The stories of those who help us hold on to DESH, even in BIDESH
I’m standing in line to buy a box of sweets at Kabir’s Bakery on Church Ave. The shame instilled in me as an eight year old brown-skinned immigrant in post-9/11 New York flutters inside my mouth, keeping me from knowing which words should come out. What language do I speak to the lady behind the counter? Do I speak Bengali and risk being judged for my Americanness or do I speak English and risk rejecting my Bangladeshi-ness?
Thankfully my choice is made simpler as the cashier asks “Apni Bangali?” and I can quickly say “Ji, ami Bangladeshi.” The rest of the interaction is pleasant, friendly, and I walk out of the bakery with my sweets feeling like Hannah Montana: I’d just experienced the best of both worlds.
If you own or work at a Bangladeshi store, we want to feature your shop and your story. Do you have a story to tell?
To get started, write to us at email@example.com or call us at (347) 221-9544
Behind the Ami Bangladeshi project are two young Bangladeshis, Hasin and Samiha. The two of us also run Waroong, a small startup dedicated to helping independent and family-owned brick and mortar shops connect with customers online. But that’s for later.
For the past few months, we have been visiting small, mostly family-run groceries and convenience stores throughout Queens and Brooklyn. In each shop we observe pieces of other places: Pran chips from Bangladesh, Vero Mango from Mexico, specialty teas from China, Calpico from Japan, the yummiest by-the-pound buffets—the list is endless.
You can find all of this stuff on Amazon without ever leaving your bed, but you’ll miss out on the feeling of walking through a narrow aisle stocked to the top with 12 flavors of hot sauce right next to every scent of Fabuloso.
With Ami Bangladeshi we want to give the owners, cashiers, cleaners, and stockpeople at the heart of our work a platform to be more than just figures you see when buying a baconeggandcheese and emergency toilet paper rolls. We want to remind you and ourselves that each person who works at a local convenience, corner, or grocery store is an individual with feelings, families, and histories. Each person is someone with whom we can find common ground. In the coming weeks, we look forward to sharing with you snippets of intimate conversations with some of these people.