I Went To USA For A PhD, But Came Back With PTSD

Imagine this – an Indian student is in a University in the nether reaches of USA to earn a PhD in Physics. Instead, he gets harassed, assaulted, racially discriminated by the college and ends up with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). He tries to seek help from the Indian consulate in Houston and from the media but is turned down. Ultimately, he has to relinquish his PhD slot and return to India, emotionally scarred for good. That dismal scenario is, in fact, a true story – my story.

My name is Subho and I used to be a Physics PhD student at City University of New York (CUNY) until July 2016. However, before being in CUNY, I was at another University called the University of Texas, Brownsville in 2011. In that institute, I was regularly hazed by a student from Sri Lanka who also carried out multiple sexually profane acts in my house and finally assaulted me. To make matters worse the college adjudicator David Mariscal, who initially reacted with alarm at my complain, later made a U-turn, shut the case in record time and asked me not to mention these incidents ever again, thus confiscating my freedom of speech. I then dropped out of UT Brownsville in January 2012. However, this experience led to my developing a physiological condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (detected first in 2013 when I was already in a college called Texas A&M, Commerce, near Dallas, earning my MS – before going to CUNY for PhD). Medical counselling (and anti-depressants) became my constant companion from mid-2011 until the end of my stay in USA.

My student card from my PhD days at CUNY

That was not the full extent of the suffering I endured. When I tried to get some recourse for my bad experiences by filing for a U Visa (a compensatory scheme by the USA, for those who were victims of physical and/or psychological abuse while working in an American institution), the police in Brownsville also acted suspiciously and quoted non-existent rules and shirked their duties to squash my U Visa claim. I also sought help from the Indian Consulate in Houston in mid-2013 where an official promised to take up the issue with the college and then reneged on his promise. Isn’t the Indian foreign service funded by our taxpayer money? Are they not supposed to stand by Indian expats in their times of need, instead of betraying them? The only person who helped me was Dr Indrajit Saluja, the editor of The Indian Panorama, a New York-based Indian community newspaper – Youth Ki Awaaz is the second.

Although the incidents happened between 2011 to December 2014, I still suffer from PTSD and my last medical assessment was less than a year ago. Before readers get the impression that Americans carried out some kind of sustained racism on an Indian student, please let me clarify. Not one of the perpetrators was American – the events just happened to have taken place in the USA. My assailant was from Sri Lanka and the college adjudicator and the Brownsville police who did the U-turns were all Mexican/Hispanic. I was, however, let down badly by the apathy of the American media and astounded by the lack of vigilance and toothless-ness of the American authorities when I tried to come out with the truth.

The Indian mainstream media wasn’t much better either and all of them turned me down or didn’t even bother to reply to my emails when I tried to contact them upon my return to India. I am grateful to Youth Ki Awaaz for letting me come out with the story and I wish them well in their endeavour to empower voiceless victims.

Since returning as a person debilitated, I stay at home, with no job or income and try to get my small startup going with my savings. And I try to forget the events of the past so that I can pick up the pieces of my life. By the way, I have even been on a TV program with Tajinder Bagga (spokesperson of the Delhi Unit of Bharatiya Janata Party) and have even met General VK Singh – but to no avail. If you can help in a small way then please share this story on social media and mail it to journalists, scientists and government officials. A few tweets from influencers could prove a game changer.

As you know, we Indian students are the second highest foreign student contingent in USA, after the Chinese and many of us go abroad to get a degree and a career. If the perpetrators of this heinous crime are allowed to get away with this, it will set a very dangerous precedent and put the well-being of future Indian “study abroad” students on the line. On the other hand, if we can make this story go viral and force the authorities to take action, it would send out all the right signals and go a long way towards ensuring that our students studying abroad are not messed with henceforth. I am sure readers realize, if the same things had happened to some foreign student in India, by now all hell would have broken loose and others would have lost no chance to point out just how “third world” we are.

Cover picture of my book, currently available on Amazon Kindle

With your support, we can send a message loud and clear to the world that we Indians do not take acts of racism lying down – nor are their developed countries free of racial crime. To out this story, just like publishing this article, I have recently also self-published the 2nd edition of an eBook on Amazon called “Spoilt Past, Future Tense” – for those who want the full details of the story. I am at least lucky to have survived in one piece to tell the tale – the last few years were rife with stories of Indians being shot, being kidnapped and killed in the USA, (every month there is such a story on all major media outlets). At the very least, my book should make it very clear to future Indian students and H1B workers in the USA about what sort of people/regions to avoid there. If you want to get in touch with me, then please email me at subho_2018@yahoo.com.  I am also reachable on Skype at “Sunny D” (avatar: Buddha statue)


I am speaking at another NAGPS (National Association of Graduate and Professional Students) conference, this time at SUNY Stony Brook.
  • To see me in a program with Tajinder Bagga, the BJP spokesperson for Delhi, please see – https://youtu.be/-TgUX1JEgX4?t=4m31s
  • To get my Kindle Ebook, “Spoilt Past, Future Tense” on Amazon and learn all the sordid details please click – https://www.amazon.in/dp/B07CCG4CYN. It is available for FREE download between 12.30 PM on the 18th of April to 12.30 PM on the 20th of April.
  • To Tweet about this issue, please use the hashtag – #justice4subho along with #youthkiawaaz
  • To hear me speaking in the USA about this issue at the NAGPS conference at University of Missouri, click https://youtu.be/w7Cx5PuUF6Y
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