Engineering a Life: a True Coming to America Story

Engineering a Life: a True Coming to America Story

April 13, 2018 | Author: Krishan Bedi, author of memoir "Engineering a Life"

Engineering a Life starts with stories from my childhood, growing up in a small village in Punjab, India. In the mornings I fed our water buffalo before walking a mile down the dirt road to my school. When I came home, I would help my father in the cloth shop until dinner time. All I knew of was this village, hardly imagining there was more to the world than my daily routines.

As I got older and attended a college in a nearby city, I learned about America, but I didn’t know much except that “money grew on trees” there, and it seemed easy to get an education. At that time, I was figuring out what I wanted to do in life. I wanted to be a big, successful engineer, but I eventually came to the realization that the opportunities to become an engineer in India with my education level were very slim. As the months passed, becoming an engineer developed into a dream, and I knew I would never be happy staying where I was, helping my father in his cloth shop.

    Top Right: My mother pumping the water for our water buffalo in 1970, which I used to do before leaving India
    Middle: Visited Kashmir, India, in 1981, dressed as Kashmiris
    Bottom Right: Achieving a hard- earned goal with blood, sweat and tears, my master’s degree

In November 1961, after much perseverance, I found myself on a boat, embarking on a journey to America to attend the University of Tennessee. I was ready for new experiences, fully certain of my success, yet equally unaware of the hardships I would face. My studies were not a breeze as I was led to believe, and making my way in America with little money and working odd jobs to pay for school took intense determination and grit. One summer, I took a job working as a bus driver in Chicago, barely knowing the city. Every day, I would ask the passengers which way to go. The first day involved knocking a side mirror off another bus while pulling out of the garage, speeding past several stops because I was running behind, asking a passenger to direct traffic in the street so I could make a turn I almost missed, and a policeman stopping to see what in the world was going on. Somehow, they let me keep driving. In short, my path to achieving the American Dream was not without some mishaps, but I pressed on!


Krishan Bedi came to the US by boat with only $300 in his pocket in December 1961 as a twenty-year-old from Punjab, India.  He eventually earned a master’s degree in industrial engineering at the University of Tennessee. After nine years in the US, he returned to India for an arranged marriage; together, he and his wife returned to the States, where Krishan developed a career as a healthcare executive. He’s since served as member of several healthcare professional organizations, and is currently a member of the board of Indo-American Society of Peoria. Bedi is a contributing author to The Magic of Memoir, edited by Linda Joy Myers and Brooke Warner. He now lives with his wife in Peoria. They have three successful sons and five grandchildren.