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FINAL ESSAY (Community Essay Revised)

Filed under: Uncategorized — bipasha255 at 10:48 am on Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bipasha Dey

9 December 2010

Home Away From Home Yet Not Too Far

As a South Asian American, stepping onto 74th Street gives me a sense of being home, despite being thousands of miles away. This area of Jackson Heights highlights the South Asian community of New York City. On and around 74th Street you can find anything from Bengali sweets, to Indian samosas and even mouth-watering Afghani kebabs! The street is lined with stores displaying beautiful traditional attire, 24-karat gold, new and upcoming Hindi movie soundtracks and the beautiful aroma of burning incense sticks. Queens is one of the most culturally diverse areas known in which everyone is able to fit in and all cultures are openly and equally accepted. One can practically visit the whole world by just taking a trip around Queens. Included in this cultural indulgence would be the South Asian culture and a unique Queens phenomenon in that case would be Jackson Heights, 74th Street to be exact.

Being born and brought up in Queens all my life and coming from a South Asian background can be quite confusing at times, however, Jackson Heights fills the absence of not being back home during the holidays and festivities. Whether it is Diwali or Eid, you will find your outfits, groceries for cooking specific South Asian dishes and all other necessities in Jackson Heights. The atmosphere is just different in that area as it is very welcoming, when compared to other South Asian neighborhoods around New York City. People talk to one another even if they’ve never met before and can stir up a conversation. Strangers are friendly with each other and if you’re lucky enough, that stranger might just turn out being a distant family member of yours. You may be at the grocery store buying your vegetables, and you drop a tomato. The person standing next to you picks it up and hands it to you. He/she will then go on to recognize you, whether it’s through your parents, siblings or any other family member. You begin to have a conversation and before you know it, you have just discovered a distant family member! Reading this you may laugh however I speak from experience! It is a very close-knit community.

Diwali is a very important holiday in the Hindu religion and is celebrated mainly by people from India and Bangladesh. Since people like me never had the opportunity to celebrate the holiday back home, we don’t get the true feeling of the holiday spirit once it comes around. Thanks to the South Asian community in charge of the 74th Street markets, once Diwali comes around the corner, the stores and trees are all decorated with beautiful lights to signify Diwali, the festival of lights. Stores such as the Butala Emporium, which sells all South Asian holiday necessities, also begins selling diyas, oil lamps usually made from clay with a cotton wick dipped in ghee or vegetable oil. Even though it’s nothing compared to how the holiday is celebrated back home, it definitely puts us in the holiday spirit. In celebration, there is also a Diwali show that takes place on 74th Street around that time. The street is blocked off with vendors selling food, clothing and accessories to others distributing free things. The free show consists of singing, dancing and showcasing the talent of the South Asian community. Friends, family and I enjoy going to this show to celebrate our holiday. It is nice when the whole community comes together, as well as crowded. You get a sense of being back home for the few hours you are there.

The South Asian community in Jackson Heights is mainly broken down into two streets and their surroundings: 37th Avenue, Broadway and Roosevelt Avenue. 74th Street is known for being Little India and parallel to that, 73rd Street is known as Little Bangladesh. The famous chicken over rice dish is well-known in Jackson Heights and can be found on almost every corner along with every major bank. Being close to the city, the community consists of South Asians as well as people that come from all different backgrounds. One of the most famous restaurants in Jackson Heights is the Jackson Diner, which has been there for quite a long time. One of the first Indian restaurants I remember eating at was the Jackson Diner itself. A dimly lit two floor environment, with calm Indian medleys playing at all times offers you a beautiful array of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Similar to the community, this restaurant is famous to everyone and there are many who travel the distance to come enjoy Jackson Diner’s delicious Indian cuisine.  Jackson Heights, 74th Street can be considered as a little colony within Queens, New York.

74th Street first became “Little India” in the 1970’s and 80’s when Indians first settled in followed by many other South Asians. The opening of Sai and Ram, the first Indian store on 74th Street in 1976, initiated the growth of what has become Little India today. By the year 1990, 74th Street housed more than 70 establishments, such as Indian restaurants, grocery stores, jewelry boutiques, and clothing, electronics and appliances stores. The continuous arrival of Indian and other South Asian immigrants were welcomed by what was becoming their home away from home. 74th Street served as not only a home for these new immigrants, it also provided them with jobs, and a family within a community. South Asian immigrants, whom were at first majority of Hindus, personified this area of Jackson Heights and called it “Jaikishan Heights”. Jaikrishna means “trumph of [Lord] Krishna”, hence Lord Krishna’s heights. Later, in 1992, Mayor Giuliani officially renamed the 74th Street area between 37th and Roosevelt Avenue “Little India”.

After the tragic death of the first Indian female astronaut, Kalpana Chawla, 74th Street was renamed to the Kalpana Chawla Way in her remembrance. Mayor Bloomberg had announced the renaming of the street in honor of the Indian-born astronaut on July 12, 2004. I have a lot of respect for her as she put forth the name of Indian women in the world. Women were looked down upon in many parts of India and she was able to come up and out of that stereotype and in my opinion, she should be respected and remembered for what she has done. Kalpana Chawla died in the Space Shuttle Colombia disaster, which occurred on February 1, 2003. Although the street has been renamed, people still refer to it as 74th Street like it always has been known.

As you walk down 74th Street, apart from the aroma of Indian spices and Hindi and Punjabi music pumping in your ear drums and through your veins, you can find almost anything you are looking for. Patel Brothers, located in the heart of 74th Street, is one of the biggest Indian grocery chain stores, very well-known and famous. People travel from all over the tri-state area to come and get their shopping done here. It’s our family tradition to go there every Saturday morning, by 9 am in order to find parking, and we load up our car with groceries to get us through the week. My dad prefers fresh vegetables every week and cooks new meals every single day, not believing in leftovers. The store is lined inside and out with fresh fruits and vegetables from the homeland. You’ll find Indian ice cream and soft drinks available at any time you want. It’s a great feeling when you’re able to access all this despite being far away from home.

Last but not the least, chaats in Jackson Heights are very popular and one bite brings back memories of chaats found on the streets of Mumbai (Bombay). Chaat is a savory road side snack which is usually sold from stalls or carts in South Asian countries. There is a huge variety of chaats but they are all based on fried dough along with various other ingredients, chutney being one of the most famous. When I had gone to India for the first time, one of the things I was most excited about was eating the chaats. However, due to road side conditions, I immediately lost my appetite as I approached the stalls. From paani puri to bhel puri, all kinds of chaats can be found in Jackson Heights, luckily not on the road side, but in many of the stores 74th Street is lined with. One of the most famous places for chaat, and my personal favorite, would be on 37th Avenue and 73rd Street, a place called Rajbhog. It is a vegetarian restaurant and also has mouthwatering dishes. My favorite chaats, which I also recommend to people, are samosa chaat and papri chaat. Both have the right amount of spice and tang and leave you craving for more!

Coming about 40 years from when Jaikishan Heights was first established by South Asian immigrants, today Little India is home to over 200 businesses in literally a one mile stretch. 74th Street has prospered over the years into becoming a beautiful and vibrant neighborhood. It is decorated all year around, one way or another, to either compliment a holiday or just to give its visitors a warm sense of being in “India”. The energy 74th Street beholds from its soothing aroma of scents to the delicious aromas from the mouth-watering cuisines, from its Bollywood and Bhangra music to its homely-environment, at the end of the day, it truly serves as my home away from home.

India is a beautiful country, a place one should definitely visit. From its attractions to agriculture and most importantly the variety of food, it is something worth experiencing. However, making a trip to India isn’t as easy as said so the alternative to that in my opinion would be taking a trip down to 74th Street in Jackson Heights. Unfortunately, you won’t see the attractions, but the fresh vegetables straight from the farms of Punjab and the delicious food you can enjoy in the many South Asian restaurants will tantalize your taste buds. Beware, us South Asians tend to enjoy our food spicy, but do not fear: we are truly as sweet as our cottage cheese desserts.

Post 16: QC Voices

Filed under: Uncategorized — bipasha255 at 5:53 pm on Sunday, November 28, 2010

Your blog really stood out to me and I wanted to point out that I am very proud of you for carrying this unique mindset. I have many Muslim friends who get annoyed when they are stereotyped for their religion, when they are considered a minority and talked as well as looked bad upon. They just complain; all sit and complain, and then just leave it as it is. I tell them, why not talk back? You staying quiet just allows people to continue saying negative things about you which obviously aren’t true. Yeah some people made huge mistakes and your religion was linked, but that doesn’t mean that you made those mistakes. Why should you have to suffer for their stupidity? Yes, all Muslims are Muslims but not all Muslims are terrorists and that stereotype must stop spreading and the only way that is possible is when Muslims step up themselves. I feel you could be one of those people who can stand up for his religion and his people and let the world know that there is more to me than my religion. Don’t let my name fool me, get to know me. Very well written, keep writing.


Post 15: Mr.Beller’s Neighborhood

Filed under: Uncategorized — bipasha255 at 12:29 am on Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pink Eye

by Iris Smyles


Hudson st & w 10th St. 10014

Neighborhood: Greenwich Village

This essay started off good, and had me engaged in reading it. Then it just started becoming boring as the narrator came off as a childish, immature person. It didn’t really have much to do with the neighborhood (Greenwich Village) and she just seemed like an alcoholic artist.

Dom’s Wife

by Mickey Z.


31st St. and 23rd Ave., Queens, NY 11105

Neighborhood: Astoria, Queens

This essay also started off good, I felt it would be something I could relate to, especially after being born and brought up in Astoria. The essay was getting good, and then it just ended, leaving me wanting to know what happened. The author wrote and built up a good essay and then left the reader with a cliffhanger ending.

Post 14: Stereotypes and Observations

Filed under: Uncategorized — bipasha255 at 12:31 am on Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Reading Joseph Mitchell’s “Professor Sea Gull”, I was surprised at this eccentric character of Joe Gould. I would not expect a Harvard graduate struggling with hunger, hang overs and being homeless for the most part. However, throughout the essay I was confused because Mitchell also mentioned the way Gould dressed and that didn’t sound much like how a homeless person would dress. Wearing a suit and overcoat, and even publishing his own work, however, the shoes he wears are a size or two larger than his feet. That hits that he IS a homeless and he either finds or gets these clothes and shoes to wear. It all still left me confused, but I don’t think Mitchell avoids creating a caricature. Certain aspects about Gould truly do humanize him, I guess just the way Mitchell wrote the essay did not strike me the way he intended on the readers to interpret the essay.

Joan Didion does go deeper into the first impressions of the “missing children” a.k.a. hippies because she tries to break down, document and explain throughout her essay about their practice. She doesn’t solely focus on the stereotypes and write as she would if she were biased. She also incorporates her own opinion about the matter and that also initiates her going deeper into the issue and bypassing just the stereotypes. Both Mitchell and Didion reflect upon their pieces well, however, I was just left confused with Mitchell’s essay perhaps because of his writing style which was unclear to me or I missed picking up on something in the reading.

Post 11: Faux Reporters

Filed under: Uncategorized — bipasha255 at 11:03 pm on Thursday, October 21, 2010

After reading both reported essays, I myself came to the conclusion that  Ames and Wallace are both quiet unusual reporters. One thing i noticed they both have in common is the time stamps within their essays. They are both also very descriptive in their writings, which I see as a positive aspect because both wrote these essays based on live interviews they conducted. However, I felt that Wallace incorporated a bit too much details causing his essay to be a tad bit boring when compared to Ames. I felt that even though Ames kept suggesting that he really wasn’t a Goth, he was able to have a better relationship with the Goth Fest than Wallace did with the Illinois State Fair. Even though they both kind of didn’t want to be in the places they were sent, I felt that Ames did a better job than Wallace. Wallace was very descriptive from the very minute he entered the fair. I felt that if he cut down on so much details and so many words, and made his piece shorter it would be much more enjoyable to read. I enjoyed reading Ames’ essay better than Wallace’s because Ames was informative as well as personal while Wallace was leaning more towards informative, although he did incorporate his personal aspect as well. This reminded me of the discussion we had in class about Quinonez and Morales’ essays and how we enjoyed one more than the other due to the same reason: one being informative and one being more personal. I guess I am just the type who does not enjoy reading informative as much as I enjoy reading personal. However, both essays were good in their own ways. In my opinion it is hard formulating such a solid essay based on interviews; and it is a challenge I will be facing for our next essay assignment in class.

Post 10: Memory and reflection revisited

Filed under: Uncategorized — bipasha255 at 7:58 am on Thursday, October 21, 2010

Although both Quinonez and Morales both go back to the neighborhoods in which they grew up in their youth, their essays are focused upon differently. Morales gives a general overview of the neighborhood of Spanish Harlem, and how he perceived for it to be, and how it actually is. Quinonez on the other hand goes in-depth by solely focusing on the botanicas of Spanish Harlem and how they serve as a prominent part in the lives of many who reside in the neighborhood. “The White Baby” was an interesting essay because it was a story Quinonez had heard as a child 25 years ago, and he returns to his old neighborhood just to find out if the story was true and what had really happened. I also found it interesting how the story was revealed to him, the belief in these spirits and how one can be deceived as well. Morales’ essay was more of taking a walk down the neighborhood and indulging its surroundings, its people and attitude. Once Mexicans would get beat up, but now they practically have the same rights as the Dominicans and Puerto Ricans. I personally felt that Morales’ essay brought out more of the theme of racism and gentrification, not only because he speaks about it throughout his essay with emphasis on the nationalities, but also because it is what we witness if we take a trip down to Spanish Harlem ourselves. Quinonez doesn’t necessarily emphasize on the fact of racism or gentrification, but it is implied, especially when a Hispanic man was asking for a white baby. He does get his white baby with blue eyes and blonde hair but little does he know that his wife slept with a white man in order to give him that child. I enjoyed reading Quinonez’s essay more than Morales’ because I liked the story he went in search of finding out as well as his writing style. I have also read his book Bodega Dreams, which is also about Spanish Harlem and it’s go abouts.

Post 9: Hell Gate Review

Filed under: Uncategorized — bipasha255 at 1:41 am on Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Life After Rikers Island:

I really liked this essay because it shows an in-depth analysis of an ex criminal and what makes it even better is that the essay is formatted in dialogue form which allows the reader to feel like he/she is the actual interviewer and John is directly talking to him/her. The best part of the essay was that despite all the hardships and hurdles of his past, John is determined to pursue a career in marine biology and move on in life. His struggle to thrive for success is what caught my attention. This essay clearly brings out John’s cognitive processes and shows us how even an ex-con, if he tries, can turn himself into a new leaf. This essay, I believe, should be used as a live example to educate other convicts and let them know that if they messed up in life, there is still a chance for change but that need for change has to come out from within.

Let Me Be:

This piece of work really caught my attention because myself being an East Indian i can very clearly relate to the author’s experiences. Even though our parents restrict our thoughts and actions and force us into acting upon their beliefs to protect us from doing wrong, i believe that it captures our thought processes into the jails of our mind. This allows us only to peak out of the window of the jail but prohibits us from stepping out into the world beyond the window. This really hurts the formation of a self identity which in turn keeps us from exploring into the real realms of the society making us mediocre people who only live in a cubicle from 9 to 5 and then go home, eat and then sleep. This type of dictatorship upbringing can most probably hurt our self esteem and just like the author only HOPE that some day life will get better.
The best part of the essay is: “I feel that all parents should have more faith in their children, and they should also have faith in their parenting.” This statement is so true and the only way our parents would understand this is if they try to clean up their clogged mind and open it up. However, that rarely happens because our parents themselves are usually stuck between the morals and cultural values of their original country and the country they currently reside in. They fear that the society will influence their kid’s mind and therefore the kid will forget his/her real values and morals.
The author’s emotions are hidden behind the words of her essay and these emotions jump right out at the readers as they read along. I felt pity for the author and up to some extent that feeling extended to myself as well. Even though i rebelled my way out of my parent’s dictatorship, the memories sometimes do haunt.

Post 8: Addiction Description

Filed under: Uncategorized — bipasha255 at 7:45 am on Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lee and Sanders both write about addiction, one from a personal point of view and another from a point of view of a child. The two essays were about two different addictions, smoking and drinking. In my opinion, Sanders’ essay was more successful because it showed how one person’s addiction can affect so many others. Lee just talks about himself as a smoker, and how he dealt with the public smoking ban. I didn’t think it was such a big deal, and throughout his writing, it didn’t seem like a huge matter to him either. However, I liked his comparison of a cigarette to a lover, because throughout the story he does not mention anything about family, just a few friends. “Poets have compared the cigarette to a lover. They say it fires up the senses and unleashes a forbidden pleaser…” (140). For Lee, smoking was just a part of his routine, his everyday life. He’d been doing it since his junior year of high school, but it only affected him, and the ban affected him (and his fellow smokers), no one else. In Sanders’ essay, his father’s addiction with alcohol not only affected him, but also his wife and children, one of which was Scott Russell Sanders. One of the many powerful lines I still remember from Sanders is, “he never quit drinking but because he quit living” (596). Sanders’ essay has deep description and details, and personally he touched my heart because I was able to relate to almost every aspect of the essay. My father was also an alcoholic and I myself would lie in bed at nights “hating him, loving him, fearing him, knowing I have failed him…” and would sometimes also think that if things were different, perhaps I was different, then he “would not drink himself to death, if only I were perfect” (597). Despite the fact that this essay was longer than Lee’s essay, it took me a much longer time to read it because it was so close to my heart, I read parts over and over again to refresh my not so pleasant memories. Just like Sanders’ realization that he was not the cause behind his father’s illness of being an alcoholic, I also came into that realization with my father but much later. About a year and half ago (Jan 2009) when my father finally quit drinking for good, he explained to us that it was something he had put himself into as a relief of stress, and it just got carried away. When my father came back from the jaws of death in 2000, after surviving two heart attacks, he had promised us he would stop smoking and drinking. He stuck to one, but not the other and resumed drinking about a year later again. To many aspects I was able to relate to Sanders’ piece and felt it was more successful in getting across what he was trying to say. Sanders’ essay also has a gradual change in setting, as he speaks from the past coming to the present, which adds a special aspect to the story. He speaks from a child’s point of view, and then he speaks from a father’s point of view.  He also compares himself to his father. His father was addicted to drinking, and he is addicted to working (which is not as dangerous and deadly as drinking, but not good either). I would have to see Lee had a more difficult time explaining his views because you don’t really see yourself a well as others do. Sanders viewed his father’s actions and wrote about that, but if his father had wrote about his alcohol issue it wouldn’t have appealed to us as much.  The sympathy went more towards Sanders because obviously he is writing this as a child’s point of view and that is always sympathetic. However, what I said about observing someone is more detailed than that someone just writing about himself, so we get more out of Sanders’ than Lee’s.

Post 7: Fitting In

Filed under: Uncategorized — bipasha255 at 11:26 pm on Monday, October 4, 2010

The common theme in these three essays is of the narrator trying to find their identity of who they are and where they belong; how they fit into their surroundings. McBride, a Jewish-American speaks from his point of view of trying to fit into this Jewish environment. The essay begins from the point of view of his mother and how she had to adapt to the American lifestyle. The overlapping of the point of view of mother and son together creates this sense of identity; their identity. However, I found myself get lost in between the two points of view and did not understand if I was supposed to see it from the mother’s point of view, or son’s, or both together as one? I was hoping for a more clarified essay, which would probably give me a better understanding of the situation. Nevertheless, I did get the main point behind the essay. Cofer’s essay gave me a more sense of one fitting into her identity. She tells a story from her childhood, in which the extended family is seen as a positive aspect. How stories were passed on from generation to generation, and one was expected to listen and abide by that story although it has no connection to them whatsoever. I really liked her style of writing and how while her grandmother simply braided her hair, a strong story came across for all the women to comprehend. Cooper’s essay was one I liked the most because I felt that his essay was one which truly one coming up discovering his identity, or his Cooper’s case perhaps not. This essay focused on homosexuality at a young age, and I really liked the confusion depicted throughout the essay because in my opinion that is what reality is! I loved Cooper’s use of details throughout his writing, the use of questions which he had no answers to. I felt like it was a journal entry formulated into an essay. All three of the authors had the issue of not “fitting  in”, but throughout their essays, I felt the process coming alive, one way or another.

Post 6: Portaits

Filed under: Uncategorized — bipasha255 at 11:38 pm on Wednesday, September 29, 2010

All three essays have an emphasis on the person’s history and identity; who they are, where they came from etc. It has a sense of family importance, ties and of course loss. Momaday speaks of his people and where they came from. His essay is actually about his grandmother and the loss of her however, I kept losing that throughout his reading because I felt he focused more on the history and the place. The imagery was beautiful but I wanted to know more about his grandmother and his relationship with her; his grief of the loss. Lee writes a piece I enjoyed reading more, about his mother’s struggle with cancer and how it brought his family together to cherish her last moments. I was able to relate to this reading more because I lost my grandmother to cancer and I remember how during her last few days, it really brought my family together as well. Tan also writes about her mother and I also enjoyed reading her essay because I was able to relate to it. Her dealing with her mother’s “fractured English” was such an interesting topic, especially when we just have discussed immigration and in New York we always deal with such people. I really liked in the ending of her essay when her mom read her book and said “So easy to read”, it immediately put a smile upon my face.

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