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Compiled/written by MELVIN DURAI Email Compiled/written by MELVIN DURAI
July 2012

Almost half of the motels in America are owned by Indian-Americans, about 70 percent of whom are Gujaratis. Pawan Dhingra, a sociology professor at Tufts University, explores the success of these motel owners in his book Life Behind The Lobby: Indian American Motel Owners and the American Dream.

“The family that runs the motel lives in the motel, and their home can actually be connected to the lobby,” he told NPR. “So behind the checkin desk of your motel is their apartment. You don’t see it because it’s behind a wall but that’s where they live and they come in through a side door into the lobby from their apartment behind the check-in desk, and so their kitchens are back there. And they had to be conscious of what time they cooked their Indian food so that it didn’t create the scent of Indian food in the lobby during times when customers may come in and smell it because that would just put people off.”

Well, the risk of putting off customers might be one reason to keep the scent out of the lobby. Another reason might be to deter the occasional customer who would lean over the check-in desk and say, “Mmmm ... smells good, Mrs. Patel. Do you mind if I have a bite?”


[Comments? Contributions? We would love to hear from you about Chai Time. If you have contributions, please email us at melvin@melvindurai.com. We welcome jokes, quotes, online clips and more.]

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