Foundation of Indian Studies (FIS) Interviews the First Assamese Couple in Houston, Hiren and Usha Sarma


HOUSTON: FIS reaches out to interview all language and ethnic groups of India for its Oral History project. It is estimated that there are about 50 immigrant Assamese families living in greater Metropolitan Houston area. Hiren Sarma and his wife Usha Sarma, residents of Katy, Texas are the very first couple hailing from Assam, to be interviewed for the Indo American Oral history project.

Assam State is a north eastern picturesque state of India known for its scenic beauty and bestowed with Oil, Gas and mineral wealth and the world famous Assam tea…

Born in 1947 in Johan Assam, Sarma holds B.Sc. Degree in Chemical Engineering from Banares Hindu University and M.Tech in Chemical Engineering from IIT, Kanpur.  Sarma worked in Oil India Limited, Duliajan for few years before migrating to USA in 1976. Wife, Usha joined in 1977. They have one daughter married with 2 children and 2 yet to be married sons, all employed across USA.

In USA, Sarma worked with several engineering companies and is currently engaged as a Front End Development Manager with Shell Oil Houston.

Besides publishing several Technical articles related to Oil and Gas, Hiren Sarma has also moved into fictional writing in his mother tongue Assamese for last several years through an annual bi-lingual publication called “Luitor Pora Mississippi (from Luit – the Brahmaputra to Mississippi)”, published in North America. His efforts finally culminated in publication of a short story compilation called “The Great Italian Family Circus” in October 2014 at Guwahati Assam, both in original Assamese as well as an English translation.

Usha Sarma narrated how they were married at Jorhat in 1973, and then migrated to US in 1976, travelled to Mexico, Malaysia, and Oman over the years in connection with her husband’s business assignments. Sarmas finally returned to Houston following settlement of all the three children with their studies and work and decided to make a permanent home in Katy, Texas.

On the question of a typical Assamese woman’s dress, Mrs. Sarma explained that Assamese Sari comprises of two pieces made out of special white Assam silk called “pat” which she wore for the interview. She also explained about another exotic Assam silk called “Muga”.

On the question of facing any racial and social prejudices after coming to America, Mr. & Mrs. Sarma said, they had not faced any. However, Sarma explained that as first generation immigrants, it is expected to be always difficult to assimilate, although the assimilation gets better as the generations pass by.

Asked about the present situation in Assam, Sarma passionately described the alarming situation in Assam due to massive illegal immigration primarily from Bangladesh changing the complete demographic situation in Assam due to continued apathy from both the State and the Central governments.

Sarma’s extra-curricular Activities included serving as Civil coordinator for US Embassy in Muscat Oman for 3 years, Vice-Chair and Board Member of American British Academy International School at Muscat Oman. Sarmas support 4 village schools in Assam coordinating the work between ASHA, an American charity organization and Shanti Sadhana Ashram, a non-profit organization in Guwahati Assam, Ekal Vidyalaya activities in India. Here at home, Sarmas provide “Seva” to homeless center at Houston Downtown with a group of likeminded people. In the near future, Sarma plans to take active part in in the 2016 Presidential elections.

The interview concluded with Mr. & Mrs. Sarma expressing their interest to support FIS and Vavilala in the future endeavors.

The Indo-American Oral History project is an undertaking of the Foundation for India Studies (FIS), a 501(c3) a non-profit organization registered in 2005 in Houston, Texas.  Recorded video interviews of the first generation Indian immigrants will be archived in the Indo-American Oral History collection of the Houston Metropolitan Research Center administered by the Houston Public Library.

For information and participation in the project, please contact Ms. Veena Ponnaganti @281-323-9515 or Mr. Krishna Vavilala @ 713-795-5169.