NRI architect on Fremont City Council
Representative of a community that is a very visible minority in California's Bay Area, an Indian American architect is now on the City Council in Fremont.
Anu Natarajan, 42, an architecture graduate from the University of Bangalore, said: "It's exciting and scary at the same time. It's a new challenge and I know I will give it my best shot.
"Knowing it's a lot more responsibility is scary," Natarajan said.
Almost 40 per cent of Fremont's populace is Asian, mainly Chinese and Indian. And while there was already a Chinese American on the council, Natarajan will be the first Indian on it.
Previously on the Fremont City Planning Commission during 1995-2001, Natarajan is the only architect in the five-member council. She has worked for many firms around California, before branching out with her own consulting practice.
She is also going to be the only woman member on what for two years has been an all-male council. And being Indian American, she diversifies the council to represent the Bay Area's growing Indian American population.
She has been active in Fremont's Indian Community Centre that has facilities at Milpitas and Sunnyvale, as chair for architecture and facility planning. She has lived in the Fremont area for nine years and has a Masters in urban planning from the University of Washington-Seattle.
Natarajan came to the US in 1987 on a Rotary International scholarship, but moved back to India for two years in 1992-93, opening her own consulting firm on urban planning in Bangalore.
But the decision to pursue a PhD at Seattle and her marriage to Sundaram, a software and wireless technology consultant, brought her back to the US.
Fremont, with a population of 209,000, is among the most popular Bay Area cities with Indian Americans. According to one estimate, Indian Americans account for over 10 per cent of the total population, making them a highly visible minority.
Though not quite part of Silicon Valley, the city, surrounded by rolling hills, is a 20-minute drive from some of the biggest IT companies. Indians in Fremont have grown over the last five years, especially riding the tech boom that brought in thousands of programmers here.
Its main thoroughfare, Mowry Avenue, is often jokingly referred to as Mahatma Gandhi Marg by Indian Americans. In a radius of eight kilometres of Fremont, there are at least two dozen Indian restaurants, fast food outlets and grocery stores.