Rahul da Cunha: I'm an Indian in New York
So I'm in New York. Attempting to buy a ticket to see a musical called Hamilton. This is -3°C New York. Cold is an understatement
So I'm in New York. Attempting to buy a ticket to see a musical called Hamilton. This is -3°C New York. Cold is an understatement. This is a body-altering experience. Especially, dear reader, if you're from a humid, muggy city like Mumbai, Manhattan in the winter is like Antarctica without the polar bears. Of course, our neighbours from the North — the rugged, rough and tough peeps referred to as Dilli-ites — will show off and say, "Those softy Mumbaikars can't handle the cold, ya… sachmuch tagda nahin." (Well, here's my thing, maybe we can't handle the cold, but at least we can see each other. Best of luck with the smog, guys.) But, yeah, for Mumbaites, landing up in a New York winter unarmed with woolies is like showing up in Goa with no swimming suit.
So, the first day you're standing stationary on Times Square, in your idea of a stylish jacket, and you're thinking, "Ah kya baat hai, I'm on 42nd street...chalo, let me take one selfie. two selfies, three selfies"... and a feeling creeps over you… it starts at the top of your head, and works its way, anaconda–like, to the bottom of your toes. It's the opposite of a warm tingly feeling. And everyone's looking at you — shivering like an anorexic amphibian. First a Chinaman in Chinatown. "You must be fleezing. Where you flom?" he asks me. "India," I answer as each alphabet hangs like an icicle in my mouth. "Ah EEndia, Shaaaaluck Kan," he says wagging his finger knowingly.
As you hobble your way back to your hotel, the doorman looks at you pityingly, and asks, "You okay there, son? Maybe you need some more clothes?" And so you add layers. And your 'cool' look is suddenly destroyed as you put on a hat, and your dude-like jacket now has an Incredible Hulk-sized overcoat. An elderly Italian character straight out of the Sopranos gives you sideways glance and queries, "Where you fraam, Signore?" "India," I manage as the word freezes up as it leaves my mouth. "Ahhhh Indiano… Rajjj Kapoor…very laavely... Awara hoon," he sings tunelessly, his scowl turning to a smile. By the fifth day, you have to dress Indian — as your ears are taking a beating — you put on a monkey cap and a blanket.
A large vodka soaked Russian, looks you up and down and demands aggressively, "Hey da, where are you from, Comrade?" You now have to pry open your mouth, as you chatteringly answer, "Uh… I'm Indian actually." The Russian now beams, "Ah Indian… Modi Modi... Modi… May the Force be with you." You walk into a corner store to buy something that'll stop your nose running.
The Egyptian behind the counter asks sleepily, "Where are you from, my friend?" I answer through a blocked nose — 'Indian." "Ahhhh, Indian… Jackie Chan."
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at email@example.com