“For me…being in America has made a huge difference in my life. You have to be willing to do the work and work hard, and make the most of opportunities that are given to you, but anyone can succeed here. America is what you make of it.”
At first glance, it would appear that the United States and the country of India are as different as they are far apart. Not so, says Khushroo Ghadiali. While there are notable and even obvious differences between the two countries, Khush, as he’s known locally, believes there are likely more similarities between the two than there are differences.
Many Carlsbad residents know Khush as the local PR guy. He worked in public relations for the college for a few years and about a year ago took on a communications role at Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), the operating and managing contractor for the WIPP plant. On the off chance you don’t know Khush from a professional standpoint, it’s a safe bet that you likely know him, or at least know of him, from his volunteer work — his copious amounts of volunteer work. In fact, one lady recently asked him if there’s an organization in town where he doesn’t volunteer. “I like to go out into community and do things for less fortunate or for those that need help,” he said. “It’s always been a big part of my upbringing.”
The notion of community service runs so deep in his family history that it can be traced back thousands of years. “I am part of the Zoroastrian community,” he shared. According to the Christian tradition, the three wise men, a group of distinguished foreigners who visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, were also of the Zoroastrian community. The religion dates back more than 3,500 years and is believed to be one of the oldest in existence. “My religion (as a Zoroastrian) can be summed up in six words: good thoughts, good words, good deeds,” he said. “It’s basically the same with most religions though. You want to be a good person, do community service, and not knowingly cause harm.” Serving his community, then, has always come natural to Khush. “It’s just how I was raised. I enjoy going out in the community and helping out. It’s important in cultivating that sense of community and giving back,” he said.
A Cosmopolitan Upbringing
As a child growing up in Bombay (today Mumbai) as the son of two lawyers, Khush experienced a rather cosmopolitan upbringing. He enjoyed big city dining and entertainment and shopping, but at the same time lived a comfortable life within the confines of a smaller community. “When you live in a city that big, you kind of live in a community within that city,” he explained. “We lived within a half a mile radius of everyone in our circle of family and friends. You looked out for one another’s kids, you knew everyone, kind of like it is here.” The similarities between India and the United States carry over into other areas as well. Much like it is here, Khush says young people in India want to hang out with their friends, watch the latest and greatest movies, and they enjoy music and fashion. “I think that’s the misconception,” he said. “People think that life is so much different in other places but it turns out it’s not. If you put three or four or five, or more people from other countries around the same table and give them a few hours to talk, I think you’ll see that they have a lot more in common than they realized going in.” Even when those individuals do not speak the same language, the human ties that bind us have a way of surfacing. A smile, for instance, is universally understood.
In the summers, Khush would spend most of his time outdoors, hiking, camping, and spending time with his friends. “In the summer my mom barely saw me,” he recalls. As he got a little older he would spend the majority of his summers serving as a camp counselor, where they introduced young people to outdoor life and taught them the basics of camping. At 21 he decided to make the move that completely altered the trajectory of his life. He moved from India to California to attend college.
Coming to America
In 1999, Khush, an only child, packed his belongings and made the solo journey to Riverside, California, to live with his aunt and uncle and attend college. “It was nothing like I was expecting,” he chuckled. “I had been as a visitor here but it’s completely different when you live here than when you’re just visiting.” No longer was he playing tourist; his focus was now on making good grades, meeting new, much different people than he was used to, learning his way around, and perhaps most difficult of all, adjusting his palate to much blander food. “Moving from India where our food is really spicy and coming to California at the time I found food to be a little bland because my taste buds weren’t used to it,” he admitted. That all changed one day in college when he says he discovered Taco Bell hot sauce. “I put it on everything and that helped!” he laughed. His love of food and cooking led him to study restaurant management in college, where he also worked as a host at one of the restaurants on campus. His hosting gig also provided him the opportunity to interact with customers and get to know the regulars on a slightly more personal level. “I’ve just always loved talking to people,” he said. “I guess that’s why I enjoy public relations so much.”
If you’re wondering how a young man from India who at 21 moved to California somehow ended up in Carlsbad, NM, stay with me! After living in and attending college for a few years on the west coast, the president of the college he was attending accepted a position at Highland University in Las Vegas, NM. “He invited me to visit. I didn’t tell anyone I was going but I took a Greyhound bus out there,” Khush said. He ended up liking it and decided to stay, which means it was time for culture shock number two. Eventually, the slower paced life in New Mexico grew on him and he found himself enjoying it. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in design studies from Highlands and went to work for the local newspaper after graduation. During his time in Las Vegas he met and married his wife, Debra Anaya, an El Paso native, who eventually convinced him to move back there with her to be closer to her family. While in El Paso he landed a job doing public relations work for New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, and then went on to run his own graphic design and photography business. “After a while I decided that I wanted something more stable, so I saw the job posting for the Marketing and Publications Director job and decided to apply. My wife and I visited Carlsbad and I was impressed with the river and the community. It looked like a fun job and I got a good vibe, so I took it,” he said. That was in 2012.
Last year he shifted from the world of higher education to waste, and he couldn’t be happier. “What we do here still amazes me,” he confessed. “Most people don’t go to work half a mile underground!” An opportunity like that probably wouldn’t have opened up if I hadn’t moved to Carlsbad.” He said another thing he appreciates about about NWP is that they not only allow him, but encourage him to be an active part of the community. “I’m also fortunate to have a boss that recognizes the value of having company that goes out and does things in the community,” he added.
For me, and I know it is very individual choice, being in America has made a huge difference in my life that I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise,” he said. “You have to be willing to do the work and work hard, make the most of opportunities that are given to you, but anyone can succeed here. America is what you make of it.” He continued, “At 21 I don’t think I was expecting anything – I wasn’t expecting a handout or that coming here would be pots of gold; I knew it would be a struggle. Going to college, it would take me three hours to get there and I would change buses three times, so I don’t take things like transportation for granted now. And housing…I was fortunate to have had an aunt and uncle to let me live with them, so I didn’t have to worry about finding a place to live when I came here from India, and I don’t take things like having a house for granted either.”
Having lived in Carlsbad for more than six years now, he is at home and at peace here. “The community of Carlsbad has been really good to me right from the start at the college,” he shared. “There are definitely benefits of growing up and living in a community like Carlsbad.” Though he has only been back to India twice since moving to the States nearly 20 years ago, he said he remains close to his mother and enjoys when she visits, often staying between six weeks to two months at a time. Khush, who is fluent in four languages, converses with his mom in various languages, and said his wife marvels when the two of them intermix three different languages in a single conversation. “In India it’s important that if you’re doing business with someone or you’re friends with someone that you at least try to speak their language, so we learn a lot of languages,” he said. Growing up they spoke English and Gujarati in his home, which was the community language, or what people in his religion typically speak. They also spoke the national language, which is Hindi, and the state language, which is Marathi.
From a young man in India to an adult in small town USA, Khush Ghadiali has made the most of the opportunities afforded him to create a life he never imagined possible. He’s living the American dream.