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HOUSTON OF MANY CULTURES

HOUSTON OF MANY CULTURES

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Houston is internationally known for being the Oil capital of the world, the grandfather of aerospace and NASA, and home to the largest Medical Center on Earth. Additionally, today Greater Houston is also known as the most ethnically diverse metropolitan area in the United States and the hub and bridge that connects our country to all corners and cultures in the world. At least 145 languages are spoken by our residents, and 90 nations have consular representation in the city. 49.9% of our population speak languages other than English.

In the midst of this mix, Houston is home to the second-largest Indo-American community in the nation, after Los Angeles; and so is Texas, right after California.

Our extraordinary city and surrounding counties may not have the Newport Beach or Malibu beaches of Southern California, or the ski resorts of Aspen in Colorado, or the Grand Canyon of Arizona, but we have the best asset of all: Our people; or as we proudly call ourselves, Houstonians, and Texans. Can you possibly ever think of anything better than that?

What has made our city such a powerful hub to the people of India, as well as to people from so many other countries? Well, we got insightful observations by talking to some very influential Indian Americans across different backgrounds.

Sam Abraham, the successful owner of Abraham Oriental Rugs, has become an iconic figure in Houston in his industry. Born in Kerala, in the southern tip of India, Sam was an attorney in his native country. He started connecting with Texas through his collaboration with Sid Richardson Energy and Carbon, out of Fort Worth, Texas, but always working from Kochi, in his native state of Kerala. However, over the past 46 years, since he moved to the United States, with the support of his wife Omana he gradually moved into the fine oriental rug industry, which eventually became his absolute passion. Today Sam is the proud owner of Abraham Oriental Rugs, with three beautiful showrooms in Houston.

In his humble beginnings, like most immigrants, he started with just a handful of rugs, while undergoing a difficult learning process. However, his smart business decisions rapidly grew his venture to the company that today leads the Houston market. He has witnessed the dramatic growth of our city, as well as that of the Indian community.

Sam better than anyone else can measure this phenomenon over the course of almost five decades, and assess the way thousands of doctors from India are contributing in the medical and nursing fields, practicing in various specialties with total commitment and great ethics, which have granted them a high reputation. Engineering, inherited from the British influence, is another area where they are making great contributions.

Sam is a great advocate of the arts and music and an important supporter of the Houston Symphony.

He remembers finding Houston as a welcoming and wonderful city for hard-working immigrants and entrepreneurs. We love the way he put it: “People in this country don’t look for who your grandfather was, or your uncle, or even your professional background. They see you for who you are, and they are very welcoming towards hard-working people.” Sam finds in diversity Houston’s biggest strength. In fact, he went on to praise LUXCIOR for the way we embrace diversity coming from all ethnic backgrounds and nationalities. I must say, I couldn’t agree more.

We also had the opportunity to talk to Ash Shah, President & CEO of IMPEX Capital Group, LLC, and Shah Global Holdings, LLC. In fact, Ash was gracious enough to allow us to use his beautiful residence to produce the fashion photography portrayed in the next several pages. He also helped us fact-check some of the information about his native India.

Born and raised in Mumbai, since his arrival in our country as a student in 1987, at the age of 21, with literally under $100 in his pocket, Ash was able to build a multi-million dollar empire and become a very influential part of the Houston Indo-American community. He originally landed in Cedar Rapids in Iowa, where he received his undergraduate in mathematics and economics, and completed his MBA in International Business at Thunderbird, in Phoenix, Arizona.

He finally moved to Houston in 1991. to soon learn that once someone moves to Houston, there is no going back. The wonderful diversity and the incredible opportunities Houston has to offer, make it a dream-come-true city, especially for business opportunities and to raise a family. Ash indicated that in the last 25 years everyone noticed the way our city began exponentially growing with newcomers from all over the world.

Another great attraction Houston possesses is its social life. Ash is very active in participating in numerous social and business networking events from his own community as well as from other affinity groups, opening extraordinary doors of opportunity to expand his circles and open many new doors of opportunity.

Ash is an inspiration and another perfect example of those coming to Houston with the desire to contribute and invest in our community, and in turn, get the most of what this wonderful land of opportunity has to offer and, ultimately, get to live the American dream.

Dr. Jignesh P. Shah is the President of the Indian Doctors Association of Greater Houston, with over 500 member physicians. The organization is all about giving back to the community through charities, fundraisers, scholarships, networking. Dr. Jignesh acknowledges that there is no place in the world like Texas Medical Center, so the opportunities in Houston for Indian physicians are incredible. 

Houston also offers plenty of cultural and educational opportunities for adults as well as for children. Great education, great school systems, and many other things that you cannot get anywhere else in the United States. Coming to Houston wasn’t an easy decision because the diversity is so great, while on the other hand the strength of the Indian population is so strong, especially at high-level positions, from business to oil, to gas, to technology, to transport; every single field is here. Indians have thrived in Houston, from the major’s office to firefighters, police officers, and just about any imaginable field.

In this great conversation with Dr. Shah I learned that India has 64 languages. His mother speaks six of them, of which he only understands two. His wife speaks seven languages, and of those, he can only understand one and a little of a second one.  In his own practice, six of the doctors are from India, and all six speak a different language. Although he was born and raised in Texas, he has managed to keep all the culture and traditions of India alive. This is something that you can easily do in Houston, as there are temples and churches, and cultural centers, and a very active chamber of commerce, schools, restaurants, stores, and any imaginable thing you could possibly want from the great nation of India. All of this contributes to making it very inviting for people from this country to want to come to Houston rather than to any other city in the U.S.

Jignesh was very kind and courteous, just like all other friends from India we had the opportunity to chat with. He insisted on inviting me to his home and meet his wife and children. Unfortunately, time constraints didn’t allow me to accept at the time, but the invitation is still open and I will soon meet what appears to be a wonderful family.

Indian people are very family-oriented, similar in that respect to Latinos. They are peaceful, polite, friendly, educated, extremely hard-working, and eager to learn and grow in life. Their presence in Houston and across our communities is a true blessing and a big asset.

In closing, I feel privileged to count on some very fine people from India among my friends, and it was with great pleasure and pride that I decided to have this entire section dedicated to such an amazing community.

By Martin Gondra, Publisher

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