Everyone has a letter and a number attached to them. The H-4 housewives wear canvas shoes and take brisk walks around the green at the heart of North Park Apartments; the B-2 grandparents push their American-born grandchildren on little tricycles; the H-1B techies play volleyball and the B-1 consultants stroll.

I am an F-1 OPT sitting next to a Chinese mom on a cement bench, watching all of this. All the picnic tables are occupied: an Indian man sits idly at one, six Indian women in sarees sit conversing in Tamil around another. As I sit facing the five-acre Moitozo park, I see three high-rise condominiums on each side, named after mighty trees native to central or northern Europe. Ahead of me, the sunlight is slowly fading behind the hills. Orange farms stretch nearly all the way to the next set of condos, built in less than six months, to meet the growing housing demands of the valley. A nip in the air prompts a young woman walking past to tie her dupatta around her head; her anklets crash noisily into her runners. The crowd, gathered around the park in printed kurtas and chiffon sarees, is linguistically divided. The Tamils and Telugus sit on park benches to the left; the Hindi speakers to the far right; the Bengalis and everyone else are transient.

I have just arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area, to spend a few weeks living with a techie couple from Tamil Nadu, India, one of whom I went to school with in Chennai. The North Park Apartment Village in North San Jose, at the heart of which I sit, is popular amongst the Indian techies, with its offer of one, two, three bedroom apartments and town houses with in-built gadgets and an “an array of resort-style amenities.”

Many of these men and women have come — in several waves — to Silicon Valley to work for American tech giants and spend their days building virtual platforms geared to bring down barriers between humans. So why are they isolating themselves hundreds of kilometres away from home in hi-tech ghettoes formed along ethnic networks?

They bring with them temples, pure vegetarian restaurants, a fanatic love for movie stars and a competitive spirit that has forced a reverse gentrification in Bay Area schools: the brown kids with their soaring grades are driving away the white kids. Nearly every second restaurant on El Camino Real, a highway that runs through the heart of the Bay Area, is an Indian one; the competition so fierce that specialising in a particular food item is the only way to survive. One offers the juiciest biryani, another the crispiest medu vada. There are numbers to match this change too. A 95 per cent white population in 1940s, has now come down to around 50 per cent in the Bay Area; the Asian quotient has steadily increased to about 33 percent. A Vietnamese-American Uber driver tells me that real estate wars in the area are now fought between the Indians and the Chinese: “It comes down to who has the hard cash to seal the deal.” The Chinese often win.

Continue reading…

Other project updates

  • The Brief Insignificant History of Peter Abraham Stanhope by Mary Rokonadravu

    Posted on

    At 11.42 pm on 1 November, 2016, Peter Abraham Stanhope sat at his family’s old mahogany dining table and slit his wrists. He had folded three clean bath towels to place his hands upon so as to not make a mess. He watched the news first; switched on to Fiji One Television crackling against the […]

  • Gypsy in the Moonlight by Caroline Gill

    Posted on

    “I wish I had amnesia so I could forget Sally Burry.”Adda is a project of Commonwealth Writers, the Commonwealth Foundation’s cultural initiative and it offers an online gathering of stories. This month we feature a story by Caroline Gill: a moon-bright night, the heady scent of jasmine and a childhood song conspire to disquiet the memories of an older white woman as she revisits the Caribbean island village where she was born and raised.

  • Echolocation by Sarah Jackson

    Posted on

    Standing in the shade of a lime tree on a hot dusty afternoon, the boy waited for the bell to toll. He heard the bailiff cough and shuffle his papers through the open window across the market square. Saint Étienne’s rang, sending out waves like the ripples from a dead-weight dropped in the middle of […]

  • Hot Pot by Jasmine Sealy

    Posted on

     ‘You is not the first body to wash up at Hot Pot, belly bloat and eyes black like cast iron. Anywhere them got water people going find a way to drown’. Adda is a project of Commonwealth Writers, the Commonwealth Foundation’s cultural initiative and it offers an online gathering of stories. This month we feature a story by the Barbadian author Jasmine Sealy: when a girls body washes up at a local swimming spot in Barbados, her younger sister believes there’s more than a capricious current behind the death.

  • Special event: Writing the literature of Indenture and its legacies

    Posted on

    To mark the centenary of the abolition of indenture in the British Empire, Commonwealth Writers is partnering with the School of Advanced Study, University of London, to host a high-level panel discussion with writers from across the indentured labour diaspora. The panellists include the Award winning writers Ananda Devi (Mauritius), Gaiutra Bahadur (Guyana), Lakshmi Persaud (Trinidad), Mary […]