An international student from Pakistan, is pursuing his Master's degree in Electrical Engineering
Madhu Maheshwari is accustomed to his American friends assuming that he is Muslim once they find out that he is from Pakistan. It's a good guess, since Muslims make up 95-98% of his country's population, but Madhu is part of his country's Hindu minority. Madhu was born in Tharparkar, the only fertile desert in the world, and the only district in Pakistan with a significant Hindu population. Even though Muslims in the region constitute over 70% of the population, Hindus make up a healthy 30%. Madhu speaks fondly of his home in Tharparkar and notes that his family has owned land and operated a thriving business there for many generations. Although his parents now live in Karachi, where his father, an engineer, is employed with Sui Southern Gas Company, it is clear that Madhu maintains a special affection for the beautiful desert homeland of his boyhood.
Q: What is it like being a Hindu in Pakistan (less than 2% of the population)?
Being a minority is special because people regard you with curiosity and want to know more about your culture and traditions. Many are surprised to learn that at no time was I ever ostracized or made to feel "different" simply because most of my friends and neighbors were from a different religious background. Just like the Muslim majority, I have always enjoyed all the rights of citizenship, and I really never felt any religious persecution. We were fully able to enjoy our religious festivals and traditions, and on special Hindu religious festivals like Diwali and Holi it was my great pleasure to explain their significance to my non-Hindu friends.
Q: What is the reaction of your American friends when they learn that you are from Pakistan?
When I first came to the United States, I knew very little about US culture and people. I had culture shock when I realized that I was on the other end of the map! Likewise, most of my American friends had never met a person from Pakistan before, so they had a lot of curiosity about my culture and home country. I had some stupid misconceptions about the United States before coming here. My version of America was based on TV stereotypes like Spiderman, but the reality is very different. Americans have similar misconceptions about Pakistan. My American friends would ask me things such as, “Do you have Skype?” “Do you have grass in Pakistan or just sand?” “What type of food do you eat?” etc. Such questions are completely understandable, since our countries are on opposite sides of the globe. And by the way, we have Skype, and grass as well as sand, and I am purely vegetarian (no meat, fish or egg). When I tell my steak-eating Texas friends about my diet, many of them ask, “Man how you are surviving?” This is the funniest reaction I get here, but I try to make them understand that there is so much vegetarian stuff to eat!
Q: When did you first come to the US and why?
I love travelling and I chose to come to the US because of its diverse cultural background and of course I wanted to pursue my graduate studies here because of the excellent education system. I started my undergraduate studies in 2009 back in Pakistan, and during my junior year I got a chance to visit the US for a semester as a cultural exchange student on a Fulbright scholarship--one of only a handful of students from Pakistan chosen for this prestigious program. I spent my one semester as an exchange student at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. This was the first time I had travelled outside my home country, and it was a great opportunity for me to learn about American society, culture, and traditions, and at the same time share Pakistani culture and traditions with Americans. At the completion of the Fulbright program I returned back home to finish my undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering. I also did an Internship in Singapore in 2013 before starting my graduate studies. I was in Singapore for a six-month research internship at Agency of Science technology & research (A*Star) in Singapore.
Q: Why did you choose Texas Tech?
During my undergraduate research, I went through many research papers, articles, and internet resources. At that time I came across one research paper which was published by a TTU professor on wind power systems which helped me a lot on my research project. That was the first time I had heard about Texas Tech University. Out of curiosity, I started digging into the Electrical Engineering program at Texas Tech and I found that Texas Tech is one of the leading schools in the field of renewable energy (wind energy). As this is my field of interest, I decided to apply for the Master's program in Electrical Engineering. Fortunately, I was accepted and received a competitive graduate scholarship. Another important reason I wanted to attend graduate school in Texas is because of the weather. Being from the desert region of Pakistan, I had never seen snow in my life until I lived in Wisconsin! Also, I have always been fascinated by Texas cowboy culture and I wanted to come here and experience that intriguing part of Texas culture firsthand.
Q: Why did you decide to do your graduate work in Electrical Engineering?
In my childhood, my village lacked electricity. Whenever I visited other places during vacations and watched the wonders of electricity there, I grew increasingly disappointed that my village was deprived of this great wonder of science. This developed into my passion to become an electrical engineer in the field of electrical power/energy. I am pursuing my graduate studies here at Texas Tech in the hopes of doing something beneficial in the field of electrical energy systems in my homeland.