The Aiya in New York

by Delilah

I’ve been here for a while now and almost everyday I keep getting asked if I’m Indian. In turn I have assumed that every brown skinned person I see is an Indian.

Saturday morning around 5.30am we were driving back  from a night of partying in the city and we stopped at a Dunkin Donuts to pick up some dinner/breakfast. A male friend and I walked in and I stared  bleary eyed at the menu trying to figure out what I wanted. The nice Indian guy at the counter assured me it was okay to take my time since I wasnt holding anyone up.

After much pondering I finally placed the order and also decided to take home some munchkins. While we chitchatted about the flavors he casually asked us where we were from. But when we said Sri Lanka, he stared at us like we were aliens. Assuming he hadn’t heard of SL, I was about to say something scathing about his ignorance when he said

” Nangi mama dehiwala, oyagollo koheda?”.

So we talked, him referring to us as malli and nangi. And it turns out he has been here doing odd jobs for 10 years in NY while his wife and kids are back home waiting till he sends for them. He offered us tea and a part time job at Dunkin Donuts for my friend till he finds work after graduation. When we got home I opened my bag of munchkins to find that instead of the five that I paid for there was a bagful.

Thinking about how happy this guy was to meet us, as if he was starved for Sri Lankan company, made me wonder if its really worth being away from your family and friends for a decade even if it does pay better?