It was made clear from day one that you would go to college.: Becoming Minnesotan

Pennamma Cherucheril and husband, c.1995.
  • Name - Pennamma Cherucheril
  • Age at interview - 50
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 07.22.1993
  • A farm worker returning home after a little shopping, Goa, India, 2010.
    A 100 year old home in Goa, India, now a bed and breakfast, 2010.

    Asian Indian, Education

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    Essential Question

    Life in the Old Country: What makes a country a person’s homeland?

    Traditions & Values: What makes up “culture”?

    Words to look for

    Background Information

    Even though many schools are free in India, there are many other expenses like books, uniforms, and housing.  Thus, some families still have to make sacrifices to send one daughter or son on in school.  In the past, if a family could only afford to send one child to school, or to a more reputable school, it was usually the boys who got the better opportunities.  There are different kinds of high schools, and English language high schools can provide students with better job opportunities after graduation.  For example, mastering English has allowed thousands of Indian students travel to the U.S. for college or graduate school. 

    In India it is traditional for a young person to marry a spouse selected for them by their parents.  This is called an arranged marriage, and is still commonly practiced today.  Indian parents find and introduce suitable candidates to their son or daughter, who can then accept or reject each potential bride or groom.  Unlike “love marriages”, the type of marriage common in the Western world, the bride and groom in an arranged marriage usually do not know each other well and are married soon after they meet.

    To learn more about Asian Indian history and culture, visit our Asian Indian Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Pennamma Cherucheril 1
    2:35 Minutes | 2.48Mb


    Narrator: Pennamma Cherucheril (PC)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    PS:  Why don't you tell me about how your family valued education, formal education?

    PC:  Very much so.  My parents both did not have college education.  My father didn't finish high school.  He wanted to, but his father wanted him to quit school and take care of the family farm.  My father has an older brother who was college educated and he had a job which took him away from home. I think he taught in colleges, and he was so involved in the religious affairs that he gave talks and traveled a lot, so my dad's father didn't want his second son to be college educated and be away. He really sort of forced him to quit high school. My father missed that, and he always said, "I'm going to make sure my kids go to college."  He would sort of insist.  It was kind of a given from day one that you would go to college.  Not all of us finished college, but he wanted us to at least go, and he encouraged us.  Some did finish.

    PS:  And your mother as well?

    PC:  My mother as well.  In those days, not very many women or even men from Kerala finished college.  Women, there were very few who went to college in those days.   My mother, she didn't finish high school but they had two different systems.  In one you learn more English and in the other you don't learn as much English. My father was in the one where you learned more English.  My mother was in the one that's more native language.  So, my mother didn't finish high school. She went as far as most women went those days.   Well, not most women.  Those who are fairly educated had up to high school or some of high school.  Then she got married.   My parents got married quite young.

    PS:  Was it part of the Catholic tradition in India that there would be an arranged marriage?

    PC:  Oh, yes, it was the tradition in Kerala, and in India generally. In Kerala too, all the marriages were arranged.  Once you are done with school, then the next step is the marriage.  So, they got married quite young.

    PS: But you didn't get married.

    PC: No.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Adjective:  Complicated.


    Adjective:  Belonging to something by birth.


    Noun:  A custom that is practiced within a group.


    Noun:  The quality that makes something desirable or valuable; the degree of importance one gives to something. 

    Verb:  To regard highly; think much of; place importance upon.  (values, valuing, valued)


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 587