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Indians Now Delaware's Largest Asian Community

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HOCKESSIN, Del. (AP)- Drawn by jobs in the computer and medical fields, Asian Indians have become one of Delaware's fastest-growing communities.

The 2010 Census counted 11,424 Asian Indians, up 116 percent from 2000. They now outnumber Delaware's Chinese population, which is the second largest Asian group, almost 2 to 1.

Raj Kedda said the growth has been obvious.

"When I came in 1995, I could hardly see any Asian Indians on the street," said Kedda, of Hockessin. "We all pretty much knew each other.

"Now pretty much anywhere you go, you'll come across an Indian."

The growth has slowed in the past few years because of the recession, Kedda said, and many Indian workers with short-term visas have returned to India.

But the growth over the past two decades has been dramatic.

The 1990 Census found 2,183 Asian Indians in Delaware, only about 100 fewer than the state's Chinese population.

By 2000, the number of Asian Indians had more than doubled to 5,280 and surpassed the Chinese community by almost 700 people.

Patibanda Sarma, president of the Hindu Temple Association of Delaware, said most of the Indian immigrants are young families with children.

When the Hockessin temple opened in 2001, it drew a few thousand devotees as the only full-service temple between Washington, D.C., and northern New Jersey, Sarma said.

Now, the temple draws about 10,000 devotees, including many from southwestern Pennsylvania and some from Maryland.

"Every week we see 13 or 14 new families coming in," Sarma said.

Already, the temple has added an auditorium and offers Wi-Fi so people can access the Internet while they're at the temple.

"If we had known we'd have this kind of growth, we probably would have gone for a bigger building," Sarma said.

Kedda said his daughters, ages 13 and 6, are fully immersed in American culture, so the temple acts as a cultural center for the family.

"It keeps them in tune with the (Indian) culture, particularly when we visit India," he said.

Kedda said Indian grocery stores have become more common, too, so families don't have to drive to another city to get their traditional food and spices.

Vinod Krishnan is manager of the Everest Indian Grocery, which opened about two years ago along Carpenter Station Road in Brandywine Hundred.

"It's been growing a lot," Krishnan said.

He came to Delaware about seven years ago, he said. His wife arrived about 10 years ago to work as a software engineer.

Working the counter at the store was 18-year-old Ovy Selim, whose family came to Delaware from Bangladesh when Selim was 12.

"When I came here, there weren't many people from Bangladesh," Selim said. "Now there's a little community of us."

The latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau count Bangladeshis in the category of "other Asian," along with Pakistanis, Thais, Cambodians and several other nationalities. About 11 percent of Delaware's Asian population falls into that category.

Detailed numbers about those populations will be released later this year.


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