Grand Tamasha

Aarti Shahani on Her Indian-American Immigrant Story

Episode Summary

Milan talks to NPR contributor Aarti Shahani about her family's journey from India to Morocco to Queens, New York.

Episode Notes

If you listen to National Public Radio, chances are you’ve heard the journalist Aarti Shahani report on some of the biggest technology stories in the world. Microsoft. Google. Apple. Facebook. Aarti has covered them all.

But there’s one story you may not have heard of--and that is Aarti’s own. In a new memoir, Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares, Aarti documents her family’s harrowing journey--from Partition-era India to Casablanca, Morocco to Queens, New York.

Aarti’s parents came to America with little money in their pockets and no legal documents to remain in the country. Battling poverty, discrimination, and wayward business partners, the Shahani family manages to make it. Until one day, nearly everything falls apart. Aarti’s father was arrested and accused of operating an electronics store that was a front for the Cali drug cartel. What followed was a jail sentence for Aarti’s father in New York’s notorious Riker’s Island prison and a years-long struggle to fight off deportation.

This plot sounds like a made for Netflix special. But this is real life. This is Aarti’s story.

This week on the show, Milan talks to Aarti about her new memoir, her immigrant story, the “unsung heroes of low-end globalization,” and what she learned about America’s broken immigration system along the way.