The Bed and Breakfast place Ipsa (our daughter) has booked for us was in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The neighborhood was almost all-Black. Shanto ( friend who was hosting us in Boston) asked me to come home earl y, by 10pm or so and to carry some cash to appease possible muggers. When we got up on the subway train from Levonia Avenue that evening headed for Times Square, the first white person boarded the train only after 4 or 5 stations. But we returned after 11pm and it felt okay. Next morning Jayashree and I went out for a morning to walk and were pleasantly surprised to see the well-maintained parks and basketball and squash courts.
(I also marvelled at the amount of trust in the American public sphere where even in a locality like this with ‘high’ crime rating, all we had to while checking out was to place the keys in the mail box!)
The place had three bedrooms and we had occupied two. On day-two the third room got taken by a gentleman called Steve who worked in Washington DC and had come to NY to take part in the cycling event, along with four friends, carrying the bikes on his truck. On the morning we were leaving the place, I also got to talk to Sandra, the tenant who was staying in the basement – a single mother with a son Mike ( 5yrs) and daughter Samantha ( 6months). She was preparing to leave both the kids at day care and go to school. After the course she was doing she hoped to doing a 2-year course to become a nurse. She came from Haiti in 2011.
She was a Seven-day Adventist and didn’t eat pork or much red meat. ‘ They are among the longest living Americans’, Steve quipped in. She told about her fellow Seven-day Adventist who had thirteen kids. It is because of the state’s generosity that she could bring all of them up, she added. All along the trip I realized how attached to kids Americans were, and how effortlessly they handled multiple kids with prams into the hotel and all, and how mothers and families charted their holidays and social gatherings centered around children.
She hoped we would come again. I said yes. She said, I hope you bringing your wife along because I enjoy talking with her. ‘ But I talk so little’, Jayashree said. ‘ Yes, but you listen’ Sandra noted. Hmm.