Diaspora

New York Diary – mid-day.com

Sun, 21 Aug, 2022

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Sun, 21 Aug, 2022

Updated on: 21 August,2022 07:04 AM IST &nbsp|&nbsp Mumbai
Meenakshi Shedde |
I was having a Kombucha with a south Indian, NRI buddy. His parents were stressing him about getting married
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Meenakshi SheddeI’m visiting New York—the Big Apple—after 10 years. Am pleased to report, it’s as juicy as ever.
My lovely, long-lost cousin Mihir Shedde and his wife Kanika warmly welcome me to their ultra tony apartment in Upper Manhattan. It is airy and Zen-like, overlooks a patch of green, and it has a large private terrace—uff! It turns out I’m his aunt—family trees were never a strong point—but I’m in no mood to be auntified just yet, so cousin it is for the moment. They are a cool, DINK couple—double income, no kids—and they treat me to jazz at an unexpected venue, the local Ethiopian restaurant, Massawa. A series of young musicians—they look like they were NYC students, playing the keyboard, trumpet, trombone, doing vocals—and they’re astonishingly good.
***
My Haitian NYC yellow cab driver says, “You Indo? Kiyaleh, Buddiyah!” It took me a few moments to cut through his Haiti/NYC drawl, to realise what he was saying, “Hi haal hai? Badhiya?” How are you? Fine!” Must have been hanging around with Punjabi sardars.
***
I was having a Kombucha with a south Indian, NRI buddy. His parents were stressing him about getting married. Plus he was dating a north Indian girl and in no rush. The next time you bring up shaadi talk with me, I will marry a black, gay Muslim man, he threatened. The parents shrank back in horror. Finally, they were so grateful he was marrying a woman, and an Indian woman at that.” Are you listening? Next time parents corner you, start with third degree, they will immediately cave in. The mild-mannered south Indian guy turned out to be an ustad!
***
On the weekend, some of the streets of Harlem are blocked off to traffic and the streets below are one big party. There’s fabulous music, and great food. Black American singers with bands have people crowd around, singing “yeah,” gospel-like. There was a granny, celebrating her 90th birthday by swinging to the music in a purple gown—she got the biggest cheers. 
***
I hung out with friends from the Bitchitra Collective, Indian Women in Documentary, with members in the US and India, including Prerana Thakurdesai, Hina Bee and her kiddo. We walk the wonderful High Line, a former railroad, converted to a walkway with gardens by the elevated curved tracks, overlooking the river at sunset time. When Bee was relating to us a horror story about a family member in a Varanasi hospital being bolted into a room until she paid the bill—her credit card was not working—her young tot—who must have heard the story before, piped up, “Mom, can you please faaast-forward your story?” and we all burst into laughter.
***
One of the many reasons I’m deeply in love with New York, is the Met. The gorgeous Metropolitan Museum of Art—apart from its spectacular collections, it has two additional charms. First, it is free: they “suggest” $30 for adults: “but you may what you wish.” Second, they have free bicycle racks in the garage, but then offer “free bicycle valet services.” Can you think of anything more darling than that?
Meenakshi Shedde is India and South Asia Delegate to the Berlin International Film Festival, National Award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist. 
Reach her at meenakshi.shedde@mid-day.com

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