March 2015 \ Diaspora News \ GUJARATIS IN US MOTEL INDUSTRY
Flavour of Gujarat in US South

Guests in US South motels greeted with ‘Kem Cho’ or ‘Kya Haal Hai?’ as at least 80 per cent motels in the area are run by Indians.

By Vikas Datta

 There are motels in America’s south where you are likely to be greeted not with “How are you?” but “Kem Cho” or “Kya Haal hai?” and the owner is likely to be a Mr Patel, says acclaimed American travel writer Mr Paul Theroux while talking about his new work which takes the inveterate globetrotter to one part of the world he has so far not visited - his own country. “At least 80 per cent of motels in the deep south - be it South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississipi or part of Louisiana - are run by Indians, likely to be a Mr Patel.

“Indians moved up from running convenience stores, gas stations, which you call petrol pumps, to motels - one off and then chains. I asked one of them ‘how?’ and he replied ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family),” he said at a session titled “Wanderlust and the Art of Travel Writing” on January 23 day three of the Jaipur Literature Festival 2015. But Mr Theroux noted that the Indians do not run restaurants. “I asked one why, and he said that if you run restaurants, you might have to taste the food you make, and it might have meat,” he said.

Theroux said the idea for the book, likely to be out next year, came when he was writing “Last Train to Zona Verde” about Angola and discovered most of the African slaves sent to America came from there. “I have travelled across Asia by train, from Cairo to Cape Town, from North to South America on trains and also around China, around the Mediterranean, to most of the islands of Oceania, but the south of the US was one place I never visited and wrote about,” he said.