Indian Immigrants Embrace Suburban Life In Loudoun County (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Indian Immigrants Embrace Suburban Life In Loudoun County

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:08
I'm Rebecca Sheir and welcome back to "Metro Connection." Today, we're taking an audio stroll through suburbia. If you've traveled around D.C.'s suburbs, you know they can be incredibly diverse in terms of ethnicity, culture, nationality, language. In fact, more than a million immigrants dwell in the Washington-Metropolitan region. That means, more than one in five of us hail from outside the United States. When it comes to foreign-born residents, the fastest growing suburban area is Loudoun County, Va.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:37
At the turn of the 21st century, Loudoun's immigrant population was roughly 20,000. A decade later, it was 70,000 and one immigrant group whose numbers have been skyrocketing in the county is the Indian community. Back in 2000, approximately 1,200 Indian people called Loudoun County home. By 2010, that number had multiplied 10 fold to 12,000. So what is it about Loudoun County that's attractive so many new Indian inhabitants? Well, what better way to find out then to travel up there. Our first stop, the home of Bratati Saha, an Indian immigrant whose been living with her husband and son in Ashburn, Va. since 2007.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:01:19
Saha runs Arpan Dance Academy out a spacious studio in her basement. This morning she's teaching about a dozen women and girls the traditional Indian dance form KATHAK. KATHAK is a rhythmic barefoot dance full of elaborate footwork and spins. And you hear that jingling? That's the sound of guru, long strands of bells KATHAK dancers wrap around their ankles. The more experienced you are, the more bells you get to wear.

MS. BRATATI SAHA

00:01:48
According to your dance level, you can use it more so. Like my guru, each feet, I have 175 bells, yeah.

SHEIR

00:01:55
175 on one side?

SAHA

00:01:58
One side. One leg. So I have to get you that.

SHEIR

00:02:01
Saha teaches several dozen pupils from many cultural backgrounds but the majority of her students are Indian. Like the women and girls in attendance this morning. The girls range from 3rd to 6th grade and if you ask them what they like best about KATHAK -- what would you say is your favorite thing about dance? Most of them, like 4th grader Sherah (sp?) , say it's the way KATHAK connects them to Indian history and traditions.

SHERAH

00:02:23
This dance can help me do it at school or at the other performances like at the festivals. So we can just show everyone our culture.

SHEIR

00:02:30
And that opportunity to show off the Indian culture is important to the grown up too, like Cherie (sp?) whose been learning KATHAK for about year now.

CHERIE

00:02:37
The last five years that we've moved here, my God, yes, we do see a lot of Indian culture, a lot of Indian people, a lot of Indian food. You know, I have American friends that love Indian food and they want to go out and eat Indian foods. I'm always taking them out.

SHEIR

00:02:48
But because Loudoun County's Indian community is so sizeable, the beauty is, they don't just get to show their culture to others, says fellow student Davica (sp?) , they get share it with one another.

DAVICA

00:03:00
I think that a lot of Indians though, that drives them to come to this area because they have somebody -- then they're comfortable -- I mean, they know already from their own country.

SHEIR

00:03:09
It's what's known as chain immigration. And Davica (sp?) says when these individuals and families arrive in a place like Loudoun County, they find affordable homes, quality schools and jobs.

DAVICA

00:03:20
There are more tech companies around here, so that's one of the main reasons why all the people who are in IT are moving in here. So I am in IT so there were opportunities.

SHEIR

00:03:32
In fact, you'll find one of the nation's highest concentrations of high tech firms in Loudoun. It is after all, home to the Dulles Technology corridor, AKA, the net plex, AKA...

MR. KUMAR IYER

00:03:43
The silicon valley of the East Coast.

SHEIR

00:03:44
And while Kumar Iyer isn't part of the areas high tech industry, as owner of Rangoli Indian Restaurant, he's done pretty well for himself in the county.

IYER

00:03:53
I've had this restaurant for six years now, in these six years, we've been rated the best Indian restaurant in entire Northern Virginia. We've been in the top 50 best bargain restaurants of entire D.C. Metro area. We have won the best retail business of the year award from the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce.

SHEIR

00:04:06
The list goes on and on. And as an entrepreneur, Iyer says, Loudoun County is an ideal environment, for what he calls...

IYER

00:04:14
...the entrepreneurial blood in Indians to, you know, open businesses. Not just the small hotels and restaurants and convenient stores and gas stations but there are so many entrepreneurs starting their own .com companies and being successful. And then they bring in their kit and kin and (word?) grow.

SHEIR

00:04:30
So it's no wonder 15 percent of the national capital regions Indian population resides in Loudoun County. And after years of moving around the country, Joshie (sp?) , Sherah's mother, says she and her family are here to stay.

MS. JOSHIE

00:04:46
We have been moving ever two and a half years in this country. I was in Texas, Louisiana, California and Delaware. But it feels really great to be in this area. It's welcoming. As Sherah says, okay, we are not like someone's stranger, we belong here now. Our kids belong here.

SHEIR

00:05:02
As for her own kid, Joshie says she's proud of how Sherah is thriving.

JOSHIE

00:05:07
At the same time she is learning new things from here and she's contributing to the society, so that's the view that she has (word?) . I think that's very healthy. We will (word?) immigrants will look at it when they come here and try to settle here.

SHEIR

00:05:19
And come here and settle they have, by the thousands upon thousands, helping to transform this formally rural corner of Northern Virginia into a vibrant suburb with more than a hint of Indian flavor.

SHEIR

00:05:34
If you came to the Washington region from another part of the world in recent years, we want to know what drew you here. Tell us your story by sending an email to metro@wamu.org.
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