Gujarati Diaspora

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From The New York Times: 1910

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


Present in 129 countries

‘Mini Gujarat’ straddles 129 out of world’s 190 countries

Saeed Khan,TNN | Jan 2, 2015 The Times of India

'Jyaan jyaan vase ek Gujarati, tyaan, tyaan sadakaal Gujarat'. This verse written in the first half of the 20th century by poet Ardeshar Khabardar has proved prophetic. Today, people of Gujarati origin can be found in as many as 129 out of the 190 countries listed as sovereign nations by the United Nations.

The Vishwa Gujarati Samaj (VGS) claims this is indicated by the data it has collected over the last two decades.

Talking about the Gujarati diaspora, VGS president Krishnakant Vakharia told TOI, "The only countries where Gujaratis have not settled are those which are very small, undeveloped or are merely small islands without much business opportunity."

Gujaratis comprise around 33% of the Indian diaspora worldwide. [Citation needed] The US has the largest number of Gujaratis — 15 lakh. [Citation needed] The UK has the next largest (seven lakh) followed by Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. [Citations needed]

Interestingly, Gujarati families live even in Nauru, a nation of a little over 9,000 people located in the Pacific Ocean. This is the second smallest sovereign state in the world after the Vatican.

People of Gujarati origin have not only inhabited Nasa's space station but they can be found even near the Arctic Circle. Yellowknife town in north Canada near the Arctic has a number of Gujaratis working for its diamond mines. Further, some sit in British House of Lords while the US President's team has several members of Gujarati origin.

Historian Dwijendra Tripathi says the state's long coastline has helped Gujaratis in forging business ties with people of other cultures. Makrand Mehta, also a historian, believes commerce and culture go together. "Today, the Gujarati diaspora is next only to the Chinese diaspora in size," [Citation needed] he said.

Vakharia says the Gujarati diaspora, like that of the Jews, have retained their culture even as they have participated in the social life of their adopted countries.

Migration worldwide

ROOTS & WINGS PATELS - Global Gujjus: Now in 129 nations

Chidanand Rajghatta The Times of India Jan 04 2015

A brief history

A look at why this self-made, risk-taking community has such wide reach

A lot of the spread worldwide took place after a pit-stop in East Africa, right across the sea from Gujarat. When Idi Amin turfed out some 100,000 Indians (mostly Gujaratis) from Uganda in 1972, most of them descended on Britain before peeling off elsewhere.

While indentured labour to the Caribbean from Indian states predated them, “Gujjus“ came as enterprising commercial explorers, seeking business opportunities. Even a certain Mohandas Gandhi set sail to South Africa in 1893.

Gujarati-speaking Parsis were even more enterprising -there is a 1910 story in the New York Times about PD Patel, a Parsi cotton merchant from Bombay who was interviewed with his wife by the New York Times, which said, `'Both speak English fluently ...Mrs Patel says there is too much noise in New York and elevators, which drop like parachutes, she says, are too much for her nerves.“

A Gujarati friend who visited the US some time back boasted that he could find free boarding anywhere simply by looking up the local phone book and calling any Patel listed. The comment speaks to not only to the Patel hospitality, but also their spread. There are said to be more than 500,000 Patels scattered across the world outside India, including some 150,000 each in Britain and the US.

According to the year 1990 US Census, there were 49,740 Patels in the US. The Patel surname ranked 591 in the list of most common last names, ahead of such notables as Dalton, Roth and Nixon. By the 2000 census, with 145,066 Patels, they moved up to 174th on the list. Considering the Indian-American population was around 1.6 million in the 2000 census, it would seem nearly one of every 10 people of Indian-origin in the US is a Patel.

All Patels are of Indian origin, but not all are Indian nationals. Dipak Patel represented New Zealand in Test and one-day cricket in the 1990s. Brothers Ramesh and Mohan Patel played for the Kiwi Olympic hockey team in 1976; more recently Min Patel played a few cricket matches for England. Patels are also represented in a wide range of activity besides motels, fast food and convenience store businesses. There is a Patel on vicepresident Dick Cheney's staff (Neil Patel), another who became Miss Delaware last year (Shoha Kirti Patel), one who is currently serving US in Iraq (University of Iowa student Soundeep Patel) and another (Minal Patel) who was sworn in as the first Indian-American cop in Edison, New Jersey.

So who are the Patels?

Word is that Patel derives from `'patedar, the record-keeper named by princely rulers to keep track of crops, `'pat being a parcel of land. Evidently, their patedari now extends beyond crops and across countries and continents.

For the longest time, `'Keeping up with the Joneses has been a popular expression, used to refer to economic and social aspirations of those lower down the pecking order.But this primacy is now being challenged. A recent survey in Britain that examined buying behaviour of the country's most common surnames showed that the Patels are spending more per head on electronic goods and gadgets than any other group. It shows Patels splurged $5,000 a year on items such as home entertainment systems, computers, phones, cameras etc, far more than the Jones (who came in 16th), Smiths and Browns.

Linguistic revisionists are now suggesting that `'Keeping up with the Joneses be replaced with `'Keeping up with the Patels, particularly since the idiom points to the growing Indian global influence.

With Patels, there are attributes outside consumptive tendencies which do not square with the Joneses. They are exceptional entrepreneurs -an industrious, self-made, risk-taking lot. Joneses are more likely well-bred aristocrats, the kind that inhabit Wodehouse's world.

Patels could well be a generic name for well-heeled Indians at large. The `'Patel shot is now a generic term for standard touristy Indians take in front of a famous location like the Eiffel Tower or Niagara Falls. Some years back, referring to the profusion of Indians in the tech world, someone coined the expression `'Intel Inside, Patel Outside, although there are few Patels in technology. Then there is Potels, to describe motels owned by Indians.

In fact, some economists will argue that Patel is now a generic term for millions of Singhs and Zhangs, Shahs and Xiaos. It's their growing purchasing power -and their keeping up with the Joneses -that's expected to keep the world economy afloat.

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