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From Dhaka to D.C.: My First Day in America

Nasia Anam as a baby with her parents in New York. Her father immigrated to the U.S. in 1974 from Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Molla Anam with his wife, Murshida Anam, and his daughter, Seeba Anam, in New York, 1974 Nasia Anam

First Days is a weekly series in partnership with the South Asian American Digital Archive, documenting the first-person stories of immigrant America. This week, the story of Molla Anam - who left Dhaka, Bangladesh for Washington, D.C. in 1974 - as told to his daughter, Nasia Anam.

Molla Anam was interviewed by his daughter about his first day in America, after arriving in Washington, D.C. from Dhaka, Bangladesh in 1974.
Molla Anam, pictured in Pennsylvania in 1982, was interviewed by his daughter about his first day in America. He arrived in Washington, D.C. from Dhaka, Bangladesh in 1974. Nasia Anam

"When I arrived, Bangladesh had just achieved independence. And most of the countries of the world, they did not even recognize Bangladesh. Bangladesh did not have any currency. Only two countries recognized Bangladesh: India and Soviet Russia, because they were allies. So, I couldn't buy a ticket because there was no foreign currency. Aeroflot, Soviet Russian airlines, were the only airline in the world that would accept Bangladesh Taka [Bangladeshi currency]. But they didn't fly from Dhaka, only New Delhi. So I had to fly to India first, and I stayed a week with my parents in Calcutta. From Calcutta, I flew to Delhi on Indian Airlines. From Delhi I took the Aeroflot flight."

Molla Anam and his wife.
Molla Anam and his wife, Murshida Anam, in New York, 1975 Nasia Anam

"It was April. It was Spring in Bangladesh. I had one suit, which I was wearing, because that was given to me by my in-laws for a wedding present. The Aeroflot flight flew from Delhi to Moscow. I stayed a couple of days in Moscow. When I got to Moscow, I had a completely different experience because the whole airport was full of police. And it was like almost everybody was a convict. I had to submit my passport to the police. After about an hour and a half, they arranged a hotel for me. I was very hungry but I couldn't buy anything because everything I wanted to do had to be accompanied by a police officer. I think there were maybe three times more police officers than passengers in the airport."

Molla Anam with his daughter, Nasia, who interviewed him for the First Days project.
Molla Anam and his daughter, Nasia Anam, in Baltimore, Maryland in 2008. Nasia Anam

"The following day, I flew to New York, but the plane could not land there because of dense fog. All the planes were diverted to other cities. My wife's friends were supposed to pick me up in New York, and they were waiting for me there, but I was diverted to Dulles Airport. Since I was diverted there, I had to go through immigration in Washington, D.C. There they handed me my green card and said, 'Welcome to the United States.' I spent my first night in America in a beautiful Marriott hotel."

Molla Anam with his family today.
Molla Anam with his family today. (L-R) Molla Anam, Saniya Patel (granddaughter), Sameer Patel (son-in-law), Nasia Anam (daughter), Seeba Anam (daughter), and Saahir Patel (grandson) in Chicago, 2014 Nasia Anam

Read the original story, and more like it, here. You can also submit your own story or interview your parents or friends about theirs. Your story may be featured here during Asian American Heritage Month in May.