How Tyler became Shruti Patil’s home away from home

Hello all, my name is Shruti Patil.

I hail from the south central part of India, a city named Hyderabad, known as the city of pearls for its historical pearl and diamond trading. It’s also the home of the delicious Indian dish Hyderabad biryani.  Maybe some of you had the opportunity to taste it.

A young Shruti Patil and her brother pose for the camera in Hyderabad, India.

I completed my Bachelor and Master’s in Electronics and Computer Science and had a job offer in hand in Hyderabad before I started my last semester. After one year of graduating and working, I got married. Life was all set and good. Perfect, right? But my Dad had a dream to send one of his two kids to the U.S. My brother went into medicine and could not leave his program midway. So my dad turned his eyes to me with motivation and hope. I decided to go for it.

Shruti and Patil pose in traditional Indian garb.

I looked at the map of the U.S. and realized that I had to pick one state out of 50 states. I always wanted to work for Texas Instruments and one of its locations was in Dallas, but when I researched about jobs in Texas Instruments, they required a U.S. degree. So, I decided to go for a master’s.

My husband Patil went online looking for universities. There, flashing across the screen, was an ad for a school called UT Tyler, accepting admissions and offering scholarships. So I left India for the United States on August 18, 2015. I had never seen an airport or an airplane – except for like a bird in the sky. I had never even traveled from one town or city to another by myself! 

My very first flight happened to be to the land of dreams – America – all by myself, as Patil had to stay back in India to run his business. 

I was at the terminal with my husband and parents, and I realized how hard it is to say goodbye to your loved ones. Tears were flowing, I was holding Patil’s shirt. The last call for the bus to take me to my international flight was made. I used all my force to hold on to his shirt for one more second. Finally I took off, leaving my heart and soul behind.

Dec. 2016, Shruti and her husband Patil celebrate Shruti’s graduation from UT Tyler with a Master of Industrial Management degree.

Fast forward two years. I graduated from UT Tyler with a Masters in Industrial Management, and all I wanted to do was go to Dallas and work for Texas Instruments. Do you think it’s that easy to get a job here, especially for a foreign-born alien?

My friends were all moving to Washington DC, so I moved with them. Once there, people started asking me where I was from. And guess what my answer was? From Tyler! Two years ago, I was from India, but now I was from Tyler.

Before, I would compare everything in Tyler with its opposite in India.  But now, my point of reference had drifted to Tyler, as I was comparing everything in DC to everything in “my” Tyler.

It took me just three months of living in DC to realize how closely bonded I was with Tyler now, how it was home away from home for me: How I missed the brisk walks around the pond at UT, the relaxed pace of life here. In DC, It was go-go-go all the time.

I also missed the tall East Texas trees and the warmer climate.  When someone back home asked the definition of the United States, it was always the description and picture of Tyler. Tyler had become so close to my heart that I decided to come back. I currently work for the City of Tyler, which makes it more perfect to mean, “It’s my city” and “It’s my community.” 

Now that I have made Tyler home, I have also found friends that have become like family to my husband and me. Strangely, none of them hail from Tyler. But we never would have found each other without the common connection we had to this city. 

During the 2017 Rose Festival, a family from Houston came to experience the Rose Capital of America and we bumped into each other. When we started introducing, we said, “What a small world!” as this family came from the same city and spoke the same language of the hundreds of languages spoken in India. The lady, Jaya, also happened to be Patil’s extended family. She taught at the same school where I went to high school. Destiny!  In no time we were family, visiting each other and celebrating festivals and other occasions together. We made friends with their daughter and son-in-law. And since they are Patil’s extended family, I love to call them my Indian-Houstonian in-laws.

Shruti Patil poses with her newfound Baton Rouge, Louisiana, friends at Villa Montez in Tyler.

Another connection was made in Canton. How many of you are familiar with the Canton’s First Monday market? It was November 2017, Canton weekend. East Texas brought some wonderful people to town again, just for us. Two families, one from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the other from Oklahoma City, decided to meet in Tyler before the market, as it happens to be equidistant from both their homes.

That day, as I was walking in front of a hotel lobby in Tyler, I came across a little Shih Tzu dog in front of me and screamed. I am afraid of dogs or any other animals. Both the families gathered around me tried to calm me down. We got into a conversation about why I am scared of dogs and in no time, we developed a friendly bond with each other. My new friend, Marylou, who is Italian and from Baton Rouge, mentioned she loves Indian food. And so I gave them all some to taste and she gave me oranges from their garden. 

Over the past two years, we have kept in touch on Facebook and have visited each other frequently, becoming friends with more of their family members.

In Nov. 2018, Shruti hosted a housewarming party with her Houston and Baton Rouge friends.

Thanks to Tyler, we found families away from our family, to whom we could look in good and bad times; celebrate international festivals; and Christmas in pajamas. I no longer felt an alien with having an Italian mom, Marylou; an American dad, Terry; two Native American sisters, Andrea and Miranda; and the Indian in-laws, Jaya and Shiva. Some of them are here today to support me.

All three families visit Tyler often, and we explore this place together. We experienced our first-ever winery tour at Kiepersol, went hiking at Tyler State Park and we go to China King or Villa Montez where we all have our own favorite dish to pick from. In fact, Terry comes to visit China King and stops to see us on the way back. And every time they come, I get a little closer to the little Shih Tzu.

Shruti Patil poses in pajamas with her friend and the Shih Tzu who helped them meet on Christmas morning, 2018.

If it wasn’t for Tyler, I would not have met any of these awesome families. Coming to Tyler and living here – finding friends and family, finding our home here and learning some life lessons along this journey – has made this place special for us and is definitely our home away from home, 9000 miles away!

Have a true personal story about life in Tyler and East Texas you’d like to share at the next Out of the Loop storytelling event? Email storytelling director Jane Neal and describe your story in a sentence or two.

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