Local News

Indian Couple Celebrates First Independence Day As American Citizens

Posted July 3, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— While many Americans take the Fourth of July for granted, the holiday holds special importance for those who were not born into freedom.

Like millions of Americans, Vikram and Smita Patel fly the Stars and Stripes in front of their North Raleigh home for the Fourth. For the Indian-born couple, this Independence Day is their first as American citizens.

Their daughters, Hiral and Madhvi, are already American citizens. Last week, the Patels were granted their citizenship after moving to the U.S. from India nearly 15 years ago.

"Lots of people welcomed me and congratulated me about it," Vikram says. "When my big boss, all the managers and those that knew, they came in and congratulated me about that."

Patel, an IBM technician, says he lost jobs over the years because he lacked citizenship. He says now he can vote, earn benefits and more opportunity for his family -- all from a free country that will still respect his Indian heritage. For him, it is a real reason to celebrate this Fourth of July.

"I'm proud of that. I took a decision to make something good for my family," Vikram says.

The Patels moved to Raleigh about five years ago after living in New Jersey and California. They moved to the United States from India in 1986.

The Patels are in good company. More than a million people will become citizens of the United States this year.