My New York City Experience

Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.

As I headed towards the corner of 58th Street and 9th Avenue, towards one of the various Ray’s Pizza restaurants scattered about New York City, I saw a bicyclist cut off a taxi driver in rush hour traffic. Normally, this violation would result in a horn from the driver; however, the taxi driver must have screamed something offensive, because the cyclist stopped, backed up, and pulled next to the taxi. At this point the taxi driver stepped out of his car (passenger in the back) to face the cyclist in the middle of the street. I turned to an Indian man in a suit standing to my right and muttered, “This should be interesting.” After a mouthful of slurs and insults, no one threw a punch, as we expected. When the traffic light flashed green, we continued in the same direction and began to talk.

Our conversation followed the template of stranger-to-stranger talks in New York City. People ask, “What do you do for a living?”, “Where are you from?”, but never inquire “Who are you?” What we had just seen reminded him of a situation he had witnessed some fifteen years ago in his hometown, Calcutta. A man, clearly of high caste status based on his clothing, was screaming at a taxi driver and began violently shoving him. Although the...

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