So every decent sized city in the USA that prides itself on its ethnic diversity has this...a shady part of town where Indians descend in droves, dressed in their bridal finery on weekends, to fill up their pantry’s with two month old snacks and Haldiram sweets from India and waylay graduate students into joining some quick money making scheme while shopping for methi and paneer. If you are into that sort of thing, then you might also pick up the latest pirated copy of the latest Desi flick. Chicago calls this part of town Devon Street and New York calls it Jackson Heights. We in the Washington Area call it Langley Park because it’s still not quite in-your-face-desi as compared to its more flamboyant cousins. Langley Park is well known as the International Corridor, where 76 languages (mostly of South American origins) are spoken within a 3 mile radius, where crime rates are sickeningly high, where friendly Romeos whistle at you while chuntering on in some vague dialect till you shout back “No Habla Espanol” or some variation of it and where ladies and gentleman my car decided to break down last evening.
Now I am no shrinking violet, my work takes me to this part of town frequently, but being stuck in the left turn lane of a high volume highway during rush hour is not really pleasant. After doing the usual cursing, followed by cajoling the car to start I decided to call AAA for help. Now this is supposed to be an emergency service, but the recorded message has the audacity to tell me to get on the internet and log on to blah blah website and place a call on the website as there are experiencing heavy call volume!! All this while a bunch of Indians (for description go to first para) keep pulling up behind me and pulling faces to let me know how deeply inconvenienced they are by the fact that I have decided to take a vacation in the middle of the road. Hazard lights mean Vehicle Travel and not a Diwali Party people!! Only two people stopped by to offer help (and I am so proud to report that none of them were Indians) and one of them actually got honked at by this Indian family for stopping and offering to help. Anyway after listening to some soothing music for 10 minutes I was put through to some lady who took the details and told me the tow truck would arrive in 90 minutes.
Luckily by this time Supratik and Subhamoy arrived (Oh!Sagnik, you understood me so well) and we pushed the car out of the roadway with the help of some Non Indian employees of an Indian restaurant while nicely dressed families just stood and stared. To be fair to my clan, I have to admit that after half an hour when we decided to push the car into a parking lot (no sight of AAA till then) some gentlemen offered to help and gave us some unwanted advice too. But methinks it had something to do with the fact that I had expressed my humble opinion about the gallantry of my country folk a little too loudly sometime before.
Our tow truck came soon after and I have to mention Jason – the cool dude who drove the tow truck. I have never been towed before so I guess I watched wide eyed as he expertly towed the car. He gave us a ride to the mechanic’s place in his truck and on the way showed off his 600 dollar, 1500 watt speaker system and how with a flick of some buttons he could make the speakers give us an impromptu shiatsu massage (the speakers were behind the seats in case you are wondering). We reached home at 9:30 PM, exhausted and I walked to work today. The mechanic is in his shop looking at our car and I am waiting for the verdict as I write this and wonder about our collective lack of empathy (cannot think of another word). So what makes us Indians stand by and gawk and not offer a helping hand instead?