The Philadelphia Inquirer Covers Indian Americans: Gets it 100% Right

Photo Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer

Dear Editor Wischnowski,

I am writing today to thank you and the rest of The Philadelphia Inquirer team for your wonderful front-page coverage on the South Asian American community in the Sunday, July 3rd edition. The article titled “Indian population booming in Philadelphia area” certainly constitutes one of the finest pieces of research-driven feature-writing I have seen in quite some time. As one of the 477,586 Sunday readers of The Philadelphia Inquirer, I am thrilled to see that the third-oldest, eleventh-largest daily newspaper the United States continues to maintain its reputation as the Pulitzer Prize winning publication of its yore. With the advent of joke publications, such as The Onion, arriving in this town, it’s heartening to see some hard-hitting news in the Inquirer.

First and foremost, I would like to tip my hat to journalists Michael Matza and Joelle Farrell for their wonderful reporting. To echo the first quote in the article, “Stereotypes be damned.” Such breadth of interviewees! What segues! The software-developer. The dentist groom and the physician bride. The retired chemist. The civil engineer turned motel-owner. The managing partner. The real estate agent. And lest we grow too comfortable in our community’s affluence, the additional video on your website featuring the taxi driver. A moment of silence for this lone unskilled Indian American man who aspires to achieve the American dream. And a hat tip to you guys for featuring him! I bow to your benevolent reporting. Nick Kristof could learn something from you people.

Thank you! I’m so grateful that mainstream media has finally covered my community. Confession: I’m not actually Indian-American. I’m a Pakistani-American from the Christian community in Philadelphia. But it’s okay. Vast history of secretarian violence aside, we’re all browns in Philadelphia. And on behalf of the Sri-Lankan Americans, Bangladeshi-Americans, Nepali-American and Afghani-Americans, I applaud your coverage. With simply one sentence, “dozens of new Indian restaurants and groceries; Sikh societies, Muslim mosques, Indian churches, and Hindu temples” you covered everybody. E-v-e-r-y-b-o-d-y. Well, the remainder of the article is mostly about Gujurati Hindus. But that’s almost everybody!

And in general, you featured everything that defines desi culture. Your paper is indeed correct. We often have ornate “marathon” weddings featuring overwrought brides “that want to try to marry in the culture.” We are professional. Fecund. Educated. Affluent. Skilled. Un-skilled. Legal. Not-quite-so-legal. Uncomplaining. Good at math. Entrepreneurs. And did I mentioned how much we love extravagant weddings? Well we do. Nothing like a good arranged marriage and a Slumdog song to get the blood flowing. (Also, thank you for the follow-up on our lovely couple’s wedding at http://www.philly.com/hindu. I love Bollywood dancing AND Hindus! Bride magazine and NYTimes Weddings section, eat your heart out!)

Naturally, as a South Asian American, I swoon over the numbers you quote in the piece after combing through the 2010 Cenus. What stats! It makes my math-loving heart thump hard. Exquisite research, really.


973 – the number of Indians that came to live in Upper Uwchlan, Chester County, in the last 10 years
600 – the couple’s wedding guests
400 – the number of wedding guests staying at the Lows on Market Street and directly bolstering the local economy
293 – the number of Indians that came to live in Mansfield, Burlington County
100 – the number of times the lovely bride had to kneel to greet the guests before she really felt it in her gams
74 – the number of complaints made by Indians to the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission
30 – the mean age of the lovely couple
28 – the number of rooms in the Gujurati motel
18 – the number of Indian weddings hosted by an Upper Darby banquet facility
5 – the number of days during the typical Indian American wedding
4 – the venues needed for the wedding-planner-less bride for the requisite nuptial

Thanks to you and your article, I know now more about the strain of wedding planning Indian Americans than ever before.

Gratefully yours,

PG

Note: Originally posted on my personal blog.

14 thoughts on “The Philadelphia Inquirer Covers Indian Americans: Gets it 100% Right

  1. “fecund”- not really. I know hardly any desi families with more than 2 kids. way too many have just the 1!

    • indian americans are not to too fertile. but pakistani and bangladeshi americans are i think. a matter of class more than culture. i wouldn’t be surprised if the bangladeshi american fertility is higher than bangladesh’s fertility (2.3). the bangladeshi briton fertility is higher than bangladeshi fertility!

  2. A grrrls gotta do what a grrrl’s gotta do. The Inquirer provided you a fecund site for some smart, sarcastic observations. Enjoyed it.

  3. I miss the Philadelphia of my youth. Where I grew up with people from different cultures and one didn’t act more superior than the other.

  4. “And on behalf of the Sri-Lankan Americans, Bangladeshi-Americans, Nepali-American and Afghani-Americans, I applaud your coverage”

    Hey you forgot Bhutanese Americans how dare you….

  5. Why does an article about Indian Americans need to also be about Pakistanis and Bangladeshis and Afghanis also? Why is PG so bitter that Hindu Gujaratis are given positive attention in an article?

    Perhaps her bitterness and latent resentment towards Gujaratis is a good example of why “South Asian” identity ought to be devolved.

    • Yet you read a South Asian American blog and felt empowered to respond to a post on a South Asian American blog to a post by a Pakistani-American. A great example of how divides are being broken and why South Asian identity is still useful and should further be evolved.

  6. Perhaps her bitterness and latent resentment towards Gujaratis is a good example of why “South Asian” identity ought to be devolved.

    You can’t just “devolve” a culture that’s existed for several thousands of years – for most of its history, India has included its neighbors to the east and west. And I sensed no bitterness toward Gujaratis or resentment of their motel-running ways :D

  7. taz: “Yet you read a South Asian American blog and felt empowered to respond to a post on a South Asian American blog to a post by a Pakistani-American.”

    “Pakistani-American”? What happened to South-Asian American. Btw, This South-Asian identity is mostly owned by Indian-Americans, Paksitani Muslims are too busy trying to belong to the grand umma. :)

  8. At least in Britain we have “British Asians”, which is a perfectly reasonable and identifiable term.

    Though to be fair I think the Indian-American community is orders of magnitude larger than the other South Asian American community. Is being a “model minority” a bad thing to be anyway?

  9. Not to be a party-pooper here but this is representative of a narrow shiny sliver of the Indian diaspora. I am growing tired of the henna; jai-ho-noise; elaborate-wedding; colorful-clothing; tradition-appropriating-facade of Indians in the American media. It looks largely theatrical and formulaic.

    I don’t have anything against the Gujaratis or the folks in the report, the Gujarati stereotype is starting to grow heavy and doesn’t necessarily represent me.

  10. @asympt0te, I totally agree. I really just want to be a person who happens to be Indian, not someone you can stereo-typically typecast. I’m not trying to repudiate my background, I just wasn’t raised in a traditional way and want to discover and pursue own lifestyle. If I do get married, it’s not going to be a 5 day affair for sure! I hope the article covered people like me.

  11. Wait, so we don’t have elaborate weddings? The last ones I’ve been to have been 4 days and 6 days long; both involved skits, mehndi, and grooms on horseback.. And yes, on average we have a higher rate of college graduation and are more affluent than any other racial group. Of course there are exceptions to this rule but it is neither inaccurate to point out these facts nor demeaning to the community to do so.

    I have no idea why you decide to get into coverage of Pakistanis or Bangladeshis. The article was meant to discuss the Indian-American community. So you don’t like their treatment of Indian-Americans, but you want them to discuss Pakistani-Americans too?

    Pick and choose your battles. This wasn’t one to get incensed about.