As the weather changes New York gets greener. The cherry blossoms are just disappearing making rooms for the linden trees to announce its presence with obsessive fragrance to let the New Yorkers know that the cold days are over. I dropped my two children respectively to their schools. Instead of coming home I went to the wooded benches at the Gantry Plaza State Park. I occupied one of them that was facing the UN building from the western end of Queens. Did I ever think of coming here? In those childhood days when I would fight with my younger siblings, would walk myself to and from schools miles apart. My world was a small but open pasture. I would often stand facing the storms and strong winds to let it push me, to let it try to float me if it could. I would fish, go kayaking and biking in a village where females were expected to grow loyal with their normative female-hood. Even with those aberrant lifestyles, I was loved. I was loved at home, in schools and in the neighborhood. I was loved by the people who would live with us and who would be one time visitors equally. I have been loved in this city too. Since the first time I came here till this day, I have been living in an envelope of love. I am the only one of our twelve siblings who dared to marry this far, half a world away and live here. I do not feel a stranger here. This Gantry Plaza State Park gets me nostalgic. It has been a place that always reminds me of my childhood, the sharing of food in a family that would have twenty five people eating on a dining table on a daily basis. Whatever would be cooked would taste heavenly. We would appreciate every spoon of rice, and whether it would be served with – from wild grown vegetables, organic lentils, wild caught fish, to occasionally chicken, ducks, or eggs. Its not that we needed to produce organic produce. In those days people would not use chemicals in fields, and poultry and fish would grow with natural food on their own.
Now that I am in a city, so special in the whole wide world, so known, so desired, I haven’t found that big gaps however. The village that I was born in and the city that I live in are just two parallels running on two different tracks but not far from each other, may be from just a foot distance. If we did not have high tech to see a thing big and close, we had an open horizon that would allow us to see things from miles away. If we didn’t have electricity at night, we had a sky full of stars, big, small and shooting. We would know many of them by names. If we didn’t have electric ACs or fans, we had natural wind that would come with the wave of Bay of Bengal, washed and pure. If we didn’t have electric radiator to keep our homes warm during winter, we had siblings to share blankets with and to feel cozy. There are also things that are very common. The tilia trees remind me of “Bokul Ful” in the village. Once it would bloom the whole neighborhood would know.
I am not too shy to say that sometimes I do miss my parents and siblings. Whenever I do have time to enjoy the beauty of this city, I miss them. Coming from a large family with food and blanket sharing experiences, whenever I cook yummy food or go to restaurant, I do miss the dining table of my late mother. In those days we would hope to eat a whole egg instead of making it half, or in situations one fourth. Now I cook a five pounds whole chicken and no one is here to fight for a special part of the chicken is just too abundant to enjoy alone. The Gantry Plaza State Park is the worst and the best place. Have I ever enjoyed being here without missing my families! This place is too beautiful to not to show my families who live on the other side of the world. When it is morning here, they are just preparing to sleep. Thanks God two of my sisters did come here to visit me. Both of them loved the park but nothing else in the city.
Sometimes I think about how the world views otherness. I live here now. I don’t have any blood related families here, but we have created our own siblings out of the people coming from different cities, states and countries. We work and raise families. The way a group of people in the west have wrong perceptions about the other world, the same way people of the East also hold their own prejudices. People from Bangladesh often ask me to “come back” to Bangladesh. They think this country that I hold so dear in my heart doesn’t have moral values. People here raise dogs with care, not human babies. They don’t get to see a mother pushing double strollers to make it to a daycare center early in the morning before going to work. They don’t see a father going to play ground with an infant in a snugly right after he returns from work. They don’t see people counting every single nickel to see if they have the rent money for the following month. They watch Hollywood movies. Their version of New York comes from MTV music. They also read news paper outlets. They know about the war on Iraq and not finding any wmd; they know every time a hate crime happens. They listen to our President, Donald Trump’s speech with care, fear and hate. What else they yet to know is how we, the people from different parts of the cities, states and worlds have made home here and are living like siblings. They don’t know the beauty of inclusion that we enjoy. They don’t know that a person like me who was born in a faraway land, grew up in one of the most rural villages was welcomed, accepted, loved and trusted so much that she now feels comfortable enough to offer herself for a public office race in a place where the demographics of the population do not match her race or religion. They have yet to see it. As I sit here by this East River facing the headquarter of the United Nations, I cannot wait to show the world the other side of us that they long needed to know.