By Aly McArdle and Andrew Finley
The differences in second- and first-generation Indian immigrants cause some family conflict, but most Indians in Henrico County grow to appreciate their heritage as they get older.
When the first generation of Indian immigrants came to the United States, and specifically Henrico County, they realized the American dream in many ways, said Archana Bhatt, a professor at the University of Richmond who is of Indian descent. Members of that first generation were able to establish themselves economically and provide their children with access to higher education.
After the first wave came to America, the following generations used that success as their reasoning in immigrating as well, she said.
Srimivas Tupurani, a Henrico resident, said, "Many of these immigrants were attracted to Henrico County because it is more rural, with a small community where everybody knows everybody."
The Richmond area is a big change after growing up in large cities in India and living in large cities such as Atlanta, but Tupurani said he enjoys living here.
Since 1995, many students have also come to America, Tupurani said. They were attracted to the Richmond area by the excellent colleges, most notably Virginia Commonwealth University, he said, although they tended to not participate as much with the local Hindu community.
Ruvi Vathalui came to America in 1995 to study at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. He completed his studies at Texas A&M before coming to Richmond to work and raise his family.
Vathalui and Tupurani said that most of the Indians in Henrico County have families. Richmond is a small city, with a close-knit community and Henrico offers excellent schools. The cost of living is also a big draw, Tupurani said. Most of Henrico's Indians come here directly from India, he said.
Today, the second generation of Indians has strong ties to its ethnic identity, Bhatt said, and are constantly seeking to learn about their cultural background.
Mahima Ratnaswami, a senior at the University of Richmond, said that her parents are much more religious than she is, but she enjoys being around the religious environment that they promote. Ratnaswami said her parents emigrated from India 25 years ago, so they have grown accustomed to some of the generational differences she grew up with in this country.
Ratnaswami said that education and work were very important to her parents, and that she was only starting to appreciate these things now. Also, she said her parents were much more liberal in their beliefs than her grandparents.
There is some conflict between older Indians and youth, but the "beauty of Indian generations is that they have been maintaining culture and traditions since they got here," at least 20 years ago, said Tupurani as he and Valatlui waited outside the Hindu Center of Virginia and chatted with friends while their children learned about Hindu tradition inside.
"While not all second-generation youth identify strongly with their ethnic heritage immediately, most seek these connections at some point in their lives," Bhatt said.
Youths of the second generation also desire and appreciate access to their homeland, she said. As a whole, she said, the local Indian community has relatively consistent movement between India and the United States.