There’s a copy store near Smitty’s place in Manhattan. Whenever we needed copies or faxes or good-quality color printouts, we’d go there. She introduced me to the place; she’d been going there for a while.
The guy behind the counter was Mid-Asian, I would have guessed Indian. He was friendly and dignified and purposeful; there was something in his gaze and manner that suggested there was more to him than copy-store operator.
This has always been one of the magical things about Manhattan, for as long as I can remember – the guy serving your tacos is a guitarist/songwriter/sculptor, the one painting your walls does murals that hang in galleries, the ticket taker at the movies has hacked together a cold fusion rig in his apartment that works better than MIT’s. This guy had that feel and the posters for Amnesty International and other humane organizations on the walls backed up the impression.
Well, it turns out now that he was a human-rights activist, a man who worked quietly behind the scenes to protect oppressed Hindus in Bangladesh. Friends called him ‘an Indian Gregory Peck’ – his Muslim roommate said he said he didn’t participate in his religion more because so much violence in the world had grown out of religion.
I know all this now because we walked by the copy store and saw a piece of paper stuck up next to the door in memoriam. I looked up his name, Sunando Sen – it was the first time I’d known it – online and found out he was pushed in front of a subway train the other day by some deranged woman off her meds who said she wanted to punish Muslims and Hindus for 9/11, despite the fact that Hindus had even less to do with 9/11 than Sadaam Hussein. His body was cremated the other day. She’s busy trading lawyers, trying to beat the rap.
It’s hard to figure out what to say about something like this. It’s hard not to think bitterly about the special ones thrown away by the refuse of the world. And I can’t help noticing that those three-dimensional multilayered people can barely afford to live in Manhattan anymore. The borough has fallen to the Masters of the Universe, those who work 75 hours a week or those grandfathered into one of the twelve affordable apartments left, like Smitty.
So let’s just say this for now: take another look at that busboy or ticket taker or copy store clerk the next time they’re in front of you. You may find they bring more to your neighborhood than you do.