I have spent most of my life in the United States living in small towns: Charlottesville, Virginia; Brockway, Pennsylvania; Gambier, Ohio; South Bend, Indiana; and Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Although beautiful, the cities where I have lived were not the most cosmopolitan. They didn’t have large communities of Indian immigrants, or immigrants in general.
To put things in perspective, the Migration Policy Institute reports that almost 40 percent of Indian immigrants settle in California, New Jersey and Texas. And they end up mostly around the big metropolises like San Jose, Seattle, Washington, DC, Chicago and New York City.
I have been to neighborhoods like Devon Avenue in Chicago, or Jackson Heights in New York City that are like small slivers of India plunked down in America. For so many of my fellow immigrants, it is not uncommon to hear several Indian languages being spoken on a single street or to see samosas fried right before your eyes. To see an Indian man sitting listlessly, chewing betel nut outside his sari shop. I have found South Asian areas in the bigger cities in America to be more diverse than places I’ve been in India, with people from different parts of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan all mingling together.
I don’t crave hot samosas, or the Hindi language or India every single day, but every time I move to another small, nondescript, town in the US, I find myself missing my home in Lucknow, India. I have caught myself looking, quite desperately, for a piece of India in these small towns — a conversation in Hindi, Bollywood songs or an Indian face.