Hicksville: LI's LITTLE INDIA

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Driving north on Route 107 toward Hicksville, the

landscape quickly morphs from a string of unremarkable strip malls and heavy

industry into a cluster of Indian businesses.

The Travel Time agency, at 349 Broadway, advertises low airfares and

special cruises to popular Indian cities such as Mumbai or Delhi. Action-packed

films and music from Bollywood, India's entertainment industry, can be found

at Lamhe Video or nearby Bombay Plaza.

Along Broadway, curry, cumin and other Indian seasonings are easily

available at markets, including Subzi Mandi and Patel Brothers Grocery. The

grocers sell Indian specialties from dal or lentils to colorful spices in

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large, clear plastic bags.

Increasingly, plucky entrepreneurs and a growing number of Indian

homeowners have given rise to a community replete with restaurants where the

aroma of spicy peppers and fresh nan (bread) baking fills the air; area beauty

salons offer "threading," an Indian art of hair removal, instead of waxing; and

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sari/bridal shops sell ornate dresses and fabric.

Assimilation

Experts in Indian and South Asian culture say that Indian communities, such

as Jackson Heights, one of the largest in New York, and Hicksville are

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maturing and becoming better assimilated into mainstream American society. And

still other Indian communities are emerging in unlikely places, such as in

Sayville, a hamlet known for its clammers and sandy beaches bordering Long

Island's Great South Bay.

According to the most recent U.S. census, the Indian population on Long

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Island has more than doubled, from 17,523 in 1990 to 34,333 in 2000. In

Hicksville, according to the census, the Indian population grew from 671 in

1990 to 1,772.

Longtime residents say that in the late 1980s, Indian immigrants planted

the seeds of culture now seen along Route 107, Old Country Road and in the

vicinity of the Hicksville railroad station.

Inside Rangmahal, at 355 Broadway, the smell of simmering curry and other

spices entices diners - many of whom are non-Indian. Owner and chef Arun Verma

says his eatery, with walls adorned with restaurant reviews and Zagat ratings,

was one of the first Indian restaurants to open in Hicksville, in 1995.

Fewer trips to Manhattan

"Many customers say they used to travel into Manhattan for fine Indian

cuisine but since dining at my restaurant, they say it's no longer necessary,"

Verma says.

But competition in the area has been heating up as more restaurants open,

offering more choices. The Taste of India, for example, serves traditional

Indian fare and a Chinese fusion menu. And the House of Dosas and Dosa Diner

specialize in vegetarian cuisine.

In recent months, the Patel Brothers Grocery, regarded as pioneers of South

Asian grocery stores, moved from 290 S. Broadway into a larger retail space a

few blocks away. The Patel Brothers opened one of the first Indian groceries in

the United States in 1974, in Chicago. They have more than 35 stores across

the country, but their stores in the metropolitan area are among the largest.

Sanjay Patel, who manages the new Hicksville store, says business just keeps

growing. They had to move to meet market demand. Other grocers hailing from

Jackson Heights have followed suit by opening multiple locations within blocks

of each other.

Madhulika Khandelwal, president of the Asian American Center at Queens

College, says many Indian business owners have been moving to Long Island for a

variety of reasons - including better quality of life and schools and a

greater opportunity for home ownership.

"I think that Hicksville, in particular, represents the growing Indian

presence on Long Island," she says.

Neal Trivedi, 32, an attorney and partner in the law firm Dicresciot &

Trivedi, agrees. He says the decision to move his law office to Hicksville in

November was simple.

"It was a question of economics. Hicksville is a good, central location but

most important was staying close to my mostly Indian clientele," Trivedi says.

"I work with many entrepreneurs, so I needed to locate to a familiar place,

and Hicksville fit the bill."

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