Where are you from?

Goa, India but I was born in Bombay

What was it like growing up?

We moved to Shaker Heights when I was four so for the most part, I’ve felt like a Clevelander first and an Indian second.

What brought you to Cleveland?

My father had a green card through Diamond Shamrock’s chemical division

What were your first thoughts about coming to America? Did those change?

I don’t remember as I was just four when we moved here

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here?

I didn’t face too many challenges. My mom tells a story about me coming home from school in Kindergarten declaring that we either needed to be White or Jewish and she had to patiently explain to me that that wasn’t in the cards for a Catholic Indian family. My brother who was 11 when we arrived in Cleveland had more issues assimilating but we always felt welcome in Shaker Heights because even in the 70’s, it was a pretty diverse community.

What is your occupation?

Director of Economic Development, City of Shaker Heights

How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

Cleveland has felt welcoming to me because I grew up in a diverse community where my differences were largely celebrated or at the very least accepted. It is important that we grow our immigrant population so that native Clevelanders continue to come in contact with people from all over the world and don’t become insular in their thinking.

What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

We are Catholic, not Hindu, so I’ve honestly never felt too tied to the Indian Community in Cleveland. We travel to Goa every three years and I cook a lot of Indian food.

What do you love about Cleveland?

I love Cleveland’s east coast sophistication, culture and architecture combined with Midwest manners and hospitality. I love the neighborhoods of Cleveland and the first suburbs and all the cultural and community festivals and celebrations that have cropped up over the years

What is your favorite thing to do in Cleveland?

One of my favorite events is Larchmere Porchfest. I love walking to the Shaker Square Market on Saturday morning and bumping into neighbors and friends. Cycling to University Circle for an event or just to get ice cream is also a summer highlight.

What is the best thing about living in Cleveland?

Small town friendliness with all the amenities of a big City.

Why is Global Cleveland a great resource?

We need students and professionals who are here for a job to experience how friendly and open the community is and all it has to offer. It is their families that will decide if they stay in the region or move onto the next job opportunity. If they are connected to cultural communities that feel like home and put down roots in the community, they are more likely to stay. On the flip side, we need to help small and medium sized companies navigate the cultural and bureaucratic barriers involved in hiring immigrants and refugees. If they get through the process and have a support system for cultural or linguistic challenges, they will hire more immigrants – absent the help, their jobs remain unfilled.

Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

There are few issues in Cleveland and NEO that wouldn’t be alleviated with a growing population. Refugees are ready and willing to rehabilitate houses in our most disadvantaged communities. More specifically, research shows that immigrants bring new ideas, energy and perspectives that are critical to communities that have seen little population churn. The innovation, new businesses and capital are critical to sustainable growth in Greater Cleveland.

What suggestions do you have to make Cleveland a more welcoming community?

Multilingual signage in the airport and along the RTA rapid routes would be a small but important gesture. Seeing the Global Cleveland agenda carried through GCP, the County, City and Team NEO.