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Thursday, February 10, 2005

Those were the days:

"The way I had it is all gone now. The bars are
gone, the drinkers, gone. There remain the smartest, healthiest newspeople in the history of the business. And they are so boring that they kill the business right in front of you."

--Jimmy Breslin, newspaper columnist, 1996 (Thanks to alert WORDster Jim Doyle)


'Why not bring more Indians?' Why not, indeed, as Little India blossoms in Logan

By Tyler Riggs

January 20, 2005 | Some call it Little India.

The city block in Logan near 700 East and 900 North, near the Utah State University campus, looks like any other student neighborhood. There are apartment complexes, small houses and the occasional bicycle lying on the ground.

For a growing number of USU students from India, the neighborhood is a home away from home.

"When I came to Logan (in 1999), I saw it was just a community of probably like 25 to 30 (people from India)," said Ram Swaminathan, president and founder of the Consortium for Indian Culture at USU. "Right now I would say the community is more than 300."

More and more people from India are coming to Logan to study, and as they arrive, they're developing a comfortable routine in the neighborhood where many of them reside.



A TASTE OF INDIA: Sham Singh waits on tables for his family's restaurant. / Photo by Josh Russell

More and more people from India are coming to Logan to study, and as they arrive, they're developing a comfortable routine in the neighborhood where many of them reside.

Most of the Indians living in Cache Valley are students at USU seeking graduate degrees, said USU's International Admissions Adviser Jamie Herd. There were 244 students from India during Spring Semester, 230 of whom were seeking graduate degrees.

Many of the students were enrolled in similar areas of study, Herd said. There were 95 Indian students in engineering programs, 82 in computer science, 24 in business and 14 in biology or chemistry. There were 29 students in various other programs on campus, Herd said.

With the growing economy in India and the number of jobs that have appeared in the country because of outsourcing, Swaminathan said, many students look to return to their country after graduating in the United States -- a change from just a few years ago when most looked to stay here.

"The mindset of most Indians ... these days is probably to go back (rather) than to stay here for some time," he said. "The chances are that you might end up with a really good job in India."

Many students are bringing aspects of their lives back home to Logan. Swaminathan said it is not uncommon to drive by the parking lot in front of the apartment complex at 925 N. 700 East and see a group of Indian students playing cricket, a very popular sport in their home country that is similar to baseball. The afternoon games of cricket, usually played at about 5 p.m. on weekends, when it’s warm and the snow is melted, give the students a chance to do something they love with their friends.

"Cricket is more than a religion in India," Swaminathan said. "It's a lot more than a sport."

Swaminathan said cricket is important to the Indian culture in part because it brings people together. No matter what religion people belong to, a love for cricket is shared.

"This is a sport that unites the whole country," he said.

Life in Logan's Little India wasn't always as vibrant and exciting as a game of cricket, however. Even five years ago when Swaminathan came to Logan, the area didn't have its own identity.

Swaminathan said he and some friends were living in an apartment in the neighborhood and noticed there were vacancies in their complex.

"Why not bring more Indians?" he thought.

Five years later, the apartments in the neighborhood are filled with Indian students who are enjoying the companionship of their countrymen.

"You like to have more of your community next to you so that when you have something really good you can share it with them," Swaminathan said.

One thing Indian community members and others in the valley consider "good" is new ownership at the gas station at 700 East and 1000 North.

Sham Singh, owner of the New Logan Market, bought the station earlier this year and has been operating it with his family's help.

Singh said there has been a good response from the Indian community to the station, which sells products high in demand among Indian students. The station also sells traditional convenience store items.

Singh came to Logan from Salt Lake City, where he had been working at an Indian restaurant. He started as a bus boy and dishwasher at the restaurant and eventually started cooking. Now, Singh said, he uses his cooking experience in a restaurant at his gas station, which is the only Indian restaurant in Cache Valley.

The restaurant, called The Indian Oven, is on the east side of Singh's gas station. The restaurant opened at the beginning of this school year and serves traditional Indian food fare, such as curry, along with a buffet, various desserts and a full menu.

"I think there's too many Chinese restaurants (in Logan) ... and not enough Indian restaurants," Swaminathan said. "We've wanted an Indian store for quite some time."

The restaurant, Swaminathan said, allows people in Cache Valley to better understand the Indian community. Groups like Swaminathan's CIC and USU's Indian Student Council have also organized festivals in each of the last two years to celebrate Indian culture and give valley residents a taste of Indian life.


HAPPY AND FULL: Maria Jones enjoys the Indian Oven.
/ Photo by Josh Russell

Singh has taken his meals outside the restaurant recently, as he has catered for hundreds of people at events such as a fundraiser for the Utah Avalanche Center earlier this month.

"We have a lot of dancers and music, we have food ... the local community should definitely be a part of the show and enjoy the show," Swaminathan said.

Aside from creating opportunities for fellow students and others in the valley to learn about their culture, Swaminathan said, members of the Indian community are willing to help out and volunteer.

"If something happens in the community (we are) more than glad to help if there are good causes," Swaminathan said.

He said the Indian students most of all just want to be part of the community in any way they can.
While Indian students seem to thrive in Cache Valley after getting enrolled and meeting their neighbors, there is still some culture shock when they first arrive.

"I think to start with it's a cultural shock if you're from any big city in India," Swaminathan said. "If you're a big city guy and just come to a small town like Logan, it's beautiful, but for the first couple of months there is some shock."

There isn't a large problem, Swaminathan said, with community members displaying prejudice toward Indians, at least not as much as there was when he first arrived.

"I would say it is probably less of a problem these days than it was probably five years back," he said. "I don't see any problem with people being naive. They accept other cultures well."


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