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Central Indiana's growth in diversity and culture: 'There's so much more to do'

Rupal Thanawala
Posted at 7:36 PM, May 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-21 22:47:25-04

INDIANAPOLIS — It is estimated that 170,000 Asian Americans call central Indiana home.

The President of the Asian American Alliance works daily to highlight important resources to the community, as well as trying to educate Hoosiers on the history behind it all.

Saraga International Grocery on Indy's west side is no stranger to busy crowds and offering a plethora of products! The store imports some 45,000 different products, and if a customer cannot find what they want, the store manager said it can be ordered.

"Many, many customers coming from Fort Wayne, from Bloomington, even West Lafayette," Store manager, Babu Pandit said.

Saraga is an important resource for many Hoosiers. It is often one of the only places to buy authentic spices, candy and other foods in the central Indiana region.

"As much as I say we are very diverse in our language, we are very diverse in our food," Rupal Thanawala, President of the Asian-American Alliance said. She added that cooking is one of her passions.

“If I don’t put one certain ingredient in my very elaborate cooking, you could say it’s not the same food, something is missing,” Thanawala said.

WRTV spoke with her at the Hindu Temple of Central Indiana. It is a place she said helped in raising her two sons.

“It is very important to have a place of worship where we can take our children and teach about our religion and talk about who we are,” Thanawala said.

She estimates some 30,000 Hoosiers practicing Hindu live in central Indiana, but it was only in 2015, the Hindu Temple off of North German Church Road was inaugurated.

“Early on, we used to travel to Chicago, Louisville, even Cincinnati just to do our prayers,” Thanawala said.

Access, understanding and education are cornerstones to why the biomedical engineer is passionate about paying it forward. Thanawala sits on and volunteers with numerous community organizations.

“There’s so much more to do. I think I can be busy for next thirty years and have plenty to do and I have a day job,” Thanawala said.

It is all in an effort to give back to the place that became her family after moving to the states in 1996. She is focused on improving things like healthcare, tech, women’s empowerment, education and inclusion and diversity.

“I just made a personal decision this was my family and if your family wasn’t doing well, wouldn’t you just help them out?” Thanawala said.

During Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Thanawala said the Asian American Alliance has worked to educate neighbors on its history.

“We are all Hoosiers and we are raising an American at home, and we want to build the bridges between the Asian American community and the Hoosiers. We want to empower our Asian Americans to lead in serving business and community."

Building bridges, she said, to improve access, create more understanding and ensure respect.

“If you believe in something, if you think this is important, you just would do it. I just saw if your hobby is basketball, wouldn’t you just keep dribbling for four hours?” Thanawala said. “This is my passion. My community is my passion.”

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