Ashok B. Boghani

Feb 17, 2020

3 min read

Scenes from Brooklyn

The landlady, a Muslim from India, decides that she needs to give us a gift because our daughter and son-in-law have been good tenants. Besides, she and her husband were invited to our granddaughter party and treated just like all other friends.

Her idea of giving something back involves purchasing a Tulsi plant for us, because Hindus revere it. Her plan has two issues. First, we are both atheists and our daughter’s visiting mother-in-law is a Sikh. None of us care for a Tulsi plant. However, it is the thought that counts. The other issue is that she has no clue what a Tulsi plant looks like. Her solution is simple. Get a few plants that may include a Tulsi plant and present them to us so we can choose. The Bengali shopkeeper down the street does not mind lending plants for trial. The problem is we too have no idea what the Tulsi plant looks like. Confusion ensues. In the end, one plant is arbitrarily anointed and honored. Everyone is happy.

By this time the landlady is distracted by an elderly Chinese woman who is making her daily rounds. She is pushing a cart filled with used bottles. “She knocks on people’s doors, but only the first floor,” says the landlady. “She can not climb stairs, so she will not bother you.” However, the mother-in-law sees a solution to the problem of disposing off bottles and cans from the granddaughter’s birthday party. So she shouts in Punjabi at the Chinese lady. Soon the elderly Sikh and Chinese ladies meet and makes a transaction of used bottles and cans. Everyone is happy.

It is time to go for a walk with our granddaughter and the mother-in-law. We encounter a group of Muslim girls wearing Hijabs. They are looking at a poster and giggling. It is a poster for Kool cigarettes. The girls take pictures of each other in front of the poster. Perhaps, this is the height of naughtiness permitted in their households.

At the playground, there are lots of kids and parents, grandparents and nannies. Our granddaughter is drawn to a couple of white skinned kids, with orange afro hair. They are a little older than our granddaughter, and most likely twins. An elderly black lady is in charge of them. “Are you their grandmother,” asks the mother-in-law, in proper English accent. Bad question to ask. She is their mother.

On the way back, we encounter a couple of Hasidic kids with their traditional dreadlock hair. “What happens to them when they get old and become bald?” asks the mother-in-law. I confess that I have no idea. Perhaps they get a wig, or they let go that part of their ritual. The mother-in-law seems satisfied by the answer.

Before getting back, the mother-in-law purchases a bunch of flowers for our daughter and son-in-law. However, her gift is not heartily accepted because our son-in-law suffers from severe allergies. The family discusses what the options are.

In front of the apartment, a couple of Chinese women are busy tending to their small garden. Perhaps the flowers can be re-gifted to them for being good neighbors. Perhaps they would be willing to take care of our newly acquired Tulsi plant as well. Everyone would be happy.