Change Yourself…Change The World.

A Brief Foray Into New York
March 1, 2010, 7:28 am
Filed under: India, USA

Today one of my very best friends, Mira ( Lady the Tramp) and I met in Manhattan for tea and sweets in Curry Hill. We plopped ourselves down at an Indian restaurant and requested Chai and Gulab Jamuns, an Indian delicacy and dessert (essentially they are fried dough balls soaked in honey. Sickeningly sweet). The Indian man mumbled something for a good minute with Mira and I merely catching some resentful mutterings about us only ordering dessert, and then he whisked off to give us tea (not Chai! What kind of Indian restaurant is this?) and stone cold gulab jamun (usually it is warm). While we laughed at the strangeness of it all and caught up on each other’s lives, I noticed a shop across the street- Om Saree Palace, a retail store for, what else, sarees, a typical dress worn in India. There was also a variety of shawls, men’s clothings, salwar kameez’s, and jewelry.

After paying the disgruntled employee for our cheap meal, I told Mira that I wanted to check out Om Saree Palace. We headed over and walked inside to see a kindly old Indian lady folding shawls.
“Namaste, Aap Kaise Hai?” (hello, how are you?), I asked in Hindi.
“Chik Hai, Aap Kaise Hai?” (fine, how are you?) The lady responded, positively beaming.
“Chick Hai,” I replied. “Torrah Hindi bolti hu.” (I speak a little Hindi).
The woman’s smile widened even further. “I am so excited that you are here in my shop and that you speak Hindi!” she proclaimed. “So many tourists come through here but they don’t speak Hindi. Were you in India?”
I recounted my story to her- three trips, six months, all over North and South India. And I loved every second of it.
Sarla, the old woman, was from New Delhi. When I told her that I had been to Paharganj and Majnukatilla in Delhi, she nearly jumped up and down with excitement.
While Mira and I chattered with her incessantly about India (Mira has spent time in India as well) and perused the clothes, an absolutely gorgeous salwar kameez caught my eye. It was orange, red, and black, spread into a pattern that looked almost tribal. I knew instantly that I had to try it on. It fit me absolutely perfectly. Sarla clapped her hands.
“I will give you a good price for this salwar,” she said. “I had very good business today and you made my day, so I will give you a special price.”
While my phone played Hanuman rapping in the background for Sarla’s utter delight, she slashed 10 dollars off of the salwar kameez (she sold it for only $45, which is cheap even by India standards considering the quality!), and gave me a pair of gorgeous black and glittery earrings to go with it for free, as ‘a birthday gift’ (I had told her my birthday was tomorrow).

Standing there, basking in the warmth and loveliness of the beautiful lady who was so giving and so happy that I knew and understood her culture, I felt so unbelievably happy to know people in the world that have gone out of their way for no reason at all other than kindness. There are rare occasions when I’ve come across this when traveling- that is, meeting a foreigner and the only thing that ties us together is a few words or a gesture- but this forms a bond and a kinship that are beyond words. It is the very power of humanity. And it says that even though we are very different people, from very different backgrounds, we can understand each other. We can love each other.

Thank you lovely Sarla, for making my day, maybe even my whole experience, in New York. We need more interconnectedness like this in the world.

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