Atlanta, Georgia is one of the fastest growing metropolitans of the United States of America. The definition of a metropolitan city is one that combines all flavors of the world in one. Over the past decade, especially since the 1996 Olympics, Atlanta has seen an immense growth in a multicultural population.
The South Asian population of Atlanta has tripled over the past ten years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the total population of Georgia in 1999 was 7,788,240 people, with Atlanta being the most populous city. Atlanta and its surrounding areas currently boast approximately one hundred thousand South Asians. South Asians are mainly natives of the following countries: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. The South Asians are one of the largest and fastest growing minority groups of the state of Georgia, coming in fourth after Blacks, Hispanics and Orientals.
The large South Asian population of Atlanta accounts for a large consumer base. Statistics show that Asian owned businesses and Asian enrollment in elementary and secondary schools has increased tremendously over the past few years. This has created a whole new market for special goods and services, which were not available before. This demand has since led to the creation of hundreds of new businesses, and therefore jobs, catering to this diverse community.
Briarcliff Shopping center, Woodcliff Drive, Atlanta:
The Briarcliff shopping center is located in the heart of a predominantly, South Asian, population. Its’ ideal location has made it the “Desi shopping paradise”. Desi is a common term used to describe South Asian people. It is a Punjabi term and can be broken down into two words- Des and “I” (pronounced ee). The word Des means country and “i” means from the same country. It is very popular to address another South Asian person as a Desi or a fellow countryman. Located in the heart of Briarcliff shopping center is one of the biggest South Asian grocery stores, The Taj Mahal Imports. The Taj Mahal Imports is one of the largest grocery stores in Atlanta. There are currently more than twenty-two Indian grocery stores in Atlanta but the Taj Mahal Imports (or popularly referred to as “Taj”) is the most popular. Two brothers, Deepak and Iqbal Patel own Taj Mahal imports. The Patel family belongs to Gujrat in the south of India. They speak Gujrati and Hindi. Patels are farmers and their caste is the most “hardworking” one.
The Taj Mahal Imports has been in Atlanta for over 15 years now. It had started as a small “khoka” (a small shop) which sold only Halal Meat and Fresh vegetables. As the Asian population in Atlanta grew, this shop grew likewise, into a huge grocery store that caters to the needs of every South Asian consumer.
The Taj Mahal imports carries all kinds of necessities; food items like “Mithai”and Halwa, Spices like Shaan Biryanni masala, Bombay Biryanni Masala, Chicken Tikkah Masala etc, Utensils, Herbal medicines, Shampoos, Pan Masala, Pan Paragh, Shahi supari etc. Although this store is owned by an Indian family, they provide the Pakistani and Bangladeshi people with spices, food and religious items imported from their respective countries.
The picture below shows some of the Spices and Lentils available at Taj.
The spices are sold at $2.50 per packet and the lentils at $6.75/ 2Lbs.
The picture below shows the Mithai available at The Taj. Halwa and Burffi are marked at $6.50/lb
Gulab Jaman and Laddu are available at $5.50/lb.
Religious “items” like the Statuettes of Ram are readily available. A Muslim customer can find copies of the Qu’uran and framed pictures of the Ka’abah and prayers.
This aisle is only for tea. Tea from all over South Asia is available here. Tata tea, Taj Mahal tea, Lipton tea, Kahmiri tea, Green tea (Chinese herbal tea) is readily available.
This is a picture showing the different kitchen utensils available at Taj.
In one large section of the store, one can find artificial jewelry and other accessories. From bindis to glass bangles, henna to kajal, women are able to buy all kinds of accessories needed for the celebrations, like Eid and Diwali.
The jewelery and accessories are imported from India at low costs . Deepak and Iqbal make a $ 2 profit on every dozen bangles that they sell.
The last section of this “all-purpose” store is the Video and Audio section. Latest films are available within two weeks of their release. The DVDs are sold at $ 18 and to rent a movie over night costs $ 2. Old classic films of Hindi Cinemas, Award winning Pakistani Dramas, Bangladeshi films can easily be found. Cassettes and CDs of all eras are readily available.
Posters advertising new releases are commonly found on the walls of the store. This one shows the two most awaited films, Mohabbettein (*ing Shahrukh Khan and Amitabh Bachan) and Mission Kashmir (*ing Hritrik Roshan an Preity Zinta)
The picture above shows an Indian man cleaning the carpet outside the main door using the traditional broom called Jharoo.
A common site in the city of Atlanta is an Indo-Pak restaurant. There are currently over thirty-two Indian and South Asian Restaurants in Atlanta. Regular customers include not only Asians, but hundreds of Americans as well. The Indian restaurant Industry generates revenues of over 1.6 dollars a year.
One of the most popular restaurants in Atlanta is the Curry and kabob house located in the Briarcliff shopping Center. Like many other South Asian Restaurants, the Curry and Kabob house caters to parties and weddings. Their ideal location and availability of space has made it one of the most popular restaurants to host wedding receptions, birthday parties and even business-related ceremonies. The restaurant serves a variety of foods from all over South Asia and as result, most of the South Asian can find a specific type of food e.g. Indians prefer vegetables and the Curry and kabob house has over 20 vegetarian varieties giving the Indian consumer a lot of choices and hence being favored over most restaurants. Lunch is a buffet and is $ 5.99 per head. It offers a variety of dishes, like chicken Tikkah, Tandoori chicken, baingan ka bhurta, kaddi, raita, Nan, biryanni and a salad bar. Their most famous dish is the Shami and Seikh Kabob. A plate of two kabobs, chutni and a Roghni Nan costs $5. It is quite a favorite with the Americans.
An extension of the Curry and Kabob house is the Asia Halal meat, Fish and Vegetable. Open seven days a week it provides Halal meat to customers and various restaurants. Vegetables like eggplant, ladyfingers, Dhannia, Curry patta and hahrri mirch are easily available. Some of these herbs are essential for the preparation dishes and these herbs are not available in American owned grocery stores like Kroger and Wal-Mart.
Another restaurant within this shopping center is Chat Patti. Chat Patti is not a typical restaurant that serves lunch or dinner rather serves “snacks”. These so-called “snacks” include Dahi Badday, Channay ki Chaat, samosaa and chutney, Pao bhajji, Papad, Fruit Chaat, Gol Guppay and other items that are popularly sold on little stands on the streets back home. A Hydrebadi man belonging to Karachi, Pakistan owns Chatpatti. He is a green card holder, has been in America for over 25 years, and has not visited home since then. Listening to his familiar Karachi accent is very refreshing. When I first visited his shop, my sister introduced me to him. He welcomed me and made me promise that if I ever needed any help –financial or otherwise, that I was to come to him. Farooq Bhai makes it a point to get to know his customers, which is why he is so popular with the younger crowds. His daughter and himself run the restaurant. They have over six employees and all of them are South Asian. It is very rare that one finds an American or Hispanic employee in Indo-Pak restaurants.
The fourth biggest shop is a clothing store known as Texas Sari Sapne`. Texas Sari Sapne is one of the most expensive clothing stores in Atlanta. They have not only loose materials but also Indian Designer Wears like Sheetal. One can find all sorts of loose material here. Banarsi Saris, jamawar, cotton, Bareez`e, Keemkhwab, raw silk, Bosky are readily available in the latest prints and colors. Stitched clothes are just as expensive as these loose materials. They range from $50-$ 500 depending on the type of dress bought. E.g. a bridal dress is more expensive than party wear. A bridal dress requires more cloth and embroidery than party wear. Texas Sari Sapne holds a fashion show in Atlanta twice a year where designers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Sri-Lanka participate and display the season’s latest fashions. These clothes are then made available at The Texas Sari Sapne`.
Other stores that are found within this vicinity is the Regal Laundry Center. Ajay Bakshi owns the Regal Laundry Center. Because of its reasonable prices and good quality dry-cleaning, it is popular not only with the South Asians but also the Americans. A regular dress shirt is cleaned at a price of 99c.
All these shops constitute the Briarcliff Shopping Center located in the heart of the South Asian communities. The Briarcliff Shopping center has become a second home to the South Asians. There is nothing more reassuring than walking into one of these shops and to be treated like a “Desi”. With hits songs playing in the background and the smell of spiced food one can almost imagine to be back home.
Despite cultural differences or rising tensions over the borders back in their countries, the people of India and Pakistan view each other differently here. Being a minority group South Asians tend to stick to each other and help each other in various situations. Most South Asians get along very well together to the extent that both learn to appreciate each other’s religious and cultural differences. Hence, the Briarcliff Shopping center is very popular with all South Asians.
The South Asian community over the years has been able to develop itself into a leading industry that meets the needs of both the South Asian as well as the American consumers. South Asian food in particular has become popular with the Americans. South Asian Restaurants, Motels, Banquet Halls, Grocery stores, Cinemas, clothing stores and Salons have become and intricate part of the society. The South Asian community is fast growing and developing in Atlanta. The number of South Asian Students particularly in Georgia State University and Emory keeps increasing. There are over 1000 South Asian students currently enrolled at Emory. Pakistan Student Association and Indian Student Association are one of the most active Students associations in Atlanta that play an active role in the presentation of cultural events held in Atlanta.
The South Asian community is a closely-knit community, growing by the day and as more and more Americans are becoming interested in the exotic cultures, business mergers and marriages are becoming common also.
Map to the Briarcliff shopping Center
Content Review Questions
type of city combines all flavors of the world into one?
2) What modern-day countries make up the region of South Asia?
3) What nickname denotes that one has South Asian cultural affinity among people from South Asia living in Atlanta?
4) How has South Asian Culture diffused in new forms in places like the Briarcliff Shopping Center in Atlanta?
Content Review Answers
1) A Metropolitan, or Cosmopolitan City
2) Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh
3) Desi (pronounced de-sii)
4) Culinary items like spices, beverages, and special vegetables, religious items (for Hindu and Muslims), prepared foods, fashion and any form of South Asian entertainment (recorded on to CDs and Videos) are sold and distributed here.
Global Connections Questions
1) What sort of relationship do Hindus and Muslims have in Atlanta that they
have not often had in their homeland living near one another?
2) How is South Asian fashion promoted to a worldwide audience in Atlanta once a year?
Global Connections Answers
1) Peaceful relations. Hindus and Muslims within and between borders between Pakistan and India often have violent confrontations with each other due to their religious differences over the centuries.
2) Through a high ticket fashion show promoted by one of the most expensive clothing stores in Atlanta.
Research and Activities
1) Find any local shops in your community or clubs in your school that facilitate the diffusion of a more metropolitan (or global culture). What cultures does the shop represent and how does it promote them? Are there any blends of cultures that would not be prevalent in the origin of the culture?
2) Create a Metropolitan or International club at your school or college and invite speakers from the community whose family has recently immigrated to the U.S. from another country. Create a set of questions that help you understand various aspects of a particular culture and its transformation in America. Video-tape the session and create a web-page using images, video and/or audio clips. (Try contacting local associate, Indian Businessmen's Associations and investigate the possibility of inviting a member to speak to your class.)
3) Make a map of your community or city, plotting the places where cultural diffusion and/or fusion have taken place (i.e., "China-towns"). Exchange this map with a map similarly made by students in another region or country.