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Culture Profile: Patel - We're all from someplace else

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Harshad Patel keeps his Indian heritage close while embracing his new country.

In May 1996, he and his family moved from the Valsad district in Western India – about 150 miles from Mumbai – to work with his brother in Flint, Mich. From there, he traveled to Oklahoma to work for a friend several months before purchasing the Best Budget Inn, 4433 W. Chestnut Expressway, with partner J.W. Saladin.

Today, each of his three children – ages 9, 11 and 13 when they first came to America – is a college graduate.

“We are very pleased with the community of Springfield,” he said. “Of course, we miss our
family and friends in India, but I have many friends in Springfield.”

Minus family, there are few things about India Patel said he misses, though he notes certain foods are difficult to find in Springfield.

“The reason is we are 100 percent vegetarian; 100 percent means we don’t even eat eggs,” he said. “It’s a little hard in Springfield, but you can get it from a big town like Chicago.”

A practicing Hindu, he and his wife pray at home, he said, noting the nearest temples are in St. Louis, Kansas City and Tulsa, Okla., and he worships at temples when he travels. He’s found that mostly, Springfieldians are accepting of his beliefs.

“Most of the people know we are Indian and we are Hindu,” Patel said.

There are times that people are not so nice, he acknowledged. By the nature of the hotel business, Patel sees all kinds of people, and some just won’t stay at his motel because of his skin color.

“I’ve heard, a couple of times, ‘Go back to your country,’” he said. “I always (say), ‘Go ask your parents what your country is.’ They all came from out of country, they are all immigrants.”

Patel became a U.S. citizen five years after he came to America.

In 2004, he built the $1.8 million, 55-room Ramada Ltd. next door to Best Budget, and said his properties are facing the challenging economy along with the rest of the tourism industry.

As for the little things, he doesn’t let them bother him.

“Sometimes you don’t know me, you don’t know my nature, so you feel bad, but then once you think very deeply, and once you get to know me, you think, ‘Mr. Patel is good.’”[[In-content Ad]]

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