South Asians Found Second Home in Devon Avenue’s “Little India”

At Devon Avenue in Chicago, immigrants from India discovered a taste and comfort of their home country.

The area, commonly referred to as “Little India,” has served as a shelter for Indians who miss their culture.

Finding a home in it, Indians such as National Indo-American Museum board member Beverly Kumar, go there every now and then, especially when she craves Kalakand, a traditional Indian fudge.

According to Kumar, “It’s very comforting knowing that just 14 miles away from my house, there is an essence of Little India.” She also mentioned how reminiscing it is to see familiar sights, sounds, scents, and flavors when visiting Devon Avenue since it makes her feel as though she has never left home.

The area not only became a haven for Indians, but also for other South Asians who opened grocery stores, sari and jewelry stores, as well as many other enterprises in addition to food stores.

In the middle of 1960s, the place it became the second and fourth-largest enclave for Indian and Pakistani Americans, respectively.

The Federal Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 ushered in the first wave of South Asian immigration, which established settlements for South Asian professionals in Chicago, while the second phase arrived in the 1980s and 1990s.

Psychotherapist Ranjana Bhargava was one of the first immigrants who yearned for vegan food and searched for spices to sate her craving for Indian cuisines, which she found at Mexican places.

Between the first and second waves, businesses such as The Sari Palace sari store and Indian grocery stores began to thrive there.

Since then, a new community has been created where Indians continue to practice their culture through activities like viewing Indian movies, getting together, playing instruments, performing traditional dances, and eating.

The once Jewish-dominated place became a mainly Indian community which captivated more visitors where one can meet not only Indians but people of different races.