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Chicago’s “Desi Corridor”

By Almas Akhtar, TMO

2560110816_2e923d8c53Chicago is a beautiful city with tall buildings and designer stores along the Michigan Avenue. Its Lake Shore Drive is enjoyable.  Chicago also hosts a very large Indian, Pakistani and Bengali immigrant population. A trip to Chicago is incomplete without a visit to Devon Street, located on the west of O Hare Airport. Since people of the Indian subcontinent (nicknamed “Desi”) frequent the street, it is famously labeled as the Desi Corridor of North America. Parts of Devon Street are renamed ‘Mohammed Ali Jinnah Ave’, ‘Gandhi Ave ‘ and ‘Sheikh Mujeeb ur Rehman Ave’ in honor of the Political Leaders of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh—indicating the clout of “Desi’ people of the area.

A large number of South Asian stores and restaurants adorn both sides of the street. Bollywood movie posters pasted on the walls and doors of CD shops further reinforce the Desi identity. During summer afternoons it is fun to watch kids busy playing cricket and basketball on the sidewalks.

The aroma of ‘bar b que chicken tikkas’ and ‘mithaiees’ coming from dozens of restaurants spread all over the area. After looking at people walking in the traditional shalwar kameezes, for few minutes we forget if we are in North America or walking on a street in Karachi or Delhi.

The Desi Stores on Devon have a collection of beautiful sarees, shalwar kameezes, gold jewelry and Indian spices. The South Asian restaurants along Devon Ave serve very delicious and authentic ‘Desi cuisine’. People travel from all parts of the country to enjoy the “Halwa Puri Brunch “or yummy “Kulfi  Falooda” . A large number of South Asians have moved to the United States in the last fifty years and now every major city in USA has a Desi Bazar but still the Devon Street’s Desi Corridor in Chicago is considered one of the best places to shop for weddings or parties .

It is a definitely a multicultural street, which welcomes everyone. Vivek Mukherjee of Rediff.com wrote “There are similar Desi markets in New Jersey, at the famous Oak Tree Road or in the Bay Area, but nothing like Devon Street. […] Devon Street’s sidewalks are even speckled with the paan stains”.


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