Nalini Juthani is a retired psychiatrist, pursuing her hobbies in arts, photography and writing. She is enjoying her creative retirement.
Westchester County in New York sponsors celebration of cultures on Heritage Day which is celebrated on every Sunday during the summer months each year. It is held at the Kensico Dam.
Different ethnic groups share their culture by sharing food, dances and music. Many people from Westchester County, including politicians, attend this event. This is a wonderful place to share our culture and learn from others’ culture as well. It is held at the Kensico Dam.
This particular Sunday we attended Indian Cultural Heritage Day. It was a beautiful hot summer day when we spent several hours watching the cultural activities of the Heritage Day. In addition to watching a beautiful cultural dance program, I enjoyed visiting food stalls which had a number of different food items from North and South India. I saw lemonade stand which had a long line of people waiting to buy a glass of lemonade to quench their thirst. I lined up too. I knew it was a decent 15 minutes wait to get a glass of lemonade. Right behind me on the line were a Caucasian man and his teenage daughter. I heard this young girl ask her father “what kind of food is Samosas” pointing to the Samosa stand sign right across from us. Father replied with a smile that he had no idea. Since I had overheard the conversation, I turned around and asked the man if I could tell them what Samosas were. They both smiled with a nod. I explained that samosas were a favorite street food in India and now in London as well. It is like a pastry with a thin layer of dough covering a mixture of potatoes, peas and spices. The lining of the dough is sealed on two sides and then the samosa is deep fried. They both thanked me for the explanation.
A few seconds later in flashback, I traveled 48 years back when my husband and I had just arrived from India. One morning while eating breakfast in a restaurant, We saw a man on the next table eating something round with syrup on it. I was curious and asked the man if that dish was vegetarian since we both are vegetarians. I had made sure not to eat anything without asking for its ingredients. This kind gentleman was astonished for a moment but responded politely and said that these were pancakes and they were made from all purpose flour and cooked on a skillet. He said that there was no meat in it. We exchanged smiles as I thanked him. In a few minutes this man paid his bill, had a word with the waiter and left. Before we finished our breakfast, the waiter brought us a plate of pancakes just like the ones we saw the man on the next table eat. Before we can say anything, the waiter said that this was from the man who we had asked the question and he had paid for it before leaving. We were very touched by his gesture. We could not even thank him since he had left already. However, this encounter has stayed with me for 48 years. This was a meaningful flashback!
I turned around and asked the father-daughter acquaintance that I had just made, if I could buy one samosa for each one of them. The father said that it was very kind of me to offer and they would love to try. I paid for my lemonade and went to the Samosa stand and ordered two samosas with potatoes and peas filling. They both followed me with lemonade in their hands. The owner of the stand watched me buy the samosa for two people. Both of these acquaintances were glowing with smiles as they thanked me. I said to them that I was just passing on a random act of niceness that I had received 48 years ago. I told them my story as the owner of the samosa stand listened. Immediately, he asked his cook to make another samosa with chicken filling and gave it to the girl. He said to the father that this samosa was on the house. We all smiled and thanked him. Thus the chain of random act of niceness had continued on. We all bid goodbye to each other and went our separate ways. I continued thinking about this wonderful encounter.
This Heritage day had brought people of all kinds closer. We learned to respect each other’s differences and also learned a lot about our similarities. I took the moral from this encounter that the communities that share bond and prosper!