Though Irving's Desi upsurge can be attributed to the vigorous IT sector in the region—particularly the Nokia and Verizon operations—the city has long welcomed South Asians. The area's first Hindu temple was built there in 1991.

"The Indian community makes a half-circle, spreading around the north and down to Mesquite," explains Southern Methodist University anthropology professor Caroline Brettell, who has studied the Indian influence in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. "The earliest Indians came and settled in Richardson. The Irving growth is more recent, in the '90s." Most of the Indians in the area are "skimmed off the top," she continues, meaning that they are highly educated, highly skilled workers, who represent the tip of India's economic strata.

Numbers on the South Asian population are difficult to pin down. The 2000 census pegged North Texas' Indian and Pakistani communities at 30,030 and 5,841, respectively. But a report released last week by the DFW International Community Alliance, a group promoting diversity, indicates that Desi leaders see their ranks as much, much larger: 100,000 Indians and 50,000 Pakistanis.

Radio Salaam Namaste's Neha Upadhyay sweetens the airwaves with hits from Bollywood movies.
Morrey Taylor
Radio Salaam Namaste's Neha Upadhyay sweetens the airwaves with hits from Bollywood movies.

"I can't verify what the community leaders say," says DFW International President Anne Marie Weiss-Armush. "But that is their best guess. It is significant. But it doesn't matter to me if it's 80,000 or 90,000 or 100,000. The family income and the educational attainment of the community are very impressive."

Back at Radio Salaam Namaste, Upadhyay closes out the lunch hour with a song called "Aaye Ho Meri Zindagi Mein," another Bollywood tune, which translates to "You Have Come Into My Life."

She promises her last movie tickets to a caller and readies the studio for the next program: a Punjabi hour. The phone rings another several times.

"I'm so sorry if I can't play your song right now," she says to her listeners. "The time is running."

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The two form an unlikely duo—Reddy is 40-year-old Indian, and Abbas is a 30-year-old Pakistani—and they named the station for their friendship. "Salaam" is "hello" in Arabic, and "Namaste" means the same in Hindi.

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