One Man’s Journey from Immigrant to U.S. Businessman

“Alcohol has changed [my] father for the better. He would
never be a successful immigrant without it.”
– Aditya Desai, MRC Volunteer gets personal by sharing
his father’s story as an immigrant from India becoming
a businessman in the USA.

BY: Aditya Desai, MRC Volunteer, November 2019

I grew up in a vineyard of pride and a bottle of wine. Childhood afternoons were spent among shelves in my dad’s wine and liquor store. On a blanket next to the cash register, I furiously scratched my head while my dad attempted to pronounce “pinot noir” for a customer who placed a gift order. After arranging the selection of wine, Dad firmly taped the decorated gift box closed and handed it to a satisfied customer.

Subsequent to immigrating from India, my dad made his way into ‘american culture,’ as he called it, or more specifically wine sales. His weeknights were spent working shifts at the airport and memorizing varietals of wine while weekends were booked with tours of retail openings. Some say my dad is an anomaly. A pharmaceutical innovator turned businessman. I call it balance. Nonetheless, I feel a knot in my stomach when asked what he does. Immediately, I fill the silence with convoluted responses, including “Across the downtown train station” and
“chemistry”—substitutes for his true occupation. Of course, to me, “wine and liquor” scream amateur. I veil his pride of being a heartfelt businessman with my hypocritic jargon.

As we stroll through the streets surrounding the shop, I am inundated with greetings from elegantly dressed professionals and gas station workers who wholeheartedly smile at us. Back in the store, my dad is introduced as “the kind Indian guy” or the “local wine fellow.” Each wine bottle my dad wraps is tailored for a customer who he has met, chatted with behind the shop
counter, and gotten to know. His precise selection of wine, tissue paper, and gift bow is no random draw. Each box is wrapped intentionally — creases and folds in place. As a creator, my dad works behind the register and theatrical lights. Although not illuminated by the spotlight, he has the power to unwrap and decide what lay under cardboard.

Don’t get me wrong: father’s life in states as an immigrant has been filled with adversity—familial tragedy and financial hardship in a foreign land. Yet, he’s curated a realm in his wine and liquor shop, catering beverages to consumers all the while cultivating his own spirit.

Alcohol has changed father for the better. He would never be a successful immigrant without it.