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Interview with: Mr. and Mrs.Koshy Thomas
Interviewed by: Nik Nikam, MD, MHA
NN: Hi! I am Dr. Nik Nikam. Welcome to the Foundation for
India Studies. This is an Indo-American Oral History
Project, brought to you in collaboration with the Houston
Public Library. Our guest, today, is Mr. Koshy Thomas. Mr.
Koshy Thomas and Mrs. Thomas, welcome to the Foundation for
India Studies. Mr. Koshy Thomas let’s start with your
background, where you come from India, and tell us something
about your early days in India.
KT: Okay. My name is Koshy Thomas and my wife, Mani, is also with me. And I’m coming from -- my life in the United States is very different from the counterparts in this country. Usually, professionals or students come from India, study here, and take their PhDs, post-graduate degrees, and then go into professions. I am not like that one, because there is a group of people who came from Kerala -- those days they were mostly depended on their professional wives who came and then they started their life, I am one among them. May be around 100,000 families in the country came from Kerala, most of them are nurses. That’s were my life started.
I was born to a blind father. I was born to a blind father, my parent, he was probably blind from age six or seven, I don’t know exactly when he went blind. And my -- everything which I follow in my life in principle, business, everything based on their education.
As I said my name is Koshy Thomas. My wife, Mani, is with me. We are married for 48 years. And we came -- I’m from the southern part of Kerala. Unlike other professionals who came into this country earlier than me, but they come here for studies and then engaged in the job opportunity up here, but my case was different. We came on our wives’ visa and then continued our life up here. Probably I believe there will be about 100,000 families from Kerala, mostly nurses, in and around the country.
NN: I’m familiar with the nursing situation --
KT: I was born to a blind father who was blind probably from six or seven till such time he was good. And my life structure is based on what his teachings were and what he did for the people and for the others also. Though he was blind, he raised five children, one better than the other. I am one among them and then he ran more then one business at the same time. So, I became one of -- part of that business maybe by 10 or 11, became a part of that thing. So, that entrepreneurship kept on running my life.
So, I had to take a lot of responsibility in the house, then I went to studies. Studies also was a part of my business. Everything I went along and then I had to -- when the time was to marry, my sister suggested her friend as to be my wife, I readily accepted it and we are here now after 48 years we are still sitting here. And then we moved to the United States in the year 1971.
NN: ‘71. So what did you study in India?
KT: I was just a regular study, no professionalism, and I am not a journalist, though I run a good newspaper in the country I am not a journalist. I am not an editor, I don’t edit anything, but I learned to run the organizations by appointing right people up there.
NN: That’s very good, so what -- where did you land in the United States when you came?
KT: We came to New York; that was the time in 1971. I will say it was a deserted place for us, because we didn’t see anybody up there which 00:05:07 our lives.
NN: Yeah, it’s kind of strange when you say New York
NN: And how -- when did you come to Houston?
KT: We moved to Houston in 1978. That is -- maybe various reasons. One thing -- the main reason was she started getting sick because of the extreme cold weather. And here there was an opportunity, so we moved over here, she was a nurse. She got the job in Veterans Hospital. That was plus for me, but I was always a businessman.
When we came in 1971, I started a boutique store in 1972 and that made me well enough to buy a house and other things and we settled there. And then in those days -- probably by 1978 the economy went so bad, New York was really deserted at that time. So, we decided -- in Texas, everything was smelling -- dollar was -- the oil was smelling dollars at 00:06:20. So, we also moved with an opportunity, with a business. I bought a franchise, came over here, that was a Minuteman Press. That was the only printing press run by any Indian at that time.
So, I got a good opportunity to mix with all the Meenakshi Temple, all those places and -- then unfortunately or fortunately I had to close it down in probably ‘81, I think ‘81 or ‘82 I had to close it down.
NN: So, what, kind of, things that you produced --?
KT: It was a printing press.
NN: Oh! Printing press. Was it like newspapers or --?
KT: No, no just a regular printing press like a copy 00:07:01 a full copy. So, that was a not the right time. Again, I was not professional; I had to hire people for everything. Then the economy went so bad that probably all those engineers were fired from here.
NN: I know, I remember in 1980 when I left Detroit they had a sticker saying the last person to leave town please turn the lights off. That’s about the same time.
KT: That was the situation I too had to close my place. Then I didn’t give up my profession whatever it was there. I went on looking for opportunities. Then I found a small business. That is called making rubber stamps. I started doing by making one after the -- there was the lead letters, put it all in the things and cooked it, and then started making that. That started paying dividends. So, that went up to probably about 200 stamps a day.
NN: Oh! That’s good.
KT: Yeah, that’s -- I myself did it. I will get up in the morning, go to my garage, sit there, and do it, and then I’ll pack in the car, drive along, and deliver it, and then come back.
NN: So, these were all -- these old rubber or leather stamps?
KT: Rubber, rubber stamps, okay. That I did everything, cutting the wood, drilling the machine, everything, I did myself and it went very well. Again, bad luck followed. During that time -- from there that is by hand, I just moved into an automatic machine. That automatic machine needed a type setting machine, letters were typesetted, and then cooked from there. So, I had to buy typesetting machine and a --
NN: So, this type setting was --
KT: Bar combed camera set everything has to be marked. That -- maybe I invested about $50,000 on it and that was running good. And I think that helped me in two ways. One thing, I was the only typesetter in the whole of the city from 00:09:12. So, I used that typeset -- means among Indians when I say that, there are so many other people, I used typesetting business card, letter, flyers, whatever, you name it.
NN: Was it -- was this type setting done at that time on a computer or is it by hand?
NN: On a computer, it’s not like you were putting --?
KT: No, no, no --
NN: I remember the days when you are --
KT: No, no, compugraphic machine. So, where I invested about $50,000.
NN: Yeah, that’s interesting.
KT: So, it was working well, but unfortunately the rubberstamp business failed, because --
NN: May be it ran its course.
KT: No, it did not run its course, all on a sudden Office Depot came in.
NN: Oh! I see.
KT: When Office Depot came in and they were ordering the -- they were taking orders for the rubberstamps. So, here it kills the business, they were big, and then I had no other choice.
But my typesetting machine went on, that that was so good job to continue. In the process -- during that time, if you ask me exactly the year I may not remember it, Sindwani was the president of ICC at that time and we came in contact.
NN: ICC, you mean India Culture Center?
KT: India Cultural Center, we came in touch with him. So, he was running a newspaper named Indo American News. In those days, he get everything typesetted from Canada, bring it over here, Pramod will place it up on the 00:10:37. So, he told me, “Thomas Sir, let’s do some typesetting.” Then I took over that too I did the typesetting for him. After maybe a year later he said, no, I closed it, I didn’t have any money coming in, I did not want to do it. Then I told him, no, don’t close it because it’s my revenue also, don’t close it, I will help you. That is where the real Indo American again started.
NN: What year was this Indo American?
KT: I don’t remember exactly what year?
NN: 1980 or so?
KT: 1980 or --
NN: Because I remember coming to your place and watching all those typesets.
KT: And then it -- we formed a corporation with myself, Sindwani, Jawahar, and Pramod. It was the whole thing at there -- and they all had work in their --
NN: Full time jobs.
KT: Full time jobs and poor man I am left with the office.
NN: You are the assembly line.
KT: Yeah, assembly line, doing everything. And after two or three years I thought hey, they have their own money coming in, I don’t have any money. I told if I can do all this job myself I can do it for myself, because everything is done by me, advertisements, everything is done by me. I said, I’ll do it myself.
NN: Well, I guess, you said you started entrepreneurship at age 10, so --
KT: Yeah, so, I told them -- I told them this is the situation I wanted to go out. And there were some crooked clause in the order and then they said, no, I don’t want to buy it. But finally they negotiated and they bought my shares and that was in ‘87. I started it and from there I started with the same name, about 2,000 copies.
NN: So, you started with your own newspaper. What was it called then?
KT: Voice of Asia.
NN: The same name.
KT: I didn’t change the name, I very -- from my intelligence I chose the name Voice of Asia. I think that is the only Indian newspaper having a different name other than India. It worked very well with me because I start -- and I just -- actually, we did very well with that one and now, fortunately, I am very proud to say that, that is the best and number one in circulation, color, contents, quality, everything that is the best in Texas. I won’t go further to New York or anything I am sure there are better papers, but that is the best in the country -- in the Texas and it’s doing good.
MK: And that is the largest also.
KT: It is the largest.
KT: Contents, quality, numbers, everything that is the number one. And recently, we signed a contract agreement with the PBS as their media partner for Living Smart.
NN: Living Smart, yeah.
KT: That’s a segment aired in all over the world, they have got about 200 stations, and we will start working on that contract from January 8th.
NN: That’s interesting. So, you said you came to Houston in 1978. So, what, kind of, changes have you seen in the past 23 plus years?
KT: Actually, it is totally changed; totally changed means in the structure everything because the community was small. The only place at time was India Culture Center was there and our -- that Meenakshi Temple, they were just starting to construct, and, fortunately, I was involved with all those things, because I was the typesetter, I was the printer, I was in everything. So, it’s a topic change -- those days we were living in the Alief area. There was no road further to that -- the area I showed at that time, it was dark. We don’t go up to that place after 6 o’clock or something.
So, now, it was -- we went up to where, I think you can count up to Austin now. Austin now, it’s all improved and the community probably how many times it’s multiples of the thing and only one temple to many temples. Now, maybe there are around 10 or 12 churches up here. So, it’s a great community, the fourth largest city in the country. And I remember the first Indian stores in the Rice Village area.
NN: Yeah. What was the name of that?
KT: Jai Store, Jai Store was there that was the first store which we knew and that many people have jumped into business, many people did not make it, at least, a few restaurants did not make it. Our people started it. In those days who started with us, many of them are not there now, they just had to -- either failed or jumped into other businesses. And then all -- everybody came to -- if you want to know the history of Hillcroft. Hillcroft just did not happen like that. Rice Village was -- they were restructuring Rice Village. The asked all the tenants to vacate. And a few people -- I think there was sari store, then came in -- there was a restaurant up there, and they decided to move into the new building in that
area that was constructed by some -- I don’t know who
was it, some Iranians or Saudi Arabians did the building and
they were about to leave, that building was -- construction
was incomplete. So, nobody could move in there, then they --
this strip center was becoming --
NN: Available on -- you mean on Hillcroft.
KT: In Hillcroft. And I think the first person moved was probably -- I don’t remember -- it is not Raja’s, it was not Jai Store, Jai Store was on the other side of the area. Maybe Ramesh or somebody I don’t remember exactly who moved in.
NN: You mean the Patel Brothers or something like that?
KT: No, maybe Sari Sapna Rai (ph). Lulla.
NN: Oh! I see Sari Sapna Rai (ph), Lulla, okay.
KT: Maybe, but I am not sure. Then one after the other people started moving in and that become the City Hall of --
NN: So, you have seen the entire development of the Indian Business Center.
KT: I have seen that.
NN: -- which is today, what it is called, Mahatma Gandhi --
KT: Mahatma Gandhi Center now.
NN: -- Center, yeah.
KT: It’s a big change in -- and actually the center in which India Jewelers is sitting now is a development that came afterwards.
NN: Oh! That’s interesting yeah.
KT: That came afterwards. That was a --
NN: Let’s talk about your experience as an immigrant, first coming to New York and in Houston. What, kind of, things did you face in terms of challenges as an immigrant coming from India?
KT: We have -- I don’t think it was issues after those years, but there is a lot of -- interaction with the people were difficult, not that any language barrier is there, but our accent and the way of expression was difficult. For example, if you ask me so, oh. If you say that, oh, I wish he has gone to tell some of our friends, so he is gone to somebody else. It takes some time for to digest the long sentences so he has gone. Because if you say he went absolutely everything is done. But we came with the long sentence of the British, British style, 00:18:57 that -- it gave -- actually it gave us some kind of issues in the beginning and if you say wrapper it will whooper, you know, these difficulties were there. But we, you know, just we had to learn that and then came up.
NN: So, you found the language was to be particularly an issue in terms of communication?
KT: I call it the accent which we -- I call it the accent --
KT: Accent, which in US was difficult.
NN: Most Indians.
KT: Even I think now we have that accent problem.
NN: That is true. I mean wherever you go, we have accent, because see when I first came to Nashville and then I moved to East Coast and when I came to Texas it was again a cultural shock, because you have a Texas accent. So, I think it takes a while to get adapted to these changes.
KT: Other then that, I did not feel any kind of discrimination or anything and I usually -- mostly we were using it -- by the time the Indian population grew. The churches started coming up. So, we were a little bit easy with those kind of sentences.
NN: Tell us something about your -- the newspaper business as how it has evolved from the days of your typesetting machine to what it is today and what the future is?
KT: The future is probably dim for the newspaper industry.
NN: You mean the print industry.
KT: Print industry, it’s a -- maybe a little bit dim. But I believe the community newspaper will survive as long as the community is there. They are not covered by the mainstream paper.
NN: Okay, so, that’s the plus there.
KT: It’s a plus there, because small information what is happening in Hillcroft, Royal Center, or somewhere else, they don’t care and they are not going to report it. But community wise what is happening in BAPS, we report it, what is happening in Guruvayoorappan Temple, we report it. For those reasons the community news people will definitely -- has still a market and it will continue to be a market.
NN: I think you have got a very good important -- interesting point because the Hispanics have been here for centuries and, you know, they have to have their own newspaper to communicate with community events and activities and schools and other things, so, I think, there may be a place --
KT: I am not actually afraid of being closed or anything, actually ten years ago people said, oh, newspaper industry is going to -- I am sure we thrived after that.
NN: Yeah, so, what, kind of, challenges have you faced in your newspaper industry from the community’s standpoint.
KT: Community’s standpoint -- our community, I won’t say they are -- they support. They have a little bit of bargain up there, but I think everybody bargains. We do bargaining. Macy say it is sale --
NN: Midnight sale or 00:22:06 whatever holiday sale 00:22:09 I mean that’s their marketing technique.
KT: 8 o’clock opening, it is different, but the other people are still thriving, oh, I don’t want this much pay, this much, you know, I don’t want. That’s fine -- then we work with them, because the community is important, because they support everything, and I don’t believe that, oh, because the community is not supporting the businesses up here.
NN: I mean they have to, because it is the only way they can get their message across. Like, if there’s show coming to the city, they have to reach only through, like, either radio or local news media.
KT: Actually, not only that. When it comes to the business point we all like to be recognized by the work guys -- I mean it’s our -- in our blood. But if you have a store in Hillcroft, the customers are Indians. 22 karat gold will be bought by Indians only, nobody else. White guys they don’t need 22 karat gold. So, it doesn’t matter where you are, your customers are Indians. Same thing, if you want to sell some spices, they are not going to buy it; we are the one going to buy it. All the travel agents they are -- Indians are their customers. So, community, the business is supported by the community only. We have about, maybe around 15% of the Indian community advertisements, maybe 15%, 15% maybe 20%. The rest is all corporate. The corporation ads come in because of the strength of the paper, the number of circulation, and the community which reads, community which reads. That is their strength. Comcast has to have an advertisement in there, because they are targeting the Indian community. So, that way it helps both ways.
NN: Let’s talk about your family, let’s -- tell us about something about your family.
KT: My family as I said we were married 48-years-ago. We came with three girls to United States and the life was tough. Insecurity was always in our life. When we -- the first time we lived in the fourth floor of our apartment, I don’t think I ever slept properly.
NN: What city did you live in New York?
KT: New York. I don’t think I slept properly, because I was always scared that -- when I hear siren for fire I’ve always worried here how can I get out from here, it’s the fourth floor.
NN: I could see you take the ladder there while hanging outside the building --
KT: I thought that also with three children up there. Yeah, that was a scare in the mind always, but then they started growing. Another reason to go is, you know, I don’t -- decided my children will not travel in the subway or a bus. We decided on that too so we moved. So, by the time it was ‘72, ‘73 we had a car. We got the car and then transportation was much easier. So, in India they were all in private schools. 00:25:39 in private school this time, we came here, it did not happen, then I sent them back to Ooty, for education. One year they studied then they felt our life very, very miserable, because without the children.
Brought them back and then by the time I got admission in to catholic schools, they were uncomfortable. When things were getting bad and the girls were growing, I decided to move out of this place. Then we came over here, due to multiple reasons we came to Huston, not only one business. Business was good, so everything. So, we have three girls and good girls, I will say great children, they all studied, we were all -- I wanted the first one to go to law school, it was our -- my total ambition of that.
NN: That’s kind of interesting because most parents what their children to go into medicine.
KT: Medicine and --
NN: That’s the number one choice, at least, among the Indians.
KT: My theory of sending them to law school was if it helps any parents, because I believe ladies are not the breadwinners of the house, men are the breadwinners of the house. If they have education, they will get a compatible person as their husband. In case, they have to be on their own, this professional should help. That’s all -- our theory was and they went to law school one after one, one went to law school, other went to law school, and other went to law school.
NN: All three are law --
MT: I wanted the younger one to be a doctor.
KT: To be a doctor, but she said I don’t want to the blood.
NN: I see, yeah, don’t want to see the blood.
KT: Okay that’s fine. All three went to law school and they are -- thank God, they are all very well -- in very well, the got good places and the first one is Sherci, probably you know her, the eldest one. She is married to a Harvard attorney and, of course, he is white not the Indian guy, 00:27:53 a Harvard attorney and now she is serving as probably the one and only Indian JAG Officer in the army. Judge Advocate General, she is in the army. And, now, what she is doing is going across the country to recruit people to the JAG office; that’s what she is doing.
NN: That’s interesting.
KT: The second one is the Shirley, you know her.
NN: Shirley is an attorney.
KT: She has a -- she is the main partner for a law firm, and she is doing extremely well.
NN: Oh! That’s good, yeah.
KT: Her main job is recovery and almost all the major corporations including HCC, Chase Bank, they are the ones doing it, they are successful in their own and we live with her now. The youngest one is also happened to be an attorney and she is married to another attorney and --
MT: The only one married --
KT: 00:29:04 married attorney to doctor. Shirley married a cardiologist, you know Shirley. So, she is the Director of Litigation in the Travis County Office in Austin and her husband also is in the same department -- it’s not the same department, it’s with the Travis County.
NN: So, do -- I guess two of them live in Huston.
KT: Only one.
NN: Oh only one, oh I see.
KT: One lives here, that is Shirley.
NN: Shirley lives --
KT: And the others are at two different places and we having three grandchildren, two belong to Shirley and one belongs to the younger one, that’s our family set.
MT: Three grandsons.
KT: Grandsons. That’s the family set.
NN: So, what do you think about the influence of American culture? I mean you are concerned about your children and they turned out to be pretty good children, because they all completed law school, you know, about your grandchildren exposed to the full American culture, even though you have a Christian background from India.
KT: Actually, the culture is what I understand is -- my concept about culture is what you learn in your house is the culture.
NN: That’s a very, very important point.
KT: You know, culture prescribed to us, what you learn in your house that is the culture. Otherwise, I don’t think Indians have a different culture other than you are wearing dresses or anything, one wear sari it’s all -- weather condition how it is there, they will change their dresses. Other than that it is -- if the parents is --
MT: Maybe eating with hands.
KT: Hands. So, it’s what all you learn in your house. If you teach them to pray two times a day, they will do it. They will tell it to their children.
NN: So, are you concerned about the American western influence of lifestyle, as far as your grandchildren are concerned?
KT: Western influence, I don’t think western lifestyle is anything bad.
NN: I mean there are very good aspects of the western culture.
KT: So, many good things in their life. Our lifestyle is everything based on the old values since we had it. Old values means sometimes -- that is -- sometimes it is bad to this community, because giving a macho feeling on their wives, it is still there, that destroys the family setup.
NN: That is true, yeah.
KT: And that has to be changed. I don’t think in this country it is followed, they respect each other.
NN: That’s true.
KT: We don’t have any respect for women; they don’t show that kind of respect for women. That -- if we change that thing and for that we have follow the western pattern of life.
NN: What are your views on interracial marriages, because the first generation Indians who came in, quite a number of them are facing where their children are going into interracial marriages?
KT: Actually, interracial marriage happens for so many reasons and circumstances. Even in the olden days, I think after the war, when the men died, they were allowed second marriage, third married was allowed, inter-caste marriage was allowed even in India those days.
NN: That is true, yeah.
KT: So, here, two of my children married to white guys up here. The reason I can very proudly say or humbly say the reason was, they were one of the few first children who came to this country and went to law school and graduated.
NN: That’s true, yeah.
MT: Higher education --
KT: Higher education was not there among boys.
MT: 00:33:10 education here.
KT: I could not find even one boy who can match their education. So, I believe in compatibility of education. The US education whether it is inter-caste or race whatever it is, they have a more chances of survival, understanding each other’s profession.
NN: You know, you touch up on a very, very pertinent point and that is most of the Indian girls are highly educated and highly --
NN: -- accomplished and that also poses a challenge in terms of finding a suitable bride and I see that in so many other doctors’ children who are doctors and they have postgraduate degrees and all this, now, it becomes a challenge how you are going to find somebody in this frequency.
KT: Then what happens, if they were on the road and they find somebody, good people, they say let’s have it and they married and the only difference or the difficult person I see in interracial marriages is if the religion is different, there is a difficulty.
NN: So, in your case I guess they all married the same Catholic --
KT: So, the faith is same; if the faith is different there is always a --
NN: I think so, there is so much adaptation, which initially it seems like it’s possible, but as time goes on --
KT: Definitely some kind of distress can happen in the family, unless they really understand. But unless they face the challenge they won’t realize it, till religion comes in.
NN: Koshy, being in the news media, I guess whether you like it or not, you are drawn into lot of cultural activities. Tell us about all your experiences in different cultural activities and involvements and other things.
KT: Okay -- here, actually I will say it is mostly influenced by religion, as 00:35:09. The religion means --
NN: I guess, we could probably say the same thing for other people like Jewish or Hispanics --
KT: 00:35:18 Religion has a lot of influences, because a majority of the community which we face that is -- or it may be a different way they practice it, but it is mostly Hindus, mostly Hindus. So, that -- if they try to contain all their forces in one place, it’s a big force, it’s a big force, a major force I hope they use it for the goodness of the community instead of dividing it.
NN: So, how many Indians do you think we have here in Houston at this time being in the news media you are probably more familiar with this?
KT: It can only be an estimate -- we can say that probably, just -- probably more than 70% will be Hindus.
NN: No, I mean in terms of numbers.
KT: Numbers, I mean --
NN: I would like something like 100,000 Indians living in Houston Metroplex area.
KT: Maybe in the Christian community there may be around 10,000 people.
NN: Oh! I see, yeah.
KT: Depending on the churches and other things, maybe around 10,000 people.
NN: So, how many churches are here from the Indian background?
KT: Maybe over a dozen churches, big churches, there maybe over a dozen.
KT: So, it’s -- really, I don’t see any way they all come together. It is not -- I don’t think it is going to happen, unless -- the children are not interested, mostly the children are not interested in what parents were doing, I don’t think so. Of course, there will be a group of people still interested in that that one, but when they have the freedom to choose their own way of life, just they -- move out of that.
NN: I guess it is natural evolution. I mean it has happened to all the immigrants who came to this country.
KT: And if you ask whether do we have to maintain the culture and values of an Indian here, even if you want it I don’t think it is going to be sustained and there is no need to be that also.
NN: I think it’s a big challenge, but other ethnic groups, you know, like Hispanics and Jewish people, they have been pretty successful in propagating their religion and faith and --
KT: But that was only one religion.
KT: But here --
NN: In India we have so many different, so the --
KT: So, the difference is who is bigger, who is big, everybody is trying to convert.
NN: At one time you were telling me that there must be like 70 or 80 different segments of the Indian subgroups in --
KT: Subgroups, yeah, there are so many -- even in Christianity you see Baptist, Pentecostal, Church of God, Love of -- there are so many groups, all worshiping the same person. But the way of practicing their faith is different. We practice differently from Catholics, Catholics practice different from -- or Episcopal. So, there are all --
NN: So, do you think this makes it very difficult for the Indian community to come together as one unit for any occasion?
KT: I don’t think it will ever happen. This unity is only between you and me.
NN: I see -- I am really, really fascinated by your frank opinion and observations, because that’s very important for us to understand why is it so difficult for Indians to come together, you know, we have -- say we have India Culture Center and India festivals and all these things.
KT: The reason is all the other communities came with difficulties and the insecurity in their hand. But we came with professions, education, and we are also on the top of it. So, we are -- there was no need for me to depend on you or you to depend on somebody else. So, we were all independent, well employed, so, there was no need for it. So, that continues, even the next generation also feels that way, I don’t need it 00:39:31 job.
KT: What is there -- when I see you in the temple, hi, and so.
NN: But still as a Christian you are still involved in so many other Hindu cultural activities, tell us about it.
KT: Actually, I’m involved -- I just -- I visit the temples, mosques everywhere we go and wherever I go as a person I see my -- the God I worship is everywhere.
NN: That’s true, yeah.
KT: There is no difference, some call it Krishna. Actually, I am a Christian because I practice what I was taught to practice, because my parents were Christians I’m Christian, otherwise I would have been Krishna.
NN: Krishna, yes.
KT: Who knows? I mean Krishna or somebody else. So, nothing wrong in another religion, I don’t believe in conversion, no conversion, let everybody live their faith, and don’t take it outside, religion is one you practice at home, keep it there, don’t take it to another’s. Nobody, Christians, Hindus, Muslims.
MT: Wherever you go you can worship your God.
KT: Worship your God, that’s what I thought my children.
MT: 00:40:53 Temple or Meenakshi Temple or you know, BAPS or -- only one God is there, that is what we believe.
KT: That’s it, God is everywhere, you call him Krishna, somebody call him Siva, whatever it is --
MT: God is in many names.
KT: There are no different Gods, there is only one.
NN: So, tell us about your political views in this country, I mean, especially being in the news media, I guess you are exposed to politics whether you like it or not.
KT: I personally -- I mean, I am a conservative Republican. That’s what I believe, because I don’t believe in somebody -- somebody work and somebody don’t work and they should get the benefit. 77, I’m going 78 in October, I still work ten hours a day.
NN: You look remarkably in fit condition for 78.
KT: Why I should share with somebody my earning. My -- I can give, there has to be a reason I can give, but not the handout system, I totally disagree with it.
NN: You think the Republican Party is headed in the right direction in the last couple of years?
KT: I don’t think so, I don’t think so, because they are on a vengeance program --
NN: That’s the thing, yeah, it’s just --
KT: That is what is happening. They try to revenge on what went wrong, but, hopefully, they will realize it and then come to terms, there a lot of -- the Democrats did not create all these deficiencies, it was there.
NN: It’s been ongoing.
KT: It was ongoing 00:42:42 and the way they handled, I don’t agree with everything what they handled it, because for one reason people lost jobs, cut their income, everything is done, but this 400 -- how many Congressmen are there, 460 or something?
NN: 450 Congressman.
KT: They live on luxury, luxury means, live -- you don’t need that kind of luxury, cut their pay. The pay says --
NN: Well, they make their own laws, so I don’t see --
MT: Many of them are receiving $90,000 as pension. 00:43:26 he is getting $50,000.
NN: Can you pause that?
KT: My political views, I am a conservative Republican. I believe in working hard and making life better. Help anybody who is disabled, those who cannot work, you have to go out and help them, not the people who are sitting -- driving a Mercedes and going and taking a welfare that has to be stopped. That is what or most of the money is going through that way, abuse of the welfare rules, which they have it. There is lot of money to be shared out from the government expenditure side, a lot of money. Medicare fraud they can cut it. How many --
NN: I just don’t think they have the manpower to really go after, because every time you see, you know, they are putting so many people in jail, but for every person you put in jail there is another three, four popping up.
KT: Yeah, if we take two, another four will be coming, yeah. There are things which you can cut down the expenses, which includes cutting down the pay of the -- expenses of the Congressional people and they don’t have to be there 365 days, what they do 365? Nothing. As in the beginning, you give them three months, come there, pass the law, and go home and do your work, go farming.
NN: Let’s talk about, you know, in the past 30 plus years you have been in the States, what are the lessons that you have learned that has made you successful, maybe that could help us serve as a guide for the new generation Indians?
KT: The thing what I followed was I have a clear example as my father. That, kind of, disability is not a disability. If you want to do something set your goal in mind and go for it. Don’t look back, failure is there, but don’t wait there, no pausing up there, go forward and then do it. You don’t have to be a doctor to run a hospital. If you have the idea in mind, you can hire doctors. That’s what I do now, I’m not 00:46:05, I never went to a 00:46:09 school but I do it.
The only thing is you have to work very well in this country. Anybody can be anything, I can see so many people who lost everything during the -- in the 80’s lost jobs and everything, they are very successful, very successful in some other area, god helped them to start new businesses, very successful. So, it’s a country where you can use -- you can definitely work hard and enjoy the benefits of it.
NN: Okay. Mr. Thomas what do you think is the future for the Indian population in Houston and also all across the country in the next 20, 30, or 50 years?
KT: Actually, I see a bright future for those people, because they have money up there and most of the kids have more than minimum education. I mean most of them are technically involved in it or there is medical in there -- I mean if there is a profession they can handle it. And the only thing is how much they are loyal, going to be loyal to the country that we have to see, country means India.
And I am also on this side up here, the reason is when you have denounced your citizenship and came over here and you have no right to criticize that government also. Taxation or salaries, you don’t pay anything, leave them alone. You don’t pay anything and you cannot, because there is so much of criticism that happens. But there is no reason to criticize, it is not your country, you don’t belong to them.
If you have an opportunity to fight against India would you do it? You will do it, your children will do it. So, these things you could have thought -- you should have thought before you say, I denounce India and accept citizens and 00:48:30 people will be great, but I don’t know how unified they will be. But they will be great and there will be some -- a few bad characters will pop up, that’s unsuccessful people who will crop up here and there and like any other country that is going to be there and here the first generation parents made the money and the second generation may abuse it, go enjoy it.
Maybe the third or fourth generation comes in, there may not be any money left, unless they educate themselves and do their work. This happens in other communities also.
NN: Any final thoughts?
KT: Final thought, we have a lot of strength as a community. We have to try to some ways to -- because as I see now, thank God I am healthy, healthy enough to work. But there are a lot of old age people are waiting -- that if not today, all the five people who are sitting here they are going to be in that list. And there is a time, I call this is a time bomb; there will be no answer when it is needed unless we plan it ahead of time.
NN: Mr. Koshy Thomas, thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure talking to you and Mrs. Thomas, thank you very much for coming here. Mr. Thomas thank you for coming and this has been a presentation of the Foundation for India Studies. This is an American Oral History done in collaboration with the Houston Public Library. I am Dr. Nik Nikam, thank you very much.