Rather than culture shock, Mantina Varma encountered snow shock when he came to New Haven.
Varma and Chandra Jakka will encounter lots more snow, now that they’ve opened Fair Haven Pharmacy on Grand Avenue. Jakka and Varma (pictured at the store’s ribbon-cutting) said their new phamacy will offer free pick-up, free delivery, and personalized services, seven days a week.
Jakka and Varma were schoolmates in southern India before both came to the United States for higher education in 2005. Jakka went to Oklahoma University to pursue his MBA, and Varma attended the University of Minnesota as a post-doctorate fellow following his pharmaceutical studies in India. Both were 29 when they arrived in the U.S.
Rather than culture shock, Varma said on an episode of Norma Rodriguez-Reye’s WNHH radio program “K Pasa,” he experienced the shock of a two-foot snowstorm when he arrived in the States. It was April and 105 degrees when he left India, a country home to 1.22 billion people, more than 20 official state languages, six seasons in some areas of the country, and the largest continuous democracy in the world.
In terms of Indian and American culture, Jakka finds Indians to be family-oriented in a different way from Americans are, with the greatest difference lying in the two countries’ economies. In America, he said, you can make more money, but time controls you more than it does in India.
“The rupee value there — we had to earn 60 rupees there to earn one dollar here,” Jakka said. “It is very difficult to make that big difference, so we focus on the education once we come here, to finish our schooling. We have to focus on the education. We have no other choice.”
“I really love American culture in general,” said Varma, who has a passion for Hollywood films and action movies. “Although I hadn’t been to America before I came for my studies, things are pretty global now. We export a lot of this stuff back in India. We have MacD’s, we have Burger Kings, we have everything back in India now.”
“There are definitely some differences,” he continued, “ but at the same time people are very nice here. It’s a very opportunistic country; there’s a lot to explore, there are beautiful places. More than the cultural shock, I went farther and said, ‘Let me explore things and learn stuff from the people.’”
Jakka lives on Grand Avenue, near his new pharamcy.
“It is a great city,” Jakka said of New Haven. “I can say that. I lived in Oklahoma for four years. I lived one and a half years in New Jersey, and several states. Still, New Haven is a very great city. It is very well-diversified.”
Both Jakka and Varma agree that life is better in the states, but they do miss India — especially this time of year, the season of festivals and bright colors. The festival celebrating the birthday of Ganesh, the Hindu elephant deity known for wisdom and removing obstacles, was celebrated just before the pharmacy’s grand opening.
According to Jakka, the Indian cultural identity can can never be lost.
“As long as you are alive, your cultural identity stays with you,” he said. “That is heritage, even if you have kids here. Even if they are born here, they are Indians.”
Jakka and Varma said their new phamacy will offer free pick-up, free delivery, and personalized services, seven days a week.
Click on the play arrow to hear the full WNHH interview.