My mouth is positively rancid. It is stale with the decadence of excellent dark coffee (with sugar and without cream) brewed by a family of cheerful and industrious North Indians that run a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise store in a convenient and prosperous corner of a convenient and prosperous corner of Southern New Jersey called Voorhees.
I happen to speak the native language of these franchisees (amongst other ‘native languages’), whose physical characteristics range from swarthy to sallow, hairy to hairless, consisting of aquiline noses, defined, lined, weathered, features, and a menagerie of brown, hazel, grey, and green eyes, amongst which the brown dominates.
They refer to their customer as “buddy” in an accent that authenticates a rugged affability, a degree of assertiveness, an attitude of equality, and a very comfortable sort of foreignness that can make the intellectually blind and sensually cold ardent flagwaver at once rather uncomfortable.
However in Voorhees, the intellectually blind and the sensually cold are not found purchasing beverage or edibles at Dunkin’ Donuts, but rather in pockets of low income, archetypical neighborhoods, whose kind are rather rare in this township whose zip code is 08043.
Yea, they do drive around now and then in battered, tainted pickup trucks slapped with dollar store Americana on the bumper, in form of ‘pride’ stickers and ‘God Bless’ so and so’s; but not many take them and their shining bald heads and goat beards very seriously.
In these industrious immigrants there is a certain degree of aloofness. They are village-folks who traded their shovels and shack shops for a passport to the red, white, and blue.
They are resigned to the fact that they will ever be americans in a way most americans like to display themselves to fellow americans. Yet, in that resignation they discover a sense of humor: mixing in an insatiable curiosity with a non-condescending homespun amusement at the affectations and habits of weight conscious consumers.
There is something Irish, Italian, and Greek about them; though they understand little Italian, little Greek, and absolutely no Gaelic.
In my regular visits to this store, from their perspective however, I am an unabashed intrigue, and therefore an outsider.
Friendly as they already are, these people have a habit of eyeing me closely, examining my face, my garb, my speech, and most importantly my habits.
I intuited that they were guessing anywhere from 15%:85%, 25%:75%, 35%:65% if I could possibly have been conceived in the same part of the world as they were, and even then, of similar parentage. The lower percentage indicated a suspicion favoring affirmation, and the higher indicated a suspicion favoring negation.
So I broached them with a smile and a fluent snippet of a foreign tongue: Hindi Aata Haiy? (Do you speak Hindi?).
These folks seemed relieved, yet their curiosity seemed to increase by the umpteenth degree. They were just told that I too was an Indian of the Northern part, but they found that hard to believe provided my manners, customs, speech, affiliation, dress, and pace.
They could not taxonomize it to anything resembling American, and they had a very hard time finding anything Indian in it. They were confounded with my express affability, ruggedness, gestured subtleties, measured, distinct and therefore a strange accent, metrosexual/corporate whippersnapper preppiness, and an amalgam and menagerie of personal quirks.
They almost took what may amount to ‘pride’ in me by extension. My North Indian birth and linguistic fluency certified some kind of a perceived kameradschaft , yet my hybrid Europoid/American tendencies and International tastes defined and fulfilled some kind of a yearning that they must have felt: a streamlined combination of the Orient and the Occident, where the modernity and unfettered energies of the Occident held the masthead, and the Orient cajoled, caressed, and coaxed a certain perennial wisdom comprising of ruggedness, viscerality, cosmicism, and indifference.
And while in the lull hours of that same day in the afternoon hours, engaged in ontological discussions with my sixty eight year old German-Yankee brother in the food court of the Voorhees Echelon mall; as I pick my teeth with a toothpick supplied by a rather maternal, and appreciative Aztec Mexican Subway Sandwich store owner on whose uniform the following title was embroidered: “Sandwich Artist”; I discern a certain dynamism, flair, ardency, and accouterment, vis a vis, a humanity, in the word “Globalization”.
Ah, mira querido doña, es buen tiempo acqui! Y, todos Gracias Señora por el ‘toothpick’! Usted eres muy simpatico.
Possibly bad grammar, but perfect accent: familiar enough to be thought of as an hispanoablante.
“Sweetie, your breath stinks! Go brush your teeth.”