There is more access to knowledge.: Becoming Minnesotan

Prasanna Mishra, c.2001.
  • Name - Prasanna Mishra
  • Age at interview - 50
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 01.28.1999
  • Achievement Project Team, SILC, Como High School, St. Paul, April 13, 2002.

    Asian Indian, Education

    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Opportunities in America: What kind of opportunities does this person see in America that he/she did not have in the homeland?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    India’s society has operated under a caste system for hundreds of years.  In a caste system, each person is born into a family that is part of a specific group that has certain expectations placed upon them and limits to what they have access to in society.  At the top is the Brahmin class (teachers and priests), the second highest is the Kshtriya (warriors and kings), the third is the Vaishay (traders, craftsmen, and farmers), and fourth is the Shudra (laborers and servants).  Below even this are the “untouchables”, now called Dalit, people traditionally kept separate from the rest of society.  Although the caste system is dying out in India, especially in cities, and caste-based discrimination is outlawed by the Indian constitution, a lower caste person will still not have the same opportunities to go to school and get jobs as a person of a higher caste will. 

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

    • Chapter 1

    Download Prasanna Mishra 4
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    Narrator: Prasanna Mishra (PM)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    PS:  So when you imagine yourself being of retirement age, where do you think you might settle down and retire?

    PM:  It will be definitely in the United States, because - yes, right here. There is more access to knowledge, sources of knowledge, libraries. First thing you notice coming to United States is the libraries, I think. There is a public library in Philadelphia. Inside my neighborhood there is a library. Where you work, there is a library there. There are public libraries open everywhere you go. Such a feeling, reading about things, it is a great history, no doubt about it.

    PS:  So you really value having access to knowledge.

    PM:  That's right. Absolutely.

    PS:  And that's not available in India, even now?

    PM:  Where, back in India?

    PS:  Yes.

    PM:  Well, as I said, brahmins, traditionally, have all the answers to the knowledge, and knowledge is supposed to be locked up in esoteric books and stuff. It is not open and accessible in that sense.

    True knowledge has to be open. It cannot be stagnant and locked up.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  A Hindu priestly caste; one of the four varnas or social groups based on occupation in ancient Hindu society.

    Listen to this word: 


    Adjective:  Understood only by a chosen few or an enlightened inner circle.


    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: 617