Your English is Impeccable

I worked in fine dining & hospitality from age 16-24 in various contexts. The worst shift you could take was Saturday morning brunch: very low traffic, very high probability of a headache from the night before. The silver lining was the variable reward in conversations and Jalapeno cornbread.

A couple of salt of the earth women walked in one morning. After a bit of introductory chitter they erupted in “Your English is impeccable! You are beautiful! Where are you from? You have to meet our daughters.” I was taken by their candor but also literally taken at the time.

One of my mom’s favorite phrases is “Ahm-ra kee grahm-ehr theke?”…which in Bengali literally means “Are we from the sticks?”…semantically adjusted…“We are not hicks”. She would cast this spell at me as a kid when I needed to clean my room. I could always tell she wanted a better life for us.

Sometime in 2007, a first love would ask me to teach her a few Bengali words. She was an easy target, so I started reading the ingredients of a cereal box slowly, backward because that’s how things are pronounced. I didn’t tell her until the next day, but you could also say that she knew.

A birds-eye view of multiple perspectives was never really a choice. I was always explaining some intersection of contradictions. We were poor, but I was drowning in opportunity, help and I felt wealthy. That I was an immigrant but not really because I was 1 when we got here. That my dad couldn’t work. What do your parents do?

No conversation had an easy out.

 
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