On March 5, 1983, 39-year-old Rachel Chacko left Mumbai, India, and arrived at North 9th Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She recalls her second day in America thusly.
“Next day family friends visited us. They gave me some instructions. If anyone rings the doorbell do not open it. The second, if the fire alarm goes off run fast to the nearest door with kids. That afternoon we went to St. Joseph’s hospital to fill up some applications about the nurses’ job. We rode through Center City, Philadelphia to see the City Hall and Liberty Bell. Then we ate at the Kentucky Fried Chicken then went back home.”
You can find a recording of Chacko’s story, a photo of herself and her family — and other narratives from South Asian immigrants’ first days in America captured on South Asian American Digital Archive’s First Days Project website, which launched today.
“A first day is so much more than just one day,” notes the site’s FAQs section. “The first day in a new country can be full of excitement, nervousness, loss, humor, sadness, anticipation, confusion, and a mixture of many other emotions. One day can encapsulate both what has come before and what will come after.”
Currently, the site contains a handful of stories, with dates of arrival ranging from 1959 to 2004. But now it’s your turn, readers of The Aerogram. Here’s all you have to do:
1. Find someone with a story. It can be yourself, a family member or a friend — anyone who traces their heritage to South Asia.
2. Submit their story using either video, audio or text. Text submissions are limited to 300 words, and audio and video are limited to three minutes. Find a photo to accompany the submission. Be sure to check the FAQs for appropriate formatting guidelines.
3. Submit the story through SAADA’s website at http://www.
To learn more about SAADA’s mission to preserve the history of South Asian communities, visit their website.