Churros on Fulton Street

Article Originally Published in January 29, 2011 edition of The West Indian Newspaper

As a regular user of public transportation, I have gotten used to the habit of always being in a rush. One day, I raced down the stairs to catch my train home, and to my own fortune, I missed it. I walked down the station in annoyance and began to hear one of my favorite songs, “Unchained Melody.”Three men were singing their own version of the song to the beat of an old boom-box. The music gripped the attention of quite a few individuals waiting for the train. I was mesmerized. As I waited for the A train, I unplugged my earphones, and self-consciously swayed to the beat…hoping no one thought I was crazy.Soon after, I saw a man wheeling a cart of numerous churros (a Spanish fried-dough pastry).  The churros turned out to be a crowd-pleaser. The diverse group waiting for the train began to form a hungry crowd. A businessman stood beside the crowd, unsure of whether to purchase a churro. He watched the many people forming a line and asked the man selling the pastries, “What are they?” The man didn’t quite understand what he had said and replied, “Two for a dollar.” The businessman continued to ask and the vendor told him it was a pastry. Eventually after careful observation, the businessman purchased two churros for a dollar and headed toward his train. I glanced over at the vendor giving him a look of understanding. I knew exactly what it was like to have to explain an ethnic food that many people did not know of.

In my elementary school, lunch was often a predictable period. Most children brought sandwiches. I took a leap of courage by bringing something different to eat. One day I decided to bring doubles. To me, it was far better than any sandwich. All of my classmates looked inquisitively wondering where in the world that different smell was coming from. Finally, my classmates realized I was the one with a different lunch. They all asked me “What is… that?” I told them, “It’s basically two squishy breads with chick peas in the middle and it’s spicy.” Some of my classmates were confused, others turned off, and others wanted a piece! Nevertheless, I felt proud to be able to explain what it was and eat it without feeling inferior. I recalled this moment at the train station feeling a connection with the vendor despite our different ethnic background. Even though he was selling churros and I had doubles for lunch, we both imparted our culture to others through the use of food.

It is no surprise that by living in a big city, we are bound to come across different people, cultures, and ideas. Everyday we meet someone or learn something new. But even though we live in such a large, diverse city there is still so much to experience and learn. It takes just a little observation and comparison to notice what a fast-paced lifestyle we have. One of the most obvious ways to notice diversity is by taking public transportation. However, when we travel we are often wrapped up in our own lives, schedules, and commitments. Sometimes we don’t recognize the richness of our environment despite the gum pasted cement and unpredictable commute.

At times we often get caught up in our own circle of comfort which shelters us away from different cultures, ideas, and varying opinions. We become very used to our own ideas and forget to recognize the big picture. For example, you squeeze into a packed A train. As each stop passes, more and more people get off the train until there are only two people left…You and the other individual, who remains standing right next to you. What has changed? Your personal space expands and you begin to wonder “Why is this person standing so close to me?”

Many of us forget to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Maybe the individual is from a different land and has a different perception of the situation. Or maybe that individual really is unstable. The truth is things really aren’t so black and white. We all have different understandings of the same situation. No two minds are the same. Plato, a Greek philosopher, once said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We each have different experiences that lead us to react in different ways. Understanding another individual takes much effort. But it is also the key to solving a controversy, conflict, or disagreement.

In order to truly learn and experience what is around us, we must take a step back, recognize the richness of our environment, and break our circle of comfort. This is no easy task, it may take a lifetime. However, we are all capable of trying new things whether they are food, aromas, or even a new idea. The businessman, some of my classmates, and the new me waiting at Fulton Street are all examples of people who broke out of their circles of comfort. So next time, try a churro, delight yourself in a new aroma, and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Because when you try something different, there no longer is a barrier between “Us” and “Them.” There is only “Our.”

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15 comments on “Churros on Fulton Street

  1. Nazeera says:

    What a wonderful article! It’s so true that living and working in bustling NYC makes us all sometimes forget how to just pause and take a breath and enjoy the myriad of cultures around us. I wish you the best of luck Kameel and I’m so proud of you. I’ll be a regular visitor of your blog :).

    • Thanks so much Nazeera 🙂 I’m so happy you can relate and that you’ll follow my blog! I know you’re doing well with your studies, so keep it up! I’m tremendously proud of you too!

  2. Such an engaging and relevant piece. Lucid language. I’m a big fan of all your work, and will be an avid reader of this blog. Wonderful way to spread your views across different borders and multiple generations.

    • Thanks Minty :)!! It certainly is and I have to thank you for your “constructive criticism”…it definitely pushes me to the next level. I’ve finally created a blog. I wanted to for a while but never had the drive or the balance in my life. I think it’ll really help me and my writing! Please keep reading when you have the chance, I know your a busy girl! And subscribe to it too!

  3. Emran says:

    Wow you made me reading the whole article.actually while I was reading this article I was on the train realizing what u said.

  4. Alex says:

    Since you took that two week break, you’ve really been on a tear with your writing. You have everything you need to take your work to the next level. Congratulations on starting a war at the Indra Seet event yesterday. You were brave and bold and didn’t shy away from pressing it to them. I’m very impressed.

    • It’s very true! I think it’s just what I needed because now I get to do what I love and focus on my writing! I appreciate your encouragement…and about that war! I had no idea I’d create a havoc and had no intention…but it was like a domino effect. It really brought out the emotions from everyone and without it the event would have been different. I’m glad I put it out there! Thanks Ro, and your encouragement does the trick!

  5. Raj Seegobin says:

    This is so brilliant Kameel. It is so true we can all become one. I am so proud of you Kameel keep writing and I will be visiting your blog very often

    • Thanks so much 🙂 I really appreciate that you read and I’m glad we can connect through this blog! It’s definitely going to bring me closer to you, the family , and it will help me to connect to those around the world.I will definitely keep writing and please subscribe.

  6. sheorani says:

    Kamee I am so proud of you. This is very brilliant. As always try to have an open mind. You see, MOM do read what you write.

  7. Ramesh says:

    Ramesh
    What a thrilling article showcasing the multitude of cultures moving and blending in the melting pot–NYC-.Kam, you do have the flair in writing by putting your thoughts, ideas, opinion and facts and mixing it with a bit of humor. I do enjoy your weekly column in “The West Indian” newspaper as you showcase issues in our community through the microscope of a young girl from a Guyanese American perspective. Keep writing, best wishes.

    • Reina Natasha Julain says:

      I was reading this article to my other half. She was thrilled to listen to it as she is my Churro 🙂 Living here for almost 4 years and being amongst the Hispanic culture has opened my eyes to many things. Kind of like: “I am new to this world”.

      I thought it was cute that you mentioned “doubles”, and just to tell you something funny yet strange, I only remembered what a double was when you explained it. I did not grow up with this and so you can see that I am a blend with at least 4 different cultures, not even being able to define which is mine.

      I am not Indian, not Dutch, not Caribbean and not Portuguese …. I’m just a blend of Cultures =)

      Thank you for the link, You have been bookmarked as my favorite Blog to read =)

  8. Thanks so much Tasha 🙂 I really appreciate your comment and I am so glad you connected with this story 😀 Thanks for bookmarking me and please feel free to share with friends. I really truly appreciate your support!

    And I’m happy to remind you about doubles! You’ve gotta try one over here, there’s an awesome place right by my area!

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