The Anxiety is High
In October of last year, I was back in New York City-my home
town. I got on the subway one morning during the trip, and
sat down across from a good looking young man with dark skin,
and straight black hair that appeared to be very long. He
was simply and neatly dressed, in a plain white shirt and
dark pants. Nothing eccentric or exceptional about his clothing
My attention, however, was drawn back to his hair. I could
only guess how long it really was, since he was facing me
directly, but I thought it might go down to the middle of
his back. It had the smooth and flat look that hair gets when
it is habitually drawn tightly back and pinned up, or put
into a pony tail. As soon as I made this observation, it struck
me: he was a Sikh and he had decided not to wear his turban.
I guessed that perhaps, in a post-September 11th world, he
was afraid to wear a turban. I remember sitting there on the
train as it traveled into Manhattan, and I felt sad for him.
I was born in 1956 in Jackson Heights, a neighborhood in
the borough of Queens that has been home, for at least the
last decade or so, to many people from India and Pakistan.
My mother still lives there; her apartment (the one I was
raised in) looks out onto one of the bustling avenues where,
every weekend, the restaurants, stores selling Halal meats,
spices and sweets, saris and gold jewelry attract throngs
of people from all over the city.
In our last few phone conversations she has described the
neighborhood as "eerily quiet." There have been
FBI raids, and businesses have unexpectedly changed hands.
When, last Sunday, she asked me if I had scheduled my spring
trip home, I told her that I had been unable to bring myself
to book the plane ticket. She was relieved. "Don't come...,"
she said. She is 81. I felt sad for her, and for me.
I have lately been hearing more often from my friends in
New York, and I have been in some closer touch with them via
e-mail and sometimes by phone. We have talked the 'what ifs',
and talked around them. Mostly we have taken comfort from
the sound of each other's voices and the solidity of 33 years
of shared history.
The ties that bind us now become more important than ever.
If we do nothing else, we should make sure we tend to them
with careful attention. Regardless of what does or does not
happen next, after all we have been through, we will need