Suburban Sahibs: Three Immigrant Families and Their Passage from India to America

Edison, New Jersey, is in many ways the quintessential American suburb - under an hour from New York City by train, subdivided neatly into houses with identical floor plans, and dotted with mini-malls, gas stations, and monster movie theaters. Named after the famous inventor of the light bulb, town officials often boast it is the place where tomorrow was born. Suburban Sahibs urges that this adage might still ring true. As immigration has continuously redefined America, it has also radically transformed the American suburb. By tracing the migration of three families from India to central New Jersey, this book delves into how immigration has altered the American suburb, and how the suburb, in turn, has altered the immigrant. From movie theaters showing the songs and gyrations of Bollywood to valedictorians named Patel and Shah, signs are everywhere that Middlesex County is home to one of the largest Indian populations in the world outside India. Although the reception from long-time residents has not been entirely welcoming, Indians have come to achieve economic success and their desire for political and social parity continues to grow stronger. In this captivating narrative, journalist S. Mitra Kalita traces the evolution of the suburb from a destination for new arrivals to a launching pad for them. She focuses on three waves of immigration in the post-civil rights era through the stories of three families: the Kotharis, Patels and Sarmas. In the late nineteenth century, tourists descended upon Edison to gawk at its Christmas lights displays. Today, thousands of Indians from all over the United States arrive in the same bedroom community to celebrate their own festivals of lights and colors. Suburban Sahibs attempts to answer the question of how and why they arrived, and it offers a window into what America has become; a nation of suburbs as well as a nation of immigrants.