Falling in love with America

Esther Prabhakar
Posted 6/29/21

Becoming an American citizen is like falling in love.

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Falling in love with America


Becoming an American citizen is like falling in love.

With America and what she stands for. And then making the commitment to become part of her. When John and I left for the U.S. in 1967, the goal was to get through surgical residency and for John to get couple of degrees like FACS (Fellow of American college of surgeons) and FRCS(C) - Fellow of Royal college of surgeons (Canada) and then go back to India to practice.

John did get those two degrees, but then we wanted to practice here for a few years and then go back to India. So, we moved to Rochelle. But we’re still here 54 years later. What happened?

We had fallen in love with America and her people. John loved his solo practice in Rochelle. He was his own boss. The patients loved him and brought cookies, eggs and thank you cards. Our sons excelled in school here and every time we visited India, allergies and stomach upsets plagued us.

We realized that our children would have a better future in the U.S., the land of opportunity. I love my city, my church, my community, my friends and my prayer partners who have become like family. Needless to say we were slowly falling in love with the American way of life. But, did the U.S. want us to stay here?

Providentially, shortage of doctors in the 70’s in the states opened a way for us to apply for a green card (permanent residency) which allowed us to stay in the U.S. Now we had to decide whether to stay as Indian citizens and live here on an immigrant Visa long-term or change our citizenship to the U.S.

The disadvantages would be to give up all our properties in India, since foreign citizens cannot own property in India. Secondly, getting an Indian Visa every time we wanted to visit India would be a hassle.

But the advantages of citizenship far outweighed it. In a practical sense, we were already paying taxes, social security and John was even registered for selective service! Why not become a U.S. citizen and be able to vote and enjoy all the benefits and be actively involved? 

John and Larry became citizens in 1984. On Nov. 11, 1984, the day John became a U.S. citizen, we were in a friend’s home after the ceremony when John had an urgent phone call from the emergency room at Rochelle Community Hospital, saying that he was needed in ER.

He rushed over and as we entered the building. a large group of the hospital staff gathered there and shouted, “Surprise!” They had decorated with American flags and had a cake. I joined them and said the pledge of allegiance, sang the national anthem and partied American style! 

We celebrated July 4 in a new light. We installed a flag pole in the brick wall in the front of our house and hoisted the flag for the first time. Our first friend in U.S., Ms. Shirley Sparks, was visiting that holiday weekend. We sang the national anthem and saluted the flag with tears our eyes. What a privilege to become a US citizen.

I was the last one to become the citizen in my family, since it took time for my inheritance to be disposed of. My sister and brother-in-law benefited from it. 

I had to learn U.S. history just like my sons did in school and pass an oral examination by the interviewer. I had to produce documents like my birth certificate, marriage certificate and had to write down all the places we lived in the U.S. and what organizations we belonged to, etc.

I was cleared and I passed the interview. I was sworn in as a U.S. citizen at the Rockford courthouse in front of a Judge on May 10, 1990.

I was exhilarated. I am now a full-fledged, naturalized citizen of the United States of America. I am part of the land of the free and home of the  brave. A red letter day in my life. The DAR (Daughters of American Revolution) of Rockford, gave a nice cake reception to us all new citizens, almost like a wedding reception.

You see, getting a new citizenship is almost like getting married into a new family. New allegiance and a life-long commitment! 

I chose to become an American citizen for many reasons. Of course, the freedom we enjoy in this country is unbelievable. I can worship God in any of the 26 churches in Rochelle, meet anywhere, any time and pray and do Bible studies.

The natural beauty all across America is amazing, the spacious skies, the amber waves of grain, the purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plane. I love the spirit of adventure, invention, hard work, volunteerism and diversity I experience here in the U.S. I love our democratic process with liberty and justice for all.

But most of all I fell in love with America, because of the wonderful American people we met here — their friendliness, their generosity, their patriotism, the welcoming of recent immigrants like us and the care and concern shown to neighbors, friends and others in need, even far away.           

One of the patriotic things we’ve done for the last 35+ years, is to have a weekly prayer group meeting in our house and intentionally pray for our country, state and city.

I love you, America. Happy Birthday. May God bless you and your people.

Esther Prabhakar, Rochelle.