Thursday, October 26, 2006

Balkanized Pittsburgh

I stumbled upon a goodbye to Pittsburgh published on the web. I wanted to make sure I wasn't rehashing a tired story, throwing the title into a Google search. The results added to my snowy day melancholy. A great number of Pittsburghers have made a public goodbye. I don't know if this is remarkable or not, but I read quite a few of them.

Returning to my tale of interest, a former member of the Indian community in Pittsburgh relates an important part of the diaspora community:

Carnegie Mellon has several Indian students, like any other place. Even though everyone has his or her own life, we operate as a community to a good extent. We are a really small community, the college campus hardly the size of a usual engineering college in India. Fortunately, we don't have a caste system of IITs vs others, metallurgists vs computer scientists and the more blatant, Northy vs Southie divisions. People are so much into their research and courses that they don't have time for petty ego trips. Meeting other desis tend to be pleasant and the norm is that you try to be friendly with your fellow citizens. You can literally walk into anyone's apartment and will be asked to stay over for dinner.

I've made a few comments about Pittsburgh being a divided city. Beyond the Burgh, there are no North Side vs. South Side divisions. Members of this diaspora cross the rivers all the time. Often you have to leave a place before learning to appreciate a larger sense of place. There is a "desi" experience for Pittsburgh expats, but it hasn't been articulated as richly as the wealth of details available about the lives of the Indian Diaspora.

If there is a greater Pittsburgh identity, a well-integrated region, it is in the minds of the Burgh Diaspora.

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