Saturday, August 3, 2013

Pawan Dhingra

The sociologist Pawan Dhingra is the author of Life Behind The Lobby: Indian American Motel Owners and the American Dream.

From the author's 2012 conversation with Aarti Virani for the Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time:

WSJ: What sparked your interest in this particular demographic?

Mr. Dhingra: At first, I was caught by the numbers of it all: 40% of all motels in the United States are owned by Indians. After initial conversations with motel owners, I realized there was a lot more to learn: how they got started, how they afford motels, what happens to their children. There are so many layers, it becomes fascinating. I wouldn’t have pursued this project because of the numbers alone, but they were a key part of why I got started.

WSJ: What did you hope to accomplish with this book?

Mr. Dhingra: I wanted to give tribute to the owners. Of course, that doesn’t mean I could cast a blind eye—I had to be analytical and critical at times. But as I started learning about the process by which they came here, there was something about the sacrifices they made that struck me as impressive. I hope [the book] is a combination of sharing their successes, struggles and sacrifices along with seeing beyond their individual stories.

WSJ: What factors contributed to Indians—and Gujaratis in particular — dominating the American motel industry?

Mr. Dhingra: Dating back to the 1940s, the first...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue