“I’m from India, and my husband was in the Peace Corps from South Dakota. He grew up on a sheep ranch in Butte County. We met in Bombay – Mumbai – and fell in love, I guess, and decided to get married. We were married there and then we came back here to the ranch. So I started my life in America on a sheep ranch in Butte County. It was worlds apart because I grew up in a highly populated country. Bombay at the time, I think, had like 13 or 14 million people. My mother’s neighborhood probably had more people than the whole state of South Dakota. The population at Castle Rock, on the sign it said ‘7.’
“It isn’t a typical immigrant story – it’s almost reversed. I grew up in an urban environment, I grew up in a wealthy family with lots of luxuries. I was used to having my own room, and servants, and the availability of a car and a driver. We lived fairly well. We were the cultured community.
“When I came to South Dakota to the sheep ranch, it was really interesting and strange to me because my husband did not clue me in on everything. I was well read and educated and I spoke English and had seen movies. I had an idea of what life in America was like except it was all through movies and books – Midwest living and ranching was not in the picture. Except in those westerns from the ‘50s, and that’s kind of what it was like, which surprised me. I thought that was like a thing of the past.
“Because the ranch didn’t have water, a well or whatever, they bought their water. A tanker would come and deliver it. Even though we had indoor plumbing we did not use the bathroom regularly. We were encouraged to use the outhouse so we wouldn’t waste water.
“And there were wild horses on the place, and wildlife.
“It was a total eye-opener. It was not what I expected to find here when I came. And I just loved it, it was like a big adventure. Everything was happening very fast as far as globalization but it hadn’t hit Butte County. It was good for me to live and understand the way of life that my husband grew up in.
“I had to work harder than I probably would have had to if I had stayed.
“I think that what’s great is every individual has opportunity. I had opportunity in India because I happened to be born into an advantaged family. But here there’s an opportunity for people who are born in any walk of life if they have the wherewithal and the determination and are smart enough to see the opportunity and use it.
“It’s fantastic. When I look at myself, even though I came here speaking English, I marvel that I was able to do what I have done in my lifetime. I worked for the Legislature and ended up being secretary of the Senate. I’m a foreigner, an immigrant, and I worked in that setting and was considered an equal by my colleagues.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement, but this still is the place where everybody else wants to be. And I think the people who live here have no idea how much they take for granted because it’s all so easy.”