To the young couple I had the opportunity to meet, a type I had always felt uncomfortable around, but didn’t have the clarity of thought or the words to express why:
With your big house and two cars, fancy jobs that let you work from home or anywhere else in the world, multiple degrees and visas that declare you to be second-class citizens of your new country, setting up a home that tries valiantly to imitate what you left behind; you talk to me of tradition and music and dance, and how your people have always been the sort to excel at these things. You talk about your friends, many of them like you, visiting the temple to prove you are still connected, still cultured, bemoaning the lack of vegetarian options in this country that likes its steak medium. You tell me with pride about your marriage that you arranged, all by yourselves, taking care to find a partner within parameters you are eager to deny the existence of. You think I’m vulgar for using the word caste in your living room, I could see it in the way your faces changed, and I noticed the way you shared sympathetic smiles, as this delusional person spoke without grace, about things that you think only boorish politicians mention in their speeches. But I will gladly forego invitations to meet you again, because I am already tired of smiling and nodding, and just a little bit repulsed, so forgive me for not wanting to familiarize myself with your narrow definitions (of love).
To the taxi driver from Burma whose rating said Great Conversations and who had four and a half stars:
I wish my ride was longer and I could have understood you better, I wanted to know everything, I can be curious like that. What brought you here, why are you driving a taxi, do you like it here, would you go back? But I didn’t have miles to go and we spent too much of our time discussing atho and mohinga and khow suey. It was funny the way you looked at me with incredulity, when you came to a stop outside the house I pointed out to. You couldn’t believe I lived here. I quickly comforted you. I’m just visiting, I said, I live in an apartment. Me too, you said. You said something else to me in the car that night.
You said, We are the same people, you and I.
To the other taxi driver from Morocco, who had the face of a baby, with a cute dimple, and the body of Salman Khan, who asked me to please leave good feedback:
Of course I will, even though you assumed I was from Punjab and that Punjab was in the south of India. But we both think Deepika Padukone is stunning and we agree I should visit Morocco, so I was happy to let you know that Punjab was in fact in the north. Also your enthusiasm for Shah Rukh Khan was infectious enough that I found myself liking him more than I ever had in all these years of watching Hindi movies. You said you were new here and asked me where you should take your family, but I am new too, and I will always be a visitor here. Show them the sights, the smiles on people’s faces and sunshine, two of those things are always in short supply.
To the most courteous solicitor I met the other night:
You came to me as I was realizing that the city I live in looks and smells very different at night, with whiffs of weed assaulting my nose every fifty metres. You asked me politely, Excuse me miss, may I approach you? I told you no, you may not and you wished me a good night. You were off on your way. I almost didn’t notice you as you stood there, melded into the walls, in shadows and baggy clothes, a cigarette in your mouth. I can’t say I will recognize you again, I’m not very good with faces, but I will remember you.