I come from the land of teeming millions,

Colorful festivals,

An ancient culture steeped in invaluable values.


My childhood was like any other young girl growing up in India.

Second daughter, one of four children.

We were educated in Convent of Jesus and Mary in Poona.

Even though my father travelled for work/ business,

our mother stayed with us in Poona itself most of the time.

This was to make sure we were not uprooted, and had a good education.

Marriage to an Engineer Harjit Alag,

living in Cleveland brought me here.

Like most in our families, ours was also an arranged marriage.

There were a lot of fears about the move.

Not all of them were about a new land, a new people or being

far from my comfort zone.

Rather,  it was about being responsible for running a household in a 

new environment.

All that changed very soon.

An angelic silver haired neighbor,Mrs Gable took it upon herself

to show me the ropes.

Trips to the grocery stores, department stores, west side market

we’re all initiated by her.

I remember my first experience with a store credit card.May Company.

When the sales person explained that I could buy things and not pay

on the spot,I went crazy.

I loved the ” cash or charge?”

Returning home, laden with bags galore, I was brought to reality by a horrified


My challenges were interesting.

I remember getting a call from a Plain Dealer reporter.

I was asked to comment on a political situation in(now)Bangladesh.

I spoke my mind.The next thing I knew, a half page report, 

complete with a picture was flashing on news stands.

Again, a horrified husband!!

I got a call from the legendary Dorothy Fuldheim to appear 

on the afternoon news with her.Of course I didn’t.Too scared.

I was turned down for two jobs, because I had an English accent!!

I couldn’t understand the spelling changes.

Tyre,was tire,cheque was check.

The most interesting experience was when I went to a Mom ‘n Pop store

and asked for  aluminum foil  but pronounced it “alloominium  foil.”and lady fingers,

And brinjal. aka okra and eggplant.

There were no challenging situations as such.

I was quite fascinated with my new home, eager to learn and absorb.

Language not being a barrier, things were not that difficult.

I’m basically a home maker.

Raised two beautiful children.Our son Deepak Alag,an executive in a 

 firm in California.Our daughter Pooja Bird,of Twinsburg

an attorney with Timken Steel.

I’m a compulsive volunteer.I have been an active member of 

The Federation of India Community Associations.

Serving on the Executive Board for 4 years in the 1980ies 

Returning later,to serve as President for two terms.

I now serve on its Board of Trustees.

Chaired Project Seva.

On the Board of Church Women United.Founding member of

 of Association of Asian Indian Women of Ohio.

Founding member of Helping Hands.

I also helped my husband in his Engineering firm,

H2L1 Engineering Inc.

I  work for Global Services of The Cleveland Clinic,

as an interpreter. Counsel patients from India on financial aid, grants etc.

The money I make from there,is donated to Project Seva( service to humanity)

Where we serve meals once a month in areas where there is a need.

God and America has been very good to us,we need to give back.

I have always maintained that Americans are the friendliest, most helpful

People under the sun.

Cleveland has proven my belief over and over again.

Other than a few stray incidents, when a neighbor didn’t want to meet me 

because I was Indian, one gentleman telling me to go back to where I came from.

We will always find that element in society wherever we go.

We practice all our festivals in Cleveland, that we did back home.

Be it collectively as a community, as a family or in our Sikh Temple.

We do cling to our identity as Indians, while celebrating the customs of

the country that adopted us, many years ago.Thanksgiving,Christmas,

Mothers Day,Fathers Day, are big in our family.

The Midwest family values and healthy diversity is what I love about Cleveland.

Traveling exposes us to whole new set of cultures and customs.

It expands our horizon,teaches us the value of diversity.

It fundamentally transforms us.

The contribution of immigrants to the United States is phenomenal.

Statistics show that, immigrants are more likely to start businesses,

excel in their endeavors.

The list of immigrants went on to make America their 

home and employ thousands of people is endless.

Comcast,AT&T,Google,Yahoo,Kohl’s DuPont,Sara Lee, Big Lots etc.

These are just a few examples.

In addition to creating jobs,they have taken their 

ventures to dizzying heights and contributing to the prosperity of the nation.

In addition, immigrants complete the rainbow.

They bring with them,their values, cultures,and of course their deep rooted

commitment to pursue higher education and dedication to hard work.

I’m very proud to call Cleveland my home.

It has shaped the strong character of many a young 

mind from our community.

Many years my husband had an off from a firm in Texas,

I couldn’t bear to leave Cleveland.

It would have been like leaving home for a second time.

Mona Alag.