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Amelia Singh Netervala Oral History Interview -- Part 3

See also:
Amelia Singh Netervala Oral History -- Part 1
Amelia Singh Netervala Oral History -- Part 2
Amelia Singh Netervala Oral History -- Part 4
Amelia Singh Netervala Oral History -- Part 5

Date: March 2, 2015
Type: Oral History
Language: English
Creator: Randa Cardwell
Location: Los Angeles, CA

Interviewer: So tell me a little bit about holidays in between….what were holidays like between the different cultures that you….of your family.

Amelia: Well, my father…My parents would always take us to—when we lived in Texas—to the festivities that were related to the Catholic Church. Saints and so forth. He was quite involved in that. At that time, there weren’t…his other Indians were like maybe an hour away or something like that, so he did things with his family and partake in Catholic things. Not in….not religiously. Just festivities, yeah.

Interviewer: Do remember traveling to see temples at all as a child?

Amelia: Uh, yes. We moved to Arizona, to Phoenix. We would….my father took us to, what was it? Guru Nanak’s birthday, which was in October, I believe. October. So we would go there. Drive there and stay there for a couple of days and then return home. We would have a nice time there, talking to all his friends.

Interviewer: What kind of things would you do on these trips?

Amelia: Not much, just staying with their friends whose home we were at. Just around there and going to town. There wasn’t much to see there. Like now, they have a museum there in Imperial Valley. But there wasn’t that much…it was just mostly having food there at the temple and so forth. We would uh—

Interviewer: Do you remember specific dishes and foods that were apart of that celebration?

Amelia: Uh, no, not really. It was at that time—this is interesting—at that time, Mexican women would cook there at the Gurdwara in Imperial Valley because there weren’t any Indian women at that time before ’47. So they would make the food. Later on, Indian women came after ’47 and they sort of didn’t allow the Mexican women to be in there, in the kitchen. And they *laughs* they took offense to that. Especially the ones that lived there in Imperial Valley because we were just visitors, but the ones from Imperial Valley, I mean, they’re the ones that really started that! And then to be kicked out, that wasn’t very pleasant for them. So that’s…there’s that division. *laughs*

Interviewer: Some tensions within things.

Amelia: Yeah.

Interviewer: And was your mother a part of that exclusion or did she just heard about it?

Amelia: No, she would—when we went, she would help those other Mexican women there in the kitchen at the Gurdwara and make chapatis. The food. After, we’d used to sit in chairs. But now, they got rid of chairs and you sit on the floor. So I mean they, the new ones, changed things to the way they’re done in India. * laughs *

Interviewer: Growing up, did you consider yourself American, Mexican, Indian, some combination of the both? What was your identity?

Amelia: I guess, maybe yeah. Especially, I guess I lean towards being Indian and also American. The Mexican side, I’m not that close to it, as far as having Mexican friends, but I mean, as far as food and the music, yeah. I love Mexican music as well as Indian music. So it’s just…I sort of embraced both of them. But more, I think, more the Indian because I go to Indian, I lived in India, and I’m close to my husband’s side of the family in India. As far as…I don’t have any contact with my mother’s family. I think they passed away. But even before that, I didn’t. They lived in Mexico and I have been to Mexico. I like their culture and everything, but I think when you’re of two different, you tend to embrace one over the other. You’re still accepting of the…both, but you lean more towards one. The interest is there more. Like, I read the India Abroad paper and I’m interested in what happens over there as opposed to what happens in Mexico. So that’s how it is. * laughs * It’s hard. I’ve asked other friends that are sort of of two cultures and I think they just…you know, you have to take one as stronger than the other, you know. And also it depends on the person and the interests that you have. And I like speaking Spanish when I have the chance, but I didn’t learn…when I was in India, I learned a little bit of Gujarati with the servants. Because the Parsis liked to…they spoke mostly English in the family. I picked a little bit of Gujarati in the family. But then, my husband always spoke at home. So I didn’t learn their language.

Interviewer: Let’s move forward with…when did you leave your family home? What were the circumstances and where did you go?

Amelia: You mean, when I was eighteen?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Amelia: Yeah, when I graduated from high school, I was going to go to a college in Arizona, but then my girlfriend Helen Ram who lived also in Arizona…there were some recruiters that went to her high school. So she asked her mother if she could come to Los Angeles. Her mother said, “Well, not by yourself. If you ask Amelia, I’m willing to let you go. “ So that’s how it happened. The two of us came and we came to Westwood, California. And that was a wonderful beginning. I mean, that was a whole new life.

Interviewer: And was Helen the same? Was her mother Mexican and her father Indian?

Amelia: Yes, uh-huh. Our fathers were friends. So, um—

Interviewer: So you attended UCLA for your undergrad?

Amelia: No I went to…there was a business school there in Westwood. And that’s what we came to. It was…it was a business school.

Interviewer: What’s the name of it? Do you remember?

Amelia: Uh, Sawyer. It’s not there anymore. But fortunately, it was right adjacent to UCLA and we took classes at UCLA. Extension classes. And it was a great place of…a great area of Los Angeles to end up, you know, when you’re not aware where your school is. So we were very fortunate that we came here. It really expanded our minds and our lives. As Helen and I used to talk about how… we wondered if we stayed in Arizona who we would’ve married and how our lives would have been and how we’d turned out. You know, it really expanded our lives. I’ve travelled a lot and married an Indian.

Interviewer: Tell me about meeting your husband. Where and how did you meet?

Amelia: Well, I meet him through Helen’s boyfriend. It was…that’s how I met him. Introduced by her…her boyfriend was also Indian. Patel. And Mina was attending USC and I used to go to the USC dances and activities there. And that’s how we met and then…I never heard of a Parsi before, and so uh….

Interviewer: Had he come over here to go to school or did he grow up here?

Amelia: Oh no, he came here to go to school. He’s from Bombay and he came to USC to go to school for business and we got married and then had two lovely girls: Yazmin and Zerina. And we keep close touch with his family.

Interviewer: So when did you live in India? When did that happen?

Amelia: That was in the early ‘70s. Mina’s brother had wanted him to…I think there was at that time, there was some recession here in this country. And anyway, he said he wants to come back, come to India and work for the company, the family’s company there. So it happened and he moved there and it was…I think we stayed there almost two years. My eldest daughter was always sick, just about every month. And the only one who did well with it…the youngest one who…she was five and six when she was there. And finally we decided to come back.

Interviewer: Were you able to visit the area that your father was born?

Amelia: No, I wasn’t. Nu-uh. And there’s no family there, so. Furthest north I went was New Delhi. * laughs*

Interviewer: Did it change your understanding of your father by actually being there or did it…what did it mean to you to spend time in India?

Amelia: Um, well the differences in the classes, you know…let’s see how I have to think about that. No, I never went…even when we were…we first went in 1958, we were in New Delhi and I had thought of maybe going to where my father’s family lived in Punjab. But he had only like a cousin and it was far from New Delhi to go there and to see, to meet someone that really wasn’t that close. Probably didn’t even know my father. So I never went there. And I feel close to the Punjabi community and to both communities. I think one community is more accepting for me than the other because Zoroastrians…you have to be born into the religion. You cannot convert, not that I wanted to convert. But I adopted to the family and I knew I couldn’t go to the Zoroastrian temple. Agiyari. Yeah. I couldn’t go to there agiyari. And if I…I was mistaken for Parsi. I looked like one. They would even speak to me in Gujarati, the people that I didn’t know. But I never ventured. I never wanted to go in because they have to clean the temple if someone, an outsider, comes there and I didn’t want to that. However, I did go to Hindu temples. So.

Interviewer: What was that like?

Amelia: It was nice! Ring the bell…I remember in the small town, you know, that we stayed at they had bells that, you know, you could ring when you entered. So that was…I always just accepted what I could do and not do, as far as, you know, going into someone’s church or temple.

Collection: Amelia Singh Netervala Materials
Item History: 2016-08-02 (created); 2016-09-05 (modified)

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