Sunday, February 1, 2015

El Camino Real – Entwined with a piece of life of Indian Diaspora

Dosa Palace, Appakadai, Bangalore Café, Taj Imports, Peacock, Mayuri, Paradise, Madras Café, 4 different chat houses, India Cash and carry, Bharat Bazar, Komala Vilas, Bombay Garden, Madras Groceries and the list goes on and on the both sides of a road in a serpentine length of few miles – all posing a grand look with their accessorized illuminations trying to grab your attention in the organized business establishments side by side to Rite Aids, Dollar Trees and SafeWays.

This is not one of those M G Roads in one of the Indian metros rather I rediscovered a different El-Camino Real – CA 82, during my evening stroll yesterday.

We used to live in this place from 2001 to end of 2004 before we had to leave this the then-adopted- country of ours in just two days’ time due to a family emergency.  During those days Indians were mainly associated with ever changing information technology industry and the shopping destinations or eating joints were few and far between for the techie population. Sunnyvale Hindu Temple off Mathilda Avenue was the only congregation place with anything to do with religious activities.

Returning after 10 long years to this part of USA, over the period of last two weeks, I was able to observe how things have changed – some businesses have gone out of business, some new have come up while some could wither the storm of economic ups and downs and continue to do the business. New apartment complex – Tuscany is coming up on Pomeroy and El-Camino in Santa Clara near the Valero gas station which still sells gas at a less price in comparison to its peers. What struck me most is the number of Indian businesses have sprang up and to top it all, the foray is into other main stream businesses like Auto garage, a big departmental store giving competition to erstwhile American large scale store format and a new Shiv-Durga Temple of Flora-Vista and  off El Camino. 

After stamping their unquestionable dominance in the geek world, yes, Indian and India has gained prominence in mainstream America, – starting from politics at the highest levels of Obama administration added with state and city levels to education, legal, medical and everyday life of American sitcoms with Indian characters- male and female. The startling fact to notice is how everyday common people from other countries – Americans, Chinese and Europeans in this part of the country are thronging these Indian business establishments – either relishing Indian cuisine in week days and weekends just like Sushi bars, Chinese or Thai restaurants or shopping in the grocery stores for fresh vegetables and good quality rice grains.

This is an ethnicity which can’t be ignored anymore in American lifestyle and my cousin sister’s Ph. D thesis on first generation South Asian women in American Education system only vindicates this fact.

Landing in this country in the middle of first economic bubble burst of 2000-2001 and securing a somewhat well paid job, we have had many sweet memories surrounding this place. While visiting our residences in Henderson in Sunnyvale and Mary Ave bordering Mountain View, a surge of emotions those days flew through my veins. Those places have remained the same except few changes in converting them as gated communities.

My grandmother came to stay with us in first few weeks of our landing into this country. We did not have a car those days. On the advice of friends and families, one day, we set out to find a dollar store on VTA route number 22 with a confidence in mind on our walking capability and ability to figure it out by asking people. We did not have any experience on everything large in America and that applies to distances as well. This time also we had a hearty laugh on that experience – the number of blocks we walked in search of that and not able to figure it out at the end.

Madras Café has grown in size with roaring business and so does Shraavana Bhavan. Along with the burgeoning sizes and sprawling interiors with an India touch, one can easily experience the typical south Indian smell wafting out from the kitchens in the chilly cool breeze along the footpath of El Camino.

In those days, you hardly would see anyone walking on the roads barring a few health conscious folks either running in Sun or cycling in the evening.  I see, now, the numbers of people at least walking a few blocks have increased slightly which is a good sign of healthy America if you would ask me.

Sunnyvale Library just beside the police station ,with the metallic sculpture of the boy with a book in hand, is visited by many more people these days- needless to say a good chunk is from Asian and Indian communities. On not a busy day, we used to walk up and down from Henderson to Mathilda – around 8 blocks to the library just for the heck of walking though we had a car that time. The mall in Sunnyvale downtown with an Indian theater has given way to a new establishment housing J C Penny and others.  The Hindu temple has a new get-up now with a proper look of temple from its earlier version of a warehouse.

Though it might sound a little weird, being in the tech industry, the garage from where Hewlett-Packard Company started or Xerox PARC laboratory off Page Mill road had special significance to us just like Stanford would have for anyone. We made it a point to visit these birth places of Silicon Valley to feel and get soaked in the aura of them.

I took a bus ride to Los Angeles last weekend and it looked to me water situation has deteriorated on the sides of freeway 101 and 5 – Golden state highway.  Vast patches of green pastures have turned to un-moistened and unfertile land giving it a look that someone might have laid a walnut colored mattress for miles after miles.  

Amongst all other states and cities of Unites States, the bay area and El-Camino has a special place in my life and mind. I feel somewhat comforted when I am here rather elsewhere. As I spent some considerable time in some other cities as well, it is not about the fact that we stayed here. It is some other connection somewhere which I still need to figure out.


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