|Alvin Pang @ Cha|
Nabina Das recounts the circles of war and memory among Bangladeshi survivors @ BAP Quarterly.
He had seen us through the crowd. Lunch time. A 15-course buffet and the smell of mustard oil I cannot miss. Jackson Heights is an ant hill of colors – white, brown, black. White faces, black arms, brown legs. The United Colors of Humanity flag flapping in the glee of an autumn New York breeze of 2007.
He has worked under the roof of this un-glitzy Bangladeshi restaurant for decades now. He has hummed Amar Shonar Bangla in the beginning over cauldrons of boiling oil or milk, dreamed of dazzling green paddy, and then slowly forgotten everything. His education was meager, not enough to earn him a stable job back home in a newborn nation. But the money to the middleman “bhai” was just what he could pay for a better life as a New Yorkistani. After all, there was no family, no ties. Why even stick around to be prodded by the police and hear comments from the neighborhood maulavi for not having grown his beard long enough?
“Two glasses of jol please!” I sound off my Bangla skills finding the restaurant an appropriate venue.
Also the presence of Rezzak Ali – as the old scraped badge on his shirt says – is an inspiration. I am hoping he’d know the towns and villages in Bangladesh that some of my older family members recounted every now and then. read more