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Road Trip Project Highlights South Asian American Travel Stories

The South Asian American Digital Archive project shows photo and stories of South Asians traveling the U.S. "open road."
Image: Big Sur
An empty Highway 1 in Big Sur, Calif., on Friday, May 19, 2017. Sarah Rice / for NBC News

Whether it’s Jack Kerouac's novels or Hollywood films, American culture is steeped in the mythology of the "open road." Yet, so much of this imagery remains limited in who it includes. During a time when immigrant lives and experiences have been devalued, the South Asian American Digital Archive's Road Trips Project reimagines an American tradition through the lens of South Asians who’ve made journeys across the country.

Sumana Reddy's mother in Yellowstone National Park, during a road trip from Bozeman, Montana in 1964.Courtesy of South Asian American Digital Archive

"My mother had arrived in the US in 1963. She was homesick, but also excited about exploring this dramatically different state, with nothing familiar she had heard of. My parents describe professors who were warm and friendly, who shared a haunch of venison or a string of trout (both terrifying to a South Indian woman who barely knew how to cook and had to mail order spices from New York). She consulted an Indian professor's wife, Mrs. Ali, who was an expert with the cooking of meats, and learned what to do to make such foreign ingredients edible to her tastes." - Sumana Reddy

Odessa Depot took a trip from Queens to Plymouth, MA, with her dad and sister in 1995.Courtesy of South Asian American Digital Archive

"My dad and I are standing in front of the Mayflower II. I'm wearing Timberland boots, a Columbia rain jacket and oversized baggy jeans — not ideal for summer weather in New England. I was a 16 year-old touring the Plymouth plantation in the summer heat with my family. We were an undocumented family of Indian immigrants from Queens, NY learning about the early settlers/European immigrants to this country. The irony!" - Odessa Despot

Chai Dingari, who traveled from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. in 1997, with his mother and grandmother.Courtesy of South Asian American Digital Archive

"Unlike our standard Indian-American trips to Niagara Falls, which we took as carpools with a few other Indian families, this was just the three of us.

The first thing we did when we got there we parked in the garage of Arlington Cemetery and ate our pre-packed pulao and curries in the car.

Later we did a trolley tour of the whole city and a walking tour of Capitol Hill. We walked around the National Mall and visited a few of the museums, spending a lot of time in the Air and Space Museum. I also particularly remember enjoying the dinosaurs at the Natural History museum." - Chari Dingari

Chitra Divakaruni traveled from Northern California to Mt. Rainer in Washington, in 1984, with her husband.Courtesy of South Asian American Digital Archive

"About 33 years back, my husband Murthy and I made a road trip to Washington State. We lived in N. California then. I was a student. Murthy had recently started working. We rented a car (in one of the photos) because our regular car was too beat-up to withstand a road trip. I remember the feeling of adventure and excitement. We felt so American! It was a great trip where we met fellow travelers of many ethnic backgrounds. the highlight for me was our visit to Mt. Rainier. I remember that some of the waterfalls and peaks had been given Indian names by the Transcendentalists, from our Vedas —that was so amazing. It made me feel we were living in a culture that embraced many people from many countries. I hope that this wonderful aspect of America's diversity never changes." - Chitra Divakaruni

Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan traveled from Chicago to Reno in 2016 with her family.Courtesy of South Asian American Digital Archive

"In August 2016, I moved from Chicago to Reno with my husband, Brandon, and daughter, Mrinalini. Over the course of a week, we drove through Wisconsin, Minnesota, dropped down into Iowa for a picnic, then South Dakota, Wyoming, and Idaho before reaching Nevada. In South Dakota, just outside Badlands National Park, we stopped at a Prairie Homestead built in 1909. There we played dress up in the style of Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose 'Little House' series was one of my childhood favorites." - Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan

This post appears courtesy of SAADA's Road Trips Project.

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