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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.

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ORAL HISTORY

Maya Sivakumar


Pandiya's

Maya Sivakumar moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from South India in 2000 with her husband. She and her friends often had to travel to Chicago to get spices and bags of rice for cooking. While in Milwaukee, Sivakumar got a job as a bank teller and eventually became a manager. The difficulty of finding a South Indian restaurant inspired her to open her own.

In 2014, Sivakumar and her family moved to Dallas, Texas. In 2016, Sivakumar franchised a restaurant called Kumar’s in Irving, Texas.  A few years later, she started helping her brother-in-law manage his restaurant, Chennai Café in Bentonville, Arkansas. In 2018, Sivakumar moved to Bentonville and took over ownership of her brother-in-law’s restaurant and changed the name. Pandiya’s features a buffet of mostly South Indian dishes, though Sivakumar is thoughtful about adding requested dishes from other regions of India. Every Sunday and Thursday, Pandiya’s serves lunch on banana leaves.

Date of interview:
2019-03-15

Interviewer:
Annemarie Anderson

Photographer:
Brian Chilson

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