Thousands of Gujaratis from the Dingucha village — including the deceased Patel family — begin imagining and working towards a life in America before they even apply for a passport.

A man and woman posing for the camera with their two childrenThe Patel family | Vibes of India
news Death Friday, January 28, 2022 - 18:39

Vibes of India

Embattling constant humiliation, deportation and even danger to their lives, thousands of Gujaratis have risked it all for the chance to find the elusive ‘American dream’. For one family from a non-descript village in Gujarat, the search was doomed. The young family — including a three-year-old — were found frozen to death at the US-Canada border as they tried to cross into the country. Another family is also believed to be missing.

Dingucha village, some 12 kilometres from the Gujarat's capital Gandhnagar, has a registered population of 3,000 people. But with a wry smile, residents say that more than 1,800 people, a majority of the village’s population, live in America. Every house is replete with candies bought from Costco and Tang, besides jalapeno wafers. The people of the Patel-dominated village say that they will find the agent who promised the family a ‘first-class human smuggling exercise’ and charged them Rs 65 lakh or nearly 89,000 dollars.

The people take pride that fellow residents began migrating to America as early as the 1970s. And their fascination with the American dream continues. Vibes of India is trying to catalog the number of people from this small hamlet who are living in the US, UK, Canada and Mexico, but they do not have a complete list yet. But is the American dream made of frozen nights, working at convenience stores for half the legal wage, and sending pictures to relatives to boast of their life? Despite all this, in Dingucha, the American flag still holds immense power. Thousands of Gujaratis begin imagining and working towards a life in America before they even apply for a passport. 

Several graduates and degree-holders try their best to move to the US. But in reality, they end up having to work at Dunkin Donuts or cleaning jobs, and vaguely mask the irony by claiming that America respects the dignity of all labour.

The Patel family, who tragically lost their lives in the snow on the US-Canada border, had a respectable life in Gujarat. Jagdish, the father, was a school teacher. But he and his family decided to try to achieve the elusive American dream. The family — Jagdish Patel (35), his wife Vaishali (33) and their two children Vihanngi (13) and Dharmik (3) — hired an agent to facilitate their journey at a cost of Rs 65 lakh. Newspapers are filled with ads by such agents, who claim to help people emigrate even without valid visas.

The family was a part of a group of others from the village, who all set out for Canada. Sources told Vibes of India that other groups are still missing, or perhaps they managed to find shelter.

When the Patels’ frozen bodies were recovered, the temperature was minus 35 degrees celsius. They had planned to land in North Dakota and figure it out from there. They had begun saving money for this over a decade ago.

A resident of Dingucha, from where the Patel family hailed, told Vibes of India that the family had arranged for an agent to take them to the US illegally, through the Canadian border. Another person, who claimed to be well-known to the family, said that Jagdish had been wanting to relocate for years as more than half his family was already settled in the US.

Going to America is a matter of pride and prestige for the people of Dingucha, despite leading wealthy lives in India. But the American dream can come at a perilous cost — one that the Patel family, and countless other immigrants, have paid.

Last year, a 24-year-old man from Mehsana, another district in northern Gujarat, decided to leave the country with his family as he was allegedly being harassed by local politicians. He hired an agent to take him to the Mexico border, where he joined another group to cross the border illegally. But the American dream escaped him as well, after the group was arrested by the border police and taken to a detention centre in Louisiana. According to preliminary information, the man paid over Rs 30 lakh to the agent to enter the US.

The incident came after the news of a north Indian woman and her daughter who were scorched to death in the desert of Arizona, after trekking across the US border for over 22 hours.

Lately, politicians and the media have trained the public’s attention on the purportedly porous Mexico-US border. And since security has been stepped up along the line, many people are using Canada as a point of entry into America. As early as 2007, a BJP MP was arrested after he was found to be taking a woman and her son to Canada illegally, on the diplomatic passport of his wife and son.

This article was first published on Vibes of India. Read the original article here

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