ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From Tenderloin to Tandoorloin

The notorious Tenderloin area of San Francisco, home to over 30,000 of America’s poor, has a vibrant South Asian connection.

It is past midnight when we enter the infamous Tenderloin, characterised in the mass media as the most violent and crime-prone area of San F­rancisco. We enter with some, but not too much, trepidation. People mill around on the sidewalks. In the first few minutes, we constantly switch from one sidewalk to the other to avoid possible danger. However, we soon realise we are simply reacting to the stark contrast between the adjacent upscale and touristy Union Square and the decidedly sketchy Tenderloin area, which is home to over 30,000 homeless, semi-homeless and mentally ill Americans.

After the Gold Rush that eventually transformed San F­rancisco from a town of about a thousand inhabitants to a bustling metropolis, the area that came to be known as the Tenderloin in the 1930s has been constantly made and r­emade. The Gold Rush brought with it hotels, restaurants, edgy nightlife and, of course, social activists. The devastating earthquake of 1906, which levelled many parts of San Francisco, led to the emergence of Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels which housed single adults and the homeless. It was a trend in many large American cities. In addition to providing permanently temporary housing for single adults, Tenderloin also emerged as an entertainment hub with jazz bars, nightclubs and cabarets. Among the artistes, sports stars and film directors who passed through Tenderloin before becoming icons are Frank Capra, Muhammad Ali, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, The Grateful Dead and Carlos Santana.

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