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Oral History Interview with Chandrakanth Patel

Chandrakanth Patel was born on July 22, 1943 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He has four siblings including him, two brothers and two sisters. He is the first one from his family to have his own business in America. He moved to America with his wife and three kids after 22 years of his marriage. Patel struggled a lot adjusting to the new environment along with his family and after many years of struggle, he decided to open his own restaurant. His restaurant was very successful since it was the only restaurant which served authentic Indian food.

Image 2: Chandrakanth Patel with his wife, celebrating their anniversary.

Image 3: Patel with his entire family celebrating his anniversary along with his wife.

Image 4: Chandrakanth and his wife with his grandchildren.

Image 5: Sushilla Patel (wife of Chandrakanth Patel).

Duration: 00:41:16

Date: December 30, 2019
Type: Oral History
Source: 4-H Langoor Club
Creator: Tanya Kakkar

TANYA : This is Tanya Kakkar. I am a member of the teen chapter of 4H Indian Langoor Club. Today is December 30,2019 and I am at Chowpatty Indian Restaurant to conduct the interview of Mr. Chandrakanth Patel, owner of Chowpatty. This interview is being conducted for Recording History live, an inter-generational Oral History Program, organized by the 4H Indian Langoor Club. Grand funding has been provided by the Middlesex county board of chosen freeholders through a grant award from the Middlesex County Cultural and Arts Trust Fund. Program Funded in part by a grant to Middlesex county by the New Jersey historical commission. Good Afternoon. Namaste Mr. Chandrakanth Patel. Thank you for the opportunity. Shall we begin?

PATEL: Yeah, good afternoon

TANYA: Good afternoon (low voice) so I would like to know where and when were you born?

PATEL: I was born in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India...43...1943

TANYA: Ok where did you grow up?

PATEL: I grew up in Ahmedabad

PATEL: father, mother, everybody family is there and I grew up with them

TANYA: What was your family like?

PATEL: My family...we have two brother and two sister

TANYA: Ok, so including you it;s two brother-

PATEL: Yeah, including me, two brother

TANYA: Ok what did your parents do for a living?

PATEL: My parents do business

TANYA: Business?


TANYA: What was the business?

PATEL: There were two, three kind of business, one is the Kariyanas, what the grocery and everything and one is the major wholesale business in coconut and jovery...jovery yeah and we have one flour wheel, they make the flour, this atta, maida, rava everything

TANYA: Ok did you study in Ahmedabad?

PATEL: I study in Ahmedabad but I not study much because I am not good in studying because of my friend (laughing) not I have no good friend thats why I am always (laughing) my study I lose my study life and now always I am little bit regret about that, why don't I study.


PATEL: But life is that way because I come in this country, until then I don't speak English.


PATEL: Because in our time in Gujarat that only Gujarati medium and English start 8th standard that first and second abcd...and I am poor in study so I don't know...and that time I not necessary to (stuttering) (know) English. Then I come here then I realize okay I lose lot of things.

TANYA: Yeah.

PATEL: Yeah.

TANYA: So where did you study till like- 8th grade?

PATEL: I mean Ahmedabad

TANYA: No no where like what standard?

PATEL: Okay I study...I study up to 10 10th standard because my father passed away so all responsibility come in my hand and my brother sister everybody… yeah my brother that time his age was 5 years… yeah so lot of business responsibility lot of things, so I take over of the thing

TANYA: How old were you when your father died?


TANYA: 18? And which school did you go to?

PATEL: New Education High School and one other school and before that up to 5th I go a Premchand Raichand school.

TANYA: So when your father died did you know how to take care of the business or did you learn?

PATEL: Luckily, last two year he died before I was little bit he involved me because I go out and so that's why I always come to shop and do and then I realize that time. That time I learned something about business about the problem what the plus what the minus. That's why I catch up easily after he died.

TANYA: So after your father died was it easy for you to take care of your family? Were you the only one to take care of your family or did you get help from your uncle or anyone else?

PATEL: Yes my father friend..they helped me.. they helped me and others I can learn from (laughing) struggle. There's a lot of struggle because some places are partners and some places are employees. They take the advantage of that situation so I lot of...things learn in that time.

TANYA: When did you decide to come to America?

PATEL: So what happened after that my marriage at 20, 21, 2 years after. And then my sister marriage two sister marriage, so one sister is come US after is marriage and she gets citizenship then we they apply for my brother, then my other sister, I told no I don’t want to come..US because I don't want that labor job and these things. I am doing business and I am not greedy about the money...I need the simple life and that I don’t want. So long time then my sister, brother everybody forced me to come for the children. Otherwise long time you have a problem. So that’s why I sent my paper. My visa call come. I have two son and one daughter. And my wife and myself we...(stuttering) get the visa. But I am not want stay here. So that’s why my I get three ticket one way and and my wife ticket return ticket because I don’t want to stay here. So I put my children with my brother and sister and I go back after six months and that meanwhile that time I see US how I see the job...US how that job. So my wife go to one book company and told me k if you want job I told ok I can try. So he go to in Carteret one electronic company. That they do wiring. Like male female and they do, so I go there and start there and they have no labor job. They usually sit down they do job. So I like that, so I do 5- 6 months and I go back and I come back and I go India. My wife not like my children is here and then we come another time. That and I go to call the company then they say come here and do the job. My wife also go that book company

TANYA: Book company?

PATEL: Yeah, they were publishers, company, so they have a a a big book company


PATEL: What the real name I don’t know exactly and my son also go in that company and thy study also, my both son...both son, yeah

TANYA: And how many kids you have

TANYA: So I want to know more about your family, what was the name of your father and your mother

PATEL: My father, my father name is Trikamlal and my grandfather name is Nathalal, Trikamlal; Nathalal and we have company name, same name...Trikamlal & Nathalal.

TANYA: What’s your mom’s name?

PATEL: My-mm Kashiben...Kashiben

TANYA: And your wife’s name

PATEL: Sushila

TANYA: Sushila..okay, so when you moved here did you face any struggles? Besides, like, not liking this place or anything?

PATEL: No we faced the trouble, but because of my family come they early and their support that's why we had not that much struggle because before the come in student, my sister, husband they come in that time in lot of struggle and because of they are here and so we are lucky that we don’t have that much struggle.

TANYA: So your sister came here before you that helped you?

PATEL: Yeah...yeah and that time we had easy we...luckily we start our resident in Hilltop this Edison. And there was lot of com mmm..first time comer there and they easy to get the information k where the sometime get the job, you not get the many people here come, stay his brother home but his brother they go to job and they alone in the home. But we not face that thing because of we are lucky because my brother before we come, they set up in Hilltop.

TANYA: They already had--


TANYA: They had a job for you

PATEL: No after we get the find the people, knowledge and then we get the job. And I go to two three time go back to India and come six month here and there. And then we decided now we not now children here and we stay there no good, thats why we decided ke...we settle here and in my life I never ever do the job, just first time I do the job, and that way mind is that way. Kay we do anything small or big but we do our business. Nobody can hire and fire us (laughing) at a mine and that's why we start the business and because of for wife. My wife is a very good cook! In home, in India, everyday they make something different. And that's why we have a...good cook in the home. So we start ki okay why not we do something here like in that...and then we start the, think about lease this place and lease and start with big struggle. BIG STRUGGLE. Like in America I see the first big struggle because I have a little bit money. In the job and then financially I back up, my brother sister, they have, but I not take too much from them. And I start, I don’t know knowledge about construction. I have no knowledge about the township rule or anything, and we start something construction and the township puts the notice k “you put the plan” oh how we make the plan..where to find the engineer, where to make the plan. engineer , we find the one engineer, he made the plan, and then we go through the plan.You need the guy, plumber, electrician, everything and then after one day, come new thing and we find out k how we get this and slowly slowly we...and meanwhile we have that time we start...okay within one two month, we do finish this and we start the business. So everybody left the job and without job we do six months and then we put the everyday money, and our budget that time- $15-20,000 is finish. But end of the day, oh my god, everyday we put 75-80,000 and my wife and family fight with me kay give up, we don’t need more, I tell I not give up...and then end of the day we start this but that time in front pipe...we have no AC- air-conditioning because of we have no money so we are think k august we start this opening, so that's why cold time...but its not that cold.. In august was this. So that we have open the door and then, but thanks god k that my wife recipe and everything...people liked and from day one- day one, we are busy. and in this area, that time, not much restaurant or that, and we have lot of varieties in that menu because of that we survived and we start.

TANYA: So when you first came here, what was your first job?

PATEL: First job?


PATEL: This ac...electronic

TANYA: Okay so-

PATEL: first and last

TANYA: Were you the only Indian over there

PATEL: No they American and one Indian owners company


PATEL: And they that family also work there and other....six, seven Indian people also there. And they have a good part in that job they because they start in 8 o’clock and up to 10 o’clock night, you do work in 14 hour not more than that. They not go overtime or they left already. flexible. Like today I worked 7 hour, tomorrow I 12 hour and a week mean a week n time I put 40 hour, so they are agree. Eh eh they allow. So that's why I very flexible, I leave, wake up, I go late yeah

TANYA: So you didn’t face any problems with racism or anything?

PATEL: No racism we face… after the start the business here.

TANYA: What was it, how did you feel?

PATEL: Oh that was big racism, in..that time, in people in around the area, residence plus 1,2,3,4 bar here, that time, and in that time motorist, one motorcycle gang stay here and they have a big not like people and resident people also some. Not all. But this is a big fight with them always and prejudice some officials also prejudice we not accept immediately but difference at that time is lot of difference… 100 time difference

TANYA: Did they do anything to put you down or like put your restaurant down. Like stop you from doing business here?


TANYA: The gang you’re talking about

PATEL: No no because we...they put the eggs in glass and a...what...big water gun. People go and some ladies

TANYA: So how did you find the solution to the problem

PATEL: No we fight him, we start that time in the business association and in after some year, but in beginning, we my son and everyone, they challenge him, they go and the they walk and run with the car and then take the number, we give it to the police and lot of time we think, everyday but after 6-7 time and that time this area is very bad because American also their impression here.

TANYA: What year did you start your business in? Chowpatty.. When did it start?


TANYA: 1990?

PATEL: 1990

TANYA: Okay and why did you decide this location?

PATEL: Because that area is in Jersey City in the business is 1-2-3 store... 5 or 6 store so we live in a Hilltop in Patel Brothers next to here, I go to job and come here so that whys I like okay ki this is a better that time how better I don’t know but I like the locations wise kay okay we have future for this area

TANYA: So how long did it take to build upon this business? Did you face any failures?

PATEL: Not much because one time little bit...recession time because that time like now last 5 year that little bit problem but we have a catering business that's why not much effect the our retail business and we have a specialty so sometime we not face much , otherwise they have lot of people...this area because ehh...outside people, not around the New Jersey, around the this area so many restaurants, grocery store, before that everybody com here, people come from Pennsylvania, Washington, this a Connecticut, everywhere people come here, they have compulsory come here because not get here, but now this market is a speciality market. So in a weekdays we have a little bit problem in this area and but weekend we have no problem. And we do the business the catering business, out of state...Virginia, Florida, everywhere..yeah

TANYA: So in the beginning when you first opened this, how many employees did you have?

PATEL: Yeah that time...we have not much employee because our all family work yeah and beginning my sister, son and daughter , both sister, son and daughter, they come every Saturday Sunday, help me here and my both two son and daughter, my wife myself and I...was the one employee temporary.

TANYA: So going back to your family did your kids go to school here?

PATEL: Yeah.

TANYA: How old were they when they came here?

PATEL: We come here that time my daughter is younger

TANYA: What’s her name?

PATEL: Aarti.. Aarti and she is deaf and she no speak from birth

TANYA: So she is deaf and she can’t speak?

PATEL: No, because of deaf they no speak, any deaf person not speak yeah.

TANYA: So when she came here-


TANYA: Did she face any struggles she was deaf and she can’t speak

PATEL: Yeah she faced little bit struggle… struggle but what happened she is a hardworking girl, my sister in law she find out job for her in hospital laundromat and we put that because she don’t know no English because she did not India in deaf school there were less study and no education background much, so that’s why she’s no good English speaking or anything and zero and we tried to put in the school or anywhere but her age is the no allow because of they go young that what school....older people school—that so we can take their but they have a problem, he take the sign language and English, both for her very hard oh and American Sign Language and Indian sign language is much difference, very big difference so she learn American sign language and she learn English so she has a big problem so then they find out the job for her we go there and their supervisor, that person is good, and he told how I explain her so we tell what you week you try and we come with her and we explain her and how she work you can do see. So that person agree and one week we go and that guy is satisfied okay we hire her and she start the job and after one month we go there and ask him, her boss, ok how you feel for this ok he told that she is very hard-worker she is type of hard worker that I can fire half the staff (laughs) because she very honest ok we take the money we do work, thats why he's thinking. She go to bus and then she did 5-6 year that job and then that department is closed and then we do the job and then we settle the business and that's why she not find the job. Everywhere we go not satisfied with her job, and after she boy come from India for student and he also, he came for sponsorship and he, he's also deaf.

TANYA: He was also deaf?

PATEL: Yeah because one thing, one guy is in India, the regular person and deaf person married, that life is not because somebody, why they do this? Because that time because of the green card anybody anything for compromise and he get here, he run away and lot of people happened this thing so that decide he can, majority people in deaf both deaf is good, so then she married here and her husband also start the job and they live with us and now they both leave us and have boy and one girl, they grew up with us, and my one grandson is 27 year old

TANYA: So the two sons you have, what are their names?

PATEL: They live with us until married then they go say wife...go separate

TANYA: But what are their names?

PATEL: One is name is Sandeep and one is Chirag Patel


PATEL: And they have one wife is Meenal and one is Mona they have two (kids) both have girl and boy and names ( laughs)...Prarthana and Vandan boy name is Vandan. And one boy grandson...Omi and Rushi and I have total 6 grandson.

TANYA: Okay, so going back to your business, did you help in any kind of way, did you help your wife like make things in the kitchen.


TANYA: Or was she the only one....-

PATEL: She is a girl who very hard work, very very big hard work, everything morning to night...everything but because she is a coming from family is hardworking from his children life also in my...after marriage we have always guest come so many guest come- everyday so she cook every time in India like people come your village and then they in hospital we have big city, Ahmedabad, so in small village there are no good facilities or they come here for so they come here for statement or other type of things, so after 11 or 12 o’clock we finish the kitchen and everything and then people come, so they start the cooking and fill him, so that when she is a useful

TANYA: Okay so were you the first one to have business in America… for your family, were you the first one


TANYA: You were the first one?

PATEL: Yeah I am first one, yeah...yeah because my both sister in law and they do job, my brother also that time do the job, they come before me also and he do also job

TANYA: So in India, when you had your business over there, did you see any differences in India’s business and here?

PATEL: Ya lot of bu- difference, lot of buis-

TANYA: What were the differences ?

PATEL: Like one thing is in here in business, government harassment is less than India...but that I not feel much problem in India or here also, some good part is there, some good part here, some bad part here, some bad part there.

TANYA: So when you were in India it was the time of Independence?

PATEL: Yeah.

TANYA: It was before Independence of India? Right? When you were in India?

PATEL: Yeah-

PATEL: No 7..4.43...yeah

TANYA: So did you see, did you face any difficulties there?

PATEL: No that time I am not that young, that I not see anything, that Independent movement I know I not see anything or not I learned the history or that then I get the Idea k what the Independence people are struggling and what the struggle their-

TANYA: Okay so you moved here after that

PATEL: Yeah but after I move here it is 7, it is 7 I come here first time

TANYA: So when you came here for the first time, you lived here for 6 months and then you moved back?

PATEL: Yeah.

TANYA: So what did you do when you went back to India?

PATEL: My business is going on that time.

TANYA: Oh you still-

PATEL: Yeah ya still business was going on.

TANYA: So who handles it?

PATEL: My employees

TANYA: Is your family still there or your whole family is here?

PATEL: No no I am the last person to come here

TANYA: So do you have a house in India? When you go there and like?

PATEL: Where? India? Otherwise not because I am used to India

TANYA: So when you came here for the first time you stayed here with your sister?

PATEL: No my brother, my brother, my brother that time he is...before I am come here he married his wife and his family is her here, yeah and because of the education wise...he live in Jersey city with my sister so he know k be in Jersey city, this school is not good, so that's why he know the my son and everybody come here so they have good school for Edison so he move in Edison to the Hilltop apartment

TANYA: Okay, thank you so much for the Interview!

PATEL: Oh thank you!

Collection: Recording History: Live! Oral History Project
Item History: 2021-06-11 (created); 2021-06-15 (modified)

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