; and in every religion, probably…there are values which guide you through difficult times.  And for no reason, I respect all religions, as long as you don’t have the extreme views in those religions…. I hate the Taliban, let’s put it that way; and there are extreme elements even in the Hindu religion which I don’t appreciate.  And I feel that God has given us a place to live, and everybody should be able to live without much difficulty; and probably if there is one country which is most tolerant of all religions, it is America.  And discrimination is a part of life all over the world; but I think, [if] there is one country where discrimination is going away very rapidly, it probably is in this country.  Here, people judge you from the quality of your work [rather] than for your ethnic background or color background.  If you see, like, some of the CEOs of top companies in this country, they’re Indians; and similarly, the top CEOs of many companies are Afro-Americans, as you know, because…you have to prove yourself, that you can take the position.  They don’t promote you, although if you’re not…white, you probably had to work a little harder to prove yourself; but still you can reach the top, because in the long run, those companies want the best talent so that they can succeed and compete in the world.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Now, again…you’ve touched on some of these ideas…but in what ways has your experience of growing up in another country enhanced your appreciation and understanding of the United States?  You mentioned the tolerance, the level of tolerance….

Dr. Sudershan Garg: The tolerance is great; and I think I found when I came here, people were very, very hard-working.  And the quality of product made in this country in the Sixties and early Seventies was great; but unfortunately, people did not keep up.  Parents got too lax with the education of children and [did] not participate; and I find that’s an unfortunate thing which is happening in this country, that children are not told or forced to excel, because the world is getting smaller.  And we don’t have to compete just amongst ourselves, but we have to compete against the rest of the world.  The knowledge is getting more compact, and vast….  Every few days, or every few weeks, you find that the knowledge is expanding—like two to three times the rate, or maybe 10 times the rate like it used to.  And if I were to go to medical school today, I probably would find that things are so different than when I went to medical school, because when we went to medical school, it was easy, because there was not much known.  Today, too much is known.  And I think I feel bad, in one way…that we are starting to lag behind other countries because our kids are not working so hard.  And even if you see the valedictorians in schools…when they come…there are kids with Chinese background, Korean background, or Indian background, many of the times.  Those kids still would be excelling [over] the local kids. And particularly in the urban communities, or urban schools, the kids are not doing well at all; and I can’t even….  Anytime a patient comes with a child with them to my office, I always take time to talk to the child, to encourage them to work hard.  When I ask them, “Do you like school?”  “No.”  “Why not?”  You know, I will converse with the kid, and I should tell them: “You don’t want to…be working in a restaurant, cleaning the dishes or flipping burgers; but you want to…finish school and go to college so that you can find a better job so that the country is proud of you, and your parents are proud of you.”  I spend always two to three minutes with the kid to encourage them, because I feel it my duty….  Since this is my home, I want this country to be as strong as it was 30 or 40 years ago, and [to] get stronger.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Now, you came to the Youngstown area in ‘75, I believe.  So, the steel industry was still booming, at that point.  So, you’ve seen a lot of changes.

Dr. Sudershan Garg: A lot of changes.  In fact, in the 1970s, that is the time when the steel industry started to decline; and a lot of those plants, they closed, and that was a terrible time.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Many of those changes, of course, were negative, in terms of the economic picture.  Do you see any signs of hope in the community?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: I hope so.  I think two things…make me feel good, that maybe the bottom is behind us, and we should be starting to improve….  Firstly, our new mayor of Youngstown [Jay Williams], he is the first mayor who…realized that, even if the city of Youngstown is shrinking, it’s better to build a smaller city than try to have big hopes: “Let’s keep the city big, and try to build it.”  You cannot do it.  And number two, I find that the university, Youngstown State….  I think they’re doing a good job, and with the new courses which will be offered in business, and then, orienting the kids towards entrepreneurship with the local businesses, hopefully many of these kids will stay here.  I wanted my children to stay here, but they did not, because they did not see any hope here.  And that’s why my older daughter….  She’s happy in Chicago, but she wanted to go to Cincinnati or Columbus rather than come here.  Although I told my son-in-law you can do a very good job here, and you won’t starve in gastroenterology, but he doesn’t want to come here.  And…also, I think, the biggest reason I see in this city which is responsible for most of the decline is single-party rule.  You know, here, I have not seen a Republican being elected.  Not that I’m a Republican.  I’m also a registered Democrat.  And…the best change to come is when you change the rulers of the top after every couple of years.  If the same party is in power for 50 years, or 60 years, that, number one, breeds corruption; and secondly, then no new ideas come.  If, suppose after four years or eight years, [we had] a Republican mayor…and we’ll see what they do….  I think…that’s a bad thing.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: So, [Youngstown is] a political and a kind of economic monoculture?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Yes, that’s right.  I agree.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Well, is there anything you wanted to add, Doctor…?  Is there anything that we really didn’t get to that you really would like to…?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Well…I can tell you, when our wedding happened in India, the wedding was very, very small, because in those days, in 1975, there was an emergency in India.  And my father could not take more than 25 people to the wedding, because if the government finds out that the bride’s father had….  And he could not have more than 25 people.  So, there were only 50 people allowed.    But normally, weddings in India are very big….  Although our wedding was very small—but all Hindu tradition—when my daughters got married…we had really big weddings for them.  For the younger one…we had seven days’ ceremony, and we could not find a hall to accommodate a thousand people, but we had…close to 600 people at the Metroplex [in Liberty, Ohio] when she got married.  And my wife felt that the kids would appreciate the Indian values further by seeing what the Indian wedding is like; and hopefully, they will be able to impart similar values to their children, because the first time…since my son-in-law was from London, like 168 people came from London for the wedding, which I was surprised.  But I give a lot of credit to their relatives, because he has a lot of relatives back home.  And to give the semblance of a foreigner coming here for the wedding…I had a helicopter which landed in the Metroplex in the afternoon….  The groom came in a helicopter.  And we had a good, good, good time together.  And so, I’m very happy that the children are very happy with the choices they have made.  And the second wedding, my daughter, other one, got married only last year; and since his parents are from Cincinnati, and his father is a doctor…I got an immediate connection….  (laughs)  That was the first city I came to.  And now, when we visit I still can recall many places in town, although the city has grown vastly since I was there.  And when we used to pass through Cincinnati….  When my daughter was going to dental school in Louisville [Kentucky], we had to pass through Cincinnati.  We used to go….  You know, I still always would tell my wife, “This is the first city I came [to], and I still like it….”  And for her, we had a wedding in Cleveland, at the Renaissance Hotel; and there again, like 650 people came for the wedding, because…there were a lot of people….  I had to tell him that I have so many friends here, not only Indian, plus relatives, plus from YSU, since I am on the Board of Trustees at YSU.  I had to invite a lot of people from the hospital.  So, I had to tell the groom’s father…  I said, “You are allowed only 300 people—that’s it.”  And I said, “Because the rest of the people I have to get.”  And then, instead of calling everybody of Phil’s family here, we had a big engagement party in Cincinnati, like a month, two months before the wedding.  So, he invited for the engagement party…almost 500 people.  And we went from here….  I took about 80, 85 people from here, and so, we had a good time together….

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Just one last question—and this is because…you’ve talked a bit about the local Indian community….   But, again…Youngstown has experienced a lot of economic difficulties.  Have you seen any changes in the local Indian community as a result of…those [economic] changes?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: The only change I find is that our children are not staying here.  That’s the unfortunate part.  The majority of the Indian kids, after they graduate, post-graduate, most of them have gone to Columbus, Chicago, New York—somewhere else.  And that’s what…we have not liked, but it’s very hard to convince them to stay here when they…cannot find the good job, first.  And secondly, all the children, they like some social life….  These children are not the same…. “My social life is with the friends.” They like to go out in a club and other stuff, and so…they find this stuff lacking in this area.  So, that’s one reason they’re not here.  And hopefully…if new businesses do open, like the [Youngstown] Business Incubator, in downtown, and V & M Star [L. P., in Youngstown]….  I hope it comes to fruition.  And then, the new cars being made at [Chevy] Cruze in Lordstown [Ohio]….  If that succeeds, hopefully more people will move here, and the property values will appreciate.  And to be very frank with you, I have been staying in my current home for 22 years, and I always tell my wife, if I sell it, I probably will not be able to sell it even at one-third the price I paid; and I’ve made so many additions over the years to improve it.  But…that’s part of life, so you don’t try to [dwell] over….  And at this time, my basic objective is to give part of my knowledge to the community so that they get better.  And I’m very happy to serve on the Board [of Trustees] at YSU; and I have been involved in the American Cancer Society—used to be involved.  And unfortunately, I wish the days were 30 hours long rather than 24 hours long, that you probably could spend more time with other things.  My wife goes, I think, twice a month to the Rescue Mission [near downtown Youngstown].  They make food for those people.  And she goes there.  I can’t go…so she goes there…and we do as much as we can.  And I will see what….  My job is to make YSU better than it is by the time I finish my term in 2015.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: So, you’re both doing as much as you can to improve the community?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: Yes.

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Well, thanks for your time, Dr. Garg.  Is there anything you wanted to add?

Dr. Sudershan Garg: I think probably…we covered quite a lot….  And when you print [the transcript] out…maybe something else will come to my mind….  When you sent me the [sample] questions…a lot of things did not come to my mind, in fact….  Then, I started thinking….

Dr. Thomas Welsh: I understand.  Well, I’ll have a transcript available within a couple of weeks.  I have a conference coming up, but I’ll get that to you soon.

Dr. Sudershan Garg: That’s okay.  No problem….

Dr. Thomas Welsh: Thanks so much, again, for your time.

Dr. Sudershan Garg: No problem.

One Response to “Interview with Dr. Sundershan Garg”

  1. Ritu Garg says:

    Just an fyi,Sudershan Garg was first married to Santosh Garg. I am his daughter from his first marriage.

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