Ames Immigrant Stories - India

The Dahiya Family

On Labor Day 1968, Rajbir S. Dahiya arrived in Ames from India. He was invited to work as a professor in the Math Department at Iowa State University. He had been teaching at the Birla Institute of Technology in the town of Pilani, in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

Rajbir’s wife, Krishna, and infant daughter, Madhu, followed in January of 1969. A son, Ranjan, was born in Ames. Madhu and Ranjan had, in some ways, an average American childhood. They attended Abbie Sawyer Elementary School and Northwood Elementary in the 1970s and 1980s. They enjoyed playing with neighborhood children. Madhu remembered, “We grew up together, whether our parents were from Iowa or New Jersey or India.”

In other ways, life was different from other children growing up in Ames. The Dahiya family didn’t go to church or Sunday School. A small group of Indian families in Ames would meet in one of their homes for a Hindu “puja”. At home, the Dahiya family ate a mix of Indian and American dishes, something like lasagna or a casserole one night, and then roti (bread) or rice with daal (lentils) the next. They sometimes traveled to Devon Avenue in Chicago, an ethnic Indian area with a grocery store, to buy specialty Indian foods to take back to Ames.

Krishna worked for the Conservation Commission, for the Iowa Department of Transportation, and as a programmer and systems analyst at Iowa State. She retired from Iowa State in 2004. Rajbir worked in the same office in Carver Hall the entire time he taught at Iowa State – from the late 1960s until his retirement in 2014.