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Mohammad Idris Oral History Interview

Oral history interview with Mohammad Idris on July 15th, 2022, conducted by Subat Matin. Born in Sandwip, Bangladesh, Idris came to the U.S. on a Business Visa in 1985. Once the U.S. government gave him amnesty to become a legal resident in the country, he saved money and brought his family to the U.S. He was finally able to help his relatives and provide his children an education. The only thing Idris knew about the U.S. before immigrating was that there were many opportunities here compared to other countries and that one can make a lot of money here. He is proud to be a Bangladesh-American and that he can live in the U.S. He realizes that had he lived in Bangladesh, he would not have had the same opportunities. Idris advises to seize the moment because even though his wife also wanted to travel, they were unable to because he was always busy trying to earn money.

Date: July 15, 2022
Type: Oral History
Creator: Subat Matin
Location: Brooklyn, NY

MATIN: Today is July 15th, 2022. Tell me your life story.

IDRIS: My name is Mohammad Idris, my father’s name is Abdul Hadi. My father has been in America for a long time and I am also presently living in America. I came to America in 1985, on February 13th. I came to America with a business visa from Bangladesh, I had a business in Bangladesh. With that business visa I came to America. After I came to America I traveled to different places within the country. My father’s house was in 631 Sterling Place and lived there. After staying there for a few days, I went to Florida and I really liked Florida. Then when I really wanted to stay in America and I saw places here and I knew I wanted to stay in America. Staying in America meant doing daily work and I started to slowly work with the everyday people like working construction jobs, painting, and repair and other jobs.

Within this time when the American government gave me amnesty that time I was working in a firm and since I was working there, they gave me paperwork. With that paperwork I was able to stay here. Throughout this time my dad and other relatives that were here they were working in different construction companies and doing repair work, these are jobs that I still do and did before as well. By this time, I was able to God willing make a lot of money and I was able to bring over from Bangladesh. Within my family I have two sons and a daughter and they are all established here and got an education here. Presently... a few months ago unluckily my wife passed away from cancer in America. Now I am alone and I live by myself and my older son lives with me, his wife and children stay with me as well. I am here together with my children in 121 Ave C. Presently, my life has been spent well and everyone is happy. Because I came to America, I was able to help many relatives and give them money when they needed it and helped them, which is why their happy and I am also happy. Should I say anything else?

MATIN: Before you came to America, what did you do in Bangladesh? What was your life like in Bangladesh?

IDRIS: In Bangladesh the first time I got an education was in 1974 when I gave my degree (high school) exam then later I began a business and my wife was a teacher in Bangladesh. The one thing that I wanted was to see America. I had a way to do that, to see America so got a visit visa and came to America for the first time since my dad was here. After I came, I wanted to stay in America and because of this wanting to stay what I had I succeeded.

MATIN: What was your childhood like in Bangladesh?

IDRIS: I had a good childhood since my dad lived in America and I was getting an education, go anywhere I wanted. My dad had built a lot of houses for us. In Chittagong he built a house for us, in Chittagong we had house there and in Sandwip too, the second house that was built in Sandwip was ours. Then in our house anyone who used to visit from Sandwip to Chittagong for any work they would stay at our house. Because of that we gained a lot of relationships (friendships) with people and we still have these people as our relatives. That time people knew us very well and even though people still do.

MATIN: How many siblings did you have? What was school like for you in Bangladesh?

IDRIS: My... actually I have to say my mom died at a young age in our Bangladesh there was a cholera disease and my mom passed away while we were little. In my mom’s house we were three brothers and one sister because of cholera one of my brothers and sister passed away. So, I just have two brothers now. Then my dad got married again and, in that house, combined with all of my siblings we are three brothers and one sister, but this sister also passed away last year in Bangladesh. She lived in America but died in Bangladesh. Presently, we are three brothers my name is Mohammad Idris, my older brother is Mohammed Sufian and my younger brothers name is Abdul Hannan Panna who is the President of Sandwip Society organization for the last three times. I work as Sandwip Association’s senior vice president. We like helping people and we do help people.

MATIN: What kinds of food did you eat in Bangladesh?

IDRIS: In Bangladesh every house has similar style which is in front of the house there is a pond and by the sides of the house there are other ponds. In those ponds there are all kinds of fishes and sometimes we used to cook and eat those fishes. Then near the village we had a farm, my father and uncles farmed and there were many vegetables, string beans, many vegetables that we used to eat. In our country most of the fishermen would catch fish from the ocean and bring it to sell in the shops so, we used to buy those fishes and cook it with the different vegetables that we had, cooking curry. This was mostly the food that we ate in Bangladesh. In the farm, we grew rice, with that we made baath (rice), three times a day we ate baath. Occasionally, in the villages they would make different kinds of pitha (Bangladeshi desserts/fritters) there were different kinds of pithas made during the wintertime. Other times chira muri (puffed rice) was also made and we ate those too. We ate these foods to keep ourselves healthy.

MATIN: While living in Bangladesh did you learn about American culture?

IDRIS: No, we didn’t learn that much, but when my dad lived in America, I would think that if you worked a lot, you would make a lot of money and people have money. In my mind I thought I would come to America one day and through the grace of Allah he fulfilled my wish.

MATIN: After coming here did you change your mind about America?

IDRIS: No, I never changed my mind. The way I see it is that America is a country in the world with great opportunity. Here people have so many benefits and opportunities that is nowhere else in the world. Here if people wanted, they could have an opportunity to make money, be happy, live happily and safely. I think no other country has these benefits.

MATIN: When you left Bangladesh how did you feel?

IDRIS: I always liked America the most. I liked the work environment, being able to travel throughout the country, my friends, considering everything more than Bangladesh I always liked America better.

MATIN: Why did you come to New York specifically?

IDRIS: Actually, with my business visa I first came to Dallas, but my father lived in New York in 631 Sterling my father had a house there so I came here. After I came here the only thing, I could do was construction work and I didn’t try anywhere else either. Coming here everyone that I knew worked and so did I.

MATIN: While living in Bangladesh did any other Bangladeshis talk about America?

IDRIS: While living in Bangladesh... my father was the second person from Sandwip to come to America when he used to make money, the people in the village would say “how is your father making so much money” that time it was everyone’s dreams to come to America one day than they could also make a lot of money. So, following my father, especially people from Sandwip a lot of people came to America. They all wanted to know how you could get to America, some people jumped from ships, some got business visas and through different ways they came to America. (People would say) America is our dream country and we want to make a lot of money like Abdul Hadi.

MATIN: Did you ever face any discrimination from Americans?

IDRIS: Actually, from the American people I never felt any discrimination, but one time I was working with a friend, in Bangladesh he was my school mate, after I came, he came over to see me and bought two shirts for me and he told me that I would work with him. So, I worked with him and in order to begin making money, I would walk to his house in Brooklyn somewhere in Lafayette Ave. I was walking one day in the evening and this guy came up behind me and held a knife to my throat and took money out of my pocket. I was shocked and thought about who could rob me. I tried looking for the person, but I couldn’t find him. People told me these kinds of things happen here and how some of the black people (in that area) do this. He took the money, but I didn’t face anything like that. I was always made sure I was safe.

MATIN: After coming to America, how did you adjust to the American lifestyle?

IDRIS: Actually, over here even if you were educated in Bangladesh we only studied until high school. After coming here, I didn’t have any issues speaking, I spoke Bangla, English, Hindi and Urdu. Before I was in the Middle East for four and half years in Abu Dhabi, over there after meeting all kinds of people from different countries I was able to speak Hindi and Arabic. The middle language for us was Hindi and Urdu and learned those quickly. Since there were so many people there from different countries who couldn’t speak English who chose to speak Hindi and Urdu. Then speaking to the Arabs, we had to learn how to speak Arabic. That time I very quickly picked up on learning Arabic, Hindi and Urdu together. That’s why living in America was easy because I was able to speak all kinds of people since we already knew four to five languages.

MATIN: What do you like the most about New York?

IDRIS: In New York actually... we came to America praise Allah, made money and was able to buy a house and a car. If we stayed in Bangladesh, we wouldn’t have been able to drive. We came to America and we are able to drive a car and we can help different people. By saving money we can help our relatives back in Bangladesh, people who are poor and also friends here who are not that well off I can also help them. That’s why I am happy because I am making money and with this money, I am able to help many people, that’s why I am happy.

MATIN: Did you have to learn English once you came here? Or did you already know English before you came?

IDRIS: No actually, I didn’t have to learn English, but the accents here... I had to listen to it carefully, but English I already knew. Sometimes that way English is spoken here it’s hard to understand, but I got used to it by talking to the people here and I learned.

MATIN: Did you leave your family in Bangladesh when you first came to America?

IDRIS: When I first came, I was by myself. My wife that time worked as teacher in Bangladesh, she worked as a teacher for sixteen years. When I became an American citizen that’s when I applied for my wife, my wife, Suraiya Begum, my two sons and daughter, my daughter Sultana Yesmine, my older son Mohammad Saiful Islam and youngest son Mohammad Shadat Islam, I brought them to America. In America all of children went to school and college here. My youngest son works a IT job, my daughter sometimes works as a teacher in schools, she couldn’t graduate with an American (bachelors) degree, she finished her associates before so now she’s completing her degree now. She works as a teacher online and in person. My oldest son doesn’t have a job, he used to drive a taxi, he doesn’t want to work a particular job so he doesn’t work, he got an education from a college here as well.

MATIN: How many times did you go back to Bangladesh to see your relatives?

IDRIS: The first time I went back probably after four and a half years later, the first time. Then after two years I go went for the second time, then two or three years later I went a third time. Later I bring my wife.

MATIN: How did you keep in contact with your family back in Bangladesh then?

IDRIS: That time telephones were not readily available. I would write letters to my wife and then later we could use the telephones because we had it in our house here and in Bangladesh. I would talk to them by telephone.

MATIN: Do you consider Bangladesh or America your home now?

IDRIS: Here there is a lot of Bangladeshi people and I talked to them in Bangla and with the people who I work with here like Americans I speak to them in English.

MATIN: When your wife came here what kinds of work did she do? Did she work outside or stay at home?

IDRIS: She used to work at AT&T along with my daughter for a few days. Then she tried getting a job at a school, they gave her a position at... it’s next to our house, but I can’t remember the name of the school. She had an honorable certificate stating that she was a good teacher and then she wanted to become a teacher here. But by Allah’s will she couldn’t and she passed away later so she couldn’t become a teacher here.

MATIN: When you first came to America and your kids were here too, how did role as a father and husband has changed? Or do you think noting changed for you?

IDRIS: No, my wife and I had a good relationship with our children. Me and wife were very happy and no American culture or European culture (ideologies) had been in our relationship. We mostly followed Bangladeshi culture and raised our family that way. We were respectful to each other and therefore, we never had any problems and we didn’t have problems with our children either.

MATIN: What did you teach your children about Bangladeshi culture?

IDRIS: My kids were older when they came, they finished high school and were going attend college once they came here. That’s why I didn’t have to teach them about Bangladeshi culture because they already learned came here knowing about Bangladeshi culture. After coming here, they learned how to speak English and went to college, they learned about English culture here.

MATIN: What do you think is different about Bangladeshi culture compared to American culture?

IDRIS: Mostly in our Bangladeshi culture, husband, wife and children like to stay together. But in America that doesn’t happen. In America when children grow up, they like to live by themselves and after they get married, they also get their own houses and leave. But mostly Bangladeshis stay together with their families, the parents and husband and wife all live together. Then later their children will buy their own houses and leave, but Bangladeshi people usually like living together first before living separately, that’s in Bangladeshi culture. The parents also want their children helping them a little, the different ways to help the like giving them food, and whatever else, if their sick to take them to the hospital and then bring them back. That’s Bangladeshi culture, but in American culture there are many who work in different places and don’t really care about their parents, but Bangladeshi people do. Now a days maybe the few people who first came adapted American culture which is why you can see a few differences there.

MATIN: Did you face any problems keeping Bangladeshi culture for your children and grandchildren?

IDRIS: As I said before since my children came here when they were older, they didn’t have to change their culture. I don’t know about the future, but I have grandchildren from my sons and daughter. My daughters son is now... studied engineering at NYU and graduated this year and I don’t understand him yet, if he is going fully adapt to American culture or take some of Bangladeshi culture, but I don’t know. Mostly, it seems like he is adapting American culture and that depends on him. We are trying to help him hold onto Bangladeshi culture, but whether he keeps it or not is hard to understand.

MATIN: Where did you get Bengali and halal foods from? Was it difficult to find those?

IDRIS: Actually, we didn’t know that you could find halal foods here at that time if I’m being honest. Even how other foods mixed with each other we didn’t know. Since we are Muslim, Muslims people can only eat halal and here the different sandwiches that are made there is pork and other things in those that people didn’t know about. One day I bought food... I bought a sandwich and on that they put fried bacon on top of that, when I asked them about the sandwich, they asked me if I wanted sauce, they called that something with a sauce. Then they fried that on top and the people that I bought the food for they asked me what did you bring? That’s pork. I didn’t know that and slowly when I talked to everyone, I understood that here they have some food where they put pork. The ones that are halal we still buy that and, in many places, it’ll say that it is halal food and that is where we ate from.

MATIN: What do like about Bangladeshi culture?

IDRIS: In Bangladeshi culture a lot of Bangladeshi people are religious. They try to follow the religious rules. Bangladeshi people are mostly Muslim they pray the five daily prayers. Everyone prays together and then goes back to work. When our children greet everyone with “Assalamualaykum” (peace be upon you) we say “Wa’alaykumusalam” (and upon you be peace), from one generation to another it grows and that is a good thing for us. In American culture they say hi and hello to us, but that doesn’t really grow any relationships. As Bangladeshis we grew our relationships. Now a days I... when Eid finished my wife’s three brothers came here and their wives are here too and because I am their elder, they still touch our feet for salaam as a way of respect, this Eid they came and touched my feet for salaam. This is one kind of way that I appreciate because they respect me that’s why gave me salaam. I accepted their salaam and they came and asked me what I wanted to eat and take, they tried to show me a lot of care and respect and I am very happy about that.

MATIN: How does Islam influence our Bangladeshi culture?

IDRIS: Having Islam all over the world is a way to build relationships with everyone and to grow. This is something that I think is very good since Islam people... such as, taking care of your parents, showing affection to the young and respecting elders, these are in Islamic culture. People who hold onto Islamic culture they will have these qualities. Our Bangladeshi people follow that a lot... Bangladeshi people do this.

MATIN: Do you think there are any problems with Bangladeshi culture?

IDRIS: I don’t see that many problems with Bangladeshi culture because in Bangladesh when children go grow up the parents say that I’m going to get my son married or I’m going to get my daughter married that’s always a responsibility for the elders. When they turn 18, 19-year-old, finish college and graduate then they think about getting their sons or daughters married. The elders look for a groom or a bride, after they find someone, they will say you guys see if there could be a match here so the elders go see. Or sometimes the boys, this rare, will tell the elders that there is a girl you guys go see her, but mostly the parents look for someone. They will see and talk to the respective guardians. After the guardians talk and everything is fine, they will say your son or your daughter, will get married to each other. The purpose of this is for the elders to talk and then to get the guy and girl to talk and see if they like each other. In one sense that is good, they get to see and talk before getting married. Now it changed a little because those who get an education, they usually find someone on their own and then they let their parents know that they are in a relationship and for the parents to see if they can get married.

For example, when I made the decision to get my older son married, my older son said that he wants to get married so we went to Bangladesh and after we went to Bangladesh the school that he had went to the teachers there said they had someone in mind for him. If you guys agree then we can get them married. Then my wife went to see and told me about the family and their status and how the girl studies at Chittagong College. Then we agreed and my son also agreed and they got married. The same thing happened with my daughter. When my daughter graduated from college, by our house (in Chittagong) there was place called New Market they used to go buy gold all the time. The storeowner told my wife that he knows a guy who studies at university and if we would be interested in looking into it. My wife went and found out information about the family, how the family was, how are the people were and then she let me know. Everything worked out and she got married to him, but they never knew each other or were in a relationship, they just talked to each other afterwards. I think in one kind of way this is a good thing. Sometimes children don’t understand and when they go to school or college, they can meet someone and be in a relationship and if it grows, they don’t know things about the family background, what is behind this family’s background, are they good people and then later there could be problems for them.

MATIN: After living in America for so many years do you consider yourself a Bangladeshi or an American?

IDRIS: Actually, I am both. I am American, but I’m also Bangladeshi. I am American, but I grew up in Bangladesh and follow the Bangladeshi culture so I’m Bengali.

MATIN: What do you think is the difference between someone who is Bangladeshi and Bangladeshi-American?

IDRIS: Bangladeshi are people who don’t understand other people’s culture and don’t see the world. When I was in the Middle East I worked with many kinds of people. I talked to people from different countries, we talked about our cultures, about our families, etc. Then when I came to America, America I talked to other friends and family... I understood that if a person who just stays in Bangladesh, they don’t know anything else about the world, they don’t know about the different cultures and people. That’s why if people can they should connect and talk to all kinds of people.

MATIN: Where did you meet other Bangladeshi people when you first came here?

IDRIS: Here the most Bangladeshi people you can find is in Church and McDonald Ave. Like I said when I first came, I stayed at my fathers house in 631 Sterling in downtown. I didn’t stay there for long and my cousin’s husband took me to live in another house to live with them that was is in 42nd and 9th Ave. That’s why I have been in this area for a long time and still live here. I like this area.

MATIN: How do you like the Brooklyn area from before?

IDRIS: The Brooklyn area is better than it first used to be. Before there wasn’t a lot of cultures or Bangladeshi living here. There were a few people from other countries and no one knew each other, but now there is mostly our Bangladeshi people and other kinds of people like the Spanish, America, European, Russian. It’s a mixing of people and you can talk to all kinds of people so since everyone knows about each other people have good relations.

MATIN: How is the Bangladeshi community in Brooklyn now?

IDRIS: The Bangladeshi community grew in Brooklyn. They work on and make their own money and they were able to build different communities. For instance, I am from Sandwip and have thirteen unions here and because of these thirteen they created a union and for the Sandwip people the Sandwip Association was created and another association, the Sandwip Society was also created. Through these people and their relatives help different groups of people. In this virus (pandemic) in America, the virus that just passed and still here a little, many people died from it, but no one was brave enough to bury them. The community people that are in Sandwip Association, the president, secretaries and me senior vice president we tried to help those who were part of the associations, anyone who passe away we help bury them. Then the second association Sandwip Society the society’s president is my younger brother, he tried to help the most and with his secretary they helped give funerals to a lot of people. He is a hard worker and works to help others.

MATIN: You mentioned before that you are the Vice President of Sandwip Society...

IDRIS: Senior Vice President.

MATIN: Senior Vice President, what do you like the most about this organization?

IDRIS: People want to live peacefully so I thought that if I could be part of an organization, I can help people that is my only reason. I am part of this organization I can help people one way or another, in Bangladesh, here, or other people of need here I can help them through the association. We also do things for ourselves like social events and through this we just help others. Those people who are in the villages back in Bangladesh who are poor and can’t afford to get their sons or daughters married or people who are we raise money and try to help with that too. This is good work.

MATIN: The Bangladeshi people who are living in Brooklyn what kinds of struggles and challenges do they have?

IDRIS: They don’t really struggle here. Their all hard workers and they are busy with their own work, I don’t think they struggle a lot. However, the rent here is a little high so those who are newcomers they have a hard time paying rent, it is a struggle for them. That’s why a few people go to other states where the rent is cheaper and stay there. But if you compare the income here more. Those who work odd jobs like, construction, driving taxi, working in restaurants people who work make good money and that’s why people want to stay here more. The other states might not have such things, but the one thing that is easier for them is the cheaper rent, that’s why they want to live in other states. Recently, some people even went out of state.

MATIN: When you were in school in Bangladesh did, they teach you about when Britain had control over the Bengal region? Did they teach you or tell these stories/history?

IDRIS: In our history, the British and Indian history, our history started there. The history... how they came to our country, who in country, the British, India or Pakistan that had control over Bangladesh those are the history that we know about. Then when Bangladesh was part of India... under British control, later it divided into Pakistan and India, we were part of Pakistan. Then we separated from Pakistan, East Pakistan and West Pakistan. East Pakistan became Bangladesh and independence country. That’s our country now Bangladesh. The other part, West Pakistan is still there too.

MATIN: What do you remember about the 1971 war in Bangladesh? What are your thoughts or opinions on the 1971 Bangladesh genocide?

IDRIS: When “Bangabandhu” (friend of Bengal) Sheikh Mujibur Rahman tirelessly worked for Bangladesh. The Pakistani army didn’t want him to come in power. Rahman told Bangladeshis to take arms against Pakistan and that he is going to fight for Bangladesh’s independence. Then we listened to Bangabandhu, and all fought against Pakistan. When Pakistan started to hurt and commit crimes against Bangladeshis many went to India to train on how to fight a guerilla war against Pakistan. Bangladeshis fought the Pakistani army and won independence. But in the meantime, our Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Pakistani soldiers took him away and he was in India... sorry in Pakistan and when country became independent, they said that he could go back to his country. He said where am I going to go? I don’t know how the country is right now but send me through the British sewerage to India so that I can get to Bangladesh that way. Then he saw that Bangladesh was completely independent and later he was prime minister of Bangladesh for three and half years and because of some conspiracies him and his whole family was killed.

MATIN: Do you know anyone who fought in the war? Or took refuge in India during the war?

IDRIS: Yes, I know people. There were a lot of people who lived near us that fought in the war. I also helped a lot of people go to India to train for the war. In our village we gave money to people who wanted to go fight. We told them go to India and train that way you can come back here and help fight. Many of my friends left, but luckily, I didn’t. I stayed in my village. But those who wanted to go fight in the war we helped them out in many ways.

MATIN: What did you think about the famine that occurred in Bangladesh in 1974? What do you remember about it?

IDRIS: Actually, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman wanted to help Bangladesh in different ways. During that time the country wasn’t in good condition, and he tried to help. Many other countries came forward to help him. Politically there wasn’t enough food supply given from other countries to aide Bangladesh which is why many didn’t have enough to eat. Bangabandhu tried to help and was doing so, but later he died. In our village we were okay and had enough money. The people around us who were affected we donated and helped around us.

MATIN: What do you think is the most important about Bangladesh’s history?

IDRIS: I think Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is important.

MATIN: Do you think he is the most important?

IDRIS: Yes, he was important for Bangladesh.


IDRIS: He was the only one who was able to get Bangladesh out of the war. He agreed to fight against the Pakistanis and he led the Bangladeshis to fight in the war and become independent. He was the only leader to do that. There hasn’t been a better leader than him. He was brave and a tall figure male.

MATIN: You said earlier that a lot of Bangladeshis went to work in the Middle East and so did you, can you tell me about that experience?

IDRIS: Those of us that stayed in Bangladesh we knew that Bangladesh’s amount of money is smaller compared to other countries. So, if we worked abroad, we came one dirham in the Middle East then here it would six dirhams so that was a lot of money. Now in America one dollar is worth 85-95... so the money in Bangladesh and work was not that easy. That’s why we all agreed to go abroad. We’d go abroad, save money and send it to Bangladesh for our families and it will be good for them. We thought about this so we all went abroad for that. Most of our Sandwip people went abroad and worked in different countries.

MATIN: How did you like the Middle East? How did the people their treat you?

IDRIS: We just used to work there. As a Muslim country they didn’t treat us that way just as someone who was working there. As a Muslim brother or give us special treatment or help they didn’t do that. Just the way they used to give people jobs or the that we worked hard at these jobs that’s all we got from them nothing else.

MATIN: When you came to America, you said that you worked in construction, was your job always working at a construction company or did work different jobs?

IDRIS: I was worked a construction job. The first time I worked under people, but once I learned the work, I have my own contracts now an people work under me.

MATIN: When you came to America did you ever hear about contract marriages?

IDRIS: This was because when people came this was the only way they could stay in America... how can they stay in America, they needed papers from America. That time people wanted to stay so they would marry... some people married permanently and others did a contract marriage. They married for a time period and gave them money for a time period and once the papers were made, they would leave, that would be the contract. Some people who did this hid it or didn’t tell anyone they got married, but they wouldn’t want to continue to that marriage. That’s it.

MATIN: What was your immigration process like for you?

IDRIS: For me everything was easy since I came to visit this country with a business visa. After I came was legal here and later when I was able to get my paperwork done quickly so my life here was easy and it wasn’t hard for me since I didn’t have to go towards the (contract) marriage. My life was easy.

MATIN: What was it like working with different groups of people?

IDRIS: It was nice for me. Since my father was here, a few of my friends were here too. They knew my father and would tell me that they lived with him and they would help me. That’s why I liked it here. They worked with my dad they said you were Abdul Hadi’s son and you can work with us. Because of that everyone knew me pretty well. Because of my father they knew me better and they wouldn’t address other than Idris Bhai (brother) especially my dad’s acquaintances. Now I remember a classmate of mine was a big contractor in America and he first came to see us, he came and took me and whatever payment he would hive worker he would give me $20 more. He would tell us stories and say that when you guys were in Bangladesh you had nice clothes and walk around with it and I still remember that.

MATIN: Do you still reminisce about your life in Bangladesh?

IDRIS: While I lived in Bangladesh there were two things that always stayed in my head. One thing being if I could never come to America the I will become a teacher. My wife was a teacher and I thought I would become one too. My wife and I decided to do this together, become a schoolteacher and that is what our life would be like since we were well off. This was a dream I had. But later my opportunity to come to America was successful which is why I didn’t do this.

MATIN: What is your favorite memory of Bangladesh or your life there? What do you miss about living in Bangladesh?

IDRIS: In Bangladesh I’m a village boy. My whole life was spent in the village. My father and uncles who lived in the village were all farmers. They used to farm vegetables and paddy fields. My friends and I used to go to the stores and eat “mola” (puffed rice ball with date sugar). There was kalojaam fruit, we used to have a kalojaam tree in our village, a very big tree and the kalojaam would fall under the tree and we would collect them and eat it. Last time I went to Bangladesh I wanted to eat kalojaam, but I couldn’t find it anywhere so I forgot about it. A few days I came to the corner store here (Matin grocery store) and I suddenly saw that they had kalojaam so I bought it and ate a lot of them. Then I was thinking about how I dreamed about eating kalojaam. Today I saw in my brother-in-law’s house that they also have kalojaam here. This was one of my favorite foods and I used to eat this Bangladesh. We ate different fruits like boroi and mango that we used to pick from trees and eat it. There were fresh fruits in Bangladesh that we can’t find here. My favorite was in the villages there were date trees and we used to make syrup in order make shirni (Bangladeshi dessert) from it that I used to enjoy with my friends. There was different tree so from one tree we would get coconut, from another friend’s house we would get the syrup and then rice from someone else house so we used to enjoy eating those a lot. Many of my friends left this world and I am not the same age anymore to do these things. We don’t have that time anymore and aren’t at that age anymore. But when I went to Bangladesh recently the person looks over our land, I told him get date syrup and brought it over to our house and make shirni.

MATIN: Once you came here how did you find out events that occurred in Bangladesh?

IDRIS: Through different relatives. Since I used to talk to my wife and other relatives, I was able to find out things that were happening.

MATIN: Would you change anything about your immigration journey?

IDRIS: The only thing was wrong for me my was date of birth that’s why I wasn’t able to use my original certificates for my jobs. When I came here that got messed up, but I wanted to come here and continue my education. But since my paperwork was messed up, I couldn’t do that and didn’t fix it. The way I came to America with all the paperwork and everything I wasn’t able to continue my education. Sometimes I would think that I want to study. Even after my wife she told me to study and I didn’t have the opportunity. I had to go to work and make money. In my mind I knew since my paperwork got messed up, I didn’t even try to get an education.

MATIN: What are you most proud of? What accomplishments are you most proud of?

IDRIS: I am proud to be an American, that’s what I’m proud about. I came to America and was able to make money, give to my relatives, I’m proud of that. I’m first proud of even after making money in America I was able to go to hajj twice and umrah twice I’m most proud about this. If I stayed in Bangladesh, I wouldn’t have been able to make that much money and wouldn’t have been able to go to hajj. Even though I live here it was by Allah’s plan that I was make money. That’s why for friends and relatives... I live in America and I can drive a car, but in Bangladesh a boy like me wouldn’t have been able to drive or own a private car, it was only possible because I live in America. If I go anywhere in the world there isn’t any issues for me since I am an American citizen that is also a big proud moment for me, and anywhere I go people will respect me because I am an American citizen. I’m proud of that.

MATIN: Would like you like to say anything else?

IDRIS: No, I don’t want to share anything else, my relatives and my children are all doing well praise Allah, everyone is educated and are doing well from all parts of their lives. My wife isn’t her, she left from this world. If my wife was here, I wanted to travel the world with her. I have the means to do that now, but I don’t want to go by myself, where am I going to visit by myself? That is something that I always think about. My wife always wanted to travel, but I thought that one day when I have enough money then we would be able to travel, but this thinking is wrong, no matter what moment people are at in their lives they should try to do whatever they want.

Collection: Subat Matin Oral History Interviews
Donor: Subat Matin
Item History: 2023-04-07 (created); 2023-04-07 (modified)

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