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Latha Mangipudi




Namaste Nashua
How a large Indian population is making waves in the Gate City

05/05/16
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



 The largest population of Indians living, studying and working in the Granite State can be found in Nashua, and Indian leaders active in the city say the group represents a significant asset to the area’s economy, culture and civic life.

 
Population shift
When Latha Mangipudi came to Nashua with her husband and 1-year-old daughter in 1989, they packed light.
“My husband and I came with two suitcases in our hands and I had my master’s in speech and hearing and he had his bachelor’s in engineering,” said Mangipudi. “So education and hard work is the two trump cards that we hold in our hands.”
Both are active in the community through the Rotary Club, the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, Great American Downtown and other organizations. Mangipudi, after a stint as a school board member between 2002 and 2005, was elected to the state House in 2013 through a special election. She was reelected in 2014 for her first full term. 
Mangipudi was the first Indian American to hold elected office in New Hampshire, and she says she’s still the only one. Over the years, she’s been a voice for a minority group the city could no longer call small.
“When you look at the state of New Hampshire, the largest ... Indian population is in Nashua,” Mangipudi said.
When she first moved to the city, she says, only about 350 Indians lived there. Today, U.S. Census Bureau data through 2014, which includes immigrants, citizens and visa workers, suggests about 3,353 now live there, an increase from 1,506 in 2000 and 3.9 percent of the total city population. Indians also make up the second-largest minority in Nashua after Hispanics as a whole, but the largest compared to Mexicans and Puerto Ricans separately. 
Only Conway — with an estimated 64 Indians out of a population of 1,232 — has a higher percentage in the state. Manchester doesn’t come close to Nashua, with only 0.6 percent of the population identified as Indian in the latest census. Black, Hispanic and other Asian groups all outnumber the estimated 679 Indians who call the Queen City home.
With the Indian population growth in Nashua doubling between 2000 and 2010, Great American Downtown Director Paul Shea believes it’s already exceeded 4 percent of the city’s population, and maybe 5 percent.
While the Nashua School District does not track the number of Indian students in the classroom, administrators said anecdotally that most schools, and Bicentennial Elementary School in particular, have a high number of Indian students. Principal Kyle Langill confirms this. 
“We’ve seen a steady shift in that direction,” Langill said.
She says the Indian community has enriched the school’s community and made the school more special.
 
Why Nashua?
Mangipudi says Indians settling in Nashua are active in the area’s booming technology and healthcare sectors. Kedar Gupta, the founder and CEO of ARC Energy in Nashua, echoes that.
“Indians are very technically oriented people. The people who come from India here, they are the cream of the crop in India. Highly educated. Then their children … here are highly educated,” Gupta said.
And he says the city’s proximity to Boston is also a huge draw.
“Nashua being close to Boston helps because a lot of ... people [are] working in the Boston area, [which is] a very technically oriented place,” Gupta said.
Chamber of Commerce President Tracy Hatch noted how tightly interconnected the Indian community is.
“They came here to Nashua and brought family members, brought colleagues, brought friends, and it’s been here in Nashua for a while,” Hatch said.
 
Giving back
A number of recent events have highlighted the role the Indian community plays in the Gate City.
“They have so much to give back to the community and they are looking for opportunities to do that,” Hatch said. “Anything we can do to help the community as a whole understand cultural differences and embrace them rather than seeing them as a barrier is a positive thing.”
Mangipudi worked with community organizers to start the annual Indian Independence Day celebration in Nashua in August 2014. She said Boston’s Indian Independence Day celebration attracts 5,000 to 10,000 people each year. Her long-term vision is to evolve the celebration into an Indian food and health-centric festival, which would showcase both south-Indian and north-Indian cuisine as well as the health benefits of yoga and other homeopathic remedies popular in India.
Last year, she helped incorporate elements from the Hindu festival of lights known as Diwali into the Holiday Stroll. The Indian diya, or lamp, was drawn into the stroll logo, and they were distributed for people to carry during the stroll and keep as souvenirs.
Plus, Mangipudi said, the Indian community is a driving force for economic prosperity.
“[There are] over 100 businesses started by Indian Americans in the greater Nashua area,” Mangipudi said.
Beyond tech firms, those businesses represent medical and dental practices, hairstylists, jewelry retailers, restaurants, convenience and food franchises and grocery stores.
 
Food
There are about four Indian restaurants in Nashua, each representing different sides of India’s culinary traditions. India Palace provides a north-Indian menu with some Asian fusion meals, while Udupi offers more of the vegetarian south-Indian cuisine, like the dosa (a sort of crepe). There’s also Taj India in downtown Nashua and the Kurry Masala Express, which offers Indian fast food.
Some of the local grocery stores and food markets have been expanding their produce selections and importing some prepackaged Indian foods. Mangipudi said even major chains like Market Basket, Hannaford and Whole Foods are responding to Indian-centric demand with things like thin Chinese eggplant, plantains, curry leaves and coconut. 
 
Cultural impact
Next, Mangipudi hopes to start a New Hampshire chapter of Saheli, a South Asian domestic violence prevention coalition. 
And she’s already in talks with the mayor of Nashua and the mayor in her hometown of Mysore to officially partner the two as “sister” cities. Mangipudi hopes the Indian sculptor coming to the ninth annual Nashua International Sculpture Symposium (May 12 to June 4) will bring with him a sister city invitation letter from the mayor of Mysore.
Over the years the Nashua Public Library has expanded its offering of Hindi literature, Indian music and Bollywood films, and they are used frequently by community members today, according to Mangipudi.
In March 2015, Chunky’s Cinema & Pub hosted a live broadcast of a One Day International cricket match from midnight into the early morning, due to the time difference.
This year, organizers of the Downtown Dinner & Movie Series (hosted by the Nashua Chamber of Commerce) plan to include a Bollywood movie among the films screened outdoors. 





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