Nurturing community keeps growing Indian populations in this area

By Clancey Denis, Katie Glover and Meg O'Connoll

Meera Bhatnager and Veena Ramnarain lived in the same apartment building, but they didn't know each other until they happened to be in the same Laundromat at the same time.  Bhatnager's son was crying because of the heat and Ramnarain invited the two up to her apartment to cool off.  Over a glass of cold water, the two women quickly became friends.  They have been close friends for 25 years now.

It is this sense of a nurturing community that keeps Henrico's  growing Indian population in the area, but they come for many different reasons.  Ramnarain and her husband came to the United States from India.  Both were architects; Ramnarain is now a real estate broker because it allows her to spend more time with her three kids.  They lived in Detroit originally, but moved to this area 24 years ago.

"I prefer this place because of the climate," she said. "And Virginia has a beautiful landscape."

Henrico and the Richmond area are also appealing, Ramnarain said, because it is close to New York and Washington, but the real estate is cheaper and "the cost of living is better.  You get more for your money."

Bhatnager moved here 25 years ago when her husband, a research scientist in the fields of plastics and fibers, got a job with Honeywell.

Like Bhatnager and Ramnarain, most people come to the Richmond area from India for the jobs.  Most get jobs in the computer industry.  Bina Mehda, who has lived in the United States for 20 years and in this area for the past 15 years, is a computer programmer. She said she came here because of the good business opportunities.

"It's a right size city where you can expose yourself pretty well," Mehda said.  "You can do everything like in bigger city."

The metro Richmond area is home to numerous Fortune-500 companies, including Philip Morris and Genworth Financial, has an international airport, and numerous non-profit organizations to support the growing Indian population. The Hindu Center of Virginia, which is off Springfield Road in Glen Allen, offers a place for the Hindu community to practice religious and cultural activities. The India Association of Virginia organizes cultural, social, humanitarian, educational and sports activities for people of Indian heritage.

The business opportunities are ample and others are involved in insurance, baking, real estate, medicine, research, teaching, tax preparation and the airline industry.

Hemal Desai, who moved here when he was in 9th grade 20 years ago, works for US Airways. He likes living in the United States, he said, because of the freedom.  He said that here, you could go into whatever field you wanted, and you could change your career after college.

The size of Richmond is appealing to many immigrants.  It allows them to maintain their cultural identity and is a good place to raise children.

Madhu, who asked to be identified only by her first name, said that the "mixing between Indian-Americans and local-Americans is very positive" in Richmond and that it is a great place to raise a family.

Alka Sappal, who runs a restaurant with her husband and works at Dumbarton Elementary School, has two sons, both born in Richmond.  Although she thinks it's a good place for her children to live, she does face some challenges raising them.

"It's a challenge for me to let them be as Americanized as they can be living in America, and yet teach them their Indian culture," she said.  "When they are with their American friends, they're Americanized and when they're with their Indian friends, they know their values."

Sappal loves Richmond, she says, because in most larger cities people "are running after just the material things, where in Richmond people are running to help the community."

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One Response to Nurturing community keeps growing Indian populations in this area

  1. Falguni says:


    Please anyone give me more information about schools in richmond & indian childrens in richmond.


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