By Kalim Khan
I am writing this with reference to the news item — FIA-Chicago celebrates Republic Day gala, calls for unity — published in India Tribune dated February 11.
Having lived in Chicago since February 1963, I wish to identify myself with FIA-Chicago, the oldest organization, whose current chairman and trustee is Iftekhar Shareef. I realize that FIA-Chicago has been the part of the growth of the Indian community in the region.
When I had arrived in Chicago from Kanpur, there were very few Indians living in Chicago — mostly a few students at Northwestern University, Evanston. Over the years, I have seen our Indians started to flood the city. The very first Indian grocery store that opened on Howard Street was by Patel brothers. A cup of coffee then was two cents. Gasoline was 10 cents a gallon. House mortgage loan interest was 2 percent, minimum wage was 60 cents per hour; my salary as an engineer was $660 a month, which was considered to be a big salary then.
The City of Chicago was considered then as America’s industrial might with heavy manufacturing industries — US Steel was considered to be the mightiest steel mill in the world. The tallest skyscraper in downtown was only a 45-story Prudential building. There were no sky scrappers. Chicago’s oldest bank was “1st Chicago.”
The IIT of Chicago used to be called the Indian Institute of Technology; and the University of Chicago had a number of Nobel Prize winners from India. Indians’ contribution to science, technology and businesses has been known all over the world.
We are all very proud to be Indians living in America and parts of Chicago — after all, who would like to miss our iconic neighborhood of Devon Avenue?
I reminisce the growth of the Indian community and the simultaneous growth of FIA-Chicago.